A Final Goodbye

By Tori Kitchens

With less than a month before graduation, I reached out to the Class of 2023 to hear about their year, their time at Oak Hall School (OHS), and what’s to come.

Senior year is a year like no other. We receive privileges we have waited for, we get taught about the real world, and we make memories that will last a lifetime. This year’s graduating class would like to thank Mr. Malloy for making this year so special for us.

But it’s far from over. Currently, we’re working on our senior projects, our senior trip to Key West is right around the corner, and the graduation walk with our kindergarten buddies will be a highlight right before graduation.

Some favorites from the year:

For Neil Ruth and many others, he enjoyed winning all the Homecoming grade-level games. The seniors won both powderpuff events and capture the card back in October. For Jenna McDowell, she enjoyed getting to know everyone in the senior class. Lifer Kate Pickens loved bonding with everyone and getting to know people in other grades. Bailey Thorp enjoyed the senior meals, and Mia Kuhn loved having lunch off-campus. Gwynn Munger and Julia Gordan liked spending time in the college counseling suite.

The Kindergarten Buddy program was something we were all excited for. Lifer Emily Malloy has a very special connection with her buddy. “From working in the ECLC, I have known Jasper and his family for a while,” she told me. “He is so special and brings a smile to my face every day. I am so blessed to have him and his family in my life.”

Whether you arrived on campus only a year ago or you have been here since the very beginning, thank you to the Class of 2023 for an amazing time at OHS. The friendships and connections I have made with my classmates this year is something that I will cherish forever, and I am so excited to cheer everyone on in this next chapter.

Here is some advice to our younger OHS students:

“Just because you like something others don’t, don’t change what you like to be known or popular,” McDowell pointed out, “You like what YOU want to, not what others around you like.”

“It’s okay to make mistakes, it is okay to take it easy,” lifer Blake Cornwell stated. He emphasizes the fact that academia is not the sole reason for living and to not put too much pressure on yourself. Emily Malloy mentioned that your character shines through as mistakes happen.

“Make some good memories that last a lifetime,” Neil Ruth explained. “You’re in high school once.”

“Enjoy your time while you are at Oak Hall, you are really lucky to go to a school like this and will appreciate it when you are older,” Pickens said. “Just savor every minute because it goes by crazy fast.”

Here is a list of the colleges the Class of 2023 will be attending:
American University
Auburn University
Baylor University
Belmont Abbey College
Carnegie Melon University
Flagler College
Florida A&M University
Florida International University
Florida State University
George Washington University
Jacksonville University
John Hopkins University
Loyola Marymount University
Mississippi State University
Newberry College
Oregon State University
Santa Fe Community College
Savannah College of Art and Design
Sewanee: The University of the South
The New School
Trinity College Dublin
University of Chicago
University of Florida
University of North Florida
University of South Florida
Vanderbilt University
Wake Forest University
Yale University

Just Because: NCAA Gymnastics!

By Tori Kitchens

By Tori Kitchens

The NCAA Gymnastics season is reaching its end as all eight teams in the National Semifinals have been decided. Today at 3 p.m., the University of Florida Gators will try to earn its spot in the finals.

But how did we get here? Let me tell you!

The four regional competitions concluded last weekend. Round one of the regionals was a play-in competition between two teams in each regional. NC State defeated Ball State, Boise State defeated BYU, Penn State defeated Towson, and Arizona defeated North Carolina to earn a spot in the second round competition.

Round two featured eight teams per regional where four would face off for two spots in the regional final. Round three, the regional final, included the four teams that advanced. These four teams competed for two spots in the National Semifinals in Fort Worth, Texas.

Oklahoma, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Alabama earned their spots and faced off in the Norman regional final. The Oklahoma Sooners and Kentucky Wildcats advanced with scores of 198.05 and 197.85, respectively. The Sooners had an incredible final two rotations after having to count a low score on the balance beam. The squad did not score below a 9.90 on the floor, and junior Katherine Levasseur scored another perfect 10.0 on the vault to push her team to victory. The other three teams in the final were within 0.20 points, but Kentucky was able to get the victory over the Buckeyes and the Crimson Tide.

