Leah and Taylor Ayers have all the normal similarities associated with twins, but their strongest bond might be the love of golf.
“We started playing ever since we could walk and we started competitions around 12,” said Leah, who is a few minutes older than Taylor, “Our whole family is a golf family, so we’ve always been around it.”
The fraternal twins recently graduated from Wethersfield High School, following a bizarre senior year that included the cancellation of their final high school season on the links.
“I was so disappointed. Going into the start of the year we were planning on having such a good golf season. We had such a strong team and we had been practicing all year for it,” recalled Leah.
Despite the setback the sisters stayed focused on golf with the intention of competing together at the next level, eventually both committing to Western Texas College.
“I’m excited because it’s like a whole new world in Texas,” said Taylor.
Lead added, “The weather is good, you can practice at any time and play every day. We have unlimited access to the range.”
The twins are following in the footsteps of their brother, Chris Ayers, who was a 2016 WHS graduate and played at Midland College in Texas before joining the golf team at Old Dominion University in Virginia.
The Ayers family has become a golfing fixture in Wethersfield and the twins are leaving WHS with an impressive resume.
Leah was a two-time all-conference recipient, adding all-state honors as a junior last spring. Taylor also earned all-conference in 2019 and both were primed to be atop the leaderboards again in 2020.
They also helped the program win back-to-back conference titles, which included an undefeated record (16-0) in 2019.
Head coach Carl Mearman saw the pair develop into two of the area’s best golfers, “It will always be a special memory watching the sisters compete. The bring out the best in each other’s game.”
Mearman called Leah the true energy spark for the team over the last four years, “Leah thrives on competition and the confidence in her game was evident from the first time I saw her hit a golf ball. No matter the weather Leah is out practicing trying to improve on her game. Leah’s unabashed love for the game will be missed next season.”
Mearman added that Taylor grew leaps and bounds between her sophomore year and junior year, “Her competitive nature grew ten-fold as she worked all summer to improve her game. Upon returning to the team last year it was clearly evident that there was a new Taylor on the golf course. Taylor became a force to be reckoned with during matches. Her burning desire to beat her sister’s score might have been a factor.”
Naturally, a sibling rivalry exists between the two and they joke about who is better on the links.
“I’m super competitive. I don’t like to lose to anyone, especially to her,” Leah said with a smile.
Both dabbled in other sports growing up---Leah played soccer and Taylor played field hockey---but golf was always the true passion, and both enjoy the individual pressure that comes on the course.
“I like it because you just have to think about yourself and not worry about anyone else,” said Taylor.
“I think every year we love it even more. We fell in love with practicing and getting better,” added Leah.
Parents, Steve and Patty, introduced their kids to the game and Leah said that Steve encouraged them to choose Texas, “We were going back and forth and were looking into places around here and then we looked into Texas and he was the one that pushed us because he knew how good Chris got.”
At Western Texas, Leah will major in science as she pursues a degree in nursing and Taylor will major in business as she pursues a degree in sports management.
The goal is to get two years of JUCO golf under their belts before finding schools which will allow them to finish up their degrees and expand their golf game.
Prior to leaving Connecticut, the twins competed for the first time in nearly a year, teeing off in the 55th Annual Women’s Amateur Open on July 22 and 23. Leah finished 6th overall and Taylor finished 12th.
On August 3, they depart to Snyder, Texas to start a new golfing chapter and Leah said the twins are ready for the challenge.
“Wethersfield was great, and it was fun, but I think we’re ready to focus on golf.”
Recent CHS graduates and student athletes Anthony Caracoglia (left), Ryan Corcoran (center), Nick Polizonis (right), and others will continue competing the next level
Despite the unconventional end to the recent school year, several 2020-graduates signed virtual college commitments this spring/summer and will soon be heading off to universities, colleges, and programs around the country to continue their academic and athletic aspirations.
Below are some of the Cromwell High School student athletes that will pursue their sporting passions beyond high school.
Anthony Caracoglia became a dynamo on the soccer fields for the Panthers, excelling all four years and cementing his legacy this past fall by earning All-State honors. The senior scored 32 goals, including 10 in the Class S tournament. His memorable tourney included a game-winning goal in the first round, a four-goal explosion in the second round, a hat trick in the quarterfinals, and two more in the quarterfinals.
Caracoglia also participated in track and field, specializing in the long jump, and played ultimate frisbee. When he wasn’t competing, he was an honor roll student in the classroom, part of Yearbook Club, and the leader of the CHS Mob (the loud and proud student’s cheering section).
