All posts by Jake Howell

Doing Senior Project Next Year? Here Are Some Tips I’ve Learned!

Seniors working on their service project.


In this article I am going to give you some tips and tricks on how to survive your future senior as I depart from school and complete my own project.

Tip 1. Do it

The first tip I have for everyone is simple, do senior project. For those of you who are saying “oh I’m only going to have 3 classes after my AP tests so I’m not going to waste my time with that” or “I’d rather sit in a class of three people and do nothing for 2 weeks”, I’m sorry but that is a ridiculous excuse not to do senior project. This is a special chance to do one thing you want to do (and you don’t have to take your finals).

On a personal level, I am taking 3 AP classes this year, and as the two weeks approach rapidly I do not expect any real conflict where I have to sacrifice studying for working and vice versa.

Tip 2. Do not be afraid to do what you want

I know what you’re thinking, it’s a school project so I have to do something academic and school-ish. I hate to break it to you boys, but that’s just not the case. When I say don’t be afraid to do what you want, I really mean it. Just in the class of 2016, there was a project where students played GTA V for 60 something odd hours, a project where a group of guys lived in a house for a week where all they did was eat sleep and play video games (literally), and a project where a group of guys put on a concert for any artists that wanted to play.

Even my project deviates from the standard assigned school projects we get every now and then. My friends and I are planning on producing a short film based on a short film that was also written by us. The biggest thing to take away from the proposal process is that the teachers are trying to find any way possible to accept your project. It’s not like the college board and the SAT where they try to find every way to make you look worse and stress you out.

Tip 3. Get organized early

Once you figure out what you really want to do for your senior project, get started on scheduling and planning early. When I say early I mean as early as you possibly can. Once you have the assembly next year that introduces the topic, that is the time to brainstorm your top ideas. This is important for a couple reasons, one being that if you set a schedule early, there’s more time to move things around and adapt in case something important pops up.

My group and I knew what we wanted to do right away, and that made scheduling a lot easier because as things came up along the way, we already had a built schedule to work around. Our plan was to film our movie over spring break, and since I play baseball over spring break, we were able to build around my game schedule.

Tip 4. It is supposed to be fun

I know school projects 9 times out of 10 are more of a drag than anything else. But senior project is that 1 other time. Assuming you stay organized and don’t procrastinate, this will be an easy and very fun project. Don’t take the fact that it’s a school project at face value and limit yourself to some powerpoint or other boring thing we have done about 50 times in four years.

There are projects this year that are things I would never think of. A couple of my teammates put together a home run derby that raised money for Our Daily Bread. There’s another project where two seniors built a boat from scratch, and another group that programmed their own video game. The possibilities are endless for what you can do for your project.

Rory Fisher’s Senior Project.

Tip 5. Do it with your friends, just make sure you all can actually work together

We have all been in a situation where you pick your friends for a group project. You have a couple class days to work on the project, but instead of doing that, everyone is messing around wasting their time. The same thing goes for senior project. It can be your best two weeks at St. Joe if you want to mess around for the entire time and get nothing done, but that final day where you have to present your project, that will ruin not only the two weeks, but your entire year. Have fun, but make sure you’re getting work done at the same time.

For my project, it’s no secret that filming takes a long time to do, if there is any sort of messing around, the time it takes to get a substantial amount of work done will double. Needless to say, messing around did happen, and the time for us did double. It put our schedule back a day, but luckily we were able to make up for lost time.

These are five very basic tips that I hope can make your senior project experience a lot less stressful that it could have been.

IceGaels Get it Done, Bring the MIAA Title Back to St. Joe

We knew Cross Country was going to win. We knew basketball was going to sit atop the conference. What we did not foresee was senior captain Alec Pupshis hoisting up the championship plaque in the middle of a sea of celebrating students.

Senior Jay Davis holding the MIAA Championship trophy. Photo Credit: MSJ Hockey

The Hockey team defied any and all expectations thrust upon them in the biggest way possible. I talked to senior Jay Davis back in December and asked him about his expectations for the upcoming season. I was unsure how competitive the IceGaels would be, and when Jay replied to me with, “We are definitely better than last year, and I expect to see us in the championship game.” Now we know Jay was spot on, as they not only appeared in the championship, but upset the #1 seed to take home the title.

