Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Golfing & gigs with Minster's Xavier Francis...

Xavier was a 1st-team All-MAC golfer 
last year for the Minster Wildcats

Fish Report recently caught up with Minster junior Xavier Francis! Xavier's been one of the top golfers this season for the Wildcats who head into the big Versailles Invitational this Saturday at Stillwater Valley Golf Club. It's going to be a busy Saturday for Xavier because later that evening his band will be playing at the Russia Homecoming Festival. We asked Xavier a few questions about golfing & gigs and check out what he had to say...

F.R. Thanks for chatting with us Xavier! It sounds like Minster is having another fine year on the golf course. How would you grade the Wildcats right now? 
X.F. I think we have an amazing golf team this year! Not just because we have some low scorers, but because it's an absolutely amazing group of guys. Not only are they all my teammates, but they are also my really good friends. I think it really makes us play better when everyone is having a good time, pushing each other to get better, and even trying to beat each other. I couldn't be happier with our team this year.

F.R. We've seen your name in the paper as medalist a couple of times. Which matches have you won so far and what part of your game are you working on the most right now?
X.F. To be honest, I haven't been playing very well at all this year. My team has still done very well even without me playing well in the first couple invites. The last couple matches I think I have pulled it around though and got it more figured out. I shot a 74 at the Auglaize County Invite to take medalist. I shot 35 in our match against Fort Recovery and 36 in our match against Delphos St. Johns. We've won all of our matches so far. The part of my game that I have been working on most this year is definitely my mental game. I've been trying to improve my focus and decision making on the course. One of my favorite quotes is: "Golf is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental." ~ Jim Flick

F.R. Is there any particular pro golfer you look up to or maybe try to pattern yourself after on the course?
X.F. Jack Nicklaus has always been a role model to me. I might be a little young for his time, but from the books I've read about him and his mind set, I would really like to be more like him. I hate reading with all my heart, but if its golf know. One of Nicklaus's quotes that really sticks out to me the most is: "I am my own opponent." He has taught me to play against myself and to try to become the best I can possibly be, instead of just becoming better than everyone around.

F.R. Alright, lets change subjects. You're also playing in a band called "The Experience". Who are the guys you play with and how did this all come about?
X.F. Well, I became friends with Freddie Purdy when I moved to Minster, who was in a band called "Crackerjax". I was always really jealous of what he got to do. One random day in the beginning of the summer, Freddie called me up and said, "So you want to play some guitar?". We got a new drummer and renamed the band to "The Experience" and the rest is history. Band members include: Freddie Purdy from Minster, Jarod Schmitmeyer from Minster, Cameron Bergman from New Bremen, Kevin Bruns from Marion Local, and me.

F.R. This Saturday you have a gig at the Russia Homecoming Festival. What kind of performance can we expect to see?
X.F.  "The Experience" has played about five gigs this year. Our cover band is going to try to appeal more towards a younger audience. Maybe try to get a little dancing going! But we have a pretty wide variety of music. We play anything from country to rock to even some pop. I think it will be a little bit of everything, and hopefully something for everyone. I can't really say how good we are, so why don't you just come to the festival and find out yourself!

F.R. Last question Xavier and we've decided to grant you one wish. Do you wish to someday be a golfer on the PGA Tour or a rock-n-roll star?
X.F. Well, I mean, either one wouldn't be too bad! I think there is no better career than doing what you love and making a living off of it. I would do anything to be able to golf and make money doing it. Any career that involves golfing sounds good to me! But a rock-n-roll star works too. 

Great stuff Xavier. Good luck this golf season and we'll be listening for you this Saturday in Russia! 

Xavier (left) and "The Experience" will be rocking 
the Russia Homecoming Festival on Saturday night

Friday, August 23, 2013

What I'm watching at Saturday's Bob Schul Invitational...

1964 Olympic gold medalist Bob Schul has been a 
regular attendee at the Invitational that bears his name

Even though the local cross country runners have already began running at many schools, this Saturday is when it officially feels like cross country season for me. That's because this Saturday is the 42nd annual Bob Schul Invitational in West Milton, the first really big cross country meet in the area. It's also a prestigious event considering Bob Schul himself will be there, the only American to ever win an Olympic gold medal in the 5000 meters. As he always does, Bob will be signing t-shirts, ribbons or whatever you would like him to sign. Over the years I've talked to a few older folks about that 1964 Olympics and they all say Bob Schul was the big news story back then. Of course, the main reason I'm heading to West Milton on Saturday is not to see Bob, rather all the current running talent from around home.  Here's a preview of the individuals I'm personally interested in watching.

The Bob Schul Invitational is so big they actually run two high school girls races and two high school boys races, one race they call Division I-II and the other race Division III. For the schedule of races this Saturday, click here. I'm most interested in the D-III races and I'll begin with the boys. Let me start by saying I'm not sure it can get any better than last year...ever. Two of Ohio's best seniors put on a show, Sam Prakel of Versailles and Clayton Murphy of Tri-Village. Sam pulled away for the victory in a time of 15:40 while Clayton ran a 15:54. Those times for August are just flat out ridiculously good and I'm not expecting anything sub-16:00 this Saturday. However, my favorite this year has to be Lehman Catholic senior Joe Fuller. Joe just won the Shelby County Preview this past Tuesday for an unprecedented third straight year and his time was 16:45. I've talked to Joe a couple times over the summer and he seems to be focused on making his mark this season. I predict Joe's biggest challenge will come from Minster senior Dominic Slonkosky. Dominic also already has a race under his belt this month, the OHSAA Early Season Invitational at the state meet course back on August 17th. He picked up a win in the "A" race that day with a time of 16:39. Shelby County challengers I'm also watching include juniors Austin Jones from Botkins and Jordan Gariety from Russia. Those two battled neck-and-neck to the finish line on Tuesday for 3rd and 4th place at the Shelby County Preview, and will desperately be trying to stay in the lead pack in West Milton.

