Q&A: Senior student athletes reflect on their sport
May 11, 2023
As the school year ends, seniors athletes will either be continuing or taking a pause from their sport after graduating. Take a look at their favorite memories, toughest times and overall reflection of their sports:
What sport do you play? How long have you been playing it for and what made you want to start the sport?
Senior Jake Foughty: “I’ve been playing water polo for around five to six years. What made me want to start playing was randomly scrolling through [my] TV and [encountering] the international friendly play of the United States in Croatia. I was like, ‘Oh yeah this is cool. I want to try it.’”
Senior Dana Gingrey: “I have played basketball for five years. I think my parents just put me into it. I played a lot of sports growing up [and] just liked basketball, so I kept playing. It’s very fast paced, and I feel like there’s a lot of freedom, and I really enjoyed it.”
Senior Dante Bush: “I play on the Hebron golf team [and] I’m one of the captains. It’s actually a funny story [on] how I started playing. It was over 10 years ago; I’ve been playing for 11 [years] now. After [a] birthday party [for] one of my friends in elementary school, I wanted to play more putt putt. It was one of those mini golf courses [and I said,] ‘You know what mom, I want to do it again’ and she signed me up for my first golf lesson, and it stuck.”
Senior Srijia Venna: “[I run in] cross country and track. I’ve been doing both of them since seventh grade, so six years now. It’s one of those sports where it’s a good balance between individual and team sport and, if I’m being totally honest, I just joined it in seventh grade, tried it out and enjoyed it and continued doing it.”
What made you decide to join the high school’s sports team and continue until your senior year?
Foughty: “[It was] coach persuasive, he was just trying to get people to join the team. [My] parents really wanted me to do it, [and] I really wanted to. I was a three-to-four sport athlete at the time, and [water polo] was just another sport. I wasn’t taking it seriously until I realized I had potential because I was left-handed, [which] was such a great thing. [My] community was [also] just really supportive.”
Gingrey: “I just enjoyed basketball and wanted to play it in high school because I played it in middle school. In my sophomore year, I [started] wanting to play it in college, so that became my motivation to [keep playing].”
Bush: “I definitely grew my love for the game. I did external P.E. in middle school for golf. I was starting to get a lot better, and I really loved the competitive atmosphere. I kind of knew that I wanted to pursue it in high school just because [I wanted] to play competitively, to play [in] tournaments [and] be on a team. I’ve grown a really big love for the game. [Ever since] my first tournament [and] my first practice my freshman year, I knew they were my people. I loved everybody on the team, I loved my coaches — they have been my best friends since freshman year, so it’s just a good atmosphere, good people and I love playing the sport.”
Venna: “One aspect is [the] team like bond that you could see. When [I was] in middle school, [I] could see how much companionship there was [and] the amount of support they gave one another, and that was one of the things that really drew me to wanting to be part of a team.
What was your favorite memory from your sport?
Foughty: “[Being the] first team of all districts in all regions. I put so much effort into that [with] the help of my teammates, [my] coaches and every other coach I’ve had at the club level. It’s really been a blessing to get that award and recognition. [Another favorite memory was playing in the Olympic development program,] because we’re playing [against] the best teams in the nation and that just maximizes our potential.”
Gingrey: “I would say when we played at Coppell away at their stadium this year and we beat them when they were ranked No. 1 in the state. It was just an intense game, and it was middle school night, so they brought all their middle schools there, so it was really packed. They [also have] a really nice stadium, and it was just a really fun game [with] a lot of energy.”
Bush: “Honestly, I’d say it was day one of my last tournament — it was our district tournament, which is the big one, and I played on the second varsity team. I had just played a decent round, but then the other kids on my team had played amazing rounds and we actually had this fighting chance [in being able to move] on to regionals. Although we didn’t do it the second day, just having that spark [was nice]. I hit my shot on one of my last holes and half my teammates had finished earlier watching me and they’re like ‘dude, if you finish out really strong here, we have a chance, like we might be able to make it,’ and that was just such a cool experience to feel and being like with the team. Everybody [was] hype, everybody’s really working hard and it was really fun.”
Venna: “Probably camp. We have a camp over summer where we drive up to Oklahoma, it’s all the girls, the guys [and the] coaches, and we get to have a ton of fun.”
What was the toughest thing you had to endure from your sport?
Foughty: “This year [was the toughest]. Our first UIL season was in the hardest district. We had teams like Flower Mound, Marcus, Southlake [and] Keller in our first ever UIL season, and those teams are really good. [This is one of the only] competitive districts in the state because we’re easily top 15, top 20 in the state, but we didn’t make the playoffs because of that [competition]. Now, if we were in a different district, we for sure would’ve made the district champions, but unfortunately, just the district placing was really tough because we were playing really good competition. It was really difficult because I hate losing, overall it kind of made us better, [but it was] just really difficult losing.”
