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Sports

The Winter Olympics: Is Doping the Only Issue?

When 15-year-old Kamila Valieva took to the ice to warm up for her short program on February 15 after reports of her testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, many were skeptical of her competing, causing a widespread uproar throughout the figure skating and Olympic communities. 

A sample provided from Kamila Valieva to an antidoping laboratory before the Beijing Winter Olympics included three substances: Trimetazidine, Hypoxen and L-carnitine, which when combined, can help increase endurance, reduce fatigue and promote greater efficiency, allowing more oxygen to the heart. Only Trimetazidine is a banned substance, but the positive test may have been an error according to the ROC and Olympic officials. The decision was later made for Valieva to keep competing, but if she were to place in the top 3, the medal ceremony would be canceled. Keira Denny, a student and athlete here at Franklin High School strongly disagrees with the decision: “I believe she should not be competing. She used performance enhancing drugs. End of story. It shouldn’t matter [what] her age [is]. It’s not fair to others who weren’t allowed to compete over the same things.”

Russia has a longstanding history in the Olympics. In 2014, host country Russia closed the Sochi games with 33 medals, doubling the nation’s medal count from the 2010 Vancouver Games, and topping all countries in the Winter Olympics. In 2015, an independent commission from the World Anti-Doping Agency accused Russia of running a state sponsored doping program, describing destroyed urine samples and surveillance on lab workers by Russian intelligence. Days later, Russia was banned from track and field international competitions, which to this day still stands, along with also being banned from competing in many national competitions like the FIFA World Cup, Youth Olympic Games and the Paralympics. In a later act of punishment, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, but allowed 168 Russian athletes to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” more commonly known as the ROC(Russian Olympic Committee) today.

Many athletes begin training at a very young age. The window of opportunity for mostly all sports, especially at a professional level is very small; most top athletes peak before they turn 20 and even before then if injuries occur. Because of this, an athlete’s life can completely revolve around their sport, doing anything they can to reach the top at a relatively early age. Many athletes might be willing to risk everything to reach a national or Olympic stage. Tara Lipinski, former professional skater and sports commentator, said in a NBC report, “You have to imagine the enormous pressure that was on her shoulders and again that’s why she shouldn’t have competed in this event. And again I wish the adults were able to step in and help guide her.”

Doping, or the use of drugs, has been used by athletes to enhance abilities in almost every sport to gain muscle, endurance or even focus. Some athletes have been willing to risk using a drug if they thought it would help them win an event/game, others being coerced into using drugs by coaches, or not understanding the effects/repercussions of their actions. “I believe it’s 100% possible to naturally compete in sports without the use of drugs. I understand the point that the user wants to be the best they can be, but they will be forever dependent on those drugs for gold. I think that with stakes higher at a professional level it matters more, but starting young forever creates a dependency on enhancers,” Denny says. Many have brought up Sha’Carri Richardson testing positive for marijuana in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympic trials. In response to the doping situation with Valieva, Richardson responded on Twitter, suggesting there was racial bias in the decision: “Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mine? My mother died and I can’t run and was also favored to place top 3. The only difference I see is, I’m a black young lady.” This also brings up race and national backgrounds and what role they play in sports, but age must also be taken into account.

This brings up young athletes, especially those competing at a national level, like in the Olympics and how they differ from adult athletes. In Valieva’s situation, she was given the favorable decision because she is a minor and is subjected to different rules compared to adult athletes. Many argued that if Valieva was to be suspended it would have an irreversible effect on her mental and physical health. Similar to gymnastics, figure skating is known for its intense and abusive training tactics and eating disorders. Skaters must keep to a certain weight to be able to make their jumps, well also, like other athletes, must stay in peak physical condition. These training tactics are hard on all athletes of different ages, but are younger athletes more susceptible to this treatment? Many federations focus solely on the doping taking place, but not the context of why it happened in the first place. The issue of doping and fair play in events like the Olympics has been talked about time and time again, but there’s so much more going on under the surface that needs to be addressed. 

Kamila entered the competition as a gold medal favorite, many expecting her to dominate the competition. But despite Kamila Valieva placing fourth, her ROC teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Aleksandra Trusova received gold and silver, Kaori Sakanoto of Japan following in 3rd. Valieva finished her final skate on the verge of tears, only to walk off the ice to be told by Coach Eteri Tutberidze she wasn’t “trying hard enough” and that she “gave up,” while her teammate Anna Shcherbakova stood completely alone after receiving her scores. And we saw fellow teammate Aleksandra Trusova yelling and crying after receiving her scores, saying that she hates the sport and that she doesn’t want to skate again. Tara Lipinski said in a NBC report, “When I saw Anna standing there by herself, not a coach in sight, just looking not knowing what to do, I thought, is this a face of a newly crowned Olympic champion?” 

