By Ethan Wilson
The COVID-19 pandemic made college recruiting very difficult this year, something unique to this class of graduating seniors. Many athletic seasons were cancelled, making it hard for some to get recognition in their sport. However,with hard work and determination, these Oyster River athletes will be moving on to play NCAA Division I, II, and III athletics in college. This article will go over their sports careers and how they got to this point and what they’re looking forward to in their athletic careers.
Carissa Miller will be playing both Division III softball and basketball at Keene State College in the fall. Miller began playing both of these sports when she was about 6 years old, because her older siblings played and her dad signed her up. She’s stuck with them ever since.
Her siblings have also been large influences for her. Her brother, Kyle, is a year older than her, and according to Miller, they were always super competitive when it came to basketball. “My dad would sign me up to play with the boys team when I was younger, which made me a better player. He would always say “if you want to be the best, you have to play with the best” so I always played with the boys or with the older girls,” said Miller.
Her older sister, Caitlyn, was always someone Miller looked up to for softball. “I grew up watching her play and basically mimicked her as a pitcher. We would practice all the time and she helped me improve. She has always been an influence and role model to me because she has been super successful in high school and college playing softball,” she said.
Because she loves both sports so much, she decided to stick with them both in college. Miller explained how, growing up, they were always her favorite sports, and she couldn’t imagine giving one of them up. Keene State was the perfect place for her to continue with both softball and basketball. “I chose Keene because I loved the campus and especially their sustainability program. I also created a good connection with both the softball and basketball coaches, and I really like their coaching styles. When it came down to it, I could ultimately picture myself at Keene and that’s when I committed,” said Miller.
Owen Fleischer will be running Division I cross country and track and field at the University of Rhode Island (URI) in the fall. He began running in 5th grade, when he joined the cross country team. Initially, he and a few friends joined the team to train for their soccer season. However, he decided to stay with running full time because he “enjoyed getting in wicked good shape and getting faster.”
Fleischer has really grown into the sport since, and always has made a point to work as hard as he can to improve. “I love working myself to a point where I can go home and say that none of my competition worked harder than me,” he said.
Along with working hard, Fleischer also loves the team aspect of the sport and the many influences he’s had that have pushed him to where he is today. “The friendships and bonds I’ve made through running have definitely been my favorite part about the sport. Andy O’Brien and I have been pushing each other through hardship and training for eight years now and it’s really fun to see our chemistry play out on the track,” he said.
Fleischer began to get his first letters from coaches during his sophomore year, but his first college visits and meetings with coaches started his junior year. He explained how URI was one of the first schools to reach out to him, and they made it clear that he was valued as both a student and an athlete. Now committed, Fleischer is really excited for what’s to come. “URI has a young and talented middle distance program, and I’m really excited to train with them. They dropped some wicked fast times this indoor season, which got me really fired up,” he said.
Maggie Sperry will be swimming Division III at the University of New England (UNE). She has always loved being in water, and when she first saw a swim practice for the Otters team, she was sure it was what she wanted to do. She couldn’t imagine her life without swimming, which is why she has chosen to continue the sport in college.
Sperry first began to fill out recruitment forms before the pandemic. Once this school year started, however, she began to speak with the UNE coach over email and zoom meetings. She also went to the campus a few times to meet the coach and some of the team in person, which she really enjoyed.
She ultimately chose UNE because it was the perfect fit for her academically, geographically, and athletically. She explained how they have a very strong science school with an amazing athletic training program, which is her intended major. She also enjoys the location, with a beautiful campus that is right on the water in Portland Maine. Sperry also really likes the coach and could see herself fitting in well with the team. “For UNE to fit all of my academic needs, have the perfect location, and let me be able to keep doing the sport I love, there’s no way I couldn’t choose to go there,” she said.
Because she loves the school so much, she is super excited to go to UNE as a student athlete. “I can’t wait to improve my times and become a better swimmer, but also be a part of the team and have some mentors with upperclassmen as I transition to a new place and start to figure out college life,” said Sperry.
Charlotte Imperio will be playing Division III soccer at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She began her soccer journey at around 9 years old when she moved to New Hampshire. Early on, she felt self conscious about how little she knew about the sport, but that motivated her to work hard and strive to be the best. Because of the high expectations she set for herself, Imperio will now be continuing her soccer career in college.
Imperio shared that she didn’t really have any big influences in soccer. Although her coaches were super supportive, she said her main supporter was her mom. “Even though she didn’t understand the sport or what it was, she came to every game and cheered me on and always told me I did a good job regardless if she understood what happened or not,” she said.
She chose Ramapo because they had a good program for her to pursue physical therapy on a pre-med track, and the home-like feel it had when she stepped on campus for the first time. She had been talking to the women’s soccer coach at Ramapo since her junior year and had interest in the program. Also, being a DIII school, she felt it was perfect for her to continue playing the sport she loves, while primarily focusing on her academics. “DIII is the type of commitment that I feel like I could handle with being on a medical track. I also think DIII is more my play style, but also has the speed and commitment that I like when it comes to soccer,” she said.
Ethan Todd will be playing Division III Lacrosse at Rivier University in the fall. He began playing when he was in fourth grade, and stuck with it ever since. He tried other sports, but for Todd, none of them ever really clicked except for lacrosse. He fell in love with the sport and really wanted to continue playing throughout college.
His college search started out with schools that fit him more academically than athletically. He went through a lot of emails, highlight videos, and tours until he found the right fit at Rivier. “They had the programs I am looking to study, they were the right distance from home, I really liked the campus, and they put a lot of money into athletics. I have also developed a pretty close relationship with my new coach, Coach Delenoy,” said Todd.
