Atypical athletes

Spartans succeed in unconventional sports

Partaking in a wide array of extracurricular activities is often part of one’s high school experience, but certain students take it a step further with their dedication to their respective, unconventional sports. 

Senior Julie Readnour’s inspiration for figure skating is Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu. She admires his combination of elegance and athleticism. (Photo courtesy of Julie Readnour)

Senior Julie Readnour has been a figure skater since seventh grade. Though Readnour is considered a late starter in the sport, she has progressed significantly through countless hours of practice. 

“Figure skating may seem more like a performance to some, but behind each jump and spin is hours and hours of training and conditioning,” explained Readnour. “We have to learn how to jump, spin in the air, and land on one foot on slippery ice—with elegance.”

Readnour has freestyle practice sessions at five a.m. on orange days and at eight a.m. on blue days due to her senior late start. Besides the strict practice regime, she also maintains a nutritious diet and is always mindful of her food intake. Following an injury to her right ankle, Readnour learned to be careful regarding her actions as a skater.

“Although I will most likely have arthritis on my right foot, I learned my lesson,” said Readnour. “Now I try to maintain a good balance of practice and rest, making sure that I don’t push myself too much if I am not feeling 100%.”

Readnour continues to challenge gravity with the jumps and spins in her performances. Her current favorite jump is the double loop. 

“[The double loop] is my most stable jump and is a lot easier to execute than others, such as salchows and toe loops,” said Readnour.  

As Readnour masters double jumps and eventually moves on to triples, her goal is to compete on a figure skating team while attending university.

The reason behind junior Rikki Evans’s love for synchronized swimming stems from her former coach Katrina Ann Abdul Hadi, who was a member of the Malaysian national team. (Photo courtesy of Rikki Evans)

Junior Rikki Evans’s sport of choice is synchronized swimming. Her participation in the sport mainly occurred due to a mistruth, as she initially wished to do rhythmic gymnastics, but her mother pushed her towards synchronized swimming.

“My mom tried to find a [rhythmic gymnastics] team for me to join, but she didn’t want to drive through all the traffic during rush hour since it was far,” explained Evans. “So, she lied to me [and said] that they didn’t have rhythmic gymnastics here. I was essentially [manipulated] into joining the sport.”

Despite the amusing start, Evans now takes synchronized swimming quite seriously. She attends three-hour-long practices four times a week, where she goes through cardio, core strength, and other intensive training. 

Her relationship with her team members is also a crucial aspect of the sport. After all, the synchronized element of synchronized swimming stems from being in sync with those within the team. 

“It’s so exciting and fun to perform as a team because you can feel the unison,” said Evans. “Some of the biggest challenges my team has faced are synchronization issues and low team morale. It felt almost impossible to work with my teammates when everyone wasn’t as motivated and had low expectations for our routines.”

Evans hopes to improve her routines and perform well at U.S. nationals in Geneva, Ohio, in early April.

Sophomore Ameera Junaid loves competitiveness in Tae Kwon Do, which accounts for her avid interest in sparring. Her favorite sparring move is the jump-switch round kick. (Photo courtesy of Ameera Junaid)

Sophomore Ameera Junaid has a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She has been training since age eight after passing by Tae Kwon Do classes on the way to get groceries with her father.

“The idea of my parents [allowing me] to fight, as a girl, sounded very cool to me,” said Junaid. “Although this was part of the reason I joined, the main reason was because my parents thought it would be good for me to defend myself, be disciplined, and be more social.”

Since starting Tae Kwon Do, the sport has benefited her mentally as well as physically. 

“Tae Kwon Do has improved my ability to concentrate and be disciplined,” expressed Junaid. “These skills carry throughout the school day, allowing me to get lots of work done without distractions and [to] focus in class.”

Junaid’s journey to receive a first-degree black belt has also been accompanied by various obstacles.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t in the best shape, which made it physically harder to get ahead in rank,” said Junaid. “Secondly, contrary to what people think, Tae Kwon Do is very difficult, and there were a lot of forms and combinations to memorize for my black belt exam.”

Regardless of the hardships, Junaid enjoys the routine and competitive aspects of the Tae Kwon Do, and has a particular affinity for sparring. As Junaid moves through life and high school, she aims to receive a second-degree black belt by graduation.