Comets bring home six GMC titles in COVID complicated season

Divyana Bose | Staff Writer

After claiming seven Greater Miami Conference (GMC) Championships in the fall sports season, the Mason Comets are showing that in spite of a global pandemic, they have the resilience to maintain that championship standard winning six more conference titles during the winter sports season. 

The Comets brought home championships in girls basketball, girls swimming, boys swimming, wrestling, boys bowling, and chess. While the winter sports season has been filled with uncertainties the Comets blocked out the distractions to maintain their firm grasp on GMC supremacy. 

Girls Basketball wins GMC title

Mason Girls Varsity Basketball team photo

Despite being hit with unexpected COVID-19 quarantines and a series of injuries, the girls basketball team was able to grind out an undefeated season and their first outright GMC title since 2013. Senior Marilyn Popplewell said that coming back from a team quarantine was difficult, however, having the right mindset to play after the two-week period was a task that was essential to the team’s success. 

“It’s hard to get back into game shape so quickly,” Popplewell said. “We had to make up so many games in such a short amount of time, but these challenges made winning the GMC that much more gratifying.”

The Comets had their fair share of hardships this season. Stand-out sophomore guard Margo Mattes had to deal with an ankle injury and multiple quarantines and junior center Kyla Oldacare has been sidelined since January 23 with a leg injury. Through all of this, Head Coach Rob Matula has been impressed with his team’s ability to rise above the COVID confusion. 

“Winning is fun, but it comes with sacrifice,” Matula said. “With all the distractions this year, especially COVID, this team has continued to rise up to every challenge.”

Girls Swimmers claim 14th consecutive championship

Girls Varsity Swim team photo

Another championship banner will be raised for the girls swim team who won their fourteenth consecutive GMC Championship. 

The University of Notre Dame commit Reese Lugbill, a conference winner in four events, was proud of the team’s ability to focus on their season and all the hard work it took for the team to complete a championship season despite all the uncertainties presented by trying to compete during a pandemic. 

“One of the best things is being able to watch yourself and teammates put in so much work and succeed,” Lugbill said. “The dedication everyone puts in makes Mason’s team culture amazing.”

Even with everything that has made this season a struggle, Lugbill took it upon herself to make the most of her senior season. Her outlook on the negatives turned into positives, and that drove her to keep a dedicated mindset.

“Everything is what you make of it,” Lugbill said. “I can’t even imagine not having my senior season with my team and I’m beyond thankful I got to have it.”

Osborn, Bloebaum lead boys to conference championship

Boys Varsity Swim team photo

Head Coach Mark Sullivan was named conference coach of the year, while West Virginia University commit Braden Osborn earned swimmer of the year honors for the Comets who claimed their fifth straight GMC Championship. 

Knowing their plan of action could change at any given moment, the team was forced to take this season one day at a time. Junior Carl Bloebaum, who won the 100-yard Butterfly, said that swimming for a program like Mason’s is enough encouragement amidst uncertainties. 

“It’s a special pride to swim for a team with a storied history like Mason,” Bloebaum said. “We all know what it takes and what we need to do in order to keep swimming, so we simply just deal with the guidelines that come along with it.”

Wrestlers continue GMC dominance

Wrestling team photo

One of the most successful winter sports teams since Mason has joined the GMC has been the Mason wrestling team. Once again they proved their conference dominance standing atop the podium for the 11th time out of the last 12 years. 

Senior Dominic DiTullio continued his impressive Mason career going over the 150 win mark this season. After seeing the promising 2020 season ended during the Covid shutdown DiTullio said he is thankful his team could show how good they are, even if there were a couple of setbacks along the way. 

“I’m very grateful to have our season,” DiTullio said. “Especially since we didn’t get to finish out the season last year when sports were canceled the day we were supposed to leave for state. The GMC gave us the opportunity to prove everyone wrong.” 

The wrestling team has also once again found themselves ranked top ten in the state. Head Coach Nicholas Maffey said that every match was savored and never taken for granted.

“It goes back to the theme of the season — make every moment matter,” Maffey said. “We learned to accept the uncontrollable things and reinvest our energy into things we can control.”

Chess Team checkmates conference foes for league title

The Mason chess team also checked a GMC title off their list, capping off a 14-0 season. Their coach, Keith Brackenridge, was also recognized as Coach of the Year after guiding the team to an undefeated season. Team members Ruthvik Ayyagari, Rithvik Kilaparthi, and Jason Wang earned first-team all-conference honors, while Neev Gupta and Constantin Stanescu-Bellu were second-team recipients. 

Boys Bowlers earn share of third straight title

Mason Boys Bowling team photo

The Mason boys bowling team captured a share of the GMC title with an overall record of 13-2 and 8-1 in the league. The race went down to the final match of the season where they defeated Lakota West in order to get a share of their third straight GMC title. The Comets share the title with Middletown. 

Even though bowling requires players to bowl individually, Head Coach Joe Riestenberg felt the team’s cohesion played a big role in not only their final GMC match but throughout the entirety of this unique season.

“It is difficult to talk about teamwork when you have an individual sport, but the camaraderie and the ability for each member to step up when needed has been key,” Rieistenberg said. “The focus all year has been to win the GMC and they achieved that goal by ignoring any outside distractions and focusing on their individual game.” 

Stemple commends everyone involved

The Mason Comets athletic teams have once again flexed their muscle in the GMC. The athletes and coaches brought home league championships, shattered records, and achieved state rankings. These accomplishments speak to the dedication and commitments made by the coaches and athletes. 

Mason High School Athletic Director Scott Stemple said it took a comprehensive effort by everyone involved in the athletic program in order for the teams to play to such a high standard while having to follow strict protocols. Stemple believes everyone involved in the successful performances deserve to be commended for their dedication to the student-athletes who represent Mason.  

“The athletes, coaches, and our Sports Medicine support team should be highly commended for their efforts,” Stemple said. “This year has been a true test beyond any past measures of dedication, persistence, and commitment for all of our students, coaches, athletic department staff, and respectable families.”