Emotions ran deep throughout all the freeskates and the medal ceremonies, Shcherbakova and Sakanoto striding onto the podium waving and smiling to the crowd, clearly proud. Trusova with her head hanging low with teary eyes, glancing around the stadium. In an interview after the medal ceremony Aleksandra Trusova addressed her emotions as she came off the ice to World Media: “I did what I could. I’m not happy with the result, that’s why I was angry, I was disappointed. For the first time I skated with the five quadruples, I waited for this moment [for] a long time and it worked out.” This reveals how no matter how amazing an athlete performs, they feel that their accomplishments add up to nothing if they don’t get gold. The Olympics has been used to reflect the best of each country through their athletes as a time to come together and celebrate. But with many athletes’ careers ticking away, the pressure to outperform everyone else can be unbearable, anything other than gold insufficient. 

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Sports

Corruption in Russian Ice Skating

An ice skate with a string of beads. This symbolization for sabotage represents the deep corruption tied to Russian figure skating. Illustration by Alyson Sutherland. 

Nobody has a monopoly on a sport quite like Russia does on figure skating. Since the first World Figure Skating Championships, held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the Soviet Union had accumulated 110 medals before it dissolved in 1991, the second largest collection of World Figure Skating Championship medals after the United States’ 198. Russia has the fifth most medals at 86. Over the course of the Olympic games, Russia and the Soviet Union together have collected 50 medals in figure skating, and Russia holds the record for the longest series of victories for one country in an event in pair skating from 1964 to 2006. 

Amidst the medals, there has been considerable controversy surrounding Russia’s connection with scandals during competition. During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Russian pair skating couple, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, took gold over the Canadian pair, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, despite the perfect program the Canadians delivered. It was later revealed that the French judge was pressured into scoring the Russians higher, in exchange for the Russian vote for the French ice dance pair getting gold. Following the outrage that erupted from the public, the International Olympic Committee awarded both pairs gold. According to an interview with FBI agent Bill McCausland for an episode of Bad Sport, a documentary series about crime within sports, the investigation around this scandal uncovered connections between Russian organized crime and the 2002 Olympic figure skating in what was called the Cold War on Ice.    

Russia has a long and involved history with doping, the administration of drugs to enhance the performance of an athlete. This history currently bars them from competing under their own flag during the Olympics. In 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released a report accusing Russian coaches and athletes, including 15 medal winners, of participating in a state-run doping scheme during the Sochi winter Olympics a year prior. In response to these allegations, any athlete representing Russia was banned from competing at any international sporting events; this ban was originally set for four years but was later shortened to two. To get around this rule, athletes competed under the name Olympic Athletes from Russia or OAR but after the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, it was changed to the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). The WADA report was corroborated by the testimony of Doctor Grigory Ronchenkov, director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, who told his story to Bryan Fogal, a filmmaker who made Ronchenkov the subject of his documentary Icarus. Ronchenkov admitted to erasing the evidence of around a hundred positive doping tests, none of which were ever discovered at the time. 

The 2022 Winter Olympic season brought about new topics for news headlines. Kamila Valieva, 15 year old figure skater competing under ROC, made history as the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Olympics and the first person to land a quadruple axel, a jump that requires forward facing takeoff, four and a half rotations midair and a backwards landing, in competition. The 2022 men’s gold medalist, American Nathan Chen, attempted and landed five quads in his free skate, but a quadruple axel wasn’t one of them. Valieva’s teammate, silver medalist Aleksandra Trusova, attempted five quads as well but only successfully earned the points for three of them while their third teammate, gold medalist Anna Shcherbakova, landed two. Despite her quadruple axel, Valieva didn’t win gold and fell during her free skate, landing herself in fourth place overall. On February 8 of this year, the day after Valieva landed her quadruple axel and helped ROC win the team competition, it was publicized that she failed the drug test she had taken on December 25 at the 2021 Russian Figure Skating Championships. 

Valieva tested positive for a banned substance called Trimetazidine, a drug prescribed to patients with angina, a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough blood being delivered to their heart. Dave Sherden, certified athletic trainer and advanced sports medicine, medical terminology, and anatomy and physiology teacher at Franklin High School, says Trimetazidine helps with this problem by opening up the blood vessels in the heart to allow for increased blood flow. In addition to increased blood flow, doping can have serious side effects. “Using an angina medication like [Valieva’s] using, it’s going to cause vasodilation, or a widening of the blood vessels, which is going to make it more difficult to regulate blood pressure,” says Sherden. 

 Typically for sports like figure skating, where endurance is very important, it is more likely that an athlete would take a different kind of drug then the one taken by Valieva. “The objective [of doping to enhance endurance] is to increase the concentration of red blood cells in the bloodstream,” says Sherden. “These are the cells that carry oxygen to the muscles. If you can carry more oxygen, you can keep your muscles operating aerobically longer before you have to go entirely anaerobic. This will preserve strength for later on in a program.” Figure skating is dependent on that strength; an athlete needs to be able to still produce explosive power for a jump even in the second half of their program when they’re tired.

There are many consequences of doping; one of the most dangerous is the damage it might do to the body of a developing child. Anabolic steroids, the type of drug often associated with doping, are synthetic doses of testosterone which build muscle mass and decrease fat. If taken by a developing body, especially one that doesn’t naturally produce significant amounts of testosterone, it would affect their hormones and stunt the development of their growth. 

In the wake of this doping scandal it is easy to forget the immense pressure that can be put on a fifteen year old like Valieva by the world, by her skating club, and her coach Eteri Tutberidze. For the past few years, Tutberidze has been Russia’s tool to train and produce Olympic medal athletes. The problem with Tutberidze lies in what is called the “Eteri Expiration Date,” as her athletes are the best of the best, but retire before they reach adulthood due to injury. It is entirely realistic to see Valieva’s positive test result being a result of Tutberidze’s harsh coaching methods. 

Facing immense pressure and an open case, Valieva missed multiple of her quads during the Olympic free skate and did not place in the top three. As a result, the medals ceremony wasn’t canceled due to her investigation, as the International Olympic Committee announced it would be if she finished on the podium. Tutberidze is being investigated by anti-doping officials about her involvement in the situation.

Valieva’s case has resurfaced questions surrounding the minimum age requirement for Olympic figure skaters, and the International Skating Union plans to introduce a proposal that would raise the minimum age to 17. This proposal not only could prevent such scrutiny placed solely on the back of another 15-year-old, but it could keep them healthier and doing their sport for a lot longer. 

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Sports

The Invisible Injury

Human brain surrounded by the fog caused during a concussion. Concussions have a large emotional and physiological damage on students. Illustration by Alyson Sutherland.

Honestly, being concussed sucks. Concussions make no sense, as they have no kind of timeline or true understanding, not to mention the lack of a true recovery plan aside from rest. When concussed, you consistently feel dizzy, forget basic things, and say things that often make no sense. The time from being hit to the return to play is humiliating and painful, with people around you constantly judging every decision you make, whether or not you ask them to. 

We haven’t fully learned everything there is to know about concussions, especially the brain’s immediate response to a powerful hit. Vaden Goble (Junior, he/him), a student at Franklin who has had no education regarding concussions, gave his guess at what happens on impact: “The brain gets all… shakiness.” This shows how little the average person will understand about concussions. Truth be told, I never thought about it myself until I was concussed…the second time. When concussed, the head is jerked violently in one way or another very quickly, and the brain bounces against the inside of the skull once. As said by Sir Isaac Newton, “for every action there’s an equal but opposite reaction.” Because of this gravitational law, each time your brain slides around and hits the side of the skull, it’s going to slide and collide again with the same force on the opposite side of the skull. So, despite popular belief, you can get concussions from whiplash because “concussions are caused by the stop of motion,” says Ru Conrad (they/them). This is why people can get concussions in car crashes without physically hitting the steering wheel, or on a really aggressive roller coaster. When you get hit, or your head stops in motion suddenly, it’s likely that you are now concussed, or in worse cases, you could have a brain bleed, so monitoring yourself in the time after the suspected cause is crucial. Gerilyn (Geri) Armijo (she/her), Franklin High School’s Athletic Trainer, acknowledges that even if you feel completely fine just after getting hit, it’s possible that a person can come back a few hours, or even days later, hurling their guts up, showing extreme symptoms.

Immediate symptoms for concussions are numerous, and you don’t have to exhibit every single one in order to be diagnosed with a concussion. Strangely, you could check almost all of them but not be concussed as well. Which is why Armijo asks any person that may be concussed a bunch of questions on top of the basic symptom checklist, which asks about the tell-tale symptoms, like headache, nausea, sensitivity to light, etc. in order to determine if the person being asked is in fact concussed. She’ll ask how much sleep they got the night before, what they ate and drank today, and she’ll ask menstruators if they are on their period. She does this to get a differential diagnosis, to see if the symptoms being presented are in fact because of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or if they are just exhibiting symptoms because of some other factor. And not only does she do this when someone is hit, she will also usually follow up in the following days to make sure the person is alright and that no new symptoms have presented. 

But no matter how you get hit, or what symptoms you present, concussions are such mysterious injuries that no one can accurately predict, and it can be extremely alienating for the patients.  

The process for being concussed for the patients is also extremely confusing medically. Isabella Walker (she/her), who has been concussed since October 2021, was recently told by Armijo that she is now suffering from not a concussion, but post concussion syndrome, despite still consistently exhibiting symptoms. Walker was injured in a game against Franklin’s fated rivals, Cleveland, when she and another girl went up for a header at the same time, and got hit. All Walker remembers was “my body just told me to lie down on the ground,” then the play stopped and Walker was taken off the field. At the time, the Franklin Women’s Soccer program had numerous concussions in its ranks, and they determined at the time of the game that she was likely alright, but when the team returned to Franklin and Walker got checked out by our previous athletic trainer, she was in fact concussed, with 16/21 symptoms presenting. Walker was also experiencing panic attacks and a difficult time at home, all on top of how her concussion “just happened to coincide with [her] junior year, which I feel like most people have heard is the hardest year of high school…just because of the amount of testing there is. There’s a whole environment in which people feel almost a pressure to do their best because this is the year that matters.” This pressure is certainly felt across the class of 2023, as we are expected to take the PSAT and the SAT in the same year, as well as cope with COVID-19, and all of the AP and advanced classes being taken. It’s a mess, and any little thing has the potential to send juniors into a spiral, but they just don’t have the luxury of spinning out this year. 