He will now attend the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, majoring in computer science, and will play soccer for a Blue Jays team that is coming off a successful 12-win season, which included the program’s first ever GNAC semifinal appearance.
“The reason I chose to continue my soccer career and play at the University of Saint Joseph is because of how local and reasonable the school is. Its small campus makes a very close connection between students and professors and when it came to choosing a school to play for, Coach [Paul] Wright made it clear that he wanted me to play under him the most.”
Nick Polizonis shined in various roles for Cromwell baseball team---pitching, catching, and playing several positions in the field during his career. He led the Panthers in runs scored and was second on the team in hits as a junior in 2019 and, prior to the cancellation, was expected to have another major role from the mound and plate this spring.
Polizonis was also a precision-shooting, versatile wing player for the basketball team, averaging six points and four rebounds this past winter, and was a sophomore contributor on the 2017/2018 team that won the state championship. He was also part of National Honor Society at CHS.
His next stop is Southern Maine University where he will major in accounting and play for a Huskies team led by longtime coach Ed Flaherty, who has been coaching at the school for over 30 years and has amassed over 1,000 career wins.
“I chose Southern Maine because once I stepped on campus it felt like everything stopped and it felt like home to me. Not only am I going to be able to get a great education, but I will be given the opportunity to compete at a high level of collegiate baseball,” Polizonis stated, “I am excited to challenge myself on and off the field and also improve myself not only on the baseball field, but as a person.”
Ryan Corcoran is an elite angler that won the 2019 state high school bass fishing championship with the help of partner Mason DeCarlo of Rocky Hill, allowing the duo to compete on a national stage. He was also one of two high schoolers in Connecticut to be named by B.A.S.S. to the national 2020 Bassmaster High School All-State Fishing Team.
The honor roll student is headed to Alabama to join the Bass Fishing Club at Auburn University. AU has been one of the top ranked bass fishing schools in the nation for over a decade and is coming off a Major League Fishing Championship in 2019.
“I chose Auburn because I believe it will give me the best opportunity to improve as both a student and an angler,” Corcoran stated, “I’m excited to fish at the college level because it allows me to travel all over the United States and meet hundreds of new college students who also love to fish. War Eagle!”
Justin Stergos was selected as the Division III Defenseman of the Year and received All-State honors for his work on the Newington/Cromwell co-op hockey team this past winter. He was also a captain for the Cromwell/Portland football team, making a name as a dependable running back on offense and a sure tackler on defense.
Stergos is headed north to further his hockey career and play for the New Hampshire Avalanche.
“My decision to join the New Hampshire Avalanche was one my family and I have been looking forward to ever since I started playing hockey when I was three. I know I want to be able to play college hockey and signing with the Avalanche is a good pathway for me to take not only because they have the most college commits in New England but because they push their players every day to become better hockey players and a better individual,” stated Stergos, “What excites me the most about playing at the next level is going against guys that are older than me and have been playing junior hockey much longer. Going against them every day and competing with them on and off the ice will improve my hockey play. It’ll also give me a chance to prove not only to myself but to college coaches that I can play even higher at the next level, bringing my grit and hard work with me along the way.”
Kaitlin Lewkowicz was a three-sport star at CHS---captaining volleyball, running indoor track, and thriving on the lacrosse fields. Last fall she was the setter the Panthers volleyball team that won 17 games, including a state tourney match, and she finished with a team-high 423 assists to go along with 127 digs, 68 aces, and 60 kills. She was also part of several of the school’s top relay teams on the track and was expecting to be a leader at lacrosse prior to the cancellation.
The good news is that Lewkowicz lacrosse journey will continue at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she will join a competitive Warriors team led by hall of famer Dee Stephen, who recently took over as the program’s head coach.
Jordan Pare shined on the soccer fields throughout her entire time at CHS, including earning first-team All-Shoreline conference in the fall. She also was a state champion in indoor track as part of the 1600 Medley Sprint relay team that won the 2019 Class S title.
Pare, who was a perennial honor roll student, will be playing soccer for Western New England University, joining a talent Golden Bears team that won six of their final nine regular season games a season ago.
Wethersfield's Kayla Condon, along with Aaron Ky, were selected as the WHS Scholar Athletes of the Year
2020 graduates Kayla Condon and Aaron Ky were selected as the Wethersfield High School Scholar-Athletes of the Year for the 2019/2020 school year.
Condon participated in swimming, as well as both indoor and outdoor track and field, throughout her four years at WHS. She was an integral member of the Eagles swim team, who won a CCC divisional championship in each of her four years, and she qualified as an Academic All-American through the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. She also excelled on the track where she currently holds four different school records (the Indoor 600M, Indoor 1000M, and both the Indoor and Outdoor Distance Medley Relay record). Condon served as a captain for both the swim team and the indoor track & field team at WHS.
