Jake Mendel | On Track: No regrets for Suriana Lee as she wraps up senior year
The winter sports season — COVID-19 aside — was an interesting experience for a second-year sports writer. The first year on a beat is spent uncovering the County's dynamic in terms of what sports, and athletes, stand out.
It may be a cop out for sports reporters to say we aren't rooting for specific teams and players, but rather their potential stories. I was prepared to enter the spring season with the same mentality until the pandemic hit.
But with time in abundance lately, I decided to talk with one athlete that had a great potential storyline set up for the spring. Lee High School's Suriana Lee was arguably the best third singles tennis player in the state last season as the Wildcats made an appearance in the MIAA Division III state championship against Weston. Suriana Lee had an impressive performance, topping Weston's Sammie Buckhout in three sets, proving she was more than ready to slide into that first singles spot with seniors Ava Martin and Anna Wang preparing for graduation.
Despite missing out on her final run with the tennis team, she is graduating with no regrets in her time as a Wildcat.
"Generally, I couldn't be happier with how things played out," Lee said. "Both teams I played on were really successful. I was happy to be a leader and am proud of how hard [the teams] worked. We were really successful in tennis, going to the state finals.
"I also had the best and most supportive coach in Norma Comalli — I couldn't ask for more."
One of the story lines regarding the spring sports season was Lee's opportunity to defend the throne of Western Mass. champs, but Lee also had a few matches she was most certainly looking forward to.
"[Mount Everett's] Madeline Von Ruden and [Mount Greylock's] Mia VanDeurzen are the two," Lee explained. "Madeline and I have grown up playing with or against each other, it is awesome to see the progress over the years. I've known Mia for a few years, she is a bit younger but so amazing. It would've been a test of skills. I respect both of their play styles."
Instead of prom and graduation, Lee's last months as a high-schooler consist of hitting the trails with her dogs, along with zoom chats with her graduating class.
Despite the lockdown and the need for social distancing, Suriana credits her tight-knit community for making things a bit easier.
"This has given me a different perspective to how the town of Lee reacts," she explained. "I am grateful to be in a small town that is so supportive and has each other's back."
The members of the Lee community went a step farther — adopting each member of the senior class.
"People in the community did an 'Adopt a Senior' event," Lee said. "We each got little gift packages. I found out mine was from Janet Warner. Her family has always been there for me. She was my elementary school gym teacher and her family turned into my second family — that is just how the Lee community is.
"Even though we are social distancing, there is a whole family behind you so you don't feel alone."
While this chapter didn't necessarily end how Suriana Lee would've liked, her positive mentality and community has helped make a rough situation just a bit easier as she looks ahead to the next chapter — college.
"The University of Michigan gave me a good offer so I committed there," Lee said. "It is a huge school and I am so excited to meet new people and do different things."
Seniors throughout the county had their final hurrah taken from them, but are continuing to push through with a positive mentality, just like Lee.
Until next week, stay safe and on track.
Jake Mendel can be reached at email@example.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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