Utah and UCLA edged out Missouri and Washington in the Los Angeles regional final with scores of 198.05 and 197.925. The competition included three perfect 10.0 routines: Jaedyn Rucker from Utah on vault, Jordan Chiles from UCLA on floor, and Selena Harris from UCLA on vault. This was the freshman Harris’ first 10.0, and she was very emotional. UCLA and Utah will have to fight for a spot with the reigning champion team, Oklahoma.

UCLA’s Jordan Chiles with a perfect floor routine at the 2023 regional finals

California-Berkley and Florida advanced to the National Semifinals with scores of 198.075 and 197.80 over Michigan State and Arizona State. The Florida Gators faced some difficulty during round two as their star all-around performer and fifth year senior Trinity Thomas stopped in the middle of her floor routine with a lower leg injury. This left the team in a difficult position as they needed to put gymnasts to fill in during the following two rotations and the regional final competition. California put together an incredible all-around performance scoring their third highest score of the year. Florida barely edged out the Michigan State Spartans as the Gators scored lower on the vault and floor exercises than their average.

In the final regional in Denver, drama unfolded before our eyes as Denver and LSU defeated 2021 National Champion Michigan and Oregon State. Denver scored a 197.875 and became the lowest seeded team to advance to the National Semifinals. LSU and Michigan tied with a 197.75, so a tiebreaker left both teams holding their breath as they awaited the news of who would continue their postseason run and who would go home empty handed. The NCAA officials added the sixth score to each rotation to see who deserved to advance. Michigan had falls on the uneven bars and the balance beam which gave them low scores that they worked hard to drop. However, with the necessary tiebreaker, these scores had to be added to their total, which allowed LSU to swoop in and advance.

California, Denver, Florida, and LSU will compete in the first Semifinal for two spots in the National Championship. This side of the bracket features Florida, the most probable squad to advcance. Without Thomas, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Champion Gators will face a greater challenge than in prior rounds.  

California won their first NCAA Regional final with their highest road and postseason score in school history, and they produced the highest score of any team with a 198.075. At the regional final, they did not record a score below 9.80, showing that they were solid on each event.

Denver is not a stranger to the National Finals as they have qualified six times, most recently in 2019. This was the Pioneers’ second regional win. Fifth year senior Lynnzee Brown scored 9.95 on each event to produce the second highest all-around score in program history and a personal best 39.80. Junior Bella Mabanta scored a 9.975 on the beam which was the highest beam score in the history of Denver’s postseason activity.

The Florida Gators made it to the Semifinals for the third consecutive year and are hoping to make the Final Four on the Floor for the third consecutive year. Even though Florida has been a consistent competitor in the finals, the last championship that they won was in 2015. With it being unknown if Thomas will be available to compete, the Gators have had time to prepare for the rest of postseason. Thomas, as an individual, is two 10.0 scores away from owning the NCAA record.

UF’s Trinity Thomas scores a perfect 10 on the floor at the SEC Championships

The LSU Tigers have made it to the National Championship round eight times but have never won a title, yet they have placed second three times. They are strong competitors in the SEC as they have won three titles in that tournament in the last ten years. They were consistent competitors in the semifinals in Fort Worth, but they barely missed out on qualifying last year. After a rough season full of injuries, the Tigers have made it back to the National Semifinals.

Oklahoma, Utah, UCLA, and Kentucky will face off for the final two spots in the National Championship. This matchup will be very difficult as the number four UCLA Bruins will try to wedge their way through the top ranked Oklahoma Sooners and the number five Utah Utes to keep them from returning to the National Championship competition.

The Sooners have appeared in the final 11 times and are hoping to make another championship run. Oklahoma has been ranked first in the country all year and have produced very high scores, making them likely to go back-to-back and become champions for the sixth time in program history.

Utah’s Red Rocks have been one of the most decorated programs in the history of NCAA Gymnastics as they have made it to the National Semifinal every year since 1982 (with the exception of the COVID year) and came up victorious ten times, tying for the most titles with the Georgia Gym Dogs. The Utes have not won the National title since 1995, but they have come very close in recent years.

