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Sports Reporting

Blood, sweat and dirt: The Willy Yahn way

Story and video by Steven Tucker

The sun beats down during a late May afternoon in Clearwater, Fla. In the stands of Bright House Field, spectators seek a shady spot while fanning themselves with a copy of the American Athletic Conference tournament program, stopping momentarily for deep swigs of water.

On the diamond, the UConn third baseman steps into an environment that would be hazardous to a real Husky. Despite the sweltering Florida heat, Willy Yahn dresses in the same attire as he would for a chilly early season game in Storrs: long sleeve Under Armour under a glowing white jersey soon to be soiled by a warm-up web gem. Read more, watch video…

 

“It’s not disabled, it’s differently abled”

Story and video by Garrett Spahn

On a Friday night in the summer of 2015,  a group of hometown friends  congregated at a fire pit in Jack DiPierro’s backyard, their favorite hangout spot. There they cracked jokes, told stories, and simply enjoyed each others’ company, like they had been doing since elementary school.

To keep the good times going, DiPierro constantly stoked the fire with a seemingly endless and perfectly organized 8-foot wall of cut wood.

But this gathering was different from previous ones; this time the group gathered around a MacBook Pro so it could Skype Jared Grier, who was in Atlanta, GA, at the Shepard Center undergoing rehab and treatment. Grier had fallen out of a tree, fracturing his vertebrae and compressing his spinal chord, leaving him paralyzed. The laptop occupied Grier’s usual chair around the fire; the boys didn’t think it was right to have an empty one in the circle.  Read more, watch video…

 

A former gymnast takes to the diving board

Story and video by Brandon Martinez

With grace and poise, Monica Marcello uses the momentum of the board to send her hurtling into the air and lands perfectly. The judges are impressed, as they give her a near perfect score. Marcello has been doing this for a long time, nine years to be exact, but she had to give it up before the effects of the sport damaged her body permanently.

Now 20-years-old, Marcello looks back on her days as a gymnast, with both pride and grief, as she stands there on the diving board. With the same grace and poise of the gymnast inside of her, Marcello uses the momentum of the diving board to send her straight up into the air, contorts her body in ways that the average person can’t, and finally hits the water. The splash is not well contained, so she isn’t too proud of her last dive, but she keeps practicing. After all, that’s what the University of Connecticut recruited her for. Read more, watch video…

 

As the NHL waits, this UConn player sharpens his skates

Story and video by Kevin Bostiga

He saunters out of the pizzeria, big white box in hand. He looks both ways before lazily crossing in front of traffic in no rush. The 6-foot three-inch tall hockey defenseman smiles and laughs as he jokes about what a car not stopping could mean for his career.

His lackadaisical demeanor display, he enters his apartment at the Oaks in Storrs Center. He slides off his jacket to reveal a black futuristic looking athletic shirt with his name on the front in bold red lettering: “Gendron.”

Miles Gendron falls into the leather sectional couch that lines the walls, dropping his pizza on the massive round ottoman. The remaining sunlight shines through the walls of windows of his corner residence. He begins to talk as he shovels the pie in his mouth. Read more, watch video…

 

From New Britain slums to the Super Bowl

Story and video by Hector Molina

From quality turf fields and bright lights to a field that’s mostly dirt and needs car headlights for illumination, Tebucky Jones has seen it all when it comes to the gridiron. For a Super Bowl champion who’s used to crowds of 70,000 at Gillette Stadium, the old rusty benches at Hungerford Park in Berlin, CT are a huge change of scenery.

A former NFL safety, who played seven years in the league with three different teams, Jones could have coached anywhere at any level, but decided to come back to coach at his alma matter, New Britain High School.

The 6’2 218 lb. safety grew up in New Britain during a time when gang violence and drug use was at an all-time high. Read more, watch video…

 

A track star from a family of Thoroughbreds

Story and video by Michelle Kalupski

Cruising around in a silver Toyota Camry through Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, blasting Whitney Houston on the stereo, Taylor Anderson smiles brightly knowing that she earned this car by running her way to a college scholarship.

Anderson always knew that the goal of a college scholarship was attainable since both her parents were athletes.

“There is no way I am failing. I was born an athlete, whether I liked it or not,” Anderson said. Read more, watch video…

 

Jun Takeda: The Brain of the UConn Rowing Team

Story and video by Justin Ayer

It’s a cold, brisk, predawn morning at Coventry Lake. The air hits like a thunderbolt. There’s not a soul in sight, except for the singing of hungry birds waking up to be fed. Houses surround the lake; there are no signs of life. At 4:45 a.m., everyone is sound asleep. It is a beautiful sight of nothingness. The water is calm, the air is thick, the trees are still.

That is until the UConn rowing team arrives, ready for another grueling practice.

Jun Takeda, the leading coxswain on the team, is the opposite of this quiet setting. Her job as a coxswain is unlike any of her teammates, whose main tasks are to row.

Her job is to yell. Read more, watch video…