A confluence of timeliness, talent, teamwork, and luck was on display during SPC weekend for St. Mark’s varsity soccer team. As he had done the previous year, sophomore Lars Ochs opened the scoring when he headed senior captain Colin Campbell’s pin-point diagonal service past the St. Stephen’s goalkeeper. Goals by juniors Henry McElhaney and Knobel Hunt would comfortably see the Lions past the 6th seed in the south zone by a score of 3-0. On Friday morning, the venue changed from St. Mark’s to Greenhill where the Lions faced south zone #2 seed and four-time reigning champion Episcopal High School. The Lions needed less than seven minutes to take the lead when a crafty Ochs found a sprinting Hunt in space behind The Knights’ defense. A moment of individual brilliance later and the Lions lead by a goal. The lead was short-lived as EHS equalized within minutes. A handball in the penalty area by an Episcopal defender impeded a dangerous cross and the referee wasted no time in awarding the Lions a penalty kick which McElhaney coolly converted. Within a couple of minutes, junior Cristian Pereira dribbled across the face of the Episcopal back line at the edge of the penalty area. He struck a venomous shot that gave the Knights’ keeper no chance for a save, and the Lions lead by two goals at halftime. While both teams created several opportunities in the second half, no goals were tallied, and the Lions advanced to the semifinals to play top-seeded Casady, who had comfortably defeated John Cooper.
The Lions found themselves down by two goals midway through the first half in the SPC semifinal when senior captain William Holtby countered quickly, getting behind the Cyclone defense and cheekily arching his shot over the head of the onrushing goalkeeper then watching it nestle into the far corner of the Casady goal. Ten minutes into the second half, McElhaney equalized on a brilliantly taken free-kick from almost no angle, with the sun at his back, that found the side netting on the far post, just below the crossbar. The match would remain level well into overtime when, with mere moments remaining before penalties, the Lions found themselves down a man (goalkeeper) facing a penalty kick that would surely spell victory for Casady. A field player had to be sacrificed as sophomore Stefan Moreno was called upon to take over in goal. In a moment that will live in the lore of St. Mark’s soccer forever, Moreno, cold off the bench with no warm-up, calmly positioned himself on the goal line and instinctively dove to his left and parried a would-be goal around the post and out of play. The Lions would take full advantage in penalty kicks as McElhaney, Holtby, Hunt, and junior Christian Shadle converted their spot kicks. Moreno, would go on to save two penalties, ensuring victory for the Lions without needing to take their last penalty kick.
St. Mark’s advanced to the final to play the #1 seed from the south zone, Kinkaid, who had beaten Cistercian on a late winner in overtime. The Falcons had soundly beaten the Lions (4-1) early in the season at St. Mark’s. The Lions opened the scoring midway through the first half when the combination of Campbell and Holtby deftly struck. With a huge crowd of fans supporting the Lions from one end of the field to the other, the match proved to be a heated, emotional affair featuring quality passing, creative dribbling, physical play, and far too much gamesmanship. The Falcons found themselves a man down near the end of the match when a second yellow was produced for one of their strikers. On ten men, with the match nearly over, a resilient Kinkaid scored when a free kick produced a melee in front of the St. Mark’s goal. The war of the attrition continued and, although the Lions were on their fourth match in 48 hours, St. Mark’s demonstrated their will and their fitness in extra time. When the dust had settled, McElhaney had scored two late OT goals with help from Ochs and Hunt, and the Falcons were down another man. While the offense scored the necessary goals, the Lions would not have succeeded without stellar defensive play throughout the tournament from seniors Billy Lockhart, Alex Piccagli, Reid Goldsmith, Benjamin Hao, juniors Michael Anderson, Robert Pou, Shadle, Eric Yoo, and sophomores Noah Soliz and Zach Stone. Since the tournament began its current format, the Lions became the first team not seeded first or second to win the tournament. The Lion last won SPC in 2013.
