Last September, five Saint Stephen’s seniors were named semifinalists for 2016 National Merit Scholarships, half of the 10 chosen throughout Manatee County. All five – Hannah Sage, Sabrina Priestly, Zack Gromko, Joe Class, and Michelle Yan – have now advanced to be among 15,000 finalists nationwide. That’s the highest number at Saint Stephen’s since 2005. Approximately half of the finalists will win National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32-million this spring. The process of becoming a National Merit Scholar begins during the junior year of high school when students take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Those named finalists are the highest-scoring entrants in each state — fewer than one-percent of all U.S. high school seniors.
SSES senior Julien Freij won the top prize in Theatre Odyssey’s Student Ten-Minute Playwriting Festival, held Jan. 15-16 at the David S. and Ann V. Howard Studio Theater at State College of Florida. Julien’s play, Brothers in Arms, a poignant portrayal of the Christmas truce between the British and the Germans during World War I, was directed by former SSES faculty member Preston Boyd. This is the second consecutive year that Julien has been recognized with the honor. He won in 2015 for As Long as the Moon Shines. Brothers in Arms will next be featured at Theatre Odyssey’s Ten-Minute Play Festival, May 5-8 at the Cook Theater at Sarasota’s Asolo Center for the Performing Arts. Theatre Odyssey was founded in 2006 to promote the efforts of local playwrights and actors. The group has premiered more than 90 plays written, directed and performed by Gulf Coast playwrights, actors and directors.
Famed paleontologist Jack Horner, curator at the Museum of the Rockies in Montana and scientific adviser on the Jurassic Park film series, talked dinosaurs with our 3-6 graders on Dec. 8. Horner fascinated the students with stories from his many digging expeditions around the world and drew gasps when he described how today’s birds are really living dinosaurs. The students asked a great series of questions following Horner’s presentation, which was arranged by SSES Board of Trustees Vice President Elizabeth Moore. Although now semi-retired, Horner continues to travel each summer on digs for fossilized dinosaur remains. He has provided guidance to the producers of all four Jurassic Park/World motion pictures and appeared in a cameo in last summer’s blockbuster Jurassic World.
Saint Stephen’s has hired Scott Shields to serve as head coach of its defending state champion boys tennis team. He replaces James Flanigan, who had led the program since 2012 and relocated out of state following the last school year. Shields was one of the Sarasota-Bradenton area’s most decorated junior players during the 1980s, achieving a top 10 USTA ranking in all age divisions in Florida. A Bayshore High School alumnus, he participated in USTA National Tournaments and reached a junior ranking as high as No. 12 in the nation. Shields played collegiately at Florida State University and earned an NCAA ranking of No. 27 as the Seminoles’ No. 1 singles player during his sophomore and junior seasons. He was a four-year starter during his career at FSU and won two conference singles and doubles titles. Shields currently coaches professionally as a member of the staff at Celsius Junior Tennis Academy. He also works privately with several junior players, preparing them for college. Shields and his wife, Jodee, live in Sarasota with their two daughters, Riley and Bailey. Saint Stephen’s annually fields one of the state’s top boys tennis teams. The Falcons have won 13 district titles, five regional titles and four state championships. Read more about Coach Scott Shields.
The 2015 golf season culminated in state tournament berths for both the boys and girls teams and continued a run of dominance by the Falcons. Led by junior Vanessa Yan, the girls captured their fourth consecutive district and regional titles, then finished 11th at state. The boys were runners-up at districts, but rebounded to defend their regional championship and placed seventh in the state tournament at Howey-in-the-Hills. Yan was a force for the Lady Falcons throughout the regular season and was just as impressive once post-season tournament play started. Her 71 at the Bradenton Country Club made her the district medalist. A week later, she shot 78 in blustery conditions to tie for the top spot at regionals. Yan then carded 72-76-148 at the state tournament to finish 14th. Justin Wynen’s (pictured) individual efforts on the boys’ side nearly mirrored Yan’s. The senior placed third at both districts (74) and regionals (73), then was one shot off the pace after the first day of the state tournament before ultimately shooting 71-79-150 to finish eighth overall.