Meanwhile, the game itself was as good as it gets and suspenseful up until the very end. Our notorious student section showed out in a big way, undeterred $8 dollar admission fee, and the energy matched the team’s effort on the ice the entire game. It did not take long for the Calvert Hall Cardinals to take a lead. They had a man alone with the goalie, and took advantage of it, scoring early in the first period.  This goal tested the spirits of the students, but they did not let up, and neither did the guys on the ice. Towards the end of the first period, the puck got loose near Calvert Hall’s goal, and in the effort to possess the puck, a man pile of skaters formed, providing a perfect distraction for St. Joe to score (I don’t think anybody had any idea what happened when that goal went in). All I remember from that moment was the silence of students waiting for something, anything to happen. It was not until the referee’s whistle blew, and a couple St. Joe players threw their arms into the air did the crowd erupt into cheering and a very poorly coordinated yelling version of the beginning of Chelsea Dagger.

After an action packed first period, I expected more of the same through the next. However that was not the case. The goalies and their defenders took over for both teams. Personally, I have never been to a hockey game before, but the numerous saves the goalies had on both sides left me stunned. The defense would carry through the rest of game, as the third period ended with the score still tied at one-to-one.

As the overtime period started, the crowd was electric in an unprecedented way. It took only two minutes for the Gaels to score the final goal of the game. While the crowd was loud before, when the puck crossed the goal line, it erupted even louder than I could have imagined. I was standing in the third row of the stands. It took about five seconds of people pushing and shoving for me to be pushed up against the glass in the middle of a tidal wave of people yelling.

The Tier-1 Ice Hockey team gets to take home the MIAA plaque, taking part in possibly the best season of athletics we have seen in years. We have seen Indoor Track win, Wrestling win, Ice Hockey win, and also Basketball win the MIAA Championship. It surely has been a spectacular season for St. Joe athletics!

With Time Comes Change: Mr. Rod Cameron is Set for His First Season as Head Baseball Coach

Mr. Rod Cameron, Mount Saint Joe’s new Varsity Baseball Coach, along with Orioles Hall of Fame 3B Brooks Robinson. After a lengthy search, Mr. Cameron was chosen to succeed Mr. Jody Harris as the Mount’s head baseball coach. Image courtesy of the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches.

My brother Brad and I sat down with Coach Cameron, the newly appointed head coach of the varsity baseball team, and the third head coach in the last five years. During our interview with Coach Cameron we discussed the many changes to the field, additions to the coaching staff, and a little taste of what is to come in the spring of 2017.

We started our conversation by asking him to walk through the renovations made to the field over the last four years. Compared to my freshman year (Jake Howell,  2013-2014 school year), the baseball field features a relocated bullpen due to the Smith Center renovation, new covers and banners on the outfield fence, additional fencing that leads down the right field line, a new backstop and scoreboard, and the newest addition being the dugouts. As a baseball player who is impacted by the renovations each year, it has been nice to see how far the field has come from what it was my freshman year through now. With Plevyak Field and the Smith Center, it is nice to see the baseball field come together to match the quality of our other sporting facilities.

The view of the old MSJ baseball field, prior to the renovations to the backstop and dugouts.

Since baseball is still several months away, we asked Coach Cameron if he was going to make any changes to the winter workout program we had in place. “I think the first step is that from the time we stop [Fall Baseball] now early November through the end of the year will be a rest period,” Coach Cameron said. Any baseball player knows this is a big difference from years past. In off-seasons past, we would go from fall ball right into the weight room then right to tryouts. Coach Cameron wants to stress the importance of shutting down for a little bit to give your body time to recharge and refresh.

