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COVID-19 policies change across Tennessee
By Ava Cassidy / News Editor
As schools across Nashville begin to reopen their doors, the issue of COVID-19 continues to be heavily discussed. Schools across Davidson county, including Harpeth Hall, have been re-evaluating last school year’s policies, as concerns about the transmission of new COVID-19 variants begin to appear.
In a mass email to the Harpeth Hall community, Head of School Jess Hill stated that masks will be required indoors for all students, faculty, staff and campus visitors. Remote learning will not be an option for students, in a major change from the 2020-21 school year, and students will be expected to treat COVID-19 as any other serious illness and stay home if tested positive.
“I always appreciate the way that Harpeth Hall always works to provide us with a safe environment in which to learn and if that means wearing a mask, I am glad to be able to do my part. It is a small thing we all can do to make a huge difference,” senior Elizabeth Nelson said.
Harpeth Hall also states that although the vaccine is not required, it is strongly encouraged for all students, faculty and staff who are eligible to receive it. Vaccinated and unvaccinated students and faculty, however, will follow different guidelines if they are exposed to COVID-19.
Vaccinated people should monitor for symptoms, continue wearing their masks and get tested three to five days after exposure but are permitted to come to school unless they test positive. Unvaccinated people must stay home from school, quarantine and get tested.
“I think Harpeth Hall made the right decision with masking. It’s always good to follow the recommendations of medical professionals, and I’d rather be safe than sorry with the new variants of the virus. It’s also probably not a good idea to ostracize those who haven’t been vaccinated even if I personally think it’s the right choice,” junior Virginia Callen said.
In Davidson County, no city-wide mask mandate is currently in effect, but Metro Nashville Public Schools and Metro government buildings are following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and requiring masks indoors.
As of Aug. 13, 2021, just over 50% of Tennessee residents have been vaccinated, according to the CDC and Tennessee Department of Health. As for children’s vaccination rates, about a quarter of 12- 15 year-olds have received the vaccine. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it is estimated that a 70-85% vaccination rate is required for herd immunity to be achieved.
The CDC recommends that schools, particularly K-12 institutions, require masks indoors. It is also recommended that three feet of space be maintained between students.
Concerns about COVID-19 variants, particularly the Delta variant, have been rising even as vaccination rates increase. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines do protect against the Delta variant, which is much more transmissible and deadlier than the original mutation of the virus. The CDC also states that the unvaccinated population is currently the greatest concern in the fight against the spread of the virus and that current vaccines have been proven to decrease the risk of serious infection from any variant.
Although vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections are likely contagious for a shorter period of time than unvaccinated people, the CDC asserts that it is still possible for vaccinated people to transmit the Delta variant.
The CDC highly recommends layered prevention strategies to protect against the Delta variant, meaning that several different preventative measures should be used at once – for example, being vaccinated against COVID-19, keeping a three-foot distance and wearing a mask.
MIXING AND MASKING: Harpeth Hall students Corinne Pope, Olivia Majors, Mary Meacham, Maddie Meyer, Ann Gailor Strobel, Mia Corts and Julia Tavi wear masks outside on Awards Day 2021. Harpeth Hall has shifted their mask mandate to take wearing a mask outdoors optional for fully vaccinated students. Photo by Sarah Martin Sachtleben.
Panic ensues throughout Afghanistan after Taliban takes over
By Olivia Majors / Editor-in-Chief
Almost two decades after being driven out by U.S. troops, the Taliban effectively took control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, on Aug. 15.
The Taliban met little resistance as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, leaving the presidential palace to Taliban fighters. The Taliban’s swift success in seizing control of the capital raised questions and criticism regarding the nature of the Afghan defense against the group. In July, the Biden Administration began the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation. The foundation and timeline for this process was laid by the Trump Administration’s negotiations with the Taliban in 2019.
U.S. officials have conceded that the expected speed of the Taliban’s takeover was miscalculated.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force has been unable to defend the country … and that has happened more quickly than we anticipated,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of Afghanistan’s national security team.
Although a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the Taliban from power, the group of insurgents never left, instead, regrouping and reorganizing in the Afghan countryside. As the new Western-backed government gained power, corruption began to run rampant throughout the nation.
