Senior Reflections

Seniors reflect on their high school sports experiences.


As this historic school year comes to a close, Paly seniors prepare to graduate high school and begin the next chapters of their lives, whatever they may be. Walk through the quad at any time during the school day and you will see countless seniors relaxing in the shade of the overhanging trees, soaking up the sun on the grass or senior deck, and playing friendly (or not so friendly) games of spikeball. The senioritis has set in, and the class of 2021 is coasting to the long-awaited finish line. Seniors are saying goodbye to their high school experience, but for senior athletes, these goodbyes entail more than classmates, teachers and friends. Viking athletes are saying goodbye to the beautiful world of high school sports–all the memories, games, rivalries, bus rides, teammates, and experiences that bring players together around the sports they love. They are saying goodbye to all of the early practices, home wins in front of fans, team dinners, tough workouts, and individual and team achievements that come with sports.

Here at Viking, we have a deep appreciation for what sports mean to those who play them, and want to honor and support the athletes that have contributed to the Paly sports family in their time as Vikings. We wanted to share our love for high school sports and use them to connect with our community here at Paly, so we have decided to share some individual perspectives from Senior athletes. These athletes have played multiple sports at Paly over the years,experienced the joys and heartbreaks of success and failure, dazzled with outstanding individual performances, and made lasting memories alongside friends and teammates. But in addition to playing the sports they love, they have also endured two years in which COVID greatly limited their athletic experiences. Despite the challenges of cancelled seasons, overlapping sports schedules, and heartbreaking playoff cancellations, they have continued to rock their sports and are going to share their experiences with you. Let’s hear em’.


Lulu Gaither:


Lulu Gaither has played lacrosse and waterpolo since she was a freshman, dominating both on the field and in the pool. We asked her to share some of her best moments, memories, and accomplishments through her four years as a  Viking.


Q: What is your favorite memory as a player in your years as a Paly athlete?


A: “I think for water polo it was a game our junior year. We played Los Altos at home and we went into triple overtime to the point where the first person to score wins and then I made a shot from very far out and then we won. That was probably a high point of my water polo career. It wasn’t even me scoring, it was the celebration and the unity of the team coming together at the end.


For lacrosse I can’t point out a specific moment but I just think in general it was the bus rides and the fun get-togethers we had. And as a freshman the upperclassmen were very welcoming to me and the other three freshmen on the team. And I think because of that I’ve just always felt really at home and felt really happy on the lacrosse team.


Our win against Los Gatos (lacrosse) our freshman year was definitely a highlight because we hadn’t beaten them in so long. It was kinda one of those moments of like ‘huh, this is why we do all the conditioning and stuff.’” 


Q: What is your most memorable season-long experience? 

A: “Team lunches, singing, and dance parties before the games. For each team, both water polo and lacrosse, there is a specific song that we play before every game so listening to those songs definitely gets you excited and gets you ready to play and is part of our team bonding.”

Q: What is your best off the field team experience?


A: “Hmmm good question… I feel like we have a lot of those. A lot of dress up lunches. I remember one time after a water polo tournament we went to Chick-fil-A…they had to come out with carts because we ordered so much food and that was a really funny memory that we had.”


Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?


A: I’m most proud of my sophomore year in lacrosse when I got chosen for the Emily Benetar award. She was a player on the lacrosse team so that award is a big deal for us. The team votes on who receives the award and the coach sends out an email and message just explaining what the award is and what quality this player should have to receive it. 


Q: How did being an athlete enhance your high school experience as a whole/connect you to the Paly community?


A: I think it was just nice going into freshman year having a community to hangout with and ease into the high school experience and that you have the girls for all four years. My bestexperiences have been from high school sports.


Q: How will you remember your experience with Paly sports in the future?


A: I’m for sure gonna miss it, especially the players. And I’ve learned so much from the coaches for both sports. I’m definitely going to take what I learned and apply that to when I go off to college. It was challenging at times but overall it was all worth it and I think when I look back at it in the future it’s gonna be fun memories and vibes. 


Q: If you could describe high school sports in one word, what would it be and why?

A: I would say gratifying because it definitely has its highs and lows, but throughout the process you learn a lot from your teammates and coaches and yourself. The experiences and everything I’ve learned from high school sports I will implement into other aspects of my life. 


Zander Interview: 


Zander Darby has been a proud Viking athlete throughout his years at Paly. He has played baseball all four years at Paly and excelled as a centerpiece of dominant Paly teams. Darby also played basketball for his first two years, and played water polo for his first three years. It’s been a great ride and here are some of his best memories.


Q: What sports have you played throughout your high school career?


A: Freshman and Sophomore year, I was a three sport athlete: water polo in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. And then junior year came around, and I wanted to prep more for baseball, and so I would have the winter. And so I did waterpolo and baseball [junior year]. And then this year because of COVID and the overlapping sports, I didn’t continue basketball from last year and water polo and baseball were overlapping. So I chose baseball. 

Q: What is your favorite memory as a player in your years as a Paly athlete?

A: There’s definitely many, many memories. The one that came to mind because I’m speaking with Luke Thieman (water polo teammate) was winning CCS championships for waterpolo when I was a sophomore. 