Can Jones & Fuller share a rivalry like Prakel & Murphy?
West Milton will be their second matchup in five days
(I was informed Botkins was running D I-II after this blog)

Like the boys race, the D-III girls race also lost their top two finishers to graduation. Last year's winner Lauren Francis from Russia is now running at Xavier and 2nd place finisher Meghan Vogel from West Liberty-Salem is now running at Penn State. Those stars were just two of only four runners to break the 20:00 minute mark that day. The other two were Russia's Emily Borchers who's a junior this year and Lauren Heaton who's a sophomore. I'm expecting big things from both those girls this Saturday, as each ran well at the Shelby County Preview on Tuesday for 2nd and 3rd place. Emily's time was 20:19 and Lauren's was 20:48 on a very warm evening. The West Milton course has over half the race on wooded trails, which claims to be 10-15 degrees cooler than outside the woods. As a result, I'm predicting both girls will break into the 19:00's again.  Also like the boys race, there should be another Slonkosky challenging for the win. Minster sophomore Julia Slonkosky, Dominic's sister, seems to be running well after a 4th place finish in the OHSAA Early Season Invitational with a time of 20:44.  I predict she'll be in the 19:00's also and right there with the lead pack. Another top runner I'm watching includes West Liberty-Salem senior Alyssa Strickland. Alyssa has run most of her career in shadows of three teammates who graduated this past spring, but she's expected to lead a group of really young runners on her team this year. She's accepted that role according to talks I've had with her coach and Alyssa will be a bright spot for the Big Orange this season. One last local talent I'm curious about is Covington sophomore Carly Shell. Carly ran well in cross country last year and had an outstanding track season in the spring. This Saturday will be the first meet of the season for Covington, so I'll be interested to see how Carly comes out.

As fast as Russia's Emily Borchers is, her Lady Raider 
teammate Lauren Heaton is never far behind

One final note. The best runner in West Milton on Saturday and maybe in all of Ohio this year should be competing in the Division I-II girls race, which takes place between the Division III boys and girls races. Mary Kate Vaughn, a sophomore for Oakwood, is the defending D-II state champ and has a personal record of 17:22 in the 5K. Her ability to dominate races last year as a freshman was amazing to watch. I'm not 100% positive she's running on Saturday, but Oakwood is scheduled to be there, so enjoy the show if she does line up.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Talking Russia volleyball with Maggie Kearns...

Russia finished 2012 with a record of 22-4 including 
a championship at the Minster Invitational

Fish Report recently caught up with Russia senior volleyball player Maggie Kearns!  Maggie is a 5'-11" right side hitter for the Raiders who open their season this Saturday hosting the Covington Buccaneers.  We asked Maggie a few questions about volleyball and this is what she had to say:

F.R. Thanks for chatting with us Maggie! You're back for your senior season and coming off a very impressive junior year where your team finished with a 22-4 record. How have the Raiders changed this year compared to last?
M.K. We’ve changed quite a lot since last season. We lost seven seniors last year, but have five returning varsity players. Obviously, losing seven seniors means we had spots to fill at the beginning of the season. During the off-season and over the summer a lot of girls have stepped up and we are looking forward to a successful season this fall!

 What are your team expectations or any goals you have heading into this season?
M.K. One team goal we always have is to win the league. Being in the Shelby County League always makes this goal difficult to accomplish, there is always great competition! Another goal we have is to make it beyond District Tournament this year. The last few years we’ve made it to District Finals but haven’t been able to advance, we are hoping to break that streak this year!

F.R. Has your role on the team changed at all now that you're a senior?
M.K. Yes, definitely. There is a lot more responsibility as a senior.  You have to keep a positive attitude and play your hardest because everyone is looking at you as a leader on and off the court.

F.R. Did you work on your game at all over the summer to get ready for this season?
M.K. Yes, we all did! We traveled to a few different tournaments around the area, had a team camp, and open gyms every week. 

F.R. Looking at your schedule, are there any big games you're especially looking forward to?
  Definitely Fort Loramie, Jackson Center, and Anna. Those are always huge match-ups for us! Everyone plays their best and each point is a fight when a league title is on the line.

F.R. Your cousin, Samantha Daniel, plays college volleyball for the Wright State Raiders. Does she ever offer any advice to you on being a better player?
M.K. Sam always stresses the importance of your mental game and being confident in your abilities. She says that imagining yourself having a successful game or executing a play perfectly before a game really makes a difference in how you play. Also, she advises to have fun and leave all you’ve got out on the court!

F.R. Final question Maggie, have you made any college plans yet?
Nothing official, I’m considering The Ohio State University but I haven’t made any final decisions yet.

Thanks Maggie!  Good luck Saturday, this season, and Go Raiders!

The Raiders have some key players returning in 2013 
with Claire Sherman, Maggie Kearns, Taylor Daniel,
Camille Puthoff, and Kylie Wilson

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