Athletics Paves the Way for State Honors, Academic Successes

When Akila Raoul ’12, PhD, joined the varsity golf team in 2010, she was the only female on the team. Over 10 years later, The Laboratory Schools varsity female golf team just returned from the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) 1A Golf State Championships, where they placed sixth.

Junior Amelia Tan finished in fifth place in the state, carding a 151 for the tournament, which left her just four shots off first place. Amelia's finish earned her All-State Honors and Athletic Player of the Year. Head Coach Marco Fajardo was named the Independent School League Golf Coach of the Year.

“Our season was phenomenal,” said Fajardo, varsity golf coach at Lab. “What we’ve accomplished is amazing. All of the players improved as a group. It’s not just one individual. Many of them are scoring their best rounds of golf this season and hitting their goals. They checked off every box we asked them to!”

Pictured from left to right, Teammates Anaya Douglas and Devyn Moubayed make their down the fair during a match.

When Fajardo joined Lab eight years ago, there weren’t enough players to put together a female varsity team. “We’ve come a long way in the last three years. We went from winning very few matches to winning every one. We’re the best 1A team in the City of Chicago.”

Varsity Girls Golf wins the 2023 IHSA 1A Regional Championship, marking Lab's first-ever regional championship for girls golf. Pictured from left, Anaya Douglas. Amelia Tan, Devyn Moubayed, Coach Darryl Simmons, Coach Marco Fajardo, Maxine Hurst, Ava Cohen, Neha Dhawan.

Even though academics is the priority for many Labbies, for Raoul, golf paved the way for her current successes.

“Being on the golf team helped with discipline and holding myself accountable,” she said. “The matches were a team effort, but golf is ultimately an individual sport. Golf helped my mental state and ensured that I don’t take things too seriously. You have good days followed by awful days. That applies to everything in life. We have bad days but there’s always tomorrow.”

Lab recognizes the importance that athletics plays in developing characteristics such as resiliency, leadership, teamwork, and cooperative learning. Lab also prides itself in its ability to cater athletics to every individual student, according to Physical Education Department Chair Scott Budeselich.

“We have a curriculum, but we have space for individual teachers to plan their lessons differently and cater them to their kids,” Budeselich explained.

He noticed that some lessons—like the timed mile—reinforced an environment of anxiety and fear of P.E. class, and that students were constantly comparing themselves to their peers.

“Lab gives us the autonomy to do what we feel is best for each individual student,” said Budeselich. “P.E. is a great place to learn how to fail. The consequences of failing are real. We hope that kids learn to put themselves out of their comfort zone, and that will carry over to other things they do.”

Raoul would have played golf in college—had her school had a women’s team. Now a social psychologist after receiving her Ph.D. from Loyola University, Raoul said that her experience at Lab through golf and beyond was integral to her current success.

“Lab really helped prepare me for college and grad school because of the rigorous education,” she explained. “And time management. There was a lot to do. Now, I have a lot to do at my job and it prepared me.”

Icing on the cake for Fajardo? “None of my female golfers are leaving this year! Next year, they want to go home with hardware.” First, second, and third place receive trophies at the State Championships.

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