“In 2012, as in 2009, the population of Afghanistan considered corruption, together with insecurity and unemployment, to be one of the principal challenges facing their country,” a 2012 United Nations study reported.
Afghanistan’s turbulent history has continued to contribute to modern unrest and vulnerability. “It shouldn’t be surprising that what we were trying to do in Afghanistan failed,” Upper School Social Sciences teacher Dr. Art Echerd said of the U.S.’s two-decade-long intervention in the nation. “It wasn’t as if there was ever a history of that country really being united and having a defined nationalistic identity.”
“You have to have enough people who have confidence in their government… that you’re willing to fight and die for them,” Dr. Echerd said. “So many Afghans were tired of this chaos dating back to the 70s, and they thought the Taliban would provide a certain type of order, and they thought they were relatively honest and uncorrupt compared to these other warlords.”
Until 2001, the Taliban had complete control over Afghanistan. Under this control, women were unable to go to school, maintain jobs or travel anywhere without a full body cover or a male escort. Women in Afghanistan and people around the world are concerned that conditions will revert back to oppressive rules under Taliban control. Despite claims from the Taliban that laws will be implemented ensuring that women will be able to participate in public life, doubts remain. Already, women in cities that have fallen under Taliban control “are like prisoners in [their] home,” according to a provincial government official in Afghanistan in an interview with NBC News.
Turmoil and chaos continue to grow in Afghanistan as terrorist groups flock back to the country.
“You’re going to have a national government who’s actually in favor of groups that will fight against the West… that is a huge fear,” Dr. Echerd said.
TALIBAN TAKEOVER: Taliban insurgents turn themselves in to Afghan National Security Forces at a forward operating base in Afghanistan in April 2010. Photo courtesy of ISAF Public Affairs.
Faculty feature: Groves, Oschman, & Weller hit the hall
By Lena Qian, Julia Allos and Veronica Pierce / Features Editors
With the departure of many teachers comes the arrival of many new honeybears. This year, ten new faculty members come from all over the country and are ready to make their mark on campus.
Harpeth Hall welcomes five new humanities teachers: English teacher Jessica Yancey, Spanish teacher Steven Wenz, Latin teacher Emma Wynne, cross country coach and English teacher Stuart Guthrie and world history teacher Dr. Nicholas Oschman.
From hiking the Appalachian Trail to exploring Medieval Islamic Philosophy, Dr. Oschman’s outgoing and curious personality is evident in everything he pursues. Originally from Pennsylvania, Dr. Oschman joins the Harpeth Hall faculty this fall as an Upper School Social Sciences Teacher. He brings a wealth of knowledge, having earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Marquette University.
Dr. Oschman was drawn to Harpeth Hall from the University of Missouri-St. Louis where he was a postdoctoral fellow by the opportunity to truly know his students.
“Oftentimes you don’t get to know your students as well as you would like when you work at the college level,” Dr. Oschman said.
Dr. Oschman also worked in academic publishing for 12 to 13 years and hopes to learn more about journalism as a faculty sponsor of Logos.
“I’m mostly excited to be part of a club that is at the heart of the school,” Dr. Oschman said.
Aside from working to publish some of his academic work, Dr. Oschman loves to read and enjoys watching Vanderbilt sporting events with his wife and three daughters. He also hopes to grow his passion for hiking this school year.
Ultimately, he hopes that his own curiosity and passion for learning will spark his students’ curiosity.
“I hope to just be another voice in what is already a choir of voices that are inspiring girls to learn, love learning and realize that learning is a lifelong pursuit,” Dr. Oschman said.
Joining the Upper School STEM department are math teacher and volleyball coach Ashley Raby, math teacher Timothy Hickman and physics, computer science and engineering teacher and robotics coach Matthew Groves.
Growing up in a rural part of the Appalachian mountains, Mr. Groves has always been connected to nature. His love for the outdoors helped him develop an interest in STEM as science helped him understand how the world works. Coming into Harpeth Hall, Mr. Groves hopes to share his passion for STEM with his students.
“I hope to bring a friendly interest in STEM, and I hope to bring lots of fun conversations about all the sciency things in the world.” Mr. Groves said.
Mr. Groves has also always had a love for learning in general, especially because his parents were both teachers. As a result, he found a love for teaching.
“I loved school. I loved learning. Teaching is a way for me to continue being part of that world,” Mr. Groves said.
