LEHMAN TWP. – Teammates can be a source of friendships for young athletes.
Turning to friends wound up being a way to add teammates for a couple of Lake-Lehman High School athletic teams.
Julia Hutsko and Tommy Williams both cited joining friends as being among the reasons they added sports during their high school years.
Although multi-sport athletes are not uncommon on the high school level, there are not many who wind up in four sports during the three seasons of the school year as Hutsko and Williams have.
The two seniors expanded their list of sports while at Lake-Lehman with Hutsko arriving at her four-sport combination earlier.
Hutsko was answering a need of friends, who were having trouble officially competing as a team before she added cross country to soccer, giving her two fall sports as a sophomore.
“You need five people to compete, for your team to register points for cross country,” Hutsko said. “At the time, my friends did cross country and there were only four girls on the team.”
To turn Lake-Lehman from a group of individuals into an official team, Hutsko talked it over with coach John Sobocinski – also her track coach – and worked it out to make it to as many meets as possible.
Two years later, Hutsko was part of a Wyoming Valley Conference cross country championship. Hutsko played a prominent role while continuing to thrive as a midfielder in soccer, earning all-star recognition from the Times Leader and conference coaches.
Later in her sophomore school year, Hutsko combined two sports in the spring as well. She resumed playing lacrosse, combining it with track and field after proving with her earlier experience that she could handle the necessary juggling.
“I started playing lacrosse for the Back Mountain Bandits in seventh and eighth grades,” said Hutsko, a midfielder in lacrosse who competes in the pole vault in addition to running the two longest races in track, the 1600 and 3200 meters. “In 10th grade one of the girls that I had previously played with said they would appreciate it if I would come out and play.
“I had liked playing lacrosse, but (in ninth grade), I had thought I wouldn’t be able to do both lacrosse and track.”
In between her two-sport seasons, Hutsko has run indoor track the last two winters.
Williams was strictly a winter and spring athlete in his first two years of high school. He wound up playing two fall sports after adding soccer as a junior and combining it with football after the senior season had started.
With Collin Masters, just a year ahead of him in school, established as the soccer team’s goalie, Williams decided early in high school to concentrate on wrestling and baseball where he had the best chance at playing time and made both varsity rosters as a freshman.
“As I got a little bit older, I realized I’m a high school kid and I don’t have that much time left to play sports,” said Williams, who will not pursue any of his sports into college when he attends the Penn State University main campus to study statistics. “I decided to come back out. A lot of my friends who I had grown up with and known forever were still playing soccer together while I branched off to wrestling and baseball.
“I figured I could come back and be with them the last two years. It was a great experience. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Williams got some playing time as a junior both as a back-up goalie and field player. He split time in goal early in his senior season, before getting most of the playing time there later in the season, while still filling in on the field occasionally.
The ability to punt a soccer ball caught the eyes of the football coaching staff, which had a need to fill in Williams’ senior year.
“I didn’t even start the beginning of the year on the football team,” Williams said. “They saw one of our soccer games and saw how I could kick a soccer ball. They stopped me and asked if I could kick a football.
“I was able to and I was able to help them out for a good part of the season.”
Williams made the adjustment to fill a special teams role on the WVC Class AA Division champs.
“It’s a little different,” Williams said. “The football you have to kick more straight on whereas the soccer ball I tend to kick more out to the side.”
With his wrestling background, Williams was prepared to do what was necessary if he had to handle more than kicking duties. He did not have to bring anyone down with an open-field tackle, but did have to improvise beyond merely kicking the ball.
“The first snap when I went out there was a game against GAR,” Williams said. “The snap went over my head so it was a little baptism by fire.”
Hutsko was aware from the start of trying not to create any animosity as a team member who misses some practices and, occasionally, a competition. In the spring, she stacks practices back-to-back and, with the help of a distance runner’s conditioning, does not ask for any short cuts when track practices from 3-5 are followed by lacrosse from 5-7.
“I usually try to go hard through both of them,” Hutsko said. “I don’t want to let either team down because for some of the girls, that is their only sport.
“I feel like I don’t want to have any special treatment. I feel like it’s always gone smoothly because they know I always go 100 percent at practice no matter what sport it is.”
Williams, who considers sports analytics a possible career path, said he may seek out a club or intramural team in college, but his serious competitive days are coming to an end.
The District 2 Class AA 182-pound wrestling champion and three-time district all-academic selection praised the decision by his father, former Lake-Lehman varsity head coach Tom Williams, to not introduce him to competition in that sport until seventh grade.
Williams’ roots in soccer and baseball, where he is a pitcher/infielder and was the winning pitcher in Tuesday’s 6-1 win over rival Dallas, go all the way back to when he was 5 years old.
For Hutsko, the transition from high school to college made it decision time. She chose the sport she started back at that age, deciding to play soccer – “the only sport I’ve stuck with my whole life” – at Susquehanna University.