I picked up waterpolo freshman year and was able to make a start on CCS championship day sophomore year. And so I made a lasting impact on Paly and can say I can be in the record books, so to speak. 

Some other great memories; My mind just went to basketball. I think it was freshman and sophomore year, we played out of league tournaments with high school, and we won both tournaments. And it was a great moment because I had a bunch of different friends and then I had my basketball friends included and so I got to share the experiences, winning with them and being a part of a team.

And then my third memory that comes to mind, baseball memory,

was winning league sophomore year. We swept Los Altos which put Los Gatos

in the lead because they had the best record and then we eventually played bracket play for the league championship, and we ended up winning


Q: Favorite game you have ever played in? 


A: Right away. Sophomore year. [baseball] CCS game. First game of CCS open division. We’re playing Valley Christian at their field. It was supposed to be a neutral site, but we had a rainout, so we rescheduled to their park and it was the most intense Paly game I’ve played so far.

I was the leadoff batter as a sophomore. So I mean, I had a lot of confidence, but I was also like a rookie, in the scheme of things, and they were throwing a Cal commit pitcher. 

I think it was the first pitch of the game, I take him left center, and I hit a triple. I get fired up. That was probably my one greatest moment. If I were to pick one.


Q: What is your best off the field team experience (bus ride, post-win party, team“meeting” etc.)?


A: Yeah. So I would give two: one, for the baseball team dinners, no matter the year, whatever, we always, every week, got the team dinner. Those would be one of my greatest experiences.

Like last week, we came back from the Dutch goose and some of the guys, we started playing football in the parking lot and then we went to the football field.

We were hitting some field goals…I hit a 50 yard field goal, 55 yard field goal. But it’s just, messing around with your team and having fun is like one of the greatest aspects [of high school sports].

And that leads me to the other one. We had a team meeting sophomore year, led by the seniors. It was a great experience for me because I got to bond with my teammates who are older than me. And there was a big age gap, and I felt that it bridged it pretty well. I got to share it with some of my teammates my age, as well as the juniors and seniors, so we came together and had a really fun time.


Q: Best rivalry of your career?

A: I mean, the easiest one is, no matter the sport: Gatos. Basketball, Water Polo, baseball, it’s just all been Gatos. There’s so much tension and rivalry leading up to the game, every so often, if you step foot on Los Gatos, some students are gonna say something to you, vice versa. We see a gatos team, no matter what the team is. We’re gonna say something to them, you know, respectfully, but there is that tension.


Just the games…even if it’s a blowout. I remember being a spectator in basketball, watching the varsity. It was a blowout, but there was still a lot of rivalry going on.

Q: How did being an athlete enhance your high school experience as a whole/connect you to the Paly community?

A: I’ve touched on this earlier a bit, but because I’ve had the opportunity to play three different sports at Paly, I’ve had so many different friend groups, and I’ve had the ability to make so many new friends across all the spectrum. I have my friends out of sports, that actually came from baseball. And I also know so many basketball players really well and I’ve had great experiences with them. So I’m friendly with them. And then water polo. Even though I’m not playing [this year] I’m still in touch with a lot of teammates, and I can say hi to them when I see them at the quad or whatever seeing them at school. So yeah, just having the volume of people that are familiar faces across campus have been able to connect with the community really well at Paly.

Q: How will you remember your experience with Paly sports in the future?


A: I would definitely think of how much fun I’ve had with all the different teams I’ve been a part of. I would come away with some of the greatest memories like we touched upon:

winning games, the rivalry, the friendships, the team bonding, the team dinners, everything about that. I’m going to remember and keep that in mind when I play ball at the next chapter.

And honestly, baseball aside, it’s all about the experience, like getting to know people and enjoying yourself with people that you’re comfortable with.

That’s the number one thing that I’ll remember.

Q: If you could describe high school sports in one word, what would it be and why?


A: Electrifying…memorable…fun.

In a story such as this one, it is inevitable that we miss out on unique and interesting perspectives from the countless senior athletes across all sports

here at Paly. Everyone has their own story to share and unfortunately we only scratched the surface of senior perspectives. However, we hope that the stories we shared helped you learn more about what it means to be a high school athlete and the sense of community, accomplishment, and fulfillment they bring to those who play.

Part of the beauty of high school sports is that they connect to so many people in the community whether it be athletes, friends, fans, or coaches. Though we cannot write down every story from all those touched by high school, we encourage everyone to appreciate the fun-filled memories of high school sports like the ones we looked at today and the fact that countless more exist beyond the pages of this magazine.

Sko Vikes.

Lulu Gaither (’21) and Zander Darby (’21) Senior Nights

After four years of hard work and dedication, seniors Zander Darby and Lulu Gaither celebrated alongside family and friends on their senior nights for Girls Lacrosse and Boys Baseball. Paly Boys Baseball will be competing in CCS this year with their first game on Saturday, June 12th. Paly students and staff wish Gaither and Darby the best of luck at Pitzer College and UCSB next year as they continue their athletic careers. Once a Viking always a Viking!