Story by Bria Irizarry
In a year in which very little has felt typical, Durham Academy student-athletes have found a little sliver of normalcy on the soccer field, track, golf course and basketball court.
The benefit for students was tremendous — participating in a sport helped new students make new friends, and seniors closing out their high school experience tried new sports for the first time. In a year when students were isolated, sports allowed them to socialize; in a year when grade levels were split, being on a team allowed them to see friends; in a year when students were mostly at home, sports allowed them to be on campus; in a year when students struggled with mental health, sports helped them stay motivated; in a year when teams couldn't train or compete as much or as traditionally as they would have, students still notched incredible performances.
DA boys cross-country placed second in the Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Conference (TISAC) and fourth in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) championship. Senior Jay Shanahan placed third overall with a time of 15:58, nearly 30 seconds faster than he ran the course last year at states. Senior Ryan Norris crossed the finish line in 13th place at 16:49, and classmate Kabir Khwaja placed 19th with a time of 17:08, more than 30 seconds faster than last year. The Cavs finished with runners in 21st, 28th, 37th and 49th place.
DA girls cross-country took second place in the TISAC, with ninth-grader Allison Hall coming in first place (18:53), senior Anna Catherine Wilson finishing second (19:34) and senior Lucy Steiner placing fourth (20:59). The girls placed sixth at the state meet — with Hall leading the way, finishing at 19:00 and in second place overall. Five DA runners completed the race with season-best times to score a total of 173 points, just behind TISAC opponent Cary Academy, which scored 151 points.
The Cavs had seven runners named to the 2020 TISAC All-Conference teams — for the girls, Hall, Steiner and Wilson, and on the boys side, Shanahan, Norris, Khwaja and sophomore Aaron Caveney.
DA field hockey had an impressive postseason run this year, with an exciting quarterfinal win over Cary Christian School before falling to Providence Day 8–0 in the state semifinals. The Cavs closed out the season with a 5–3 record, and six players were named to the All-Conference team: senior Katherine Lantzy; juniors Mirella Kades, Emmie Savarino, Carson Tucker (honorable mention) and Talbot Waters; and sophomore London Burnham.
The Cavs earned a state runner-up finish in the NCISAA tournament at Greensboro’s Bryan Park after placing second in the TISAC less than a week prior. Sophomore Ona Lukes placed fourth overall with a score of 74, and eighth-grader Saia Rampersaud also placed for the Cavs, tying for eighth with a 77. The Cavs ended the regular season 4–2, and both Lukes and Rampersaud were named to the All-Conference team.
DA finished the year with a 6–3 record after a 1–0 loss to Wesleyan Christian Academy in the NCISAA state quarterfinal. The team was on a four-game winning streak ahead of the quarterfinal loss and had three players awarded All-Conference honors: seniors Walker Benjamin and Sam Datin, as well as junior Diego Pastor-Valverde.
The DA girls tennis team reached the state semifinals for the sixth consecutive year. Despite some late-match energy, the Cavs fell 5–0 to eventual champion Charlotte Latin School but finished the 2021 season with a 9–2
record. Senior Ameya Bellamkonda, junior Mukta Dharmapurikar and ninth-grader Godiya Mangai were named to the TISAC All-Conference team.
DA volleyball reached the state semifinal vs. Cannon School but lost only its second match of the year, 3–1, to the Cougars. DA volleyball ended the year with an 8–2 overall record and 6–1 conference record. Senior Elizabeth Kohn capped her DA career with a team-high 130 kills on the season, while junior Gabriella Marchese finished with 20 serving aces and sophomore Hannah Kohn finished with 153 digs for the Cavs. All three Kohn sisters — senior Elizabeth and juniors Hannah and Olivia — were awarded All-Conference honors.
Varsity boys hoops finished the 2020–2021 season with a 12–8 overall record and 6–3 conference record. This marked the third straight season of the Cavs advancing to the state quarterfinals.
Senior Cole Sinclair finished the season as the boys basketball program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,785 points (341 more points than second place). He played in the most games in program history (141) and is the all-time leader in three-point field goals (306). He also holds the school record for single season three-pointers made (98 in his 2018–2019 campaign). Senior Toby Harris ended his career with 1,022 points (11th best all-time) and 176 three-point field goals (fourth best all-time), and is third all-time in three-point field goals in a single season (87 in his 2019–2020 campaign).
The DA girls basketball team earned a spot in a NCISAA first-round playoff game at Wesleyan Christian Academy but lost 51–43. The girls ended with a 12–8 record overall and 8–3 in conference, for a second-place finish in the TISAC. This season, the team was led in points by eighth-grader McKenzie Graves (197) and followed closely behind by sophomore Mariam Abdelbarr (195), sophomore Kendall Harris (177) and ninth-grader Lauren Walsh (166). Graves finished with 30 assists and 39 steals, and Walsh had 27 assists and 42 steals. Abdelbarr and Harris led the team in rebounds with 106 and 133, respectively, while Harris also contributed 41 blocks. Even during this unprecedented year, the Cavs came out with a winning record, the third in as many years for the girls basketball program.
