JACKSON TWP. For the fourth consecutive summer, The Suburbanite will conduct its Summer Athletes Series, which follows local high school athletes readying for their senior seasons and balancing the demands of busy summer schedules.
Each athlete in the series will be a senior this fall and each represents one of the schools The Suburbanite covers in one of its three weekly editions. For each edition of the paper, one athlete per fall sport will share insights of what they’re going through as they get ready for the final year of their high school athletic and academic careers.
Past SAS participants have included football players on their way to Ivy League colleges, soccer players working at their first summer job as a dishwasher at a restaurant and a cross country runner learning Russian. The purpose of the SAS is to provide insights on what life is like for a high school athlete who is working to get ready for what they hope will be a successful senior season while also trying to enjoy their time off from school.
This year’s SAS lineup features 11 athletes from seven different schools across Stark and Summit counties. Some have stacks of college recruiting letters in their mailbox, while others are planning on joining the military after high school or starting down their chosen career path academically.
Each SAS story is determined by that athlete’s training, work and travel schedules. For many, that includes time spent volunteering at the youth camps high school teams often hold during the summer for younger athletes in their district who hope to someday follow in their shoes at the varsity level.
Others have family vacations scheduled that will test their ability to stay focused on training and conditioning while enjoying time at the beach or in the mountains. Their stories will also illsutatre some of the pressures and challenges high school athletes face in an era when many sports have become year-round endeavors that require athletes to train, practice and prepare 12 months a year in order to compete for starting spots and have a chance at a college scholarship.
The athletes taking part in the SAS this summer for Jackson are:
Jaret Pallotta, Football
Pallotta, a senior quarterback, is entering his second season as a varsity quarterback and coming off a junior campaign in which he led the Polar Bears to their first playoff appearance in 12 years.
After taking over under center from his brother, current Dartmouth quarterback Jake Pallotta, Jaret Pallotta htrew for 2,080 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. At 6-foot-5, his height gives him a good vantage point to see over the defense and with several college offers from which to decide, the summer will include chances for he and his family to make campus visits and try to figure out which would be the best fit.
When it comes to his goals for the summer, Pallotta wants to put on weight in order to make himself stronger and more durable while also improving his speed so he can move in the pocket and be able to get out of it and make plays when needed. Making his college choice is also a priority because having that decision hanging overhead can add plenty of stress for a senior athlete.
Then there are the more immediate goals of helping Jackson chase that elusive Federal League title and another playoff berth, both of which will require plenty of hard work this summer from Pallotta and his teammates.
Kam Tyler, Soccer
Tyler is one of the most experienced players on the roster for the boys soccer team, a three-year starter and team captain whose presence will be big for a Jackson team out to continue its turnaround after a tough 2015 season, with last year’s 10-4-3 mark and 5-1 effort in league play pointing the program back in the right direction.
With the team’s juniors and seniors leading the way last season, Jackson was able to get back on track following a 2015 run that saw the Polar Bears fail to win the league for just the second time in 14 years. Tyler, a defender, played a big part in that turnaround as the defense was more consistent in 2016.
Like Pallotta, Tyler wants to get strong and add weight this summer, while at the same time building the speed necessary to be effective on the back end of the formation for head coach Michael Biros. Tyler is also trying to make his college choice, which will be influenced by the chance to play at the college level.
With Green and Hoover looming as contenders in the league and Lake always a consistent program, Jackson will have plenty of challenges in chasing yet another league title and trying to make a deep postseason run as Tyler and his fellow seniors make one last run together.
Sarah Benson, Volleyball
Benson is the setter for a Jackson volleyball team that has been as consistently successful as any program at the school in recent years. Alongside baseball, girls lacrosse, girls golf, boys tennis and basketball, volleyball is one of the teams that has been a regular presence at the state tournament.
As the team’s setter, Benson plays a central role in the success of the Polar Bears’ attack under veteran head coach Jeff Walck. Benson is the latest in a long line of Jackson volleyball players aiming to continue their careers in college and that starts with preparing for a senior year she and her teammates hope will lead to the first state title in program history.
As the summer wears on, Benson will volunteer at the team’s annual youth camp and also work to bring her teammates together and create the chemistry and unity they’ll need to weather the storms that come along the way to what they hope will be yet another undefeated league season and successful postseason.
Making the right college choice and finding out whether she’ll get the opportunity to play college volleyball are also on Benson’s mind and as she and her family weigh her choices, she hopes to narrow her options and settle on one.
Summer Athletes Series stories will run throughout the summer, culminating in mid-August as all three Jackson seniors officially begin their final year of high school and start the journey in earnest to the last games of their respective high school careers.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936 or email@example.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB