Faces in the Crowd: A glimpse into the lives of four skilled '22s joining Dartmouth sports
Emily Henrich ’22 is already starring for No. 1-ranked Dartmouth women’s rugby, leading the team with eight tries and 50 points in just four games. The first-year center is from Orchard Park, New York, a suburb of Buffalo.
Growing up near Canada where youth rugby is more prominent, Henrich started playing at only six years old. Both of her parents were multi-sport athletes at Dartmouth, including rugby, so Henrich was fast-tracked to success in the sport.
“My mom was coaching the high school team in my town, so when I was 12, having played tackle football and flag rugby, my mom pulled me up to the high school rugby team,” Henrich said. “I was able to play, and I have been playing ever since.”
By the time she started the college recruitment process, Dartmouth was already on her radar because of her parents’ Big Green playing careers. The ability to ski in her offseason and explore the social sciences, history and English were important factors as well.
“It’s always felt like a second home, so once I was looking here for rugby and the coach reached out to me, it was almost a natural decision because of how much I respected the program and how much I cared for the school already,” Henrich said.
Though the physicality of rugby appeals to Henrich, much of what has kept her playing this long is the community.
“There’s already a sense of connection whenever you meet someone who plays rugby because it isn’t the most common sport,” Henrich said. “Our team feels like a family, and meeting the alumni this weekend, there’s already this constant connection between people who play rugby.”
Unlike many of her teammates and other freshmen, Henrich’s time at Dartmouth did not start with a Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trip. Instead, she wanted to attend more preseason workouts to prepare for the All-American U-20 women’s team in Nova Scotia against Canada and England.
“[Playing in the tournament] prepared me for the college level, definitely,” Henrich said. “We aren’t quite at the level that Canada and England are at, but you can definitely see improvements. It’s really exciting to see where rugby in the U.S. is going, particularly in the women’s game, because we have these examples like England and Canada, and I think we’re able to compete with them now.”
Henrich hopes to compete in international and national tournaments again as a member of both U.S. and Dartmouth rugby.
“I really want the team to win the [Ivy League Championship] again, so then we would be four-time Ivy Champs,” Henrich said. “For myself, I would like to continue playing for the U.S. because that has been some of the best experiences, and my goal is to make women’s nationals side.”
Will Eaton ’22 headlines the 12-man recruiting class for the Big Green men’s cross country and track and field program this season. The Portland, Oregon standout burst onto the scene his senior year of high school as he filled out and grew to 6’ 3”. He culminated his season by winning the 3000 meter state championship in a rapid 8:27.90, his personal record.
“It was pretty incredible,” Eaton said. “There was a picture of me on The Oregonian, and my eyes were wide, my arms were outstretched, and you can see in my lips I was saying the word ‘how?’ ‘How did this happen?’ I really was shocked.”
Eaton was not always the top recruit he is now, after a sparkling final season. When he visited Dartmouth in September of his senior year, he was still hoping to prove himself.
“At that point, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that good. I would probably be on the low tier of incoming recruits right now,” Eaton said. “I always felt like I could do more from a background of low mileage in high school and not giving training my all. [Men’s track and cross country head coach Barry Harwick] was one of a couple coaches who listened.”
Whereas Eaton gnawed his way to success in track, cross country was always more about conditioning and being with friends rather than pushing himself.
“My senior year in track, I decided, ‘I want to go to these big meets, and if I go here, there’s no way I am going to drop actual money to go to them.’” Eaton said. “‘I’m going to make it worth my money to go all out: how hard can I go?’ I never really pushed myself like that in cross country, and that’s one of my main regrets.”
This season, he’s shown flashes of potential in cross country by finishing fourth with a time of 24:56.18 in his first eight kilometer race at the 2018 Maribel Sanchez Southern Cross Country Invitational. He fell to a time of 26:28 in his second, the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown hosted by Boston College, after posting an excellent 15:47 in his first five kilometers.
When asked about his favorite aspects of cross country and track, Eaton highlighted the feeling of being in shape and the strategy of racing.
“Racing to me is a pretty intimate thing, especially in track, when it’s just you and one other person sometimes,” Eaton said. “You can feel their stride, their cadence: ‘Is it changing? Is the individual tired for whatever reason? When should I capitalize on that?’”
Eaton has many other hobbies and interests outside of running: he sells minerals on eBay (and has since age 11), loves learning about human language and international affairs and enjoys playing basketball, though he admits he performs much better on the track than on the court.
Already, Eaton loves the comfortable community he’s found with his team and on campus. After only four weeks, he is excited for the next four years.
“I already feel close to both the ’22s on the team and people on the team in general,” Eaton said. “We do everything [with the women’s team], and we’re pretty tight with them, which is more of a sense of community than I’ve ever had or been exposed to in the past.”
