STRATFORD—The Bunnell High athletic department tipped its proverbial cap to four seniors who will take their athletic talents to college on Friday afternoon.
Maura Kelly (girls lacrosse, Manhattanville), Cullen Roper (baseball, Mount St. Mary’s of NY), Kesiri Gonzales (track, Post University) and Jacob Kudysch (boys lacrosse, Wilkes University) were feted in a ceremony at the school’s library.
A fifth senior, CJ Falotico, who will be play football at Maine Maritime Academy, was not in attendance for the ceremony.
“We want to congratulate these student-athletes and we wish them the best in college,” Bunnell athletic director Wayne Thrall told students, parents and administrators in attendance.
Maura Kelly, Girls Lacrosse, Manhattenville
Kelly is one of the pre-eminent three-sport athletes on campus and is adamant in the fact that playing volleyball and basketball allowed her to shine on the lacrosse field, as well.
When asked what advice she would give a young athlete who was being pressured into focusing on one sport, she replied, “I would say do multiple sports. I’ve connected all my sports together and it’s helped. In lacrosse, it’s a lot like basketball. I didn’t even know you can run plays, or you can set picks, or do this. And volleyball helps with your overall athleticism.”
Kelly learned that playing three sports can help you get to college just as easily as focusing on one and it is Manhattanville that won her heart and talents.
“It’s an hour away from where I live, so it’s close, but far enough,” Kelly said. “It’s small and I liked it. When I went and visited, it just seemed like the right place.”
Kelly still isn’t sure what her major will be at the school, but she knows she has time to figure it out.
“I change my mind a lot,” she said. “Maybe a teacher, maybe communications and marketing.”
Kelly started her lacrosse career in fourth grade and grew to be passionate about the game, enough so to take her game to the next level.
“During high school, I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I just knew this is something I want to keep doing. People said, ‘You can play,’ so I said, OK.”
Cullen Roper, Baseball, Mount St. Mary’s (NY)
The Bulldogs starting center fielder is looking forward to roaming the outfield for Mount St. Mary’s next season.
But he admits to being a little surprised at finding a school so quickly, especially one that checked out so many of the boxes he was looking to fill.
“It’s funny. They saw me on a Wednesday and asked me to come down on a Monday,” Roper recalled. “At first, I thought I wouldn’t end up going there, but it grew on me. I was surprised they had everything I wanted and I’m happy they did. I’ve found a place that offers everything I need.”
Roper said he felt right at home with his new coach and teammates, as well.
“It was just the attention and love and atmosphere,” he said. “My coach showed interested in me and my teammates, when I went down, they treated me like family.”
Roper hopes to major in business management and do whatever he can to help his new team be successful.
First, though, is one more season with the Bulldogs.
“Winning is always the No. 1 goal,” Roper said. “This year, we lost a big group of seniors, but all the returning players grew up playing together and we have a tight bond. Hopefully that bond can help us win a few games. It’s baseball. Anything can happen.”
Jacob Kudysch, Lacrosse, Wilkes University
Kudysch, a midfielder, will head to Pennsylvania with a new focus.
After thinking he wouldn’t have time to play in college since he was considering majoring in physical therapy, a shift in his mindset opened more doors.
“I ended up changing my major,” he said of opting instead to focus on History and Secondary Education. “I reached out to the coach, did some visits and absolutely fell in love. They convinced me that’s the place I should be.”
Kudysch grew up a baseball player, but switched to lacrosse in middle school when a group of his friends did, as well.
“I just fell in love with the sport,” he said. “The fast pace, the energy. I just wanted to keep playing.”
He enters his senior year at Bunnell with a new coach and a new focus.
“As far as a legacy goes, I definitely want my name attatched to a winning season,” Kudysch said. “We’ve been so close to get to the next level, always having the potential, but just falling a few games short. This year, the potential is there to get to that next level as a program.”
Kesiri Gonzales, Track and Field, Post University
Gonzales considers herself shy, which is why the Post University’s size was appealing to her.
“I like it because it’s a small school and doesn’t have that many people,” she said. “The classroom sizes are small. I think the (student-teacher) ratio is 13 to 1, so it’s small.”
Gonzales hopes to do big things on the track, though, even as she goes after her goal of being a corporate lawyer in her future life.
“I’ve been running track since middle school,” she said. “I always imagined doing track in college because I love it so much. I couldn’t imagine not doing.”
The fleet-footed sprinting standout for the Bulldogs knows she still has to get over her shyness to reach all of her life’s goals, but just like trying to lower her times on the track, she’s working to get better at coming out of her shell.
“I’m trying to get over this fear,” she said. “It’s a work in progress.”
CJ Falocito, Football, Maine Maritime Academy
Falotico, who was Bunnell’s heavyweight wrestler this winter, wasn’t able to make the ceremony, but he’ll take his talent in the trenches to Castine, Maine, to play for the Mariners in the fall.
A 5-foot-11, 265 pounds, Falotico was a key offensive lineman for Bunnell during their most recent 9-2 season, which included an appearance in the Class L state quarterfinals.