Most recently, Mr. Groves taught at Franklin Road Academy as a science faculty fellow. He has also tutored Harpeth Hall students.
In his free time, Mr. Groves enjoys reading, cooking and crocheting. What Mr. Groves is most proud of is his raspberry garden, which he spent most of his time and energy on.
“I think I’m more proud of my raspberries than my master’s degree,” Mr. Groves said.
This year, Harpeth Hall is gaining a group of experienced and dedicated college counselors, Brad Kloha and Janet Weller, who will advise and guide students through the emotional maze towards college acceptance.
Mrs. Weller joins the Harpeth Hall faculty this year as the new Director of College Counseling after living in Baltimore her entire life. She previously served as Associate Director of College Counseling at Roland Park Country School and serves as the committee chair for data trends and analytics for the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools.
Mrs. Weller originally wanted to be a journalist, but when she was assigned to interview students as a newspaper reporter, she quickly realized she would prefer to be directly involved with students. She eventually found her passion for counseling students through the college process.
“I still get to tell students’ stories,” Mrs. Weller said.
“What I’m learning about students and finding them a college fit is going to be telling that student’s story to the college that they’ve applied to.”
Aside from college counseling, Mrs. Weller enjoys crocheting, reading and running. She previously coached cross country and track at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore and has a goal to run 1000 miles this year. At Harpeth Hall, Mrs. Weller wants her students to truly appreciate the college process.
“I really want students to understand that they can remain balanced in the process. That there are times when it is stressful, but there are also times when it can be very exciting and times when the hard moments are changing you for the better,” Mrs. Weller said.
Harpeth Hall will greet all the new faculty at Convocation on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021 Be on the lookout for a focus on the other seven new Upper School faculty: Jessie Yancey, Steven Wenz, Emma Wynne, Dr. Stuart Guthrie, Ashley Raby, Tim Hickman and Brad Kloha.
SMILES IN PATTON: New Upper School world history teacher Dr. Nicholas Oschman poses in the Patton garden. Photo by Lena Qian / Lead Features Editor.
POSING IN MASSEY: Matthew Groves arrives on campus as a new physics, computer science and engineering teacher. Photo by Shaffer Dale / Photography Editor.
BEAMING FOR THE CAMERA: Janet Weller grins in her office. She is the new Director of College Counseling. She previously served as Associate Director of College Counseling at Roland Park Country School. Photo by Shaffer Dale / Photography Editor.
It isn’t just traffic: Nash’s growth yields positive results
By Kiran Dhillon / Opinions Editor
In any growing city like Nashville, there are obstacles that must be carefully navigated with an expanding population. But, when thought about with sensitivity and careful planning, these barriers can be overcome while enjoying the healthy benefits of a growing city and admiring Nashville’s economic and cultural expansion.
According to The Tennessean, a reason that residents and big businesses alike have moved to Nashville is the job market, the second hottest in the country as of 2020. Because of the city’s plentiful job opportunities, Today ranked Nashville in the “top ten cities to live after the pandemic.” Such economic and population growth has led to an expansion in property tax income, with commercial properties making up about half of that revenue.
In 2018, a study by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce found that nearly 400,000 residents have moved to Nashville in the last decade, with about 94 people arriving each day. With the population boost, Nashville’s median household income increased 37.6% from 2009 to 2019, medium gross rent increased 46.2% and median home prices have increased 53.2%.
However, the rise in housing prices has created issues with housing affordability and gentrification as Nashville’s economy thrives. The city’s data shows that the average cost of a home has increased by $75,000 in the last decade, and with only 32.3% of workers in the Metro Nashville area living within a half a mile of transportation (2019), these rising costs are even more detrimental.
Nashville provides ample opportunities for everyone—affordable food options, plentiful job opportunities, or even a chance at jumpstarting a successful career in the music industry—no matter their background, financial status, or passion. So, when faced with the problems above, Nashville’s business community has displayed the city’s signature “Southern hospitality” by helping to solve challenges of growth through financial investment and leadership. More than 350 businesses have partnered with Metro Nashville Public Schools to create career development opportunities for their students.
“Nashville is a place where people say ‘Here’s what I can do for you,’ instead of asking what you can do for me, and it shows,” Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said to Forbes.