Todd is very excited and can’t wait to continue being a student athlete at Rivier. “I am really excited for the atmosphere and the play level. All the guys on the team are recruited and can play at a high level, and the same thing for the competition. The game moves faster, and I’ve seen glimpses of it with my club program, but I can’t wait,” he said.
Caden Leader will be playing Division II soccer at Saint Anselm College this fall. He began playing when he was about 3 or 4 years old, and fell in love with the sport. His parents and brother also have a natural love for the sport, and have heavily influenced his soccer career.
His older brother Reed, who plays for Saint Anselm as well, has been a huge influence for Leader. “I’ve always looked up to him, especially in soccer. I’m very competitive, so I always wanted to be better than him, and that pushed me to work harder and improve a lot,” he said. Leader’s favorite part of the sport comes from scoring goals and helping out his team.
Because of COVID-19, his recruitment process was made more difficult and was delayed. Leader had to miss his spring season for Seacoast United, and his college showcases and ID camps all got cancelled because of the pandemic. Luckily, he was already in contact with some coaches, and with a great fall season at ORHS this year, he was offered a spot at Saint Anselm. “I obviously love the campus and have had the opportunity to be there a few times. It’s in New England, so it’s not too far from home, and the size is great for me. I know the coaches and team pretty well from my brother, and have heard great things about it,” he said.
Andy O’brien will be running Division I cross country and track and field at Cornell University. He has been running since elementary school, but began running for a program when he got to middle school. He started running because of his mom, who would provide incentives for him to run loops around his block.
O’briens mom is just one of the major influences in O’brien’s running career. His mom was a professional runner, his dad was a collegiate runner, and his brother is still prospering in his running career. “To grow up with a family of runners around me really shaped me into the runner I am today. Watching them run everyday inspired me to want to run,” said O’brien.
O’brien had been talking to a few college coaches since his sophomore year, but explained how his junior year was the most important year for him. He performed well and many coaches sent letters reaching out to him. “I chose Cornell because I have always had a dream to go to an Ivy League school. I really clicked with the coach, and they have programs I’m interested in, so I was comfortable making that choice.
Foch Lovejoy will be playing Division III baseball at Endicott College. He began playing baseball when he was seven years old and he wanted to be a catcher. He really grew to love the sport as he played it more and more, and enjoyed how he would play positions involved in every play of the game.
Because of his love for the sport Lovejoy has played for many different teams and played in many tournaments. To get him to where he is now, he has had two major influences in the sport. “Logan Carman and Carson Cross are huge influences of mine. Logan is the strength trainer and Carson is the pitching coach at 603 Evolution (the gym Lovejoy goes for for baseball). They were both all-American pitchers in college and they influenced me to work as hard as I do and to keep pushing towards my goals,” said Lovejoy.
At the start of his junior year, Lovejoy reached out to a bunch of colleges he was interested in. But once his high school season was cancelled, along with summer tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his options were much more limited. The NCAA set a recruiting dead period (a period of time in which college coaches couldn’t come and watch high school athletes play)on Division I and Division II coaches when this happened and this left only nearby Division III coaches to come and watch Lovejoy play. After talking to coaches and touring a few schools Lovejoy decided to go with Endicott College.
Shealee Dulin will be running Division I track and field at Sacred Heart University in the fall. Dulin started running in middle school, because a lot of her friends were running cross country. In sixth grade she decided to join the cross country team and enjoyed it so much that she decided to join the track team as well. She really got into it because of the feeling she would get after she set a new PR or completed a really hard workout. “I feel like I’m on top of the world. It’s like a high that you chase. Once you feel it you crave it. I guess that’s how I really got super invested in the sport,” said Dulin.
Dulin had a very unique recruitment process than most other athletes. She only had her breakout season during her indoor track season her junior year. Her next two seasons were cancelled due to the pandemic which made it really hard for her to show college coaches how she had improved. She was talking to some coaches, but they couldn’t really do anything for her because she didn’t have any really good times from the past year, and she couldn’t prove herself due to the cancelation of her seasons. Two nights before she needed to commit to a school, she called the Sacred Heart coach and said if she could run on the team she would go there and she got the spot on the team. “It was very lucky and kind of crazy it worked out like that. It was definitely very informal compared to what it would be like in a non covid world although it all worked itself out.
Now committed to Sacred Heart, she is very excited to continue her running career. “I’m really excited to meet new teammates and be a part of the team. I love my team now, but it’ll be nice to train with people who are as invested and serious about the sport as I am and who will push me to become a better athlete,” said Dulin.
Maggie Sylvester will be playing Division III volleyball at Saint Joseph’s College. She began playing volleyball in fifth grade because one of her friends from softball played. She fell in love with the sport and decided to stick with it because it was more exciting to play and at a faster pace than other sports she had played.
Because she enjoyed the sport so much she decided she would want to continue playing in college as well. The coach for Saint Josephs first reached out after watching Sylvester play in a few tournaments for her club team. They continued to stay in touch for a while because she was interested in playing for the team. After she toured the college and talked to the coach about what it would be like to play for them, she verbally committed just this past winter, and shortly after she signed a contract. “Overall it was a long process because it wasn’t just him I was talking to about playing for. It was a lot of emailing but in the long run it was easy,” said Sylvester.
She chose Saint Joes because she knew she wanted to go to a smaller school, and it was a good fit academically. Along with this she was friends with a couple people on the team. “I’m excited to play with new people and make the most of the time I have left to play,” said Sylvester.