Gingrey: “I had multiple lower leg injuries, like I had fractured my foot [and] had shin splints, so that was pretty tough physically but, more importantly, [it was also tough] mentally. When you go through an injury, playing means something more.”
Bush: “It’s just having to get back up after a bad tournament. You have so many more bad days than good in golf and you’re going to have so many more bad rounds than you will good, [so] you’re going to have days like that [where] you have to be able to get back up and just keep fighting [and] keep playing. You got to hit the next shot. You can’t think about what you just did on the last shot – you just got to clear your mind and focus, because it’s a really big mental game too. You’re going to hit a lot more shots badly than good, and just having to deal with that [is the toughest thing I had to endure from the sport].”
Venna: “My freshman year, I had a hip injury and I was trying to still run through it. I think we all try to do that sometimes where you just go ‘oh I’m fine,’ but it wasn’t. It was a bigger race as a freshman and, [it] being a travel meet, it was already somewhat stressful [and] scary. And then on top of that, having these hip injuries, but trying to balance those together and still trying to run my best was definitely one of my toughest moments, and committing to finishing the race was my hardest [moment].”
What are your future plans and do you hope to continue your sport after high school?
Foughty: “I’m going to the University of Iowa. I’m going to continue playing water polo for the Collegiate Water Polo Association at Iowa. [I’m also] going to take part [in] working for the football program [at college,] because I was actually a football manager this year and I really enjoyed doing that, so I’m going to continue pursuing that path. I’m going to study business management with an emphasis in sports management.”
Gingrey: “I’m playing basketball [at] Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, so I’m going there to play basketball and also get my degree.”
Bush: “I’m going to Purdue next year for engineering. I won’t be playing for the Purdue golf team like the NCAA, but I definitely plan to play club golf or intramural. It won’t be the same competitive atmosphere as playing [in] NCAA golf [or] playing with those star athletes and, ultimately, I am saying goodbye to that big competitive aspect as a student athlete. I’m still definitely going to pursue it, and golf is one of those sports where you can play it for your entire life. I’ll be an adult still playing, so it’s definitely not going anywhere for me.”
Venna: “I plan on going to UT Austin for public health, and I do want to continue running. I’m not going to be running for the college team, but probably for a club or something. I really want to get into marathons or half marathons.”
How do you think your sport helped shape who you are now?
Foughty: “Definitely physicality [wise]. I was really weak in middle school, I wasn’t strong [and] I was like a stick to be honest. I was kind of discouraged because of my size. I was skinny, small [and] I wanted to be this big football star. That never happened until water polo came and I was like ‘oh, I’m actually pretty good at this.’ Water polo helped me become a lot stronger – I’m a lot more conditioned, physical and aggressive as an athlete.
Gingrey: “In basketball, you make a mistake in the game or do something that’s not good, you can’t stop the game, be upset and let it affect the next play. You can kind of parallel that to life outside of sports because, even if something bad happens or doesn’t go your way, you can’t let it affect your future decisions. I feel like little lessons like that kind of shaped who I am [today].”
Bush: “It’s taught me a lot of life lessons [with] patience and leadership, and just being able to get back up [and] keep fighting above the water. The people I’ve gotten to know, becoming captain, getting to work with the team, trying to have that leadership role and trying to lead other kids my age, it’s definitely a new experience I wouldn’t have gotten [without] golf. It’s shaped how I interact with other people and how I interact with myself and just how I motivate myself. Even on tests, how I study, how I [did my] college application essays, it’s just having that motivation to keep going [and] keep fighting, and I’d say that’s definitely where the game of golf has helped me the most.”
Venna: “Cross country and track both instill a sense of discipline and accountability for yourself. It’s having to show up for you and your teammates on a daily basis, and it’s that discipline to wake up and do things that definitely don’t feel good. It’s one of those things and I think that carries on into aspects like academics and other extracurriculars.”
What will you miss most with your sport in high school?
Foughty: “Definitely the tournaments. I really enjoy the tournaments, they’re really fun [and I get to] improve with [my] teammates every game. Also, I’ll miss the bonds I made with everyone. A couple of them, I’ve been playing with for around 4-5 years, so just making those bonds has been really special.”
Gingrey: “Just the people. [I’ll miss the] people that I was with every day, the coaches, my teammates [and] just everybody in the program.”
Bush: “Definitely the people — my teammates. I’ve loved everybody I’ve gotten to play with, even outside of Hebron. In all [the] tournaments, the people you get to meet through golf — the other high schools [and] coaches are all amazing people. They’re all there doing the same thing; they want to compete, but [also] want to have fun. It’s always awesome meeting new people or just playing with people you’ve played with for like 10 years.
”Venna: “Probably my teammates — especially [in] our girls team, we’re definitely really close. We get to meet up and have little get-togethers, and those will be the moments I will miss the most.”