Freshmen to Watch
Read about the freshmen that are already making a big impact on City High's sports teams
December 23, 2020
From tennis to basketball to soccer, track, and even cross country, Kalea Seaton ‘24 tried a lot of sports until she finally settled on swimming.
“All my life I’ve done sports and just quit them,” Seaton said. “I would always be trying new sports and, I guess, swimming just stuck.”
Seaton started swimming competitively in fifth grade and is now in the Junior Elite training group as part of the Iowa Flyers Swim Club.
“I like that [swimming] is a team sport but it can also be more of an individual sport, so you focus on improving yourself,” Seaton said.
Her current goals include improving her starts and working on her mentality going into her races. Eventually, she wants to swim in college.
“I really don’t think in the long term that much,” Seaton said. “I mostly think about smaller goals. And when I reach those goals I just think of another goal.”
This past swim season, Seaton was one of six state qualifiers on the City High girls swimming and diving team. She qualified as a member of the 400 yard freestyle relay.
“She’s really intrinsically motivated,” head coach Zane Hugo said. “Not only does she do the extra work, but she is happy to do it and because of that we’re able to talk honestly about what she needs to do to improve.”
The 400 yard freestyle relay of Heidi Stalkfleet ‘22, Averi Loria ‘22, Seaton, and Rika Yahashiri ‘21 placed 15th at the IGHSAU state meet with a total time of 3:43.53, making it the highest placing relay from City at the meet. Seaton’s 100 yard freestyle split broke one minute for the first time that season, with a time of 59.84.
“I’ve been really glad to have the opportunity to coach her this year,” Hugo said. “She’s been a key part in our success here at the end of the season so I think we’re really lucky to have her, for now and for the future.”
For Arthur Hall ‘24, golf has always been a way for him to spend time with his grandfather. He is in northern Minnesota many summers, living with his grandparents and playing golf.
“My grandpa taught me how to play golf when I was around six or seven. It was just a really common game,” Hall said. “I like to spend time with my grandpa, and play golf with him. It’s just competitive and fun.”
This year Hall played on varsity for the City High boys golf team, playing as City High’s number three for the majority of the meets throughout the season.
“Nobody really knew who he was, but about the third day of practice, the other golfers watching him play knew he was very good and one of our top golfers right off the bat as a freshman,” David Brighton, head coach of the City High boys golf team, said.
At the 4A districts meet at Elmcrest Golf Course, Hall completed 18 holes with a score of 92 points, placing him 54th overall, the second highest placing athlete from City High.
“He’s a student of the game,” Brighton said. “I believe there’s a huge opportunity for him to grow and become a very very good high school golfer. He has the drive to be good and the temperament.”
Brighton also believes that Hall has the ability to qualify for state individually in the coming years as well secure a scholarship to play golf in college.
“I’m gonna try to practice golf every day and do everything that I can do to help myself get better,” Hall said. “Long term, I just want to keep working to get stronger and hit farther and I want to play in college.”
Hall has found that golf helps him deal with stress and has taught him how to calm himself to concentrate on matters at hand.
“I try to focus on my shot and not think about what happened before, like if I hit a bad shot before,” Hall said. “I just try and move on from each shot after I take it and not let it affect my game.”
His favorite part of playing golf is talking to the people he plays with and the game itself.
“My grandpa still does play with me,” Hall added.
When people store things away, they often put them out of sight, where they remain forgotten until they or someone else finds them again. Erika Ernst, who had played volleyball in high school, had a volleyball in her closet, where her daughter stumbled across it around the age of six.
“I just found a volleyball in [my mom’s] closet one day and I was like, ‘Can we pepper?’” Claire Ernst ‘24 said. “That’s basically how it started.”
Claire proceeded to play recreational volleyball for a few years before successfully trying out for her first club team: Imagine Volleyball. Eventually she switched to the Iowa Rockets, which she is still a member of today.
“I love playing with my team. I love this feeling like when you’re scoring a point [and] the adrenaline that you get. When I’m playing the whole match, I just feel really happy and I forget about everything else. I’m just doing what I love,” Claire said.
This past season, Claire joined the City High girls varsity volleyball team, where she was the only freshman as well as a starter and played six rotations, staying in the game in both the front and back rows.
“In the back row I think she may have even surprised herself a little bit with how solid she was back there as a freshman,” City High volleyball head coach Tricia Carty said. “You don’t often find a freshmen that will play six rotations on any team [in our league], but she did.”
Claire ended the season with a total of 136 kills, second on the team only to the 157 kills made by Alia Vanderhoef ‘21.
“I wasn’t expecting to play on varsity and to be given so much playing time. [High school volleyball] exceeded my expectations and it was a lot of a lot better and a lot more fun than I imagined,” Claire said.
Despite being the only freshmen on the team, Claire didn’t feel like she was treated differently by the rest of her teammates.
“I feel like people generally don’t look at me, as a freshman. They expect the same out of me as from everyone else,” Claire said. “They hold me accountable. I felt like I never wanted to let the team down and I never really felt like I was different from any of them just because I was younger.”
Carty noticed Claire helping her teammates keep a positive attitude and lifting their spirits.
“She filled a role this year that we needed filled with our team dynamic,” Carty said. “She is always saying really funny things that made everyone smile and laugh, and we needed a lot of that this year just because COVID threw so many other challenges at us.”
Claire’s ultimate dream is to play Division One volleyball in college and she wants to continue improving to get there.
“I just really appreciate and love her competitiveness. She wants to go out and do the best she can each match because she wants to win. It’s just really cool to see players take that and then over time develop the confidence in themselves. Seeing her develop [confidence] this year was really great and I’m excited to see that continue over the next three additional years,” Carty said.
Early morning practice, jumping into the cold water before he is fully awake and swimming laps, only to get out and go to school afterwards, is a common occurrence for Joe Polyak ‘24.
“[I like that] it’s only you, that matters [in swimming],” Polyak said. “There’s no one else that can affect your outcome.”
Polyak started swimming competitively at the Gators Swim Club in Florida at the age of seven before moving to Iowa and becoming a member of the Iowa Flyers Swim Club. He goes to Regina but swims for City High because Regina does not have a boys swim team.
“I like coming here and meeting new people. Swimming with different people, that’s the fun part,” Polyak said. “Right now, I’m starting to get used to what the atmosphere is like here. It’s all new and different.”
His goals for the future include having the team go to state every year, placing top three at state, getting a full ride to a Division One college for swimming, and placing top ten at the Olympic Trials. He plans to get there by working hard every single day.
“I just say, I’m gonna give it my best and if it’s not enough, so what?” Polyak said. “[I look forward to] getting some records and beating some people.”
Polyak is ranked 209th nationally in the 200 yard freestyle for the 13-14 age group, according to swimrank.com.
“You tell him something and he’ll do it,” IFLY coach Chris Freeman said. “He’s really good at learning from what we’ve done or taking away from other things as well. He’s probably like the easiest kid to coach and super nice as well.”
Polyak feels he has learned a lot of life lessons from swimming including time management and how to have a good work ethic.
“He’s just one of those kids [that] just puts his head down, gets to work and doesn’t really complain. He’s a hard worker and always has a good attitude about it,” Freeman said. “I’m just excited to see where he ends up.”