After being homeschooled and playing individually for most of her life, Nicole Conard ’22 is excited for the adjustment to college tennis at Dartmouth. The Boca Raton, Florida native is already enjoying her time in the Northeast.
“The whole team is so supportive of each other, and when we’re practicing everyone is cheering for you, you’re cheering for each other: ‘Let’s go Dartmouth! Let’s go Big Green!’” Conard said. “It’s super nice to have that support because it’s a team effort, and junior tennis wasn’t like that; you were on your own.”
Conard first played tennis when she was seven; by third grade, she switched to homeschooling and was on the court four to six hours each day. The extra time she put into tennis paid off in a major way, as she played individually in United States Tennis Association, International Tennis Federation and professional tournaments, traveling to 10 countries in the process.
Her impressive accolades, including first place finishes at Sectionals U18, Chile ITF Internationals U18, Denmark ITF Internationals U18 and National Open U18, earned her a five-star recruiting status.
“Dartmouth actually reached out at the beginning of my junior year, and I didn’t really [get] back in contact with them until my senior year because my junior year, I really didn’t know what I was doing college-wise,” Conard said. “I was playing a lot of tennis, and I was thinking about going to a bigger state school. The summer before my senior year, I started really thinking about Ivy League schools.”
Luckily for the Big Green, she verbally committed in December of that year. Conard has performed so far with a win in her first singles match against Harvard University. She hopes to steadily improve and earn a high ranking this season.
“For our fall season, it’s more focused on individual matches because you don’t count the team score until the winter, so I’m definitely just trying to make myself better, make the team better, focus on working hard in practice and connect with the team,” Conard said.
The road to collegiate tennis has not always been easy for Conard, given the grind of everyday tennis from a young age.
“As I moved to [age] 10, 11, 12, being on the court that much and not having a normal childhood was definitely tough sometimes, and it made me not love [tennis] all the time,” Conard said. “Once I hit 13 and 14 and it was my choice whether I wanted to play or not, that’s when I really found that I loved it because I always wanted to be on the court, I always worked really hard and even though no one was forcing me to do it, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Off the court, she plans to major in psychology, which may give her an edge in one of her favorite parts of tennis, the mental aspect. In addition, Conard treasures her time playing piano, hanging out at the Florida beaches and playing card games with friends. She also loved her First-Year Trip, performing arts and cabin camping.
Jordan Bailon ’22 will attempt to make his mark this season on a highly successful Dartmouth men’s soccer team that has won four consecutive Ivy League titles. He has played in five games so far and started two of them, playing an average of over 50 minutes per game among a talented Big Green team.
“It’s a great honor to be part of the Dartmouth men’s soccer program, which has had so much success,” Bailon said. “I’ve been adjusting to a new style of play, which is good. The team is really close and feels like a family – everyone has each other’s back.”
Much of Bailon’s appreciation for the team so far comes from the new coaching staff, led by men’s soccer head coach Bo Oshoniyi.
“The coaches made the transition of coming from different clubs and places almost seamless,” Bailon said. “They’re very constructive and work almost everyday in training, in pushing us to be better players everyday and just making us better people.”
Bailon started his soccer career at age seven or eight, playing in the recreational league American Youth Soccer Organization. He played the past five seasons with the New York Red Bulls Academy, eventually making his professional debut in the United Soccer League, a Division II professional league, with New York Red Bulls II. Over the course of his career, Bailon has learned to love the game. He said that his favorite parts of the game are “training hard and working as a team to get better, pushing each other and coming down on the weekend and getting results, being close with your teammates and having each other’s back on the field [and helping with] homework.”
Although originally from Westchester County, New York, Bailon spent the previous two years in New Jersey while training for the Red Bulls Academy team.
“It was definitely cool, and it was a tough change, but I really want to be a soccer player, so it was a good sacrifice for me,” Bailon said. “It also helped me out with my academics to do better in school to eventually come to Dartmouth.”
For much of his time at the Red Bulls Academy, Bailon was already a Dartmouth commit, as he officially committed March of his junior year following two visits to the college.
“I chose Dartmouth because it was the best mix of academics and a top soccer program, and the family vibe and close connection.”
Academics are an important focus for Bailon, who plans to major in economics. When not playing soccer or studying, Bailon loves to “hang out with [his] dog, be outdoors, go hiking and just relax.”
As he continues his first season of collegiate soccer, Bailon’s main goal is to help the team surpass their already high expectations.
“Personally, I just want to get integrated to the team, help continue success and hopefully win the Ivy League this year and go further in the tournament than we have in the past,” he said.