Swim Teams Having a Great Season

The winter swim season has been successful for both boys and girls teams up to this point. The boys have earned 6 wins and 3 losses, while the girls are 4-6. The key contributors for boys have been Nick Jones, Aidan Wright, Will Deboer, Shawn Doolin, and Eddie Geswell. On the girls side, Jodie O’Connor, Jillian Locke, Mackenzie Shoff, Ashlee Leslie, and Molly McCarthy have turned in solid performances. The boys standout wins were versus Hingham, Middleboro, Quincy, and Silver Lake (Senior Night). Girls had a big sweep of Quincy and North Quincy.

In terms of the postseason, Nick Jones and Aidan Wright made states in multiple events.  Jodie O’Connor is the only girl to make states, and has qualified for multiple events.

According to Senior Joe Ferrarini, the key to their success has been teamwork. “Though we had some major star swimmers on our team, if we did not have 2nd’s, 3rd’s, and 4th’s every meet, we would have not have won many of the meets that we did,” he said.

The swim season goes by quickly, but it isn’t over yet.  This year’s seniors have been instrumental in leading the team to its winning ways. Senior boys Geswell, Doolin, Adam Hayes, Ferrarini, Joey Pensoneault, and Thomas O’Connor lead a deep team. For the girls, Shoff, Locke, Amanda Schell, and Elisa Sandonato do the same for their resilient team. They’ll make the teams end their seasons on a competitive and a winning note.

What League should HHS Sports Compete In? Part 1

Hanover High School doesn’t win all that many championships. I don’t like to acknowledge it, but it’s the truth. Things are certainly on an upswing and teams are performing well. Nearly three years ago it was the decision of then Athletic Director Fran Coyle to move Hanover athletics to the South Shore League. Fast forward three years and that decision doesn’t look like it was all that necessary. Hanover hardly dominates the Patriot League, but it definitely competes well. Is Hanover in the right place?

Right now, all the towns in close proximity to Hanover play in either the Patriot League or the South Shore League. Hanover is a member of the Patriot League Fisher Division (Small School). The Patriot League also has a large school division, the Keenan division. The Keenan division is made up of Duxbury, Quincy, Whitman-Hanson, Plymouth North, Silver Lake (Kingston, Plympton, and Halifax), and Hingham (Hingham Hockey plays an independent Schedule). The Fisher Division is Hanover, Scituate, Pembroke, Middleboro (Middleboro hockey plays in the South Shore League in a Co-Op with Hull), Plymouth South, and North Quincy.

Although it differs by sport, Hanover typically plays each team in the Fisher division  twice, in a home-and-home series, and each team from the Keenan division once. Hanover is the smallest school in the league and, in some cases, is the only D3 South team in the league. Rockland left the Patriot League in 2009 but before that they were in a similar boat to Hanover. Also, in my freshman year, the case used to be that Quincy High was in the Fisher division and North Quincy was in the Keenan.

This year both the Plymouths left the fledgling Atlantic Coast league to join the Patriot League. The ACL has Marshfield, Falmouth, Nauset, Dennis-Yarmouth, and Sandwich. As noted in the Boston Globe, Marshfield may have to leave the ACL simply for convenience and expense reasons. Their only realistic option would be to join the Patriot League where they would be a real dominant program in almost every sport.

The South Shore League is made up of smaller schools, and for the first time this year split into two divisions. The Small School division contains Cohasset, Hull, Mashpee, Monomoy (Chatham and Harwich), and Carver. The Large division is East Bridgewater, Abington, Norwell, Randolph, and Rockland. Randolph just joined this year after being an independent and a former Patriot League member. The SSL has its strengths and weaknesses. The small division is relatively weak except for Cohasset. However, the large has enough good programs that in every sport a couple of teams would challenge, if not be superior, to Hanover. The reality is that Hanover teams would find themselves with a lot more success in the South Shore, albeit against lesser competition. It would give Hanover more games with schools in the same MIAA division and schools a division lower. Some may say that’s a positive, others may not. The case may be that Hanover is better off playing bigger and better schools in the regular season, because it challenges them more and in the post-season they are better prepared than most teams. Others may say that facing those schools may make Hanover battle-tested, but that it doesn’t really lead to all that much improvement and it’s better to face schools of similar caliber that they could and would see again in the post-season. Hanover would be among the top three in enrollment, if not the top school, in the league. One thing in favor of the South Shore League, it has been finding an equal amount if not more success in the post season when compared to the Patriot League.