The girls and boys golf teams will make return trips to state, sweeping the 1A-Region 6 tournament on Monday, Oct. 19. After finishing second to Sarasota Christian at districts, the boys turned the tables, winning by six strokes on a windy afternoon at the Bradenton Country Club. Justin Wynen led the way for the Falcons with a 73. The boys will seek their first state title since 2004. The girls, who won the district championship a week earlier on the same course, edged past Fort Myers Bishop Verot by one stroke to qualify for their fourth straight state tournament trip and sixth overall. They will be chasing their first state crown. Vanessa Yan again led the way for SSES. The junior shot 78 to share the region individual championship with Naples St. John Neumann’s Sydnney Shrader. Both SSES teams will compete next Tuesday and Wednesday at Howey-in-the-Hills.
Amid cheers of support from the entire school, senior Zack Gromko broke a Guinness World Record on Thursday, Oct. 15, when the robot he built solved a Rubik’s cube in 2.4 seconds. The entire school community gathered in Hoagland Arena to watch the feat. Independent judges and timekeepers were also on hand to verify the attempt and submit the proper paperwork to Guinness in order to officially establish the record. Zack, who can finish the cube by hand in less than 20 seconds, started solving the popular puzzle as a sixth grader. A few years later, he saw video of a device solving the cube in record time and hatched the idea of topping that feat. Combining his love for math, engineering and puzzles, Zack went about constructing his computer-controlled robot last year. After plenty of trial and error, his creation was eventually able to consistently best the established record. On Oct. 15, Zack put the robot to the ultimate test in front of the school audience and gathered local media. The first attempt solved the cube in 3.5 seconds. The second set the new record.
Volleyball is thinking pink and football’s regular-season home finale has been designated a “Green Out.” Thursday’s (Oct. 8) Falcons volleyball matches against St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut will be “Pink Night” in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Wear your pink and cheer on the freshman (5 p.m.), JV (6 p.m.) and varsity (7 p.m.) in important games against a district rival. There will be treats available for the kids and a bake sale. The Moore Athletic Complex should be a sea of green when the football Falcons take on Out-of-Door Academy on Friday night, Oct. 23. Game Changers, the annual SSES Athletics fund-raiser scheduled this school year for Jan. 30, is sponsoring special “Green Out” t-shirts that will be provided to all Saint Stephen’s students. We hope you’ll attend the game, proudly wear your green, and cheer on the Falcons as they build on what is shaping up to be a record-setting 2015 season!
Saint Stephen’s students made up half of the 10 students from Manatee County named Tuesday as semifinalists in the 2016 National Merit Scholarship program. Seniors Joseph Class, Zackary Gromko, Sabrina Priestly, Hannah Sage, and Michelle Yan advanced to be among a total of 16,000 semifinalists nationally. Finalists will be named in the spring for some 7,400 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million. The process of becoming a semifinalist begins during the junior year of high school when students take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Those named semifinalists are the highest-scoring entrants in each state — fewer than one-percent of all U.S. high school seniors. About 90-percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of those will win a National Merit Scholarship.
The Saint Stephen’s community voiced its support for the school and its mission loud and clear during the 2015 Giving Challenge (Sept. 1-2), donating more than $78,000 during a 24-hour period. That total, represented by 415 individual gifts, was the largest for any single organization among the 450 non-profits participating in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties. The Challenge also served as the kickoff to the school’s annual “Drive to 75” Saint’s Fund campaign, which runs 75 days through Nov. 14. In total, more than $6.6-million was raised for area non-profit organizations through the Giving Challenge. The Patterson Foundation also committed to match individual gifts up to $250. The additional match provided to Saint Stephen’s will be announced at a later date. A special thank you to everyone who supported SSES during the Challenge.