The most obvious part about being concussed is there is no physical activity permitted, and for Walker, who plays soccer year round—with Franklin, PCU, and a newly founded rec league team, which Walker has taken up managing in lieu of not being able to play— this means losing a lot. “Your soccer team is a community of people who love and support you…Having my concussion meant I could no longer be a part of that,” Walker mentions. Because of the removal of soccer from Walker’s life for the past five months, as well as the stress that comes with being concussed as a student, Walker has talked about how she is experiencing worsening depression and anxiety. She constantly is walking on eggshells with her own brain, debating “is it better to keep doing what everyone else is doing, because that’s what’s going to give me a better chance at my future, or do I listen to my needs and run the risk of falling behind?” This is a constant debate for concussed people, who are at risk of falling behind, whether it be socially, physically, or academically. It’s a horrifying and stressful debate that no one really wins in. Healing from a concussion can feel like a waste of time, since the injury isn’t physical, it can often feel like there’s nothing to really recover from, nothing blocking you from continuing as you did but the knowledge that you are in fact, injured, despite what you may be told by anyone or everyone. 

The one concussed is the only one who knows what is happening in their head, and so it is then their responsibility to advocate for themselves, whether to parents, teachers, friends, or even yourself. Walker talked about what she would say to one who doesn’t know anything about concussions. She wants anyone who doesn’t understand to know that once again, every concussion is different, and you have to treat everyone with a concussion with empathy, since you have no idea what is going on in their head, and to the concussed, “You’re the person that knows your body the most.” You are the only one who can advocate for yourself. Once again, no one can accurately predict a concussion’s outcome, and there is no cure. You do what you can, and you try not to do the things that cause a spike in symptoms. It seems simple and yet, any person who has been concussed will tell you how conflicting it is, especially when it lasts as long as Walker’s has. 

Even when you have been concussed more than once, it’s not like the symptoms or timeline for the two of them will be the same. I have now been concussed twice; the first time was just about a year ago, and I had minor symptoms and was back on the field in four weeks. Fast forward a year to now, I have been concussed for five weeks, with continually fluctuating symptoms, not to mention the repetition of outside influence from my family and friends. Almost every day, someone will tell me that my symptoms must be fake, must be caused by something else, I should stop making excuses for not participating in track, for taking breaks when I’m in class. Walker, too, has experienced this from people close to her, as I’m sure countless others who have been concussed have also experienced. 

To all those people who are newly concussed, whether for the first time or the fourth (yeesh, I’m sorry), there are always the key points to remember: be kind to yourself, be patient, and remember, this won’t last forever, no matter how it may feel. You are the priority when you are injured; no matter what anyone else may say, that mentality of “I have to do this,” has got to go out the window when you are concussed, as you do not have to do all your tasks all the time. “I think it’s scary to realize that a person’s priorities—they don’t place themselves first…if a person gets a concussion, if a person gets any sort of illness, they’re not,” Walker says. But that is what is important. In order to heal, you have to slow down and remember that, if you push yourself now, it will take longer to heal, and the pain will only be prolonged.  

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Sports

Parallel Parking: A Sport For the Strong

Editor and sports enthusiast Joseph Howitt cheers as fellow editor Ella Pulscak attempts to top her personal best parallel parking job. Photo by Lucy Eckel.

A hush fell over the streets. A bead of sweat born out of an impassioned, focused lust for winning rolled down the athlete’s cheek as they exhaled softly. Now was the moment. It was now or never. If they didn’t park this car, who would? The answer: no one. 

In the crazy world of parallel parking, an athlete might be faced with multiple variations of the sport. Xtreme parallel parking is perhaps the most skillful and elite version of the game. The daring athlete attempts to swing into the space in one go while a string of cars lines the streets honking behind them. Unlike all other versions of parallel parking, the Winter Olympic games is the host of the strenuous art of parking in the snow. Parallel parking, as a versatile sport, can be played as a solo or team sport; athletes can play a game through as singles, doubles, triples or even up to eight players depending on the size of the vehicle (provided the vehicle is up to regulation). The fan favorite, Freestyle, consists of parking in a non-compact spot, with a unique variation of techniques.

Some athletes will approach it geometrically, calculating the precise angles at which to turn the wheel and the exact speeds at which to reverse and correct. Others will drive on instinct alone, letting chance be their guide. But in the end, the gold standard for any parallel parking athlete is backing in with one simple, singular, superb swing. 

