Photos by Morgan Browning
On the 18th hole at Country Club of Leawood, Senior Teagan Noblit began to cry. Wiping her eyes, she walked up to her Titleist ball with the Lancer emblem on it and aligned it with the hole. She pulled her putter back, tapped the ball, heard it roll into the cup, and knew her competitive golf career end.
Noblit has decided to opt out of playing golf in college. However, it isn’t the pride she gets from qualifying for all four state tournament or Monday through Thursday practices every week that she is going to miss most.
“The biggest thing I’m going to miss is just having that team feeling,” Noblit said.
Over this past summer, Noblit contemplated if playing girls golf her senior year was worth the countless 18-hole rounds and golf glove tan lines. Nannying every day over the summer, she found it hard to motivate herself to practice her swing and putting.
But what persuaded her to stick with the sport was helping her team get to the state tournament, especially the seniors.
“When you play on a team, you aren’t just playing for yourself, you are playing for everybody on that team,” Noblit said. “All five of the seniors are really close, so it motivates you to try your hardest.”
The seniors have solidified their bonds with bi-weekly team dinners, sleepovers where they rant about their difficulty getting out of the sand trap, comparing who has the worst sock tan line and singing songs on van rides to invitational tournaments.
“You need to take advantage of all the moments,” Noblit said. “I wish I would’ve practiced more, had more team dinners or hung out with the girls more – just embrace the team more.”
Throughout elementary and middle school, senior John Arnspiger planned on wearing the jersy and helmet of the East football team. But when he tore his sciatic nerve in seventh grade, the injury gave him a slim chance of ever playing football again. He then had to make a choice – it was either no fall sport or cross country.
At first lacing up his running shoes in the locker room every day after school felt like a hard change from sliding on a sweat-filled football helmet, but he found a way to make all the extra miles of running worth it: his team.
“At first, my sister was the reason I started running and kept up with it,” Arnspiger said. “But now it’s the other guys I run with. I have good friendships with guys I have run with my entire highschool career.”
Arnspiger thinks his interest in running will come to a close when he hits 40 years-old, but he expects the relationships he has built to stick around. His friendships with the other varsity runners, such as seniors Mick Wiggins, Will Clough and Jack Young, have become stronger through their participation in the cross country program.
“I wouldn’t hang out with those guys after school everyday if it weren’t for cross country practice,” Arnspiger said. “Being at practice at the same time and the same place and going through all the hard work together has really helped us stick together.”
Senior Joie Freirich is notorious for two things on the girls varsity tennis team: her incredible skill with a racket and her unfaltering positivity.
“Joie is just really nice and very positive,” junior and varsity tennis player Larkin McLiney said. “She never gets upset. Even if I’m playing badly, she would never get mad at me. She is always positive in every situation.”
Freirich is able to stay positive by always keeping a positive outlook on life. On her bad days, she reminds herself that no matter what, things could be worse.
“I have a good understanding that no one is perfect and life has its ups and downs,” Freirich said. “If I’m having a rough day or not playing well I remind myself that tennis is just a game and I am very lucky to be able to play the sport.”
Freirich plans on continuing tennis in college at the University of Milwaukee Wisconsin. She is already looking forward to using her undying spirit and learning to become just as close with her new team as she was with the East team this past year.
“It will take some time to get to know the girls and warm up to everybody,” Freirich said. “But I have already met them all and they are really nice.”
As for her doubles partner Larkin McLiney and the rest of the returning varsity players, the feeling of losing Freirich’s daily smiles on and off the court next year is bittersweet.
“Luckily, we are only losing two [top six players] so most of our team will still be there,” McLiney said. “I just hope I can fill Joie’s shoes.”