Inklings’ Athletes of the Year

An All Around Athlete

In the jungle of clichés surrounding opportunity and motivation, run-of-the-mill athletes can become numb to the opportunities that present themselves.

Luckily for Staples football, wrestling, and rugby, Mikell Washington ’12 is not any run-of-the-mill athlete.

“What’s most impressive to me is he got an opportunity, and he took advantage of the opportunity,” Head Football Coach Marce Petroccio said.

Washington has emerged as one of the hardest workers on all fronts.

“My goal going into all of my seasons was to do better than the year before,” Washington said. “I wanted to leave my mark.”

In football, Washington was a core part of what became known as “The Brotherhood” for the Staples defensive line. Washington averaged 5.8 tackles per game—with nearly a sack per contest to boot, good enough for second in the state behind teammate Pieter Hoets ’13—and acquired 70 total tackles on the season

However, Washington holds modestly to his efforts.

“In football it felt great to win an FCIAC title, but that was as a team rather than individually,” Washington said.

But football was not the only sport where Washington independently contributed. Washington was also named captain of the Staples wrestling squad, on which he had possibly his most successful season of all.

“After being named a wrestling captain my goal was to be the best and give 100 percent,” Washington said. “It was a huge honor for me.”

His hard work certainly showed. To accompany his individual 39-5 record, Washington won the Ludlowe Holiday Tournament and took third place in FCIACs, the Nutmeg States, and the state opens. Additionally, Washington racked up impressive selections to the Academic All-State and All-American teams, Conn. All-Region second team, Norwalk Hour All-Area first team, and an FCIAC honorable mention.

“He became the most prominent wrestler on our team, and the hardest worker,” teammate Jake Santo ’14 said. While Santo asserts that Washington led by example for the rest of the team, Washington says he only did what he thought was right to do. “As they say, I left it all on the mat,” he said.

After the wrestling season came to a close, Washington transitioned quickly into his spring sport: rugby. Outside of the Staples season, Washington helped the Conn. All-Star 17-U team win the championship title. While the Staples rugby squad hasn’t been quite as successful, Head Rugby Coach Joseph Barahona still relishes every minute he gets to have Washington on the team.

“Mike is definitely in the top five players I’ve coached,” Barahona said. “He is a phenomenal athlete, a smart decision-maker in games, and a role model as a team leader.”

But Barahona also contends that there is much more to Washington than seen on the field.

“Mikey is a quiet, humble and respectful young man who always uses please, thank you, yes sir, no sir,” Barahona said.

According to Barahona, it’s this humbly debonair persona that makes him all the more comfortable with Washington filling the role of the team’s captain. His position will serve as good experience, according to Washington, when he goes to Penn State next year to play rugby for the collegiate team.

While Washington may have trouble saying goodbye to his four years at Staples, he still has fond memories.

“It’s been an honor and a blessing to finish my high school career as I did,” Washington said. “Sports for me is a lifestyle, but I always enjoy it.”

And, to Petroccio, Washington will have no trouble enjoying it for years and years to come.

“I wish him all the luck in the world,” Petroccio said. “But, to be honest, he doesn’t need luck.”


The Playmaker

Over the past four years, the name Maeve Flaherty ’12 and Staples’ girls’ lacrosse have become interchangeable. Flaherty is the face of the franchise, amassing accolades and press coverage in truckloads—and not undeservedly

However, Flaherty was not the team’s leading scorer this year. No, the team’s leader in that department racked up 55 goals and 35 assists in the regular season, good enough to contend with some of the FCIAC leaders in the category. This “offensive playmaker,” as head coach Cathy Dancz describes her, is Jessie Ambrose ’12.

“This is her second season running the offense, and she’s able to score and assist almost equally well,” Dancz said. “She is an incredibly dynamic player.”

While Ambrose’s stats have impressed, this unsung hero maintains that individual numbers are only some of what leads to success.

“I’ve been trying to guide our team in the right direction and lead by example,” Ambrose said. “I made sure that everyone on our team was on the same page and wanted to do anything we needed to in order to win: put everything out there and to have no regrets at the end of the season.”

And, according to Dancz, the senior not only helped lead, but also performed well as a team player.

“In addition to her abilities around the cage, Jessie has lead-in draw controls—which are integral to success in lacrosse,” Dancz said. “Some of Jessie’s draw controls were game changers for us.”

This skillset garnered attention from Columbia University, where Ambrose will play lacrosse next year.

Still, lacrosse was not the only sport in which Ambrose excelled this scholastic year. Ambrose also captained the girls’ soccer team as their starting goalkeeper and led them to a Cinderella season.

“We had a lot of obstacles to get past at the beginning of the season and we did,” Ambrose said. “We went on a run that no one else thought was possible.”

Ambrose helped the team to an impressive bid at winning the state title, making it all the way to the semi-finals only to lose to Glastonbury—the team that ended up winning the entire tournament—on penalty kicks.

However, while a bright future waits ahead, Ambrose still focuses on her Staples career at hand.

Ambrose points to the team’s Nov. 12 win against Shelton as her season’s highlight, and head coach Nikki Ross is in agreement. After a scoreless game through regulation time and double overtime, Staples pulled out the victory on five rounds of penalty kicks to advance to the quarterfinals in the state tournament.

“The way Jessie kept her cool and confidence was impressive.  You could feel a sense of ease from the team knowing that we had Jessie in the goal,” Ross said.

To Ross, a stellar performance from Ambrose was nothing out of the ordinary.

“I don’t even know where to begin with how much Jessie helped us this season,” Ross said. “I could always count on Jessie whether it is at practice or at a game, and I know the girls felt the same way.”

Ross still focuses on Ambrose being a leading cog in their unprecedented success, keying in on Ambrose’s unique ability to both play goal and score goals.

“Jessie is the type of athlete that you wish you could duplicate,” Ross said. “She always shows up to practice ready to give 100 percent and not only motivates and pushes herself, but her teammates as well.