The journey to becoming a professional parallel parker is not for everyone. When asked how Franklin students parallel parked, there were many responses that boil down to simply not participating. “Don’t do it. I’ll park anywhere no matter how far to avoid parallel parking,” says current junior Marlee Dorn. “Don’t. Search for another spot for an hour that’s easier to park in.” 

Although many high school students are still learning how to master this intense, rigorous sport, some have already become Junior Olympics material. A few anonymous students and recent graduates offer their advice for the learning process, saying “it’s ok to hit the curb,” and to “use the reflection of the car in building windows to help.” Cleveland High School student Bailey Steinmeyer gave the sage advice, “don’t use backup cameras.” Franklin graduate Lily Signori says, “forget that anyone is watching and send it.”

As we all know, this high stakes sport is not for the faint of heart; even queen Olivia Rodrigo can not parallel park (as referenced in her song “Brutal”). For those of you still on your journey to mastering parallel parking, take your time; this sport isn’t for everyone.

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Sports

Equal Play, Equal Pay

US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) players celebrate together on the field after winning the 2019 FIFA World Cup while fans chant “equal pay” in support of their lawsuit. Photo via Getty Images. 

The monumental settlement of 24 million dollars and legally-binding promise of equal pay for the US Women’s National Soccer Team marks a turning point in the fight for gender equality. There is no social equality for women without financial equality. But this lawsuit isn’t only about money, it is about respect. 

Female athletes have always been undervalued and underpaid. Women’s sports have continuously been viewed as inferior to men’s and portrayed as frivolous endeavors. “Early on in my career I was just so happy to be there and I was willing to take whatever scraps they gave me,” reflects Becky Sauerbrunn, captain of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) since 2021, in the documentary LFG (Let’s Fucking Go), an inside account of the USWNT’s fight for equal pay. “For so long women have been brainwashed into feeling gratitude for what they have.” 

Jessica McDonald, fellow USWNT player, describes, in LFG, the sacrifices she made to chase a life on the pitch: “I was scraping pennies for the past seven years in my career, just trying to get by, literally living paycheck to paycheck. All season I had a full time job packing boxes at Amazon for 12 bucks an hour. Childcare cost more than my paycheck. So there was a lot of trainings when my infant toddler would be sitting at training on his own in his stroller.” Sadly, this story is one of many. Sauerbrunn illustrates the grim reality of being a professional female soccer player: “A large majority of my teammates in the [National Women’s Soccer League] do not make a livable wage. So many women have had to choose between living their dream and settling for another career.” 

On March 8 of 2019, International Women’s Day, the USWNT players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against their employer, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). The USWNT’s road to legal victory has been anything but smooth. “Why did it take so long for this to happen?” asks Franklin junior and varsity soccer player Marlee Dorn. “Why should it take so much effort for something that should just be the norm?” Throughout the mediation process, the USSF criticized the plaintiffs for being “inflammatory” and accused them of inciting public confusion through misleading information. The USSF exhausted every resource available to thwart the progress of the lawsuit; the foundation even publicly promoted falsehoods such as “the job of [Men’s National Team (MNT)] player requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength than does the job of [Women’s National Team (WNT)] player,” which insinuates that women are biologically inferior and therefore have fewer responsibilities on the field. Public backlash to the USSF’s misogynistic statements spread like wildfire and soon after multiple sponsors threatened to pull their financial support, USSF’s former President Carlos Cordeiro resigned in March 2020. 

Even after the resignation of Cordeiro, the USSF continued to resist negotiation. Their legal team clung to two weak arguments; the first being that some women on the team were receiving more compensation than some of their male counterparts and the second being that the MNT has brought in more revenue than the WNT. Both of these claims deceptively avoid the central facet of the lawsuit, equal pay for equal play. Although it is true that some of the WNT’s most prominent players did receive a larger paycheck than some players on the MNT, this was only possible because they had won more games and secured a World Cup title. You can’t look at total compensation, you have to look at the rate of pay. Sauerbrunn explains, “We had to be wildly successful in order to outearn our male counterparts.” Additionally, from 2016-2018, the WNT’s revenue was 50.8 million and the MNT’s was 49.9 million, and this gap will only increase as the WNT gains more media attention and global admiration for the formidable athletic dynasty they have built. 

In May 2020 the USWNT’s lawsuit faced a serious blow when US Federal Judge Gary Klausner dismissed the team’s equal pay demands, ruling that only the working condition claims could go to trial. After receiving the devastating news, Megan Rapinoe, captain of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT), 2019 FIFA Golden Boot winner, and 2019 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year, commented in an interview on LFG, “I am so sick of debating my own worth with the [US Soccer] Federation.” But nevertheless the USWNT persisted and after a successful appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, the USWNT has finally broken the glass ceiling. 

This victory sets not only an invaluable legal precedent but a social one. It sends a message to the world that women deserve equal pay and should settle for nothing less. Although there is still much progress to be made, the USWNT has taken a major step towards leveling the playing field. 

