Senior athletes reflect back on their time as teammates


Sprinter and jumper Zane Danton ’22 cheers as he completes a triple jump in a meet against Crespi Carmelite High School.

Leo Saperstein, Assistant Sports Editor

As an eighth grader at Noble Charter Middle School, Dahnte Russell ’22 sat on the bleachers in Taper Gym, watching the boys basketball team compete against St. Francis High School. When Russell caught sight of Spencer Hubbard ’20, whose stature and playing style were similar to his own, he said he knew then there was a place for him in the boys basketball program.

In his first year at the school, Russell played for junior varsity and later joined varsity, where he learned of the team’s dynamic from the sidelines. Now a senior and team captain, Russell said he focuses on guiding his young teammates through their first years on the team.

“When you play with high-level guys, they are going to be hard on themselves,” Russell said. “[When they make a mistake], I just reassure them that it’s all good. The play is over, [and you] cannot get anything back. If I have knowledge that they don’t have because I’m older than them, I give them that knowledge, so they do not make the same mistakes I did as a young kid.”

Russell said he appreciates the players’ talent and team’s culture more than ever as his time at the school is ending. Russell said the camaraderie among his teammates during his time playing in the program founded his admiration for the sport.

“I spend more time with these guys than I do with some of my family members,” Russell said. “These are just my guys. They’re really like brothers. I still talk to guys that I played with [in] my sophomore year. The culture of being a family and being able to separate on the court from off the court is such a big thing here.”

Russell said the coaching staff is an integral part of the boys basketball community. Russell said boys basketball Program Head David Reibibo fosters a supportive and educational environment, teaching players how to improve both their performance and character.
“[Rebibo is] teaching us life goals and how to be a man,” Russell said. “He’s at a different stage in life than we are. He’s been through things I have not been through. [Rebibo is] hard on me but in a good way, like [with] constructive criticism. You need that in life.”

The team’s record is 15-2 overall, and Russell said he hopes to lead the team to its fourth straight Mission League Championship by preparing his younger teammates for leadership positions. Rebibo said Russell’s growth as a teammate since his sophomore year has been apparent as a coach.

“He is a true leader who our guys look to and depend on,” Rebibo said. “He understands what we expect as a staff and program. He does a tremendous job demanding and relaying that message to his teammates and [younger players] when he is around them.”

While Russell has an entire winter season remaining, singles and doubles player Caroline Rediger ’22 finished her last season with the girls tennis team in the fall.

Rediger, who began playing tennis at the school as a seventh-grader, said her experiences on the girls tennis team have been a significant part of her time at the school. As she leaves the program, Rediger said she feels excited for her younger teammates.

“I’m happy for them,” Rediger said. “I know how fun it has been for me, so I’m excited that they still get some more time to play. I know that they’re going to have a great time [during] the rest of their [high school] careers.”

Although Rediger was unable to play during the 2020-2021 season due to an ACL tear, she served as team manager. Rediger said her experiences on and off the court deepened her connection to the team.

“When you are on a high school team, it does not matter if you are playing football or tennis, which is more individual,” Rediger said. “You have this team mindset. I’ve played matches, but I’ve also sat on the bench like everyone has. Sometimes that’s not as fun, but sometimes it’s really fun because you get to see your other teammates grow.”

During her time as manager, Rediger said Girls Tennis Program Head Jelena Durisic, who has also torn her ACL, helped her stay connected to the team. Durisic said Rediger showed perseverance while handling her injury.

“She made tremendous progress, and with her hard work earned a spot on varsity squad senior year,” Durisic said. “She has shown maturity, dedication and enthusiasm all [four] years, and it has been a joy to have her.”

As Rediger plans to play club tennis at Southern Methodist University, Durisic said she hopes Rediger will carry her dedication and passion with her into college.

“She is very vocal on the sidelines, cheering, always smiles and brings [a]fun energy to the court,” Duricic said.”I hope that the strategies and work we put in these four years help her in her next adventure, and as always, to represent and dominate as [an alumna].”

Sprinter and jumper Zane Danton ’22 said athletics have been an important part of his experience at the upper school. As a freshman, Danton joined the upper school boys and girls Track and Field program, where he competes in the long jump and triple jump. This year, Danton said he plans on also racing the 100-meter and 200-meter races.

Danton said although the team consists of a large number athletes, forming meaningful connections is easy because practices occur within smaller sub-sections. He said the team’s supportive attitude makes being a young athlete less stressful.

“Everyone on the team is incredibly welcoming, which made the transition from the [middle] school team to the upper school team really smooth socially,” Danton said. “Each event tends to practice separately in smaller groups. It makes it much easier to get to know people.”

In an effort to support younger athletes, Danton said he started reaching out to his new teammates during preseason practices in order to help them prepare for the team’s first meet in the spring.

“As I’ve gotten older and become one of the seniors on the team, I’ve taken more of an active role in helping the younger team members feel welcome in the main group,” Danton said. “[I do] something as simple as saying ‘Hi’ and asking how they are doing. [I also help] with position and technique when we’re working on those types of things.”

Danton said working within a team environment, with intensive training regimens, has taught him dedication, which he applies in other scenarios.

“Track has given me a strong work ethic, both athletically as well as in many other aspects of my life,” Danton said. “I’d have to say some of the hardest days of my life are our dreaded Monday workouts. [However,] no matter how close I am to collapsing on the ground, the satisfaction of pushing through and completing the workout makes up for it.”