Hanover may be stuck playing some bigger schools, but it’s hard to argue that the Indians don’t compete. There may not be a lot of league titles, but there are also very few teams that have miserable seasons.

Hanover is not Dedham. Dedham High School participates in the Herget Division of the powerful Bay State Conference and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. In 2009, the Marauders, who are the smallest school in the league, declined an offer to join the Tri-Valley League which has schools of a similar population. The Bay State Conference pledged to work to make the conference more equitable, including the possibility of adding more small schools to the league, but has not yet done so. For comparison, Hanover has a population (2010 Census) of  13,879 and an enrollment of 782. The biggest school in the league is Quincy High School with an enrollment of 1,519. Dedham has an enrollment of 765. The biggest school in its league is Framingham with an enrollment of 2,040 and only one other school under 1,000 students (Milton). Dedham usually finds postseason success as a lower seed and are a tough draw, just ask the Field Hockey team. For reference, the Highest enrollment in the South Shore League is Randolph at 779 and after that there are none above 700 students.

Hanover just doesn’t have the depth that other towns have. It’s a town that loses a lot of high level athletes to private schools. Hanover also loses a lot of athletes that don’t find stardom or even play at some of those private schools, where at HHS they would be solid contributors. It’s a disadvantage that we have to live with. I think for now, Hanover has to be content with where they are. The South Shore League doesn’t really make sense logistically. Hanover doesn’t compete with a lot of those towns in youth leagues and it would ruin some traditional rivalries. It’s up to future grades to get their best athletes out on Gerrish Field or in Amaral Gym rather than up at BC High or Xaverian. Then, Hanover will find plenty of success, bigger schools or not.

College Preparation: How Soon is Too Soon?

As a current junior, I am confident I can speak for the rest of my classmates when I say that college is one of the many things constantly running through our minds. Teachers, parents, and guidance counselors have been pushing college preparation guides at us basically since we walked through the doors on the first day of school . . . stressing that it can never be too soon to start getting ready to make what could be seen as the most important decision in our lives. But when it comes to choosing your future career and college, can such a decision really be narrowed down at barely 17 years old?

I know that a few months ago, I could barely set my mind on what I wanted for lunch each day, nevermind nail down a concrete future. And with that said, seeing college brochures pile up in my mailbox and e-mails pouring in from hordes of schools I’d never even heard of truly made me want to just pull the covers over my head and hide from the idea of college instead of embracing it. Posters advertising various career programs line the hallways at school, and college informational guides are splayed out everywhere you can imagine. It’s hard enough to focus on high school these days, with the immense amount of work and important assignments introduced to us each day, let alone let your mind wander to the distant future where colleges and careers are concerned. Yet according to many of the adults in our lives, we should be putting thought into the college process as often as we can.

Flashback to September and October — back to the days of the college mini fairs. For three consecutive Tuesdays, representatives from many colleges across the New England area set up smartly decorated tables throughout the cafeteria, fanning out informational booklets and laying out pens for hopeful students to give out their personal information. And then hundreds of juniors and seniors were herded into the cafeteria and, for the next 20 minutes, were expected to mill about and find their potential academic calling. Immediately, the indecisive student in me became overwhelmed by the chaos of the crowded cafeteria, and I scurried around collecting a brochure from each and every school available, worried that the one school I miss could be the one destined for me. And three mini fairs later, I now had an entire milk crate filled with informational booklets and brochures from more colleges than I could name offhand. But they were still just that — a crate full of brochures. I still could not single out among them the one college I was dying to attend. And in the months following, guidance counselors set to work, scheduling assemblies and appointments to help each of us juniors pinpoint the career path right for us. My parents also took on a fair share of the work, sitting me down and showing me documentaries about student loans and scheduling college visits over school vacations. And I can’t forget about the teachers — they all somehow manage to incorporate the word “college” into the curriculum even when it seems to have no relevance to the matter at hand.