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Sports

How Walking is the Hidden Weapon to Great Exercise

Image of many people’s feet on a stone walkway, marching forward. Photo courtesy of Peter Theony via Creative Commons. 

When you think of exercise, the first thing that comes to mind is probably an activity like running, weight lifting, or biking. These are all wonderful and valuable ways to stay active; however, the unsung hero of the exercise world is walking. While I completely encourage any form of exercise, I’m going to be highlighting walking and why it is so helpful. It’s easy, refreshing, and free, you guys. Although pushing your limits in your personal fitness is a worthy endeavor, it can be difficult for people to get active at all. Walking is a great way to keep your body engaged and support your health without the pressure of a strict workout regimen. Additionally, not everyone is able to spend hours a week at a gym, and walking can be a functional and convenient way to fit exercise into your daily routine. 

I sat down with David Jaynes, a health and physical education teacher here at Franklin, to outline the merits of walking as exercise. When asked if he considers walking an exercise, he replied, “absolutely, […] I just think it’s a cultural thing where it’s […] looked down upon, but in reality, it’s a super useful thing to do […] I think culturally, we’re in a time where it’s not cool to post on your social media that you’re going for a two mile walk. It’s way cooler to be going to the gym and lifting a bunch of weights when [truly] a lot of people who just went for a mile walk every day would be significantly healthier than when they don’t.” Essentially, any exercise is always better than no exercise, and walking is as good as any other way to stay active. 

Many popular exercises require equipment such as weights or machines, which usually need to be paid for with a membership at a gym or purchasing the equipment. For many, the gym is inaccessible for this reason, or they simply don’t want to invest the money or time. One of the biggest selling points for walking is that it’s free, therefore much more accessible and low-pressure, which can inspire people to utilize it more often. 

I believe walking is often discounted because it isn’t high-impact. “It increases heart health, and cardiovascular wise, decreases blood pressure, can reduce the risk of type two diabetes, can strengthen bones and muscles in your legs if you’re walking for [a] longer distance, and depending on terrain,” said Jaynes when asked how walking can specifically aid physical health. He explained that although walking doesn’t build muscle like lifting weights would, “it’s definitely a great exercise tool.”

Mental health can also be improved from a nice walk– spending time outside acts as a de-stressor and as Jaynes puts it; “you’re getting vitamin D, you’re getting fresh air.” Vitamin D has been shown time and time again to improve mood and overall health, and can still be absorbed on a cloudy day (hello, Portland) so soak it up! I don’t know about you, but for me sometimes just taking a ten-minute walk around my neighborhood is enough to clear my head and get my body moving enough to reset and feel less overwhelmed. Walking also creates an opportunity to take in our surroundings and take a moment to ground ourselves, which can also be constructive for mental health.

Overall, walking is an excellent way to get out of the house and get some movement in a gentle, enjoyable way. One of my favorite ways to enjoy walking is to explore an unfamiliar neighborhood or part of town with some music on, just taking in what I see. I definitely recommend you try this, dear reader—it’s much more fun and interesting than it may sound. The activity is the same, but the setting can be one of your choice—you can aimlessly wander around the city or hike in Forest Park. I think that’s my favorite thing about walking: it’s free (monetarily and literally). 

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Sports

Spring Sports Preview

Kaiya Robertson (12) unofficially breaks Franklin High Schools 3k record at the Grassroots 3k invitational on February 5. Franklin Track and Field is participating in preseason meets before the official start of the season on February 5. Photo via @westcostxc on Instagram

Winter has come and gone, and with it the comfort and warmth of indoor seating for our sporting activities. We say goodbye to our winter sports: basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, and swimming, as they wrap up their seasons by the end of February. Spring sports officially begin their practices on the 28 of February, but sports including track and field, softball, and baseball have been holding pre-season practices and workouts throughout February.

As the weather gets warmer we compensate by moving our athletics outside, and with that comes the accompanying seasonal guidelines for COVID-19. These safety measures are developed at the district level, relayed to the Franklin community and enforced by Franklin High School’s Athletic Director, Matt York. Regardless of any new rules or policies that are passed down from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The Oregon Health Authority, or the Oregon School Activities Association, York says the key is for everyone (administrators, staff, coaches, parents, spectators, and athletes) to do their part to protect sports. “If the policy is we all wear masks, we all do it. If the policy is social distancing, we all do it. If we are sick, we stay home,” says York. “We all have a part in owning the health and safety of each other, and for the teams we play on.” 

Because of the confusion and stress of the year, Dana Miller, French teacher and head coach of the women’s tennis team, encourages students to participate in athletics because, “Participating in any sport at this moment in time gives us a sense of much needed normalcy to our lives.” Miller is excited to get the 2022 season underway, and looks forward to reconnecting with seasoned players, as well as meeting new team members. “Practicing and improving our game is always the [number one] goal,” she states. 

