Common Bonds: High School Teammates, College Teammates

by Tianchi Xu | 11/24/08 4:40am

Men's lacrosse defender Andy Gagel '10 and midfielder Christopher Root '10 share more than just "hill winds" in their veins. They have the Texas prairie in their blood as well.

In 2006, Gagel and Root graduated from St. John's School in Houston after four years playing together on the varsity lacrosse. They finished their senior year together as Texas high school league champions, and both decided to accept admission to Dartmouth incoming members of the Class of 2010.

Root, currently taking an off-term, spoke nostalgically of their high school days.

"I played attack and [Andy] played defense," Root said. "Every day we fed off each other. It was awesome to share our experiences together."

Gagel and Root are, of course, part of a distinctive contingent of College athletes who played together in high school only to continue as teammates at Dartmouth.

Not suprisingly, almost every one of Dartmouth's athletic teams has some recruits from the same high school, and the lacrosse team has indeed seen more than its fair share. Gagel and Root, both of whom will begin their third year on the team next spring, have spent most of their lives on the field together.

Starting out as rivals in middle school, Gagel and Root eventually became teammates at St. John's, where they helped their squad to three district championships.

"We were both on the varsity team as freshmen, and that was when [our friendship] started, since there were not a lot of us freshmen on the team," Gagel said.

When asked how the close bond with his teammate affected his recruiting decision, Gagel stated that he and Root chose Dartmouth on their own and tried to keep the recruiting process from interfering with their friendship.

"We wouldn't discuss recruiting," Gagel said. "We didn't want to put unnecessary pressure on each other, even though we knew we were both getting recruiting letters from other schools."

"We were both getting so much pressure from different colleges," Root said. "We didn't need to be at each other's necks about it. And it worked out well in the end."

Now as teammates once again, each athlete believes that playing on the field with a familiar face has helped the team.

"[Andy] ended up teaching me the defense that I had not learned in high school," Root said. "He was patient."

Gagel, in turn, feels that being familiar with Root's playing style has not only smoothed his transition process into the pace of the college game but also facilitated communication between midfielders and defenders on Dartmouth's team.

Looking ahead into next season, the Texan duo will be joined by Root's brother Tim.

On the Dartmouth women's volleyball team, personal interactions between athletes from the same high school have been crucial in both recruiting decisions and team cohesion.

Three players -- co-captain Megan MacGregor '10, Kelsey Johnson '11 and Krista Merchat '12 -- hail from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, Calif., while two others -- Amanda Marston '10 and Kendall Houston '12 -- come from Stephen F. Austin High School in Austin, Texas.

La Costa Canyon, located in the northwest region of San Diego County, has recently dominated the Californian Interscholastic Federation, winning the division title four years running and ranking atop national high school volleyball polls.

MacGregor, a two-year letter winner at La Costa Canyon, explains that while many colleges tend to draw players from certain high schools or areas, the final decision to come to a school to play a sport rests with the athletes themselves.

"I think [the coaches] hear about the high school prospects from players already on the team," she said. "It might make talking to the prospects easier, but I don't think [any players] are targeted."

MacGregor also cites her role in helping her high school teammates commit to the Big Green and in setting the right attitudes and behavior during transition between high school and the College.

"I feel an obligation to make [my teammates] feel comfortable and happy. We have a natural chemistry on the court. I feel once you get to preseason, that initial bond is there already," MacGregor said.

Merchat, who said that she had not considered coming to Dartmouth before MacGregor and Johnson committed, suggested that knowing how her old teammates responded to Dartmouth's social climate and athletic setting influenced her decision.

"Everyone that I knew who has gone [to Dartmouth] has loved it," she said. "Everyone loved it."

Volleyball, which concluded its regular season last weekend with a win over Columbia, finished tied for sixth place in the league with Brown.

On the basketball court, Josh Riddle '12 and David Rufful '12 have worn the same colors for more than two years.

"I think we complement each other," Rufful said. "Our styles are kind of similar, but the differences are there too."

Riddle and Rufful first met during a summer camp in 2007 before their postgraduate year of high school.

Riddle, a first team all-state, all-conference and all-academic basketball player as a senior at Grandview High School in Aurora, Colo., led his alma mater to two semifinal finishes during his career.

In a similar display of athletic prowess, Rufful's resum includes two-time Rhode Island division I Player of the Year honors and four nominations to the all-state academic team.

The duo began to develop an even stronger bond after attending Northfield Mount Hermon High School in Gill, Mass., where both played under the guidance of head coach John Carroll, former coach of the Boston Celtics and Atlantic 10 Conference coach of the year.

Though both players chose to go to Dartmouth on their own accord, neither can deny that having a personal friend on the team is a big help, both on and off the court.

"It was definitely a bonus that [David] was going, in the fact that we're already close friends," Riddle said.

Rufful explained the way their friendship influenced the recruiting process.

"We were both getting letters," he said. "I committed first, so the pressure was really more on [Josh] than me. I was secretly pushing him to go."

When asked how playing at Northfield Mt. Hermon affected their game-time performances at the collegiate level, both said that their familiarity with each other's playing style has better enabled them to settle into their comfort zone.

"Having a partner in the process of joining a new team has made it a lot easier and a lot more fun," Rufful said. "Someone [like Josh] can understand what I'm going through and help me out."

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