Increasing the tax base has led to incredible opportunities for improvements to public services throughout the city, including parks, libraries and emergency response services. These improvements to government services have created another reason for families to move to Nashville: adults can educate themselves and their children with books from public libraries, feel safe while exploring the diverse streets of downtown and get fresh air at the city’s many parks.
“The opportunity is the reason my family came and the reason I’m still here,” vocalist and songwriter Ruby Amanfu said in an interview with The Guardian.
Amanfu is a Ghanaian-American songwriter who began her singing career in Nashville, which she attributes to Nashville schools’ focus on arts.
Thanks to economic expansion, the willingness of new businesses to assist members of the greater Nashville community and bountiful job opportunities amidst the rapid growth, this Southern hub has become more culturally diverse than ever.
With new restaurants opening near The Gulch, artists making their mark on the city with vibrant murals on 12th Avenue South or the more recent Music City Grand Prix that turned the Korean Veterans Bridge into an IndyCar racetrack, it is ever apparent that Nashville’s identity is reaching beyond country music and bachelorette parties.
Urban issues such as gentrification and transportation costs are problems that have stemmed from Nashville’s growth rather than its decline. The obstacles of Nashville’s urban growth are easier to address while continuing to enjoy the fruits of a culturally expanding city.
NASHVILLE’S URBAN EXPANSION: A photo of Nashville’s skyline as the city continues to grow. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.
Beyond Estes and Hobbs: summer reads require diversity
By Cori Magsby / Opinions Editor
Fostering inclusivity through summer reading is imperative as we return to school every August. At a time where equity, inclusion and diversity are at the forefront of most conversations, like changes in political policies and company mottos, diversification is one of the most hot-button topics in schools right now.
In the Harpeth Hall community, where young minds are being taught to speak and be in a world where a “she” is at the head of the table, the importance of diversity should be showcased in our classrooms as much as it is in our mission statements.
As students foster and curate who they will be when they “grow up,” books that spark conversations on topics that are prominent both outside and inside the school are key to well-rounded learning. At an all- girls-school like Harpeth Hall, diversity by gender is often seen as the only kind of diversity.
Authors who represent a variety of cultural, racial and sexual identities, as well as gender identities, would be true diversity. Books that come from all backgrounds showcase the diversity Harpeth Hall holds within its classrooms and that exists beyond Green Hills.
Part of the reason why discussions on topics like race, gender and sexuality do not frequent our classrooms is that such conversations are uncomfortable. Providing summer reading choices that give insight into these difficult topics is the first step to starting these conversations and making them comfortable and regular. Harpeth Hall has the opportunity and desire to provide a safe and welcoming space for all of its students.
Since intersectional feminism circles our social media platforms, why not have books that explain its meaning and why it is important? Intersectional feminism, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, is seeing how multiple forms of inequality overlap and make problems worse.
Books such as Zoya Patel’s “No Country Woman” or even Angela Y. Davis’ “Women, Race, And Class” give insight into intersectional feminism and explain its meaning. To learn about women in science, try “Inferior” by Angela Saini, which discusses how sexism affects scientific research.
Students need to stay informed, so books that explain frequent news topics would allow girls to be a part of the global conversation. Reading a variety of books would also help students form their own opinions and understand the perspectives of others.
For example, books that explain the importance and purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement, what makes a feminist and how to support the LGBTQ+ community would educate Harpeth Hall students on some major headline topics.
Students have already started to formulate their own questions about what they see outside of school, so providing books that answer a few of these questions would be beneficial. Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America” gives insight into immigration. On the other hand, Samantha Irby’s “Wow, No Thank You” is a collection of essays discussing a queer woman’s new life in a hilarious way. Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want To Talk About Race” answers questions about being an ally to friends and peers of color.
Uncomfortable conversations can be made more comfortable by knowing specifics. Providing books and works by a variety of authors allows students to explore niche interests and perspectives. Harpeth Hall teaches its students to be well-rounded individuals who speak confidently about what they are passionate about but also to appreciate the views of others.
Students need to read books that represent every student who attends Harpeth Hall. Our all-school reads need an adjustment so a student can be prepared for her life after she leaves Estes and Hobbes.
DIVERSIFYING SUMMER READING: Junior Sarah Jean Caver completes her summer reading on Aug. 15, 2021. Photo by Mary Meacham / Lead Photography Editor.
Arts and Entertainment
“Outer Banks” trends wash up on Harpeth Hall’s shore
By Caroline Ford / Arts and Entertainment Editor
On July 30th, 2021, Season 2 of Netflix’s “Outer Banks” was released, reinstating its claim over teenage fashion. Actresses Madelyn Cline and Madison Bailey, who play Sarah Cameron and Kiara Carrera, have become style icons among teenagers.
Cline portrays a Southern rustic look on the show, with her most popular outfit being a knit, cropped t-shirt with a pair of high-waisted jean shorts. Bailey is dressed in a similar style to Cline, wearing relaxed 90s outfits.
Both sport many pairs of high-waisted jeans or jean shorts on screen. Their clothes reflect the most prominent trends today, often pulling inspiration from thirty years ago. In fact, the most worn outfit among teenage girls is now a crop top with high-waisted bottoms.
“Sarah Cameron largely influenced my style of clothing this summer. Her typical outfit throughout the show consists of cropped shirts and jean shorts, which has widely been my go-to summer outfit,” junior Charlotte Mosley said.
These comeback trends reflect how Harpeth Hall students dress today. Cline and Bailey set an example of how to achieve effortless outfits that teenage girls want to wear. By showcasing pieces that can be bought at common retail stores like H&M, Urban Outfitters, Billabong, Free People and Target, they teach their audience how to mix and match tops and bottoms.
Not only have Cline and Bailey had a great influence on feminine fashion, but their fellow cast members, Chase Stokes and Drew Starkey, have also greatly impacted male fashion.
Stokes, who plays John Booker Routledge on the show, commonly wears his trademark bandanas and short sleeve button-downs with cargo shorts, along with his co-star, Rudy Pankow, who plays JJ Maybank. Stokes and Pankow have long, flowing hair that is representative of late 90s and early 2000s trends.
Starkey, who plays Rafe Cameron, embodies the opposite of Stokes’ style, dressing in a casual, preppy way. Starkey’s character could easily be mistaken for a model of Ralph Lauren, J. Crew or Tommy Hilfiger.
Both Stokes’ and Starkey’s onset looks are classic in the male clothing and larger fashion industry. These outfits have also had an immense impact on the summer style of many Southern teenage boys. Many have
adopted Stoke’s colorful, loose Hawaiian shirts.
Sporting contemporary looks on set, both Cline and Stokes worked to stay connected to the younger generation watching them. The pair struck a partnership with American Eagle, a popular and accessible clothing brand.
“We kind of realized there is not necessarily a younger audience without ‘Outer Banks,’ but we wanted to make sure that we were engaging with brands that felt in line with the show, and making it an obtainable partnership…I grew up buying American Eagle jeans because they’re affordable, you know!” Stokes said in an interview with Fashion Week Daily.
By pioneering current fashion trends and telling their fans where to get these articles, the influence of these “Outer Banks” stars remains relevant for its second year in a row.
OUTER BANKS SUMMER FASHION: Chase Stokes and Madelyn Cline, “Outer Banks’ ‘John B’ and ‘Sarah Cameron,’ pose in their signature swim and summer-inspired outfits on May 7, 2021. / Credit: Jackson Lee Davis.
‘Urine’ for a show: MBA and HH collaborate on musical
By Caroline Luttrull / Arts and Entertainment Editor
The Harpeth Hall Playmakers and the MBA Players take the stage, after a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19, with another collaborative musical, “Urinetown,” on Sept. 1-4.
“Urinetown” is a fusion between comedy, song and dance, tragedy and love. In an attempt to conserve the little water left in the town, the government controls all bathrooms, making people pay to pee or, to put it less crudely, “use the amenities.” All those who refuse to pay are hauled off to Urinetown, an unknown location, by Officer Lockstock, the narrator and a source of comedic relief throughout the show.
Rehearsals led by Director Dr. Cal Fuller and Harpeth Hall Dance Company Director Stephanie Hamilton have been taking place since the beginning of August. However, now that every minute of the show is memorized, blocked and choreographed, the rehearsal process is more ritualistic. The cast starts by running over the music of the show and the first act, upon which they receive notes, before proceeding to the second act and repeating.