The first few months of junior year seem to be more geared toward college prep than anything else. As soon as you step into eleventh grade, you are rocketed into a world of college lectures and online statistics, and the pressure is on for you to find your educational calling. There’s no doubt that this introduction to the college search is stressful. Adults and peers are constantly asking the question, “have you figured out where you want to go to school yet?” And until now, I would always answer tentatively. “Not really, I’m still looking!” Because the truth was, I hadn’t figured it out. Figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life and which college is going to take you there is a hard decision. Probably the hardest one I’ve had to make yet. But the real question is, are the efforts put forth by guidance counselors and parents helpful in this decision? Do their informational strategies help ease this stress-inducing process?

After months of college fairs, relentless emails, and parental pressure, I can finally say that I’ve begun to narrow down my college decision, finally beginning to see the career destined for me. And why? Because for the past few months I’ve been surrounded by nothing but ideas: ideas about college, ideas about careers, ideas about my future. Ideas that really helped me brainstorm and figure out my decision without even thinking about it, really. Months ago, back in September, I was annoyed by all of the college information being thrown at me by the guidance department. But now I realize that because I was introduced to that information, and especially because I was introduced to that information so soon, I was able to narrow down my decision quicker than I ever would have if not informed. The truth is, for these past few months my brain has been quietly working, quietly sorting through all of the information gathered from college letters and brochures and preparing me for this big decision without me even realizing. And though I’m not sure exactly where I’m going and what I’m going to do when I get there, I’m definitely a few steps closer.

Many of you juniors out there might know exactly what you’re meant to do. Many of you might be figuring out one step at a time, like I am. And for those of you who have absolutely no clue where you’re going, don’t worry. You’re not alone. But whether you realize it or not, you’re much more prepared for the college decision than you know. All of the efforts of the guidance department have not been for nothing. Though it seems like college is all anyone is pushing at you right now, you will be thankful once you finally figure out what college is right for you. College is undoubtedly one of the biggest decisions of our lives. And though it may seem silly to start thinking about something so distant in the future, the truth is that it really never is too soon to start planning. Graduation is coming whether you’re ready or not. When you finally figure out where you want to apply, it will no doubt be because of the hard work of those around you.

Oscar Season 2015

Listed below are the Best Picture nominees for the upcoming 2015 Oscars, which will be awarded Feb. 22 on ABC.  More so than in past years, I find these titles easy to root for.  None of these pictures are blockbusters.  Up until they were honored with this nomination, one would have to scour the Internet to find a theater that would show these movies.  (Trust me, I know!)  These movies also have many up-and-coming actors, providing new, exciting faces to look for in the future.  Lastly, these films feature diverse and deeply unique storylines.  Whether about a quirky hotel or a jazz musician on the verge of a nervous breakdown, each story brings something of its own to this year’s Oscars.

The Imitation Game

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley star in The Imitation Game, an intense and interesting World War II movie.  Here, Cumberbatch’s character, Alan Turingm is hired by the British government to decode Enigma, the Nazi’s unbreakable coding system.  If decoded, the Allies could decipher all of the German attack plans.  In other words, if Enigma was broken, Germany would fall.  As the clock ticks over Turing and his team of geniuses, more and more soldiers are dying.  Turing not only struggles under the weight of the Allied cause, but also to hide his homosexuality, which at the time was a severe crime in England.

Whiplash

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JK Simmons and Miles Teller shock audiences with their heavy performances in Whiplash.  Miles Teller plays an aspiring jazz drummer who is a first-year student at a prestigious music college. The immense pressure that Teller’s character places on himself to succeed is dwarfed by his teacher’s (Simmons) insane and violent method of pushing his students toward perfection.

American Sniper

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Bradley Cooper stars in his third Oscar nominated role in the past three years.  In what is said to be his best performance yet, Cooper plays Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American history.  The story covers Chris Kyle through his tours in Iraq where he both terminated and saved an incredible amount of lives and follows him back to the US.  At home, the protagonist struggles to be a good husband and father while dealing with the aftermath of being in war.

