JACKSON TWP. For the fourth straight summer, The Suburbanite will feature local high school athletes preparing for the senior season of their respective fall sports as part of its Summer Athletes Series.
The focus of the series is how the athletes prepare and train for the final high school season of their fall sport, including balancing training with other commitments such as summer jobs, vacations, volunteer work and other obligations.
Past SAS participants have included current Division I football, volleyball, soccer and cross country athletes and this year’s group includes three athletes who figure to play prominent roles in the success of their respective teams this fall.
Once a month, The Suburbanite will check in with each of them to profile a different aspect of their training and give readers a chance to see what life is like for a senior-to-be who’s doing their best to make sure that the last season of high school sports they play is a successful one.
This year’s Summer Athletes Series participants are:
Anna Soehnlen, girls soccer
Soehnlen has been on the varsity roster the past three seasons and has earned a starting spot the past two years. As a defender, she’s helped the back line of the formation stay steady en route to adding both league and district titles to the program’s growing resume, along with a regional title and state championships appearance last fall.
As she heads into the summer, Soehnlen has a busy schedule ahead of her that includes work, volunteering, vacation and training.
"Individually, I could improve my play in all aspects of the game. I would like to detail my technical work and get into shape for the season," she said of how she wants to improve as a player over the summer.
Her family vacation to Maryland will be an early chance to enjoy summer before the busy core of her schedule sets in. Along with working in maintenance at Superior Dairy, Soehnlen plans to volunteer at Quest youth soccer camps and also attend some camps of her own at the University of Akron and Lock Haven University.
It promises to be a lot of work in various forms, but could also set Soehnlen up for a winning senior season and also prepare her for the next chapter of life once she graduates.
Hayden Junker, football
The past two seasons, Junker has gotten to be a part of a team that reached the playoffs and snapped the program’s Federal League title drought last fall. He’s done so playing tight end and defensive end and is entering his third season as a two-way starter on a team where two-way starters aren’t overly common.
Having seen the success of the past two seasons and wanting to be part of a senior class that keeps it going and builds on it, Junker has already been in the weight room with his teammates, trying to zero in on the added strength, speed, agility and mobility he’ll need this fall.
"I want to work on quickness, agility, and my explosiveness and my quickness off the ball," Junker said of his summer focus.
Over the course of the summer, the team has organized lifting three days a week in the morning. While the 8 a.m. start time for lifting is later than the start of the school day once classes are back in session, it still means that players don’t get as much of a chance to sleep in as classmates who aren’t getting ready for their fall sport could enjoy this summer.
Junker and his family will be going on vacation mid-summer, with camps for both football and basketball sprinkled around that trip. Trying to put in time to be part of two varsity sports squads adds a degree of difficulty to the summer, but by now, Junker is used to having both football and basketball on his plate and seeing both teams capture league titles.
Evan Akers, cross country
Akers just concluded his junior year by running in the Division I state track meet as part of a 4x800 relay team that set a new school record. This fall, he’s set to lead the pack for one of the largest cross country teams in the area.
Jackson has grown its cross country effort to the point that it could field multiple teams with the number of athletes who turn out each fall. Akers is expected to be the number one runner for head coach Kevin Walsh’s crew and while the team is losing a collection of talented seniors, recent seasons have proven that there is almost always an influx of talented new faces waiting and ready to step in.
Having been on the varsity for the past years, Akers has been a part of that success and will now get his shot at being one of the team’s senior leaders.
"I want to consistently focus on the smaller, more forgotten aspects of training that'll hopefully add together to make a big difference -nutrition, sleep, strength training and stretching," Akers said of his approach for the summer.
Away from the trails, roads and track for running, the summer will also include doing various jobs around his neighborhood and making trips to Hilton Head, S.C., for vacation and taking some college visits as well.
It’s a summer planned out with both Akers’ short- and long-term futures in mind, laying the foundation for his senior season and for the next four years after graduation.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB