Category Archives: Clubs & Activities

Mountain biking thrives during the pandemic

On any given Monday, you are likely to find 30 high schoolers in purple jerseys cranking their gears, trying their hardest to climb that final hill. During these confusing and unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of our activities were put on hold. Many sporting events had to be postponed or stopped altogether for safety reasons, such as high school football and soccer. However, there is one sport that has managed to survive through these uncertain times, and that is the sport of mountain biking.

While many of the other sports teams at Mount Saint Joseph High School had to, unfortunately, be paused, Mountain Biking was still given the grace to continue during the quarantine period. How did the riders continue their sport with these new complications, and how has COVID-19 caused a lasting impact on mountain biking? As a mountain bike team member myself, I reached out to riders and coaches to try and find the answers to these compelling questions.

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As mentioned before, mountain biking can be a naturally socially distant sport. On the team rides for MSJ, riders are spaced out in single file lines as they roll and cruise down the valleys and hills of Patapsco State Park. This naturally distant activity is what helped push the sport to continue to remain active as a sport at Mount Saint Joseph after the quarantine order was put into effect. Due to the appeal of an outside activity to many Americans, biking saw a massive increase of people wanting to participate from all across the nation. According to the NDP Group, April of 2020 was the first recorded month to have over 1 billion dollars in revenue generated from the biking business, compared to the average 500 million in previous years.

Mountain biking coach Mike Saverino, from the class of 1983, said this sudden increase was the result of people looking for new sports to try during the quarantine. “I believe the sudden increase had a few reasons.  All other sports were canceled, mountain biking is an outdoor, distanced, and safe sport.  It is also all-inclusive so siblings and families could all participate,” said Saverino.

Mike Saverino, Mount St. Joseph Class of 1983

Many MSJ students wanted to get outdoors to enjoy the fresh air of the woods, and they saw the mountain biking team as the perfect opportunity to be able to not only exercise but to be able to join a community of fellow bikers.

One aspect of the bike team that has culminated in the result of the pandemic was the community of riders on the team becoming closer than before. Communities of bikers could always be seen at special events such as the NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) races, trail building at Patapsco, and many other places. However, due to COVID-19 and its many restrictions, races and larger gatherings were not able to be held, but the riders still found a way to form their communities, by strengthening their relationship with members of their home team or other rider friends.

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At Mount Saint Joseph, the biking team is composed of a vast number of members from grades 9 to 12, and a variety of skill sets and abilities. As a team of fellow Mount brothers, the riders together form a community that is strengthened with every new ride. Junior team member Felix Smolen ‘22 said that people had a natural longing to want to spend time with friends, and this led to people forming friend communities on bike teams.

MSJ Mountain Biking member Felix Smolen

Felix Smolen ’22: “I think that ignoring demographics and politics, it’s giving people an opportunity on how they spend their time with people because at the end of the day, we have to stay inside and be with our family, and sometimes that drives people crazy, and I love my family but I also want to hang out with my friends. So we’ve had fewer opportunities to do that in the normal sense, going to the mall or watching movies, so we’ve had to get creative with it. It’s brought people together in different ways and hopefully, once all of this is over, it’s gonna strengthen people with different methods of bringing people together, and make whatever bond there is stronger.”

The future remains uncertain for the time being as to when restrictions will finally be lifted for things to “return to normal,” but the way we do things with other people in public will never truly return to normal. COVID-19 will always have an impact on the way we go about our daily lives and activities and has shown the world how we are to be considerate as to what are the activities that matter the most to us. The communities of mountain biking have grown stronger and closer together ever since the order to quarantine, and once the quarantine ban is lifted, those strong bonds will certainly continue to be felt for many more trail rides to come.

Jackson Reichardt is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

A behind-the-scenes look at the casting, producing of a Mount St. Joseph performance

Mr. Mike Hartsfield, MSJ’s drama director

Casting and directing a show here at Mount Saint Joe, especially in high school takes a lot of work from both the director, and the cast. I got the chance to interview the Mount’s drama director, Mr. Michael Hartsfield, as well as senior Brennan Hyde, an experienced cast member in the shows. I was able to get from them both angles of producing a show at Mount Saint Joseph from the side of casting, directing and acting. 

Auditions are the real start of the process, when director meets actor. Here at Mount Saint Joseph, Mr. Hartsfield both directs the shows themselves, and casts the actors. That is a lot of responsibility right there, having to make all of the casting decisions in a short amount of time, not to mention the fact that Mr. Hartsfield doesn’t cut anyone from casting, and everyone gets to participate. 

When it comes to auditions, Mr. Hartsfield looks for certain things from his actors, varying from show to show, play and musical. So if you’re a student looking to audition for one of our shows, you’d better pay close attention. Preparedness is a top quality that our director looks for in an audition. He wants to see people that have done their research on the show, and that have practiced their audition, whether it be a song or a monologue. There are also some general things that Mr. Hartsfield wants to see on stage. Strong projection of their voice, personality on stage, clarity, and for a musical; obviously, he wants to hear their singing abilities.

Senior Brennan Hyde, one of the stalwarts of St. Joe’s productions.

Brennan Hyde had never done any real shows, and only began his career here at the Mount. He has since risen in the ‘ranks’ in theater, and has landed himself a number of strong roles, including the part of Tony in “West Side Story.” Brennan has been in the driver seat of a lead, so it’s safe to say, he knows his way around the stage. Brennan had very similar things to say, despite these being separate interviews. Brennan does his research on the show he’s going to audition for, and finds out the theme. For musicals, Brennan says it depends on the musical, but he makes sure to research them, too, so he can pick the best song for his vocal range, as well as the range of a part he wants to get.

A question or topic that has come up when it comes to casting decisions is awarding roles based on your grade level. The concept comes from students wanting ‘a chance’ to have a bigger role, before they leave high school. According to Mr. Hartsfield, that is a “constant critique of…every high school director in the country.” Mr. Hartsfield also says he does not factor grade level into his casting decisions, but he does; however, use it as a neck and neck tiebreaker for a part. When Brennan Hyde was asked if he believed Mr. Hartsfield made casting decisions based on grade level, he also disagreed. The same story came up in both interviews about another student, Patrick Scott, who was cast as Ren, the lead in “Footloose,” when he was ‘only a freshman.’ Scott is now a junior at MSJ, and has since also played the part of Riff in “West Side Story.” With that in mind, it seems that the process is based on the audition itself, with grade level being a minor aspect of the decision-making process.

Body microphones used in MSJ’s productions

After Mr. Hartsfield has created his cast list, the first thing he does is call the entire cast for a read-through of the show. This is done to familiarize the cast with the show and the feeling of it, before they get on stage. This also builds chemistry between the cast members so they become accustomed to who they will be working with. After that, the process of rehearsing a play is quite simple: walk and act through the scenes chronologically on stage to practice and get the blocking down. Musicals; however, can be quite a different story, with the order in which the scenes are practiced can be completely out of order. When Brennan was practicing as Tony in “West Side Story,” he spent a lot of time reading his part, and understanding what his character was going through. Brennan says it wasn’t a difficult transformation for him, although he had some trouble pretending to be as “sad” as the character.

Tech booth microphone box

The final piece of the drama puzzle before the actual show is Tech Week. Tech Week is the week leading right up to opening night where everything is supposed to come together – the sound, microphones, actors, major set changes, and stage lights. The biggest trouble that Mount Saint Joseph has had in recent years, is the sound system. Mr. Hartsfield calls it the “bane of our existence” for MSJ shows. When MSJ does musicals; however, there are even more things that need to be accounted for, tested, and incorporated into the show: the pit band and