Birdman

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Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone star in Birdman, a movie about a former superhero actor.  Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, the actor who formerly played the iconic Birdman. Hoping to overcome his washed up, public perception, Thompson attempts to write and star in a play.  To the dismay of those around him, these actions catch the public’s attention, but not in a positive way.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson’s newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel has received more applause from both critics and fans than any of his other widely acclaimed films.  In the film, the concierge of a popular European lodge is accused of the murder of a rich elderly lady, who in her will, left a valuable painting for the concierge.  With a combination of humor and intellect, this unique movie stands apart from the other darker themed Oscar contenders.

Selma

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For a long time, filmmakers had stayed away from making a movie about Martin Luther King Jr.  This  changed when Ava DuVernay began to create the film, Selma.  Staring The Butler’s David Oyelowo as MLK, it follows Dr. King’s march from Selma to Montgomery.   Overall, it highlights the quest for equal voting rights.

The Theory of Everything

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Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in a moving  film about strength, love and the quest for knowledge.  A relatively new name, Felicity Jones, stuns audiences with her performance as the strong, but real Jane Hawking.  The movie is based off Jane’s book, Traveling to Infinity.

Boyhood

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For the first time in movie history, a film crew follows a cast for 12 years to create the ultimate coming of age drama.  The film includes veteran actors such as Ethan Hawke, as well as up and comers like Ellar Coltrane.  Coltrane, in fact, was only 6 when the movie began.  As we near award season, the actor is now 20 years old.

 

Let’s Hash It Out: Should Marijuana Be Legal?

Marijuana is always a tricky subject to tackle. More often than not, there will be smoked-out hippies defending it and middle class suburbanites attacking it. As some states have  voted to legalize it, and others have softened laws about its use, I was looking for some unbiased information on whether or not marijuana is “healthy” for use.

Now that raises the question: what is healthy? Health is defined as “the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living organism” (thank you, Wikipedia). So I will be judging the herbage on whether or not it meets that criteria.

Right off the bat, it is smoke going into your lungs so it’s a carcinogen. That means it can cause cancer. Scientists are still arguing over whether inhaling marijuana smoke is more or less dangerous than sucking in cigarette smoke, but either way, it can’t be healthy for you. Frequent use of the drug can also irritate or damage your lungs and increase your heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking. So that most likely isn’t beneficial to your health.

By using marijuana, you gain a sense of euphoria and an out-of-body experience. This is likely why it is the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S., according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.   Chronic use of the drug during your teen years can result in loss of memory, lowered IQ, inability to concentrate, increased depression and loss of motivation . . .  so, definitely not healthy. I did say, however, “chronic use.” Proponents of marijuana cite studies that have suggested these side effects are lessened in recreational or light use of the drug. Of course, then you get into the sticky situation of determining what should be considered “chronic” and what is “recreational.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, chronic use is defined as smoking marijuana 27 days out of 30.

But then I discovered thanks to DrugWarFacts.org that there has never been a recorded overdose-related death caused by the mean green. I assumed that thanks to lung damage, cancer or loss of IQ, someone would have died from years and years of use of it. This isn’t the case. Many  states including New Hampshire, New York, California and Massachusetts have legalized medicinal marijuana. Medicinal marijuana is utilized to help people in extreme pain and suffering such as cancer patients. It eases their pain, and since it probably isn’t going to kill them (there’s a reason you’ve never heard of medicinal crack), they smoke it. In Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, the drug has been completely legalized, and their mortality, murder and injury rates have not gone up (if anything, the food service business has gotten a boost).

Marijuana walks the fine line between being classified as a drug for good reason (remember all those side effects) and being able to truly help people in pain. It is fairly non-addictive. I believe that it’s not the drug that hurts people, it’s the people who hurt the drug’s reputation. People are dumb, let’s face it, and they are most certainly dumb enough to think they’re okay to use a mind-altering drug every day or drive while under the influence. No surprise. But there are some  times when using the drug can be relatively safe or even medically beneficial. Alcohol is legal and that hurts and kills a lot more people than marijuana.