We then moved to address the announcement that he would be taking over at the helm for the varsity team. After Coach Harris’ departure, the position was open to the public, and there was a lot of interest. We asked him what he thought set him apart from other candidates. Coach Cameron credited his experience as the thing that he believed made him the most attractive candidate over other applicants. “Of all the talented people that interviewed for the job, I was the one with the one with the most experience, the one who was the most familiar with the program.” He also credited the connections that he had to the baseball community outside of Mount Saint Joe. An example of his connections to the community would be our newest addition to the JV team, Coach Ian Hendricks. “[Coach Hendricks] spent a number of years as a coach at McDonough. He is also the son of Elrod Hendricks who was with the Orioles for a decade,” Coach Cameron said of the legacy of the Hendricks family in Baltimore. But the additions do not stop there, Coach Cameron said that he plans to extend the coaching staff even more, adding coaches that will assist with every team, not just one. He plans to bring aboard Mr. Grebe to specialize with all the catchers. Having coaches that work with a specific position is something that I believe can really improve the team’s overall defense.

Renovations to the baseball field include a new backstop and new dugouts. Photo Credit: Brad Howell ’19

After discussing the changes to the coaching staff, we then moved on to a small preview of the upcoming season. When asked about the impact of the experience the senior class got as juniors last school year, Cameron responded by saying how the experience has the potential to make a tremendous impact for the outlook of the spring season, “It’ll be their [the 13 returning players] jobs to instill that confidence while the new guys are going through that period of adjustment [from JV competition to Varsity].”

It is not hard to see that Coach Cameron pours his heart and soul into this game, and I am looking forward to seeing all his hard work in the preseason translate into success when the time for tryouts comes in February.

A panoramic of the new renovations at the MSJ baseball field. Photo Credit: Brad Howell ’19



Fall Sports Sets Tone for the Rest of the Year

Our fall sports teams put an air of electricity into school everyday because of the success every team was experiencing.  Four out of the five sports teams were in position to take home championships for their respective sports, with cross country being the only team who can say they met their goal set at the beginning of the season.  Although the other teams experienced losses, their dominance in the regular season has set the tone for the athletic attitude for the rest of the year.

Senior Joey Clark in the rain against the Calvert Hall Cardinals

Maybe the most impressive, St. Joe soccer made their way to the top of the MIAA and one of the top teams in the state of Maryland.  The boys defeated St. Paul’s 4-1 in their last regular season game to cement a second place seed in the conference and a first round bye in the playoffs. I asked senior captain Joe Clark for his thoughts about his team’s dominant regular season, “We’ve managed to do so well because of our strong defense, letting up the least amount of goals in the MIAA,” he explained. “Another thing we have over other teams is a strong bench. All twenty-five guys on the team contribute to our wins, and we substitute constantly in games. Our team has a lot of heart and great chemistry.”  However, after defeating Calvert Hall in close games twice during the regular season, they were on the other side of that scenario when they played the Cardinals for a third time.

Next up is the surprising story of the VolleyGaels. The varsity volleyball team has reversed their fortunes from seasons past, improving their record to 12-4 as opposed to 6-12 from a season ago. The Gaels finished tied for third place in the MIAA and continued to look like a strong contender to compete in the championship. However, the team faced their biggest game since maybe their 2006 championship: a semi-final game against the undefeated Gilman Greyhounds.  The Gaels took the first set, but would drop the next three, and witnessed the Greyhounds advance to the championship.  Still, the VolleyGaels worked their tails off to finish with their best season since 2006.

Senior Quarterback Christian Carter stiff arms a Calvert Hall opponent

The football team also saw a wealth of success this season. Senior quarterback Christian Carter finally gotten his chance to start, and made the most of it.  During an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Carter mentioned how the spread offense has impacted the amount of points he and his offense can put on the board. “It’s very fast. That’s why we score so much. We move at a fast pace. Everybody is open. It gets people clicking,” he said to Sun reporter Tony Worgo.  Another key story line was the team’s stellar defense throughout the course of the season.  The defense limited opposing teams’ offenses to an average of 1 to 2 scores a game.  I asked junior Ryan Gorman about how much of a difference the defense has made for the team this year, and he said, “Whenever our offense has been down, our defense has stepped up. But the same goes for the offense. When we’re down, we can count on the offense to step up.”  Because of their loss to McDonough, the football team needed to win out against the two teams above them in the rankings in order to win the league.  Unfortunately, the Gaels did not prevail, and finished in third place in the MIAA for the season.