Outside of athletics, Condon was very active in various school clubs and organizations. She was a student ambassador for the Bridge Program, has volunteered for the Hunger Project and is also the Vice President of the WHS Skills 21 Challenge Team, as well as being a member of the National and Spanish Honor Societies and received the Yale Book Award.
Outside of school, Condon volunteers at the Church of the Incarnation, worked for the Parks and Recreation Department as a certified lifeguard and donates time at her former elementary school.
Condon will study biomedical engineering at Worchester Polytechnic Institute next fall and will be a member of both the cross country and track and field teams.
Condon said this of her college decision, “I chose WPI because it was a good overall fit for me. It has everything I want academically and athletically and as soon as I visited campus I knew it was where I wanted to go. I am excited to participate in athletics at the college level and to be a part of the team at WPI.”
Ky was a member of the WHS tennis team for the past three years and participated in boys swimming for three seasons. He was also a member of the volleyball team as a freshman.
Ky had an incredible academic career at Wethersfield High School, earning many awards. He received the Advanced Placement Science Scholar Award, the Certificate of Merit at Boys' State, the Prize Book Award of the Harvard Alumni Association and the Rensselaer Medal Award.
In addition, Ky received the 2019 Superintendent's Award and is a member of both the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society. He is also a member of the math team, science club, and the Choralaires.
Ky will attend the University of Connecticut and major in business.
Wethersfield's Abbey Keane will swim at CCSU / Wethersfield's Sammie Strong, pictured with parents Brad and Iris, will play soccer at Johnson and Wales
2020 Wethersfield High graduate Abbey Keane will attend Central Connecticut State University and join the Blue Devils swimming team this fall. Keane was a four-year letter winner for the swimming and diving team at WHS, serving as a captain this past season, along with earning all-conference in 2016, 2018, and 2019. She was instrumental in helping the Eagles win the CCC East Division title every season she swam. Last season, she earned all-state in the 200-freestyle event.
Through four years at WHS, Keane was on the honor roll every year and was named to the CCC All-American team. She also participated in the Hunger project, Unified Sports, freshman tour guides, basketball, and Young Democrats.
Outside of school, Keane is a swim instructor for CT Swim, a lifeguard for the town of Wethersfield, a CCD teacher at Christ the King Parish, and a Keane Foundation volunteer.
At CCSU she will join a strong Blue Devils team and compete in the highly competitive NEC (Northeast Conference).
Keane said of her decision to attend CCSU, “I chose Central for a couple reasons, when I went to visit the swim girls were so welcoming and easy to get it know. Coach Bill [Ball] and coach Alex [Albert] also made me feel right at home, as I was looking for program that could challenge me, I knew it would be a good fit. Coming from Wethersfield Swim program with [coach] Lee [Schwartzman], I could see a lot similarities throughout the team. After I finished at the State Open this year, I knew swimming was something I couldn’t just walk away from after high school. I am also looking to get my degree in education and CCSU has a great program so I was confident that it was a perfect fit all around. I am really excited to see what Central has in store for me.”
2020 Wethersfield High graduate Samantha Strong will soon be playing soccer and furthering her academic career at Johnson and Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. Strong played soccer for all four years at WHS, starring as a midfielder/defender and was an integral part of the 2019 squad that won the CCC North Divisional championship. She was also named to the CCC All-Academic team this past fall.
Prior to arriving at the high school, Strong was a member of the George D. Ritchie Soccer Club and CFC. At Wethersfield High, she was a participant in the Interact Club and Science Club, as well as a member of National Honor Society and Social Studies Honor Society. Strong was a consistent honor roll student and challenged herself by taking AP Spanish, AP Literacy Inquiry, AP Psychology, and AP Physics.
Outside of WHS, Strong volunteered at Hartford Hospital and the Rocky Hill Soccer Club.
At JWU, Strong will study health science with a Pre-PA concentration and will be joining a Wildcat soccer team that is coming off a tourney appearance in the 2019 Division III National Championship tournament.
Strong said of her decision to attend JWU, “I chose Johnson and Wales because it gives me everything I am looking for in a school. I plan to major in health sciences which will put me on the path to become a Physician Assistant. I’m going to be playing soccer and the school is in a great location so I can meet new people and have new experiences. I’m excited to play college soccer because it is a sport I love and enjoy. I look forward to the new challenges it will bring.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin