westhill high school Vikings to vie at college level
Playing varsity as a freshman, Westhill girls soccer player Corinne Dente always admired the older girls on the team who were heading off to play soccer in college.
This year as a senior, Dente got to be the one the younger players aspired to be and, as she heads off to play soccer at the University of Louisville, she set a high bar for those coming up after her.
Dente was among six athletes from Westhill signing Nation Letters of Intent last week to continue their athletic careers in college.
“Playing D-1 was always my goal and to be in the ACC is nice,” Dente said. “We went through so much as a team. Freshmen and sophomore year, we were really good and as underclassmen we had people to look up to who were also going D-1. To lose those girls we looked up to and us having to be the ones who are role models, it was good to learn from them.”
Joining Dente in moving on to the next level is her teammate since childhood, Claudia Benz.
Benz will be heading to the University of Delaware next fall to play soccer, saying the school and team seemed like a perfect fit when she visited last year.
“When I stepped on the campus and did my tour, the coaches made me feel welcome and I knew that’s where I wanted to go. The campus is beautiful and the soccer is right at the level I want,” Benz said. “Through my club team and here at Westhill, the dream was always to go D-1. To know there were D-1 athletes here at Westhill, it helped me persevere and it helped my reach that goal.”
Two years ago, as a sophomore, Bobby Zmarzlak burst onto the scene for the Vikings’ baseball team, getting the attention of those in the FCIAC as well as college coaches.
Zmarzlak really impressed the summer between his sophomore and junior year at showcases and was offered an opportunity to play baseball in the Big-10 at the University of Maryland.
“My favorite part about the University of Maryland was the school spirit. You see everyone with the Maryland flag colors everywhere and it was cool to see that. As far as baseball, they are a winning program,” Zmarzlak said. “It will be fun playing in a big-time conference. It will make me better and allow me to play against better competition. We have had a lot of good players at Westhill and a lot of good leaders and coaches to help push me to where I am now.”
Zmarzlak’s teammate TJ Wainwright will also be continuing next year when he moves on to play at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
Much like Dente and Benz, he had players on the Westhill team inspiring him to reach the next level.
“When I was a freshman, I saw the seniors going off to play in college and I practiced being exactly how they were and try to make myself better than they were. Sophomore year I went to a lot of showcases and everything fell into place,” Wainwright said. “I looked at a few schools, but that was the one most interested in me and the one I could picture myself going there. I like how the baseball team mingles with the other teams and all support each other. I like the facilities and I liked where it is, only an hour away from here.”
Unlike the other signees, Chloe Segal did not have anyone at Westhill to look up to, mostly because her sport, rowing, is not offered at the school.
Segal rows for Greenwich Crew out of Cos Cob and will be rowing at Bucknell next year.
She said she began rowing in middle school at the urging of her parents, but quickly learned to love the only sport she ever participated in.
“Before crew I never played any sport and I was the most unathletic kid you’d ever meet,” Segal said. “My mom signed me up for a summer program there and after doing the summer program I thought ‘I am not doing this whatsoever.’ But my mom signed me up for the fall program and I did it in the fall and I loved it. Loved the camaraderie of my teammates and being around that atmosphere and racing. I wasn’t thinking about rowing at the college level until junior year.”
Grace Hansen did not have many college-bound athletes to look up to playing lacrosse at Westhill, but said playing with girls from neighboring towns got her considering college lacrosse.
Hansen signed to go play lacrosse at UMass-Lowell.
“I started thinking about it in seventh grade through the club team I played for. A lot of those girls I play with are Darien, Greenwich and New Canaan girls who are also thinking about it and it was something I wanted to do, too.” Hansen said “It was more challenging playing at Westhill where there are not a lot of girls who go on to play in college. I really love lacrosse and I knew it was something I couldn’t stop after high school and knew I had to continue.”
All the athletes signing from Westhill are leaving something behind, a legacy similar to those who came before them.
In a few years when kids are signing an NLI at Westhill, it may well be one of them an athlete points to as inspiration.