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Olympians Chapel

Belmont Hill has a long history of Olympian alumni. Starting with Bill Cleary, Class of ‘52, Belmont hill has had sixteen Olympians from Hockey, Cycling, Rowing, and Baseball. On Thursday, January 6th, 2022, Belmont Hill’s four Olympians of the Tokyo Games came to speak in a Chapel talk. The forty-minute Chapel commenced with a video highlighting each alumni’s formative Belmont Hill experiences and their experiences in Tokyo. Four banners were unveiled to honor each Olympian, his sport, and his accomplishments at the games, before each athlete touched briefly on the struggles of dealing with the delayed Olympics during the pandemic. After quick introductions, the discussion was opened to questions from the audience, primarily consisting of varsity Baseball and Crew athletes. 

Beginning his career on the middle school Crew team in 7th grade, Andrew Reed quickly progressed throughout his high school career. After capping off his Belmont Hill career by winning Youth Nationals, he went on to Harvard University. Andrew competed at three world championships following a collegiate career and won silver in the USA men’s 8+ in 2017. In his speech, he stressed the importance of hard work and determination. Even though he was the oldest of the Olympians and the games were delayed, he stayed committed to the sport for one last shot at gold. In Tokyo, Andrew raced in the USA men’s four. Andrew will set his sights on a professional career outside of rowing following the games.

Before developing into a world-class sculler, Dara Alizadeh came to Belmont Hill as a wrestler. He developed his sweeping technique throughout his high school career and was a captain his senior year. Continuing his career at Penn, where he rowed for four years, Dara also became a captain and a part of the varsity boat for two years. After college, he placed silver, stroking the Men’s 8+ at the world championships. Dara talked about the transition from sweeping to sculling and from a group boat to a single in the Chapel. He highlighted the importance of persistence in the face of doubt and creativity when facing limits on his training during COVID lockdown. At the games, Dara competed for Bermuda in the Men’s 1x.

Alexander Richards, Class of ‘14 and son of our own Coach Richards of the Belmont Hill Varsity Crew team, began his rowing career in 7th grade. Richards instantly fell in love with the sport. After graduating from Belmont Hill, he continued his passion and rowed at Harvard. Throughout his rowing career so far, Richards has three World Championships and placed fifth in the men’s 8+ in 2019. A year later, he qualified for the USA Rowing team to go to the Tokyo Olympic Games. During the Chapel when asked what the hardest part of the process was, Alexander talked vividly about constant erg tests and seat racing making it one of the most stressful, but rewarding periods of his life. When the Games finally did happen, Richards barely missed bronze with a fourth-place finish in the men’s 8+.

Benny Wagner, Class of ‘15, was one of not only Belmont Hill’s, but the ISL’s greatest pitchers pitching a perfect game in his senior year against Nobles, which may be the first in Belmont Hill history. After graduating, Wanger continued playing baseball with Yale, where he was offered to play for Team Israel. Despite the daunting task of actually becoming one of six teams to qualify for the Olympics, Team Israel with Wanger did the impossible and qualified. Although they did not get their desired performance with a fifth-place finish, it was still an incredible experience.

Regarding the chapel, Coach Richards remarked, “It was pretty incredible that we had four guys who had competed in Tokyo. There’s simply no school our size on the planet who could say that. It was a pretty neat thing and they and we are lucky that it happened at all because it was pretty unclear (due to the pandemic). The ceremony was a really terrific celebration and recognition of these guys and I loved what each had to say about challenges and experiences, and how much they liked being back at Belmont Hill.” Lastly, a special thanks to all the coaches, athletic directors, the communications team, and the Olympians who made this Chapel possible.

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