After his number one priority of safety for his athletes, golf coach Tim Itami says what he wants for his season is for his athletes to have a great time, practice hard, and to have good experiences with their teammates. Head baseball coach Andrew Berger has a slightly different mindset when it comes to goals for his season and says that his team is looking to get back into the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The 2021 season saw the baseball team through seven wins to nine losses, but Berger thinks with the return of seven starters alongside a senior transfer and fresh underclassmen players, the Lightning should be in the mix for a playoff spot in may.

Rob Jamieson, math teacher at Franklin High School and track coach for the Lightning, also has objectives for his season. He works on supporting his athletes with their personal aspirations and tries to focus on setting more process oriented goals like working hard, staying focused, or being engaged in a race. “I try to get student athletes to think about their mentality when they’re going into competitions,” says Jamieson. “Some people’s goal might be to PR, but even then [..] you’re not going to always have a personal record, right? And what happens when you don’t, you might still have a really great performance. So you don’t want to be overly obsessed with the times or the mark. Because there’s so many other variables at play.”

Due to the shortened season last year, track athletes only were able to participate in a limited amount of meets and invites. Because of this, sophomores and juniors haven’t experienced a full track season; this year the season will be longer and open to more opportunities for competition. Despite the short season, Jamieson hopes last year’s record of success will translate to the 2022 season, which will be dependent on the dedication and hard work of the strong athletes participating this year. 

Coaching alongside Jamieson and Jacob Michaels, many of the other track and field coaches are Franklin staff this year including Ashley Fanning, Karen Bowheart, Kilsi Naane, and newcomer Kyle Hunt. Hunt will be joining the coaching staff as a pole vault coach. Despite his lack of experience with pole vault, Jamieson is confident that having someone who teaches gym and weight training and who has an awareness and ability to learn about the body will be beneficial in teaching pole vault.  

It is not just coaches who encourage participation in a spring sport, York is hoping for the participation numbers to match the turnout of previous years, for all those athletes to commit to a high level of excellence in their sports, life lessons to be learned, and for everyone to have fun this spring. “I hope for a lot knowing that sport has so much to give us,” says York, including the opportunity to create memories that last a lifetime.   

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Sports

The MLB Lockout

T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Washington. Fields like this one may not see players or fans anytime soon if the MLB lockout continues. Photo by Nick Wozny

On December 1, 2021, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MLB players and team owners expired. The CBA is a labor agreement that reflects the negotiations between league players and league owners. However, less than two hours prior to the expiration of the CBA, MLB owners unanimously voted for a work stoppage in the form of a lockout. This two and a half month lockout is the first in Major League Baseball since 1995, and has potential to be the biggest lockout in all of sports.

There are two sides to a work stoppage in Major League Baseball: a strike, which is where the players initiate the stoppage; and a lockout, in which case the owners are the cause of the stoppage. The cause for this lockout is the expiration of the CBA which expired on December 2, 2021, and the fact that a new CBA is yet to be agreed upon. MLB owners are unwilling to proceed with the season without this agreement with their players, and after multiple months of debating between the MLB Players Union and the MLB Owners, the two sides still remain at odds. With the most recent of the meetings between the league and the players not making any progress, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is scheduled to address the media in late February, allowing a deeper dive into what is going on behind the scenes of the lock out.

With the minimum salary of an MLB player decreasing for the third consecutive season, the players seek a new free agency system that allows younger players to be paid more and sooner. Meanwhile, the owners disagree with the players and feel that young stars should have multiple seasons of professional experience before getting paid the larger contracts.

With the owners voting for a work stoppage in early December, the MLB lockout began right in the middle of the league’s offseason. Many free agents including Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, and World Series champion Freddie Freeman still remain unsigned months later as we approach a potential Spring Training Whether they will be able to play in a potential 2022 season remains in doubt. Many other players who were able to sign before the lockout began have been unable to train with their teammates and coaching staff at team facilities, and their frustration with league management grows deeper every day. This lockout has caused countless complications for all players both signed or not, and it is possible that the league’s players will go on strike if the issue isn’t resolved by Opening Day on March 31.

To make matters even worse, the players, coaches, league management, and owners aren’t the only ones affected by the lockout. Thousands of people countrywide work within, and for, the league’s organizations at games, practices, and other events that may not take place this year because of the lockout. All of these people could be forced to find other jobs and ways to provide for their families in a short period of time if that ends up being the case.

After two and a half months of debating, no progress between the players union and league ownership has been made, and millions worldwide are being affected because of it, including the fans. “From what the players say about the owners and the league, it really seems like a money grab on their side,” said MLB superfan Jacob “The Zim Man” Zimmerman. “The players just want the economics of baseball to catch up to where the world of sports is at today and the league is trying to do the bare minimum when it comes to those economic improvements,” Zimmerman added. The future of the league remains uncertain, and while some fans are beginning to worry, other fans and analysts are remaining optimistic as they consider both sides of the story. “What we get to hear as fans is the players’ points of view and how unfair things seem. But in fairness, we don’t know the league owners’ side of the story. They seem to believe that the negotiations are heading in the right direction, there’s now optimism that a deal will get done, and I believe that it will,” mentioned local MLB analyst/superfan, Kevin Arriola.