Senior Carter Williams running alongside Juniors Andrew Brinker and Sophomore Gabe Antone

Varsity cross country may be one of the least talked about sports in school, but Coach Turner sure knows what he is doing.  I checked the MIAA website for the standings and was surprised to see the Gaels sitting atop the conference at 7-0.  The team is comprised of seniors Alex Whittaker, Carter Williams, and Garrett Keidel, as well as juniors Hunter Petrik, Andrew Brinker, and sophomore Gabe Antone. Carter had this to say about his team’s under-the-radar season: “We don’t really mind that we’re an unnoticed sport. Our whole team has put in so much work. We’re all silent and hungry. We just go to the course, give it our all, and take care of business, and I think that shows in our record and performances we’ve had so far.”  Their approach worked as the XC team won the MIAA championship, and the private school state championship.

I’m excited to report that we can look forward to more sports later this year to being contenders to win it all.

There is not much that needs to be said about basketball, but we can all expect them to finish near the top of the conference.  I can honestly say that I believe no other school has more hype surrounding an individual sports team than we do for our basketball team.  Look for the hype to increase as 4-star guard Darryl Morsell announced Wednesday afternoon that he has decided to commit to the University of Maryland. We saw the hype surrounding the basketball team increase immediately, as ‘Darryl Morsell’ was trending on twitter not even an hour after committing to the University of Maryland.

It is my opinion that the indoor track team is very similar in terms of publicity to the cross country team. The indoor track team was the missing link in the clean sweep a year ago between indoor, outdoor, and cross country championships.  With cross country already crowned victors, look for indoor to attempt to complete the second leg of the cycle.

The Tier-1 ice hockey team is also said to be contenders for the championship. While talking to senior Jay Davis, he reported, “We are definitely better than last year, and I expect to see us in the championship game.” Looks like we can add hockey onto the list of teams to contend for a title this school year.

Coach Spurrier led his outdoor track team to a 1st place finish in the spring last school year. Obviously the team will look to repeat as champions, with maybe a position to clinch the running sweep (with cross country and indoor track). Outdoor track is yet another team that does not get enough press for their success, but hopefully we can bring to light how successful the team has the potential to be.

Even though my opinions for the baseball team are even more biased than all of the previous paragraphs, I do believe that our baseball team can compete to win the championship in the spring.  Comprised of fourteen returning players, most of whom obtained a wealth of experience a year ago,the team will look to win its first championship in thirteen years.

Although my initial prediction was that we’ll see six athletic teams win championships this school year, I still see the potential for a couple more in these next two sports seasons. I am very excited for what this year can bring.  The best thing I can say is that we should get out to as many home sporting events as we can and cheer on our classmates during their seasons!

Orioles’ FanFest: An Interview with Coach Harris

IMG_2521Orioles’ FanFest is an annual celebration where the fans interact with some of their favorite players. The Mount Saint Joe baseball program gets invited back to help out with Fan Fest every year. To preview FanFest for this year, I sat down with Mr. Harris, the head coach of the varsity baseball team, to ask him some questions regarding St. Joe’s participation in Orioles FanFest.

Jake Howell: What is your favorite memory from any of the FanFests the team has attended?

Mr. Jody Harris: Well I’d have to say when Steve Clevenger got traded to the Orioles, that was kind of a pretty special thing. Not only were we interacting with the Orioles and helping them promote baseball in Baltimore, but the fact that we had a personal connection with one of the players was special for me having coached him. It was a pretty neat thing for our players to be around someone who played in the same program that they’re playing in.

JH: Who are some Orioles players you have talked to over the years?