Robotics Club Gears Up for Competition Season

The HHS Robotics Club is going to be competing in the Botball New England regional competition at UMass Lowell on March 28. This year will mark our second year of participating in this particular competition. The goal of the competition is to use a standard robot kit in order to complete challenges that change every year. The hard part is that team members are not allowed to remotely control the robot in any way; the program has to be entirely autonomous. Speaking from personal experience, that task is just about as hard as it sounds. But it’s ultimately rewarding in the end.

Schools Hanover is Competing Against
Schools Hanover is Competing Against

Last year was a learning experience for Hanover’s nascent robotics team. We were only able to successfully complete a few of the many challenges that the competition required. Even without taking home a first place trophy, we were able to learn enough about how the competition worked to be able to be competitive this year.

Robot from Last Year used at the Botball Conference Friday and Sunday.
Robot from Last Year used at the Botball Conference Friday and Sunday.

This year, the robot has to complete a series of tasks that involve moving objects around a court made of PVC piping. It’s roughly the size of four classroom desks. The robot pushes around several colored pom poms and also has to move ping pong balls into a basket that is about a foot and a half off of the ground. As I’m sure you can imagine, the robot becomes very complex very quickly. Yet, there is no feeling like the feeling you get when it all finally works.

Now since competition season is upon us, Robotics Club is looking for new members to join. You don’t need to have any prior experience with robotics at all and we will show you everything that you need to know. Talk to Mrs. Borgeson in Room 116 or just show up to our meetings every week after school on Tuesdays. We’ll be meeting more often now that the competition season has begun.

Hope to see you there!

MCAS or PARCC? I Choose “None of the Above”

Every year since third grade, the months of March and May have meant only one thing: MCAS. For two or three days in each month, students in classrooms across the state sit in silent rooms for hours and muddle their way through the thick, professional packets. Reading passages with questions to follow, the dreaded five-paragraph essay, and math diagrams to solve are the most prominent memories I have of these long spring afternoons. MCAS is not very difficult if the teacher has taught the curriculum well, and students are often given practice packets for months leading up to the big day. In fact, it is not uncommon for a few kids from each grade to achieve a perfect score on the English or Math tests. MCAS is long and painful, but very doable for most students.

Last year, change began to take place in the seemingly immovable system. My English class was selected to take part in the pilot test of the brand-new PARCC exam. There is no better surprise than getting told you got lucky enough to take part in even more standardized testing! In all seriousness though, taking this new test was interesting in that we got to see what the MCAS will become. The PARCC test is different in that it is entirely online, including all readings, drawings, diagrams and open responses. It took a while to get used to the new interface, but once I had the hang of it, the exam was basically just a computerized MCAS. I felt that the readings were more advanced and questions more analytical than MCAS, but overall, there were no major changes to the world of statewide tests.

So, which is better (or should I say, less painful), MCAS or PARCC? My answer: neither. MCAS is helpful in that it introduces students at a young age to the concept of standardized testing, and PARCC combines testing with the use of technology which cuts back on our environmental footprint (and makes my inner Prius driver very happy). But what do these tests really accomplish? Sure, they help track that students in Massachusetts are being taught what they should be under the curriculum, but there are other, more beneficial ways of accomplishing this. I feel that the standardized tests taken by elementary, middle andhigh school students should resemble the SAT or ACT. Rather than asking questions about what an author meant by certain phrases or how to find perimeter and area, the tests should focus on vocabulary, critical thinking, and logic to get students used to thinking in this way. These two tests in the long run are much more important to individual students since they play a large role in college admission. If the MCAS or PARCC were treated like an early version of the SAT for younger grades, students would be starting to think in terms of this test years before they even have to take it. Rather than having to spend hundreds on private tutors or classes to prepare for the SAT and ACT like many families do each year, the school system could provide this service all the while checking to see if schools are teaching what they need to. I’m not saying we should do away with standardized testing, I’m simply advocating that we reinvent it.