Arakotaram: The hidden heroes of Yale

I’m a hypocrite.

For the past three years, I’ve constantly complained about the lack of pride in Yale athletics. I couldn’t believe that people would rather study on a Saturday afternoon than go to a football game. I hated that the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween show was a bigger deal than the Yale-Harvard basketball game. It depressed me that sports stories almost never make the “most popular” section of the News’ Web site.

But after reading Tracy Timm’s ’10 column last week (“Timm’s Wide World of Yale Sports,” Jan. 27), I realized that only two of my nine columns so far have referenced Yale sports. I also realized that I haven’t been to a hockey game yet, that I didn’t go to Tom Williams’s Master’s Tea and that I can only name a handful of athletes not on the football team.

So I’m devoting the rest of this column to the unsung heroes of Yale — the exceptional athletes who dominate their sports but don’t receive nearly enough attention from their school or their classmates.

Fencing: Foilist John Gurrieri ’10 and epeeist Michael Pearce ’09. Gurrieri and Pearce both finished 13th at last year’s NCAA championships in their respective weapon classes. Seriously, if you haven’t been to a fencing match yet, stop being a bum and go. As one of my friends put it, fencing is like laser tag, but with swords­ — whatever that means. In any case, think Johnny Depp in Pirates, but with fancy electronic equipment.

Soccer (and hockey): Maggie Westfal ’09. Westfal does it all, and she does it better than anyone else. The senior picked up nearly every meaningful postseason honor for soccer, garnering first-team All-Ivy and All-New England selections. In her spare time, Westfal plays forward for the women’s ice hockey team. She’s no slouch on the rink, either — the senior finished fifth on the team in total goals last season. She also cures cancer, fights poverty and leaps tall buildings in a single bound.

Sailing: Thomas Barrows ’10 and Jane Macky ’09. How many Yalies can claim to be the best in the country at anything they do? Barrows followed up his victory in the single-handed national championship last year by representing the Virgin Islands in the Olympics. On the women’s side, Macky took third at the single-handed national championships last fall after finishing second the year before.

Squash: Sarah Toomey ’11. As a freshman, Toomey won the consolation bracket of the College Squash Association national championship. And that’s not even the most impressive thing she’s done — before coming to Yale, Toomey proudly represented the United States in the Hoe Hin White Flower Ointment World Junior Women’s Squash Championships. (Try saying that one three times fast).

I know everyone is friends with at least a few athletes. Sometime in the next few weeks, take the time to go to their games, ask them about their sports, and try to appreciate all the hard work that goes unnoticed on a daily basis.

Karan Arakotaram is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.

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