Centreville, MD – The Gunston School is pleased to announce that six members of the class of 2023 have signed their letters of intent to play sports at the college level. At a recent signing ceremony this past Wednesday, January 18, students and their families along with coaches and faculty gathered in the Alice R. Ryan Family Library to celebrate their accomplishments. Nationwide, a little over 7% of high school athletes (about 1 in 13) go on to play a varsity sport in college and less than 2% of high school athletes (1 in 57) go on to play at NCAA Division I schools. These six college-bound athletes comprise 10% of Gunston’s graduating class, beating the national average for the second year in a row.
Damian René of Easton, Md., will be swimming for Swarthmore College. He began his swimming career at age three and transitioned to competitive swimming at age six, making the two-hour round trip six times per week to the Naval Academy Aquatic Club (NAAC) in Annapolis for the last seven years for two-to-three hour practices. “I enjoy swimming because it has provided me with lasting relationships, helped me hone my leadership and time management skills and taught me the importance of competing as an individual and a team,” said René. “Making the decision to continue swimming at the college level was an easy one. I wanted to improve as a swimmer and swimming is one of the few sports that you can continue for years to come.”
NAAC Head Coach Hilary Yager commented, “Success has always been extremely personal to Damian. He knew at a young age exactly what he wanted to accomplish both academically—which has always and rightfully come first—and athletically. He has been steadfast in his pursuit of his goals, never letting setbacks upset him or knock him off course. He would simply take a moment, reflect on what did and did not go right and then he would get back to work. This trait has made him quite the leader over the years with NAAC. It has been a true privilege for me and the NAAC staff to have been given the opportunity to be involved in his childhood. All of us look forward to Damian’s next steps and following what I am sure will be an incredible journey into adulthood and beyond.” René plans to pursue a degree in Computer Science at Swarthmore.
Andrew Rich of Annapolis, Md., will be swimming for Florida State University. Recently, Rich was named as one of the 1,281 high school Scholastic All-Americans by USA Swimming for the 21-22 school year. At the Winter Junior National Championships East in Greensboro, N.C. earlier this month, he qualified for finals in the 100 and 200 Backstroke and swam times of 48.00 and 1:45.68, respectively. These times broke the NAAC records and are both in the top 40 swum by high school students nationwide this season. The swims have helped move Rich into the overall #4 ranking for the state of Maryland and the current #143 worldwide (#91 USA) recruits in the class of 2023 based on the top swim recruit ranking website.
Rich began to swim competitively at age five, swimming for both NAAC and the Bay Ridge Swim Team, which he also coached. “Andrew has been a member of NAAC for 12 years— the longest possible time you can spend on the team. He joined us as a tow headed, big smiling 6-year old whose love for the water could be seen in his ear to ear grin. Over the years, we have watched Andrew grow and mature into a very talented athlete and leader. His love for swimming is contagious and the impact it has on his teammates is quite impressive,” said NAAC Head Coach Hilary Yager.
“The competitive nature of the sport always gives me the drive to get better and swim harder,” said Rich. “Being able to compete in the championships I watched when I was a kid like ACC Championships and NCAA championships would be a dream come true.” He plans to study business at Florida State.
McKinsey Brown of Centreville, Md., will be playing lacrosse for Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Brown began her lacrosse career in the fourth grade, playing first for travel team Lady Blue Crabs before joining Maryland United, as well as playing for Gunston. “I love how [lacrosse] makes me stronger and work harder every day. I wanted to stay in shape in college but more importantly to come in and play at a higher level and already have a great friend group who would be there for me,” said Brown.
“SCAD is a really great program and well-known for their consistent championships over the years. McKinsey will definitely have the opportunity to contribute there in a big way,” said Gunston’s Girls Lacrosse Head Coach Imani Black.
“I’ve had the privilege of coaching McKinsey the past three years with Maryland United Lacrosse Club,” said Head Coach Scott Boyles. “Playing for a club like Maryland United the past several years says a lot about McKinsey’s commitment and dedication to the team and sport. She is a stellar model of the term ‘coachable player!’ She will play or take any role as a player, always exceeding the coaches expectations. She is a dominant figure at the game, showing superb athleticism, stick skills and high field IQ. She leads by example and will set the bar high. McKinsey truly displays great character and certainly the ability to play this sport at the highest level. She will always have such a positive impact on those she interacts with as she passes through life.” McKinsey plans to study fashion design and marketing at SCAD.
Kelby Booth of Denton, Md., will be rowing for Bryn Mawr College. She began rowing in her tenth grade year at Gunston. “I love how rowing pushes me physically and mentally,” Booth said. “I also love the welcoming community and the close bond that comes with it.” She is looking forward to the familiar routine of waking up early every morning, adding “it’ll be good for my time management [in college] and I just truly enjoy being on the water.”
“Kelby is a fierce leader and is incredibly determined in athletics,” said Gunston’s Assistant Athletic Director for Waterfront Athletics Natalie Reading ’16. “She tackles every practice with 100% effort and is supportive of all of her teammates. I was able to coach Kelby as a novice when she was first starting to row and her determination to learn and excel in rowing was contagious.” Booth plans to study International Relations at Bryn Mawr.
Autumn Watson of Centreville, Md., will be rowing for Rutgers University. She began rowing for Gunston her ninth grade year during all three seasons, serving as coxswain. She recalls learning about crew for the first time, “I was amazed there was a role specifically for people that are short and are loud—and I thought ‘Well, I am short, (4’9 at the time and now 4’11), and I am a loud person when I want to be, so I thought I would be the perfect choice.” Watson also appreciated the opportunity to become a strong leader, “In my role as coxswain, I have to steer the boat, be the team’s coach when we’re out there on the water and make sure I am constantly encouraging everyone to stay strong and not give up,” she explains. “The bond you create is a feeling I have a hard time describing; it makes you all think as one [while you’re] in the boat.”
As coxswain, she also has to keep an eye out for other boats on the water and is responsible for the boat’s hardware as well as training new crew members.
“Autumn has always been incredibly efficient on and off the water,” adds Reading. “She has grown into her role as both a coxswain and captain with strong enthusiasm. Autumn’s passion for the sport motivates those around her, and will be an incredible asset to her new team.”
Watson decided to compete at the division one college level because she likes the challenge and finds that she thrives the most when involved in sports. “Sports help me keep my life together [and] crew has become such a major part of my life at Gunston over the last four years, I can’t imagine my life without it.” Watson plans to major in mechanical or electrical engineering and minor in computer science programming at Rutgers, with the ultimate dream of designing robots.
Isabelle Wagner of Chestertown, Md., will be rowing for Washington College. She began rowing in the seventh grade at the Naval Academy Rowing Camp and continued there until she came to Gunston where she began to row competitively as part of the rowing team. “I love how free rowing makes me feel and how every time I sit in the boat and start to row it feels as if the world around me goes away and that there is nothing to worry about,” said Wagner, who wants to row in college to stay in shape.
“Isabelle is a humble and unpretentious competitor,” said Reading. “When it is time for a tough practice or race she will focus in and do what needs to be done. She never complains about workouts, and shows up ready to do whatever is asked of her. I have no doubts that Isabelle will excel in collegiate athletics.” Wagner has not yet declared a major and wants to see what Washington College has to offer.
The Gunston School Athletics Program has 19 interscholastic teams, as well as several recreational athletic offerings. Founded in 1911, The Gunston School is an independent, nonprofit, nonsectarian, coeducational, college preparatory high school located in Centreville, Maryland. Visit gunston.org for more information.