Going into the 2021-22 season, the Oak Hall boys varsity soccer team had a combined five wins in the last two years. This year, however, the team has a 5-1 record and its first winning start to a season since 2017.
First year Head Soccer Coach Edwin McTureous, who also coaches Oak Hall’s cross country and track and field teams, attributes part of the team’s success to its larger roster compared to previous years. “I enjoy being around the boys and getting to know some boys that I’ve never coached before,” he said.
The team defeated the likes of University Christian, Trenton, Dunnellon, and Bell this season; it lost to three of those four teams last year. The Eagles are also on pace for one of the winningest seasons in program history.
Senior Asher Dobrin has been especially impacted by McTureous’ coaching. “Coach McTureous gives us really good instruction and reinforcement, which we didn’t have much of in the last two years,” he explained. Dobrin added that the majority of the team members are returning players, which has strengthened the team’s chemistry. “We’re able to play with so much more focus and energy this season,” he said.
Some players had low expectations for this season but have been pleasantly surprised by the team’s success. “I think we have a lot of skilled players on the team,” said Senior Ryland Kane. He believes that the team’s mindset is just as important as its gameplay and is a key instrument to its success. “We hope to continue to improve during practice so we can show that our team is more capable than some may think,” he stated.
Troupe 6405 earned four “Top Honors” awards, two “Superior” awards, and numerous “Excellent” awards
By Tori Kitchens
On Dec. 4, the Upper School’s theater department traveled to Lake Minneola High School to compete in the District 12 Thespian Festival and returned home with great success. This festival occurred for the first time since 2019, so the Eagles were very excited to return to competition. “It has been so long since I have been around a large group of people all doing what they love to do, and I felt all day that everyone was just as excited as me to be back in person for live theater events,” said Lower School Music Teacher and accompanist Erin Cushing.
After months of preparation, Oak Hall’s Thespians, Troupe 6405, brought 201 events to the festival: five monologues, five solo musical pieces, four duet acting pieces, two duet musical pieces, two ensemble acting pieces, one small group musical piece, one student choreography, and one student directed. “What surprised me the most was that our acts uniquely represented us with our humor and silliness, and I think other troupes were slightly more somber than usual, so it was nice to see that we were just able to sit back and enjoy it,” noted Upper School Theater Co-Director Dr. Dominique Clance.
The Eagles competed from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. After the final event, the troupe learned that it received a Top Honor: the highest score in their event room. Senior Jennifer Berthy and sophomore Katelyn Berthy got “Top Honors for Duet Musical”, “Single Man Drought” from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.
The Berthy sisters, however, weren’t the only “Top Honors” winners from OHS. Senior Peyton Nembhard won “Top Honors for Student Choreography” to a piece from the musical Kinky Boots. This was Oak Hall’s first entry in this category since the troupe’s inception. Seniors Julia Curtis and Kaylee Rowe, and sophomore Annika Quanbeck received “Top Honors Ensemble Acting” for their piece titled, “Barbies.” Finally, the troupe’s small group musical, “Haus of Holbein” from the musical Six, received Top Honors. The actors in this piece were Katelyn Berthy, Quanbeck, Rowe, Nembhard, junior Christina Sarantos, and freshman Lilia AitSahlia. “I am so proud of them! We haven’t had any Top Honors/Critic’s Choice in several years, and their hard work paid off,” said Upper School Theater Director, Brooke Molitor.
Winning “Top Honors” gives the actors an opportunity to perform their pieces at the event’s closing ceremony. Oak Hall won the most top scores out of any troupe. “Not one, not two, not three, but four Top Honors!” Molitor emphasized. “This district has some of the most competitive schools and as another director emailed me, our students “totally dominated” the festival.” This was the best that Oak Hall’s troupe had done at the district level since 2016.
In addition to the four “Top Honors” recipients, there were two more “Superior” scores, which is the highest score level. Sarantos and fellow junior Bailey Thorp received superior on their duet musical, “The Actuary Song” from I Love You Because, and Jennifer Berthy and Rowe received superior for their duet acting title “Stepsisters”. The remaining 14 events received the next best score, “Excellent”.
Troupe 6405 will travel to Tampa in March to compete at the State Thespian Festival. “This is the largest Thespian Festival in the country, and it is a very busy few days filled with shows, masterclasses, workshops, and the competition,” Molitor explained. “Students will start rehearsing again after Winter Break and implementing the constructive feedback from the judges.”
Hanukkah, often called the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day celebration that commemorates the Jewish people’s rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December.
According to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s most central texts, the Jewish people who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply. This miraculous event inspired the Jewish people to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.
The Hanukkah celebration revolves around the kindling of a nine-branched menorah, known in Hebrew as the hanukkiah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown; the ninth candle, called the shamash (helper), is used to light the others. Jews typically recite blessings during this ritual and display the menorah in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the holiday.
With its close proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah is often celebrated with giving and receiving gifts, as it has expanded into a largely commercialized holiday, particularly in North America. From a religious perspective, however, it remains a relatively minor holiday that places no restrictions on working, attending school or other activities.
In an allusion to the Hanukkah miracle, traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil. Potato pancakes (known as latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are particularly popular in many Jewish households. Oak Hall senior Amanda Malnik shared “my favorite tradition is making latkes and having a casual latke eating contest with my family”. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with four-sided spinning tops (dreidels) and competing for chocolate coins (gelt) in the game of dreidel. The dreidel game is one of the most famous Hanukkah traditions. It was created as a way for Jews to study the Torah and learn Hebrew in secret after Greek King Antiochus IV had outlawed all Jewish religious worship in 175 BCE. Today, the game is played as a way to celebrate a rich history and have fun with friends and family.
“Hanukkah in our family means warmth and joy”, shared Oak Hall junior Hannah Streeter. “It is an amazing holiday with an amazing story, but in reality, it is considered a minor holiday. Our family celebrates it by lighting the candles each night, playing dreidel, saying prayer and of course, eating gelt,” she added. “My favorite part would have to be lighting the candles. It’s an amazing feeling to see a new candle being added every night and being able to do it with my family.”
Oak Hall freshman Shyla Akri shared, “To me, Hanukkah represents the perseverance of the [Israelites] and how they continued to make the best of their situation by lighting their candles. Although they were in a poor place and because of their hard work, they were rewarded by the oil keeping the flames alight for eight whole days. This shows me that I should continue to work hard and fight for what’s right and eventually good things will come, just like what happened to the Jews when they kept their faith and continued to persevere. My family lights candles and says the prayers every night of Hanukkah and gives presents on one of those nights. My favorite part of Hanukkah is probably the food or the sense of unity in the Jewish community throughout the eight days.”
Throughout history, the lighting of the menorah each year serves as a reminder of the strength and resilience of the Jewish people. Even in the face of darkness, the Jewish people have survived.