The varsity swim team began the SPC Championship meet with an ideal start from the 200 Medley Relay team of Jerry Fox (backstroke), Jack Palmer (breastroke), Ryan Park (butterfly), and Leo Ohannessian (freestyle) winning the event with a time of 1:38.24 and dropping 2.76 seconds off of their best time. After strong individual swims from Ryan Park in the 200 Free (4th Place, 1:45.96), David Yang in the 200 IM (6th Place, 2:01.68), and Leo Ohannessian in the 50 Free (6th place, 22.30), St. Mark’s held onto their lead, but St. John’s was closing in as well as Kinkaid and St. Stephen’s not far behind. With 6th place finishes from Jack Palmer, Leo Ohanessian, and Jerry Fox in the 100 Fly (53.29), 100 Free (48.78), and 500 Free (4:58.68) respectively as well as a 4th place finish in the 500 Free by Ryan Park (4:53.68), the Lions continued to add to their total points, but the 9 points that St. John’s received from their 1st place diver combined with their continued success in those individual events had given them a narrow lead over St. Mark’s. In the second relay event, the 200 Yard Free, the competition was fierce and, despite a two-second improvement in time, the Lions team of Daniel Wu, Lee Schlossler, Odran Fitzgerald, and David Li placed 4th (1:31.11). Before the last individual event of the 100 Breast, St. John’s had widened their lead to 11 points, and the Lions required a phenomenal performance in the event to close the gap. Rising to the high-pressure occasion, the team delivered with Jack Palmer taking 1st place (59.81), Sean Zhao taking 5th Place (1:03.05), and a remarkable swim from David Yang to drop 4.38 seconds off his best time to secure 3rd place (1:01.13). With those incredible performances, St. Mark’s reclaimed the lead from St. John’s by 2 points going into the final event, the 400 Yard Freestyle Relay. With the Championship on the line, the team of David Li, Ryan, Park, Jerry Fox, and Leo Ohannessian rose to the occasion with excellent swims all around of 49.71, 48.48, 48.82, and 47.05 respectively. That swim beat their previous best time by a huge 6.69 seconds, but more importantly, they narrowly edged out the St. John’s relay team by less than a second (3:14.06 by St. Mark’s vs. 3:14.62 by St. John’s) to secure 2nd place in the event and secure the Championship.
Final Point Totals:
- 1st – St. Mark’s – 91
- 2nd – St. John’s – 86
- 3rd – Kinkaid – 84
- 4th – St. Stephen’s – 67
- Jerry Fox – 1st place, 200 Medley Relay AND 2nd place, 400 Free Relay
- Jack Palmer - 1st place, 200 Medley Relay AND 1st place, 100 Breast
- Ryan Park - 1st place, 200 Yard Medley Relay AND 2nd place, 400 Free Relay
- Leo Ohannessian - 1st place, 200 Yard Medley Relay AND 2nd place, 400 Free Relay
- David Yang – 3rd place, 100 Breast
- David Li - 2nd place, 400 Free Relay
The varsity wrestling team hosted and wrestled at the SPC Wrestling Championship on Saturday, February 15. There were ten wrestling teams comprised of teams from the state of Texas and Oklahoma. St. Mark’s placed third as a team, a one place improvement from the 2019 tournament.
Sophomore co-captain Elijah Ellis (195lbs) won his weight class with a significant pin at the end of the second period of the Championship bout. Junior co-captain Jackson Fair and freshman Hayward Metcalf both placed second; these three wrestlers earned All-SPC accolades for the Lions’ 2019-2020 season.
In total, 9 out of 10 St. Mark’s Wrestlers placed at the SPC Tournament:
- 4th at 106lbs – Freshman Shreyan Daulat
- 2nd at 120lbs – Freshman Hayward Metcalf
- 4th at 145lbs – Freshman Stice Neuhoff
- 4th at 152lbs – Sophomore Enoch Ellis
- 2nd at 160lbs – Junior Jackson Fair
- 3rd at 170lbs – Freshman Ross Cunningham
- 3rd at 182lbs – Junior Drew Woodward
- 1st at 195lbs – Sophomore Elijah Ellis
- 4th at 220lbs – Junior Mike Mendoza
As a team, the Lions handily won third place. Last year, they placed fourth as a team, barely missing third place by one point to Casady. Of note, three of the tough wrestlers were not in the lineup due to injuries. There are no seniors on our team, and next year will be even better. This tournament was a great reflection of focused training and teamwork. Sophomore Elijah Ellis, a Prep National qualifier, will travel with the St. Mark’s coaching staff to compete in the Prep National Tournament at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania this weekend.