The Bruins of UCLA have made it to the finals 23 times and won the title seven times. This team has had a few coaching shifts over the past few years. In 2019, Valorie Kondos Field retired from coaching after being the head coach of the Bruins for 28 years. Field was the longest reigning head coach of UCLA. Since then, Chris Waller became the head coach for two years, and Janelle McDonald is in her first year. With fifth year Margzetta Frazier and Olympic silver medalist and sophomore Chiles, the Bruins will try to win back their crown as they did in 2018.

The Kentucky gymnastics program has only made it to Fort Worth once (2018), but the Wildcats successfully punched their second ticket after scoring a 197.85. Senior Raena Worley led her team with an impressive 39.65 to tie for runner-up in the all-around. The Wildcats have not been the strongest program over the years, but they are proving everyone wrong as they will compete to win their first national championship.

These eight teams will compete today for the chance to keep fighting and win a National Championship. The team with the highest score in Saturday’s competition will take home the trophy.

In addition to the team competition, four all-around competitors and 16 event specialists qualified to the National Championship to compete for individual titles, as their teams were eliminated in the regionals. Each regional produced one all-arounder and four event specialists, one from each event. The individual champions will be decided in today’s competition.

Payton Harris from the Norman regional with compete in the all-around representing Ohio State University. She produced her season high all-around score with a 39.60, and she has an average score of 39.358. Chloe Widner of Stanford will be the all-around athlete sent from the Los Angeles regional as she scored a 39.55 and has an average of 39.068. She scored as high as 39.625 during the regular season against Oregon State, and she will look to replicate this performance in the National round. Hannah Scharf of an up-and-coming program at Arizona State will compete in the all-around from the Pittsburgh regional with a 39.625 performance. Finally, senior Abby Heiskell will represent the Michigan Wolverines in the all-around competition as she scored a 39.675.

Courtney Blackson from Boise State, Naomi Morrison from Michigan, Ava Piedrahita from Penn State, and Lauren Williams from Arkansas will compete as individuals in the vault. Luisa Blanco from Alabama, Natalie Wojcik from Michigan, Emily Lopez from Boise State, and Cassidy Rushlow from Penn State will compete on the uneven bars. Nora Flatley from Arkansas, Gabrielle Stephen from Michigan State, Alisa Sheremeta from Missouri, and Jade Carey will compete on the balance beam as individuals. Finally, Sierra Brooks from Michigan, Elexis Edwards from Ohio State, Derrian Gobourne from Auburn, and Delanie Harkness from Michigan State will compete in floor exercise.

My Predictions:

Team Champion – Oklahoma
All-Around Champion – Trinity Thomas from Florida (if healthy) or Jordan Bowers from Oklahoma
Vault Champion – Olivia Trautman from Oklahoma
Uneven Bars Champion – Leanne Wong from Florida
Balance Beam – Trinity Thomas (if healthy) or Ragan Smith from Oklahoma
Floor – Sierra Brooks from Michigan and Derrian Gobourne from Auburn

MLB Opening Day is Finally Here!

By Tori Kitchens

Major League Baseball (MLB) is back! Today marks Opening Day of the 2023 MLB season.

The 2022 season ended with an American League (AL) victory in the World Series for the Houston Astros over the National League’s (NL) Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros won in six games, ending the Phillies’ impressive postseason run in Houston.

Last year’s regular season ended with the New York Yankees winning the AL East, the Cleveland Guardians winning the AL Central, the Astros winning the AL West, the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets tying for the win of the NL East, the St. Louis Cardinals winning the NL Central, and the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the AL West.

ESPN writers, analysts, and editors made their predictions of the season outcome. They predicted that the regular season winners from the AL will be the same, and the Astros will become the AL champions.

The NL, on the other hand, having undergone many changes to their ball clubs, have very different outcome positions. The Braves were chosen to win the NL East significantly over the Mets, the Cardinals are predicted to win the NL Central, and the San Diego Padres were predicted to edge out the Dodgers in the NL West. The Padres were also chosen to edge out the Braves in the NL championship.

The ESPN voters were in favor of an NL team becoming the 2023 World Series champions but were split between the Braves and the Padres. The Braves have 2022 NL Rookie of the Year finalist Spencer Strider (pitcher) and the 2022 NL Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II (outfield) to continue their impressive starts in the majors. The Padres organization is one with a lot of talent with five strong batters to leadoff their order. Fernando Tatis, Jr. will make his return in late April following injuries from last season and a suspension on account of performance enhancing drugs.

MLB play may look a little different this year as rule changes will be implemented. Infield shifts are prohibited, a new pitch clock is enforced, pitchers are only allowed to make two pickoff attempts per batter, and the size of bases are increased from 15 to 18 inches to reduce injuries. We have seen previews of some of these changes in spring training games and are being introduced in college ball as well.

Many transactions occurred during the offseason with the most dramatic being shortstop Carlos Correa. This infielder’s name was brought up multiple times during the offseason as he opted out of his contract with the Minnesota Twins. Correa was set to sign with the San Francisco Giants, but, due to concerns of a weak ankle, the baseball club was timid to let him sign on the dotted line, which would grant him a 13-year, $350 million deal. In the middle of the night on December 21, Correa agreed to a 12-year, $315 million contract with the Mets, which stood as a major threat in the NL East. More concerns arose in the Mets ball club surrounding Correa’s ankle, so he returned to the Twins where he signed a six-year $200 million contract.

Braves fans, like myself, were heartbroken following the loss of former first baseman Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers following the World Series win in 2021. The Braves organization and fans took another hard hit as hometown hero Dansby Swanson’s contract expired. Swanson is one of the league’s most dynamic players and shortstops. On Dec. 17, he announced he would join his new wife, professional soccer player Mallory [Pugh] Swanson, in Chicago and sign a 7-year, $177 million contract with the Cubs organization.

Two more notable transactions included former Dodgers infielder Justin Turner and former Mets ace pitcher Jacob deGrom. Turner will return to AL competition as he suits up for the Boston Red Sox. He will face his former team, the Baltimore Orioles, during opening weekend. DeGrom will make his Texas Rangers and American League (AL) debut as the ace pitcher against the Phillies.

Season Opening Series:
Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals
San Francisco Giants @ New York Yankees
Baltimore Orioles @ Boston Red Sox
Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs
Detroit Tigers @ Tampa Bay Rays
Philadelphia Phillies @ Texas Rangers
Pittsburgh Pirates @ Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies @ San Diego Padres
Toronto Blue Jays @ St. Louis Cardinals
Minnesota Twins @ Kansas City Royals
New York Mets @ Miami Marlins
Chicago White Sox @ Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels @ Oakland Athletics
Arizona Diamondbacks @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Cleveland Guardians @ Seattle Mariners

Just Because: March Madness Has Truly Gone Mad

By Ryan McKinney 

The time has come and madness here for us all, bringing many new matchups and many teams awaiting the big dance. The tournament contains 68 teams total including four buy-in games to create a bracket of 64 total teams. 

 Through the first weekend of games nothing has changed as the tournament featured a total of seven upsets in the round of 64, and five upsets in the Round of 32. This is nothing usual though as anything can happen in March. Highlighting the biggest upset this past week comes from the 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU…a school in New Jersey) beating Number 1 seed Purdue in a wire-to-wire game in the first round. FDU coach Tobin Anderson spoke in the locker room after winning their buy-in game saying, “The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them.” This revealed the true underdogs confidence and how they can compete with any team in the tournament despite losing in a close game in the second round of the tournament. Other big moments in the tournament so far come from the Ivy League school Princeton as they shocked the world beating Number 2 seed Arizona in the first round, then went on to beat Missouri to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Besides these big upsets, many top ranked teams still remain as the Houston Cougars and Alabama Crimson Tide pose as big threats moving on in this tournament. Furthermore, there are also what I like to call “Dark Horse” teams in which the players are very talented, but the team itself isn’t ranked amongst the best. These teams consist of Miami, Kansas State, Creighton, and UCLA. 

Other big games consisted of Arkansas pulling off the upset against 1 Seed Kansas in the second round propelling them to the Sweet Sixteen. Along with this big win from Arkansas, Miami routed a very talented Indiana team who many thought could get to the Final Four. Miami showed last year that they could make a run and I see it happening again this year as they are led by young star Isaiah Wong. 

The matchups of the teams remaining in the Sweet Sixteen are listed below:

South Region:

March 24
#1 Alabama vs. #5 San Diego State @ 6:30pm 
#6 Creighton vs. #15 Princeton @ 9:00pm 

East Region:

March 23
#9 Florida Atlantic vs. #4 Tennessee @ 9:00pm 
#3 Kansas State vs. #7 Michigan State @ 6:30pm 

Midwest Region:

March 24
#1 Houston vs. #5 Miami @ 7:15pm

#3 Xavier vs. #2 Texas @ 9:45pm

West Region:

March 23
#8 Arkansas vs. #4 UConn @ 7:15pm

#3 Gonzaga vs. #2 UCLA @ 9:45


Although everybody’s bracket is broken, ESPN still offers a challenge to predict the Sweet Sixteen and I’d like to share who I believe is going to win and why. Coming out of the South Region games, I have Alabama cruising past the Aztecs as the Tide are just too efficient on offense; and then Creighton ending the Cinderella run in a close match though against Princeton. Between these two teams, I believe Alabama will barely edge out Creighton to advance to the Final Four. Moving on to the East Region, I have Florida Atlantic (FAU) continuing their hot streak and advancing to the Elite Eight in a matchup against Kansas State. Kansas State will beat Michigan State easily as they just perform at a way faster pace and score too many points for the Spartans to keep up. Anyways, I have Kansas State led by Florida Gator alumni Keyontae Johnson ending the streak of FAU and advancing to the Final Four. Next, is the Midwest Region which contains, in my opinion, the toughest pair of games to predict. Both games have teams that have displayed a series of proficient basketball in the past, and I don’t expect anything to change. I believe Houston will slightly edge out the Canes due to their big size in the paint containing two seven footers in the starting line up. Facing up against Houston in the Elite Eight will be Texas as they’ve been hot since beating Kansas twice by more than 20 points during the end of the regular season. This will be the game of the tournament likely either ending on a buzzer beater or going to overtime, but with my winner comes size so I’m taking the Cougars. Lastly, the games in the West Region have one of my personal favorites to win the tournament in UCLA. I’ve watched this team the past three years and not only do they have athleticism and size, but also tournament experience as this is their third Sweet Sixteen in three years. So, I will be taking UConn in a very close game against Arkansas who just beat Kansas, but then UConn losing to UCLA in the Elite Eight by at least double digits. 

This brings me to my Final Four in which I believe will be some of the greatest college basketball games in a few years. To start off, I have Alabama standing their ground and barely skipping by a tough Kansas State team to advance to the championship. In this next game come my two favorite teams coming into the tournament, where Houston has the advantage because the entire Final Four is hosted in Houston. Nevertheless, I still believe UCLA can outscore the Cougars in their hometown so I’m taking the Tyger Campbell-led Bruins. Finally comes the championship where the two most talented teams sacrifice their season in engaging their last-ditch effort to win the title. Without a doubt, I’m taking the team I’ve been riding with all month long and that’s the UCLA Bruins. This is because of their offensive efficiency as well as their way to play such good defense while still putting up a bunch of points. 

Spanish Students Head To Conferencia

Since November, a select number of students taking Spanish have been practicing for Conferencia, a state-wide competition where students perform a two minute impromptu speech, 10 students act in a play, and six students recite poetry…all in Spanish. With a maximum of 16 students competing, Oak Hall is hosting this year’s competition in Orlando. The competition, which starts on Thursday, March 8, goes into the weekend.

In addition to the aforementioned categories, schools can compete in auxiliary events. These events aren’t factored into the overall score, but do have first, second, and third place standings. Oak Hall students have prepared two songs, one dance, one poster, one physical scrapbook, one digital scrapbook, and a t-shirt design to show off their school, and Spanish, spirit.

    Seniors Sadia Rafa and Sophia Santelices perform the song they are singing in the competition

    Over the past five years, Oak Hall’s Spanish program has won first place twice (2019 and 2020), and third place (2022). The competition in 2021 was cancelled due to COVID. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to compete at such a high level against schools larger than Oak Hall. For one final practice, the students hosted a performance at the Upper School Learning Commons on Monday, complete with costumes and perfection. Spanish Teacher Krystal Serrano has complete faith in her students and believes they will do well in the competition. “They’ve worked hard and I’m proud of them,” she said.

    Good luck Eagles!!!