The boys swim team finished 12th out of 15 teams at the NCISAA swim meet. The Cavs did not have any top-10 individual finishers, but multiple swimmers set personal best times at the meet. The boys had an eighth-place relay finish in the 400-yard freestyle.
On the girls side, DA finished eighth out of 16 teams, moving up four spots from last season’s 12th-place finish. Sophomore Spencer Jennings was the standout swimmer with a third-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley and a second-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke. Seventh-grader Kenzie Kim came in fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke.
The 2021 DA varsity baseball season completed the season with an 8–7 overall record and earned a trip to the first round of the state tournament. The Cavs lost to Wake Christian 7–5 but had three players earn TISAC All-Conference honors: juniors Sean Donahue, Ethan Goldstein and Jackson Niedel.
DA boys golf ended the season with a seventh-place finish out of 12 teams at the state championship at the Greensboro Country Club Farm Course. Senior Jackson Brimfield shot a 79 in his last outing wearing the green and white, while seventh-grader Tate Duensing shot a 74. Sophomore William Chapman finished with a 75, while classmate Nicholas Hogan and ninth-grader Quin Huckabee tied at 81. The team ended the year 2–3–1 in the regular season, third place in the TISAC and with three All-Conference selections: Brimfield, Chapman and Duensing.
The DA boys lacrosse team earned the No. 1 seed in the East Region of the NCISAA state tournament and made an appearance in the state semifinals vs. the Greenies of Christ School. The Cavs lost 16–6, but this was the first time the team had reached the state semifinal since 2014. The boys amassed a 9–6 record on the season and a fourth-place ranking in NCISAA Division I, according to maxpreps.com, and an overall 10th-place ranking in the state, according to highschoolOT.com. Five DA players were named to the All-Conference team, including seniors John Donovan (player of the year) and Gavin Schulz, junior Austin Corbett, and sophomores Brodie Mason and John Bolognesi (honorable mention).
DA girls lacrosse ended the 2021 season after winning the TISAC championship and earning a trip to the state semifinal vs. Charlotte Country Day School. The Cavs’ run in the state tournament ended with a 17–12 loss. DA posted an 11–2 season overall, ended the season ranked fifth in the state according to highschoolOT.com, and garnered two US Lacrosse All-America accolades. Junior Brooke Epstein was named an All-American, and senior Katherine Lantzy was named an Academic All-American. The Cavs also had six All-Conference selections: seniors Kathleen Donovan and Lantzy (honorable mention), juniors Mirella Kades and Epstein, sophomore Spencer Jennings and ninth-grader Evelyn Guyer.
The Cavs closed out the 2021 season with an overtime loss to Wesleyan Christian Academy in the second round of the state tournament. Despite a slow start with a number of injuries, DA finished strong, ending the regular season with back-to-back home wins, including a 1–0 win over Saint Mary’s School on senior night to give coach Susan Ellis her 200th win at DA. The team finished with a 6–7 record and three All-Conference players: juniors Isabel Trahey-Matzen and Kennedy Yon and sophomore Kaia Vorenkamp (honorable mention).
The varsity boys tennis team had an impressive season that included a spot in the state semifinals, a TISAC championship and a TISAC Player of the Year selection in sophomore Pete Crowley. The team lost to Charlotte Country Day in the state semis, but it was only its second loss of the season. Senior Frank Borden, junior Gavin Levinson and sophomores Owen Brent-Levenstein, Paul Wang and Crowley were named to the All-Conference team.
DA had a varsity softball team this spring, but it did not compete in any interscholastic competition. The team spent this season focusing on individual and team skill development in preparation for the 2022 spring season.
Track and Field
Girls track and field finished in fifth place and the boys team placed 10th overall at the NCISAA state meet. DA’s girls 4x100-meter relay team (senior Lee Jeffries, junior Julianna Hallyburton, sophomore Amani Diallo and ninth-grader Ama Mensah-Boone) set a school record with a time of 50.83. Senior Anna Catherine Wilson took fourth place in the state in the 3,200-meter race, while Hallyburton won the state championship in the pole vault event. The girls ended the season on a high note, winning the TISAC championship and earning six All-Conference selections: senior Lucy Steiner, sophomore Veronica Quiett, Jeffries, Hallyburton, Diallo and Mensah-Boone.
The boys 4x400-meter relay team — comprising seniors Ryan Norris and Charlie Robb, junior Lars Oehler and sophomore Aaron Caveney — took third place in the state, and Norris placed third in the boys 300-meter hurdles event with a time of 41.78. Senior Jay Shanahan placed third in the boys 3,200-meter race with a time of 9:36, and eighth-grader Ben Hornstein put up an impressive time of 10:17 in the 3,200-meter race. The boys earned fourth place in the TISAC, and Norris was named to the All-Conference team.