Over the weekend, the varsity basketball team capped an undefeated SPC regular season by winning the tournament championship. Following a bye in Thursday’s first-round action, the Lions competed against Kinkaid in the SPC quarterfinals. St. Mark’s jumped out to an immediate 18-2 lead, proving why they deserved the North Zone’s #1 seed. Junior Harrison Ingram posted 11 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in the first half alone. Sophomore Colin Smith scored 10 points in the third quarter, and fellow classmate, Noah Shelby, had 10 in the 4th, as the Marksmen ultimately won the game 75-52. The semifinal game that evening featured a rematch with EHS, who returned all the major pieces from a squad that ended St. Mark’s Championship hopes a year ago. Both rosters consisted of multiple play-makers being courted by some of the best college teams in the country, and those talented individuals all came out firing throughout an evenly-played first half. During the third quarter, however, EHS took advantage of a cold shooting spell and a forged seven-point lead midway through the frame. The Lions called a timeout, regrouped, and went on the attack for a 15-0 run built on active defense, several makes from behind the arc by sharpshooters Noah Shelby and Corvin Oprea, and a thunderous, rim-rocking dunk by sophomore Colin Smith that seemed to change the complexion of the game. Sensational plays by the savvy Harrison Ingram and Andrew Laczkowski extended the lead from there. The Lions closed out the fourth quarter with grit, refusing to relinquish the lead. Final score: St. Mark’s 56 – EHS 47.
Saturday’s championship game would bring a different sort of opponent. Two-time defending champion Houston Christian was small but extremely quick. Great shooting abounded for the third Houston team the Lions would have to vanquish in as many games if they wanted to snap a 12-year streak of not hoisting the SPC trophy. Employing a similarly-aggressive defensive approach as the latter portion of the semifinal game, the Lions were the initiators from the tip. The team’s first offense of possession was a work of art, as every player touched the ball, and Harrison Ingram knocked down an open three to get things rolling. Ingram’s, fellow captain and senior, Andrew Laczkowski, and Colin Smith seemed to have a fire in their eye that would not be denied, creating extra possessions with furious defense, rebounding, and rim attacking. Houston Christian would never lead in a game that opened with a 17-2 margin favoring the Lions. Sophomore Tate Laczkowski came off the bench to connect on a pair of immediate threes, and Noah Shelby could not be contained, as he distributed seven assists and led the Lions in scoring with 19 points for the game. Isaac Bird got early minutes, using his speed and toughness to lock down three of the conference’s best guards. A 26-point halftime margin only widened, as the Lions were hitting on all cylinders. The team connected on 16 three-pointers, thanks in part to strong contributions from sophomore Caleb Vanzant, and juniors Luke Annett and Jake Laufenberg. The script couldn’t have been much sweeter, as the Lions’ five seniors got to finish the game on the floor together. Veterans Camp Collins, Taylor Hopkin, Eddie Raj, Aaron Thorne, and the aforementioned Andrew Laczkowski were mobbed by the massive crowd on hand at center court as the final buzzer sounded. What a way to finish one of the greatest seasons put together by one of the greatest teams in the history of St. Mark’s basketball!
Thank you to all of the SPC competitors and coaches for an outstanding weekend of athletic performance and sportsmanship.
Thank you to Hockaday, Greenhill, Cistercian, and ESD for joining St. Mark’s as host schools for the SPC Winter Championships.
And many thanks to our Lion parents and fans for their incredible support of St. Mark’s athletic programs and our Marksmen athletes!