With the MLB season originally scheduled to start in just a couple of weeks, we all hope the league’s owners and players can come to an agreement soon and get our favorite athletes back onto the field!

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The Franklin Baseball Warm-Up

Senior first baseman Carlos Orellana-Thompson between innings. Photo by Carlos Orellana-Thompson

Last year Franklin just missed the baseball playoffs, which was an overall disappointment for a young and hopeful team. Starting the 2022 season, the Lightning are motivated to make their first playoff run in the last couple of years. Therefore the grass is mowed, the infield raked, and the cleats tied, as Franklin baseball is ready and excited for the start of a new season.  

COVID-19 played a major role in last year’s season with social distancing at practice and all players, coaches, and officials mandated to wear masks. But with the basketball season not requiring masks, it is almost certain that this season will share the same expectations. This allows for greater communication on the field, and an overall excitement to the start of a season that hasn’t been felt for the last couple of years.  

With only two seniors in starting roles last year, the varsity team was considered very young. Small amounts of senior leadership and multiple minor injuries took the team off course from making the playoffs, but that will all change in the coming months of regular season play, according to starting pitcher/catcher Michael Bernal. “We have a complete team this year, we have all the necessary parts to make it to the playoffs and have a good run,” he states. The only problem that is arising is team chemistry. “We are lacking team chemistry, I think we need to play as one instead of playing our own positions,” Bernal shares. This is true for many teams at the beginning of a season. The work to fix these minor problems starts once official practices commence. The key to this team really is the consistency and completeness. Most players can fill in for any position, which allows for a lot of flexibility in the rotations. If someone is struggling at 3rd base, Coach Andy Berger can move them anywhere on the field to give them a greater chance to succeed, which gives the team as a whole a better chance at winning big games. 

To get to the playoffs however,  Franklin will have to beat a couple of extremely good teams. The first team is Grant, two time state champions with at least four pitchers throwing over 80 miles per hour, and two players committed to play Division 1 baseball at The University of Portland. Other league rivals include Ida B. Wells and Roosevelt. Franklin will have to win multiple of their matchups against these teams to make it to the playoffs, which is a very difficult task, but players seem very confident, so there are very high hopes and expectations for this season. 

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The Timbers Trip at the Threshold of Triumph

Timbers players embrace each other during a team huddle. Portland was defeated in a dramatic penalty shootout in the 2021 MLS Championship. Illustration by Colleen Coover via timbers.com.

The Portland Timbers faced off against the New York City Football Club in the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup on Saturday December 12. Despite the blustery winds and pouring rain, Providence Park was overflowing with loyal, spirited fans. A stunning equalizer in stoppage time by Felipe Mora, prominent Timbers attacking forward, kept Portland’s hopes at a championship title alive and resulted in a dramatic shift in momentum transitioning into extra time. Will Deniston, Franklin senior and varsity soccer player, describes the atmosphere after the goal in Providence Park as “electric.” However, after a tense penalty shootout under the formidable Timbers Army, NYC emerged victorious 4-2 and clinched the club’s first MLS Cup title. 

The Timbers started the game off conservatively, employing a compact defensive formation. Conversely, NYC took an aggressive approach, which proved strategically superior after Valentin Castellanos, an audacious NYC striker and 2021 MLS Golden Boot winner, scored the match opener in the 41st minute. From the whistle, tempers flared and the game quickly escalated. Fans contributed to this hostile energy as well. Following NYC’s goal late in the first half, two Timbers spectators threw beer cans towards NYC players, hitting forward Jesús Medina in the eye. The perpetrators were later charged with class 3 misdemeanors of attempted assault and disorderly behavior. 

Although the Timbers had home field advantage, one of Portland’s key players, Sebastian Blanco, entered the match tentatively with a lingering hamstring injury and was substituted out before the second half, changing the team dynamic. The Timbers failed to make adjustments at half time, which was apparent in their visibly lackluster offense early in the second half. However, as NYC continued to hammer shots on goal and exploit the holes in Portland’s defense, the Timbers finally activated their notorious counterattack, which utilizes Portland’s unpredictable playmakers such as Diego Chará instead of relying on composed possession. NYC’s goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, responded by fiercely defending the goal with numerous miraculous saves. 

Diego Valeri, a revered attacking midfielder who has played for the Timbers for over 8 years, departs the club on this devastating defeat. Deniston reflects, “it sucks but he had a good run and will remain beloved amongst Timbers fans.” Despite spending most of his time on the bench during games this season, his legacy of skillful domination and humble leadership in his dominant years will inspire future generations of footballers for years to come.  

Although Portland fell short of a fairy-tale season ending, they were hit with a barrage of unfortunate injuries early in their 2021 MLS campaign, so advancing to the league championship far exceeded the club’s expectations. The Timbers’ future remains uncertain heading into 2022, but to quote Portland’s loyal fans: “Rose City ‘til we die”.