MH: I’ve talked to a significant number of them. It’s been my experience that for the most part those guys are pretty accommodating and just regular guys. I mean, we see them as supermen because they’re professional athletes, but the fact is they’re just regular people. I remember interacting with players who were long shots to make the team, and when they made the team I sort of felt a connection to them. For example, last year I sat next to Jimmy Paredes, waiting for one of the instructional times to come up. He doesn’t speak very much English, but I was able to communicate with him and the Chick-Fil-A cow. That is what we had in common, that we both liked chicken. But the fact of the matter was he was a long shot to make the team, and then he had the best spring of his career and made the team out of spring training. Then I felt a connection to Jimmy Paredes all year-long, because of the chicken-cow connection.

Varsity Baseball Coach Mr. Harris and Orioles player Jimmy Paredes

JH: How do you think the Orioles’ players rub off on our players?

MH: I would say that generally the players are good role models for our guys. They see how those players interact with the community, they see how they interact with the kids, and more often than not those players are pretty friendly to our players too, so I think generally our players have come away with a pretty good feeling about those guys. It’s kind of neat to have been next to and helped in an instructional phase with a player that you see on TV that season. That’s kind of a neat thing I think is an outcome of our participation in FanFest. There have been some instances where I have been disappointed in some of the ways the players interacted with our guys and with the fans, but overall their actions have been positive.

JH: How did St. Joe’s participation in FanFest come together?

MH: I am not exactly positive, but I know that Mr. Norton and Mr. Cameron run the Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game, which is played at Camden Yards, and used to be in conjunction with the Orioles. So Mr. Norton has had a pretty long relationship with the Orioles, particularly people in their marketing department. I remember that it was the Crown All-Star Game at the time when Baltimore hosted the MLB All-Star Game, and the players that were chosen for the Crown All-Star Game were the ones that shagged flies for the Home Run Derby contest, so that connection goes back quite a long ways. I believe that was maybe 1993, so Mount Saint Joe and the Baltimore Orioles have had a pretty strong working relationship for a number of years.

JH: How did Steve Clevenger react when he found out he was being traded to the Baltimore Orioles?

MH: Well, I remember being in touch with him and how excited he was to be coming back to Baltimore. The downside was he also knew that the Orioles had Matt Wieters and that it would be difficult to compete for a regular job. So while it was exciting to come back to his home team, he also recognized that it may have been a more difficult path to stay in the major leagues than it would have been with the [Chicago] Cubs. Having said that, I think that Steve, who has now been traded to the Seattle Mariners, did the best with his opportunity here. He could not have had a stronger spring last spring, and he made the Opening Day roster. Then, unfortunately, he was optioned out after the first game, and that is because he had options. Because he had options, he did not have a lot of leverage for negotiation, and it was easy for the Orioles to send him down. And from what I understand, the life of a Triple-A player and the life of a Major League player are significantly different, not just to mention the pay check.

JH: In your opinion, how has his playing days at MSJ influenced the way he holds himself in the game today?

MH: I would like to think that St. Joe had quite a bit to do with the kind of character and man that he is. Obviously most of that comes from his family, but I think being a part of this community and being a part of this program helped him compete at a high level. It also put him in position where he had to handle himself in public because we’re a high-profile program, and he was one of the best players on a high-profile program. I think that was valuable for him to be mature enough to handle the adjustment to professional baseball.

JH: Mount Saint Joe is the only high school that helps out at FanFest. What makes MSJ stand out above other schools?

MH: From a practical standpoint, we had the connection. From the point of view as to why we’ve maintained that position with the Orioles, it’s because of the way that we do what we say we are going to do. When we say we are going to volunteer, we have people there who pay attention to the thing they are supposed to pay attention to. Now, if you’re a player and you’re running a station that has kids hitting a wiffle ball with a wiffle ball bat on a tee, and you man that station for an hour, it can be easy for you to lose your focus or concern for the next person in line. But what I think our guys recognize is that for that kid, that’s his time. We give him the attention that he deserves as if it was one of our guys who was up next. I think that attention to detail, that recognition about the importance of what it is that we are doing, and that it is a reflection on the Baltimore Orioles is a reason why the Orioles continue to ask us back.

This year, the Orioles FanFest is Saturday, December 12.