Dr. Fuller, director of the production, is enthusiastic about his cast and crew and has confidence in his talented group. Working closely with the cast and running the show alongside other professionals in the theatre, like Harpeth Hall Middle School Choir Director Matthew Pyles and MBA Director of Choral Activities Micheal Colavita, makes an extremely collaborative and unique version of this Broadway hit.
Before the late practices, before the SAGE Dining dinners, even before the auditions, Dr. Fuller and Hamilton had to choose a worthy musical candidate for Harpeth Hall and MBA actors to perform.
“[‘Urinetown’ has] been a favorite of mine since it opened. Mrs. Hamilton and I have always been a big fan of the play because it deals with a serious issue, but in terms of watching it, it’s pretty humorous,” Dr. Fuller said.
A fervent love for the musical cannot overcome all of the COVID-19 constraints theatre programs like Harpeth Hall and MBA have dealt with for a year and a half now. However, MBA is implementing some COVID-19 precautions for their performances. Although in-person productions will occur, all audience
members must be masked. Alongside the live-audience viewing option, live streaming may be available for 1 to 2 nights.
Therefore, one should expect to bring a mask on Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m, Friday at 4:00 p.m—an earlier show to accommodate Big Red football fans—and Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets, available for purchase on the MBA school website and at the door prior to the performance, are $10 per adult and $5 for anyone under 18. Maintaining tradition, MBA and HH students and faculty are granted free admission.
“Urinetown” will be MBA senior McConnico Sharpe’s final musical with the MBA Players, and he will be performing alongside Harpeth Hall junior Ruby Wolter.
“This show really means a lot to me. I think it’s a show that has a lot of heart behind it and a lot of people working on it. It’s truly amazing to be a part of such a great cast, and I know I’ll look back on this fondly,” Sharpe said.
“I absolutely love being a part of such a hard-working cast. We are lucky to even have the opportunity to even put on a musical this year. I am very excited for this show,” Wolter said.
MBA/HH MUSICAL: Harpeth Hall students Nia Maddux, Caroline Luttrull, Kate Franklin, Sarah Martin Sachtleban, Emory Morgan, Betsy Rogers, Mary Alice Pierce, Conway Bettis, and Veronica Pierce practice for the MBA and Harpeth Hall musical, “Urinetown” on Aug. 3, 2021. / Photo by Dr. Cal Fuller.
Bearacuda Alex Walsh swims to Olympic podium
By Hallie Graham / Editor-in-Chief
2020 graduate Alex Walsh took silver on the Olympic podium for her swim in the women’s 200-meter individual medley.
The last 50 meters was a fight for Alex Walsh, a 19-year-old swimmer at the University of Virginia from Nashville, TN. The home stretch began; the leader board was Walsh, Ohashi, Wood. “Watch Douglass! She’s not out of this whatsoever,” an Olympic commentator said. Immediately after the last flip-turn, Douglass surged into third.
The medal group is formed, and a new question builds: In what order will they appear on the podium?
Of Walsh’s 2 minutes, 8 seconds, and 65 milliseconds in the Olympic pool, the last twelve seconds were the most life-changing. In the last 20 meters of the home stretch, Walsh, Ohashi and Douglass battled for gold.
“Walsh is trying to fight off Yui Ohashi up there in lane two and is doing a pretty good job,” a commentator said.
Walsh managed Ohashi fairly well, but it was a photo-finish at the wall. Ohashi caught Walsh, finishing at 2:08.52. Walsh and Douglass medaled at 2:08.65 and 2:09.04 respectively.
“Alex can’t turn down a good race,” swim coach Polly Linden said. This, indeed, was a good race for Alex Walsh. Walsh was 13 milliseconds away from the gold but very secured in the top three.
Walsh led the pool in first, second or third for over 100 meters of the race. After her backstroke, she had a spot on the podium. Walsh excels in the middle of the pool, recording her fastest comparative times in breaststroke and backstroke.
If Walsh’s teammate, Kate Douglass, and Walsh were fused into one individual swimmer, they would be unbeatable, as Douglass is Walsh’s opposite. Douglass is strong out of the gate and in the finish with butterfly and freestyle respectively.
The swimmers’ performances at the Olympic qualifiers in what NBC Sports called “The Best Race of the Olympic Trials” were very similar to this race in Tokyo and articulate trends. In both races, Walsh and Douglass were strong out of the gate with Douglass inching out her teammate in the first 50 meters. In the middle 100, Walsh solidified her lead and stayed strong through the remainder of the race.
It is Douglass’ photo-finishes and sprints in the last 50 meters that make 200 IM races nail-biting to watch for American fans. In Olympic trials, Douglass beat out third place by just .02 seconds, and in the race for the podium, she made bronze by .11 seconds.
“I’m so happy I had Kate next to me. We train together like every day,” Walsh said right after the Olympic race. Douglass and Walsh are not only teammates together at UVA or on Team USA and not only raced side-by-side in lanes 3 and 4, but stood together on the Olympic podium.
From being a two-time high school national champion at Harpeth Hall to NCAA Champion as a high school freshman, Walsh had nowhere to go but the Olympic stage.
“If I’m not going to do this for myself, I’m going to do this for the girls who have worked so hard to be national champions this year,” Walsh said after Olympic trials during a press conference
at Nashville Aquatic Club.
Before Tokyo, before the silver, before the final 20 meters in a fight with Ohashi, Walsh pledged to do it, and she did.
DREAMS DO COME TRUE: TRUE: Harpeth Hall alumna Alex Walsh rests after winning the silver medal in the Women’s 200-meter individual medley in the Tokyo Olympics on July 28, 2021. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.
Simone Biles’ withdrawal sparks national debate
By Grace Blankenship, Ruthie Gaw and Riley Kate Higgins / Sports Editors
Considered the greatest gymnast of all time, American Olympian Simone Biles shockingly withdrew from the team all-around and the individual all-around a day prior to the event. She made this decision with medical help after competing in the qualifying round on July 25, choosing to focus on her mental health.
With previously popular athletes retiring from the Olympics, Biles became one of the most prominent faces of the Olympic campaign and faced immense pressure surrounding her performances because of her increased fame.
During qualifying rounds, Biles had a few missteps during her routines, including a shaky showing on both vault and floor. Despite her numerous mistakes, Biles qualified for all four events in both the team and individual competitions.
Following the qualifying rounds, Biles began to experience the “twisties,” a common, dangerous sensation that occurs when gymnasts lose their sense of their aerial positioning.
During the team competition, she performed a 1 ½ twist on vault instead of her planned 2 ½ pass. Afterwards, she left the floor with the team doctor before returning to hug her teammates and walk over to the bench where she remained for the rest of the competition.
“Once I came out here, I was like, ‘No, mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,'” Biles said in an interview with NBC.
The USA gymnastics team finished with a silver medal, and Biles, upon being cleared only to compete in the balance beam individual final, earned a bronze medal.
While prominent athletes like Michael Phelps, Naomi Osaka and Biles’ teammate Suni Lee praised her, others criticized Biles’ decision, framing her as “selfish” and “a shame to the country.”
“She wasn’t there for them, and that represents a fundamental breach of the most important aspect of team sports,” Nashville native and sports commentator Clay Travis said.
“I don’t think it’s remotely courageous, heroic or inspiring to quit,” reporter for the Daily Mail Piers Morgan said.
In the wake of the overwhelming support but also an array of harsh criticisms, Biles disputed claims about her character and her sport.
“For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit. I don’t think you realize how dangerous this is on a hard competition surface. Nor do I have to explain why I put health first,” Biles said on an Instagram story.
Although Biles’ story was met globally with mixed responses, many Harpeth Hall students admire her bravery and applaud her choice to prioritize mental health.
“I’m glad she put herself first, and I think it sends a great message to people across the world that mental health matters in all aspects of life,” junior Lailah Rucker said.
“Finally seeing someone who has such an impact on all gymnasts and women in general, seeing her be vulnerable and provide for herself more than doing just what the public wants for her to do was really inspiring,” sophomore and current gymnast Meredith Shih said.
“It made me think ‘well if she can take a break sometimes, so can I.’”
Biles’ decision raises questions about athletes’ mental health in a world where performance is hyper-analyzed through the prominence of social media. All-encompassing pressure surrounds professional athletes as well as “normal” people who lead normal lives and do normal things – even students at Harpeth Hall.
SMILE AND WAVE: Simone Biles waving to the crowd after winning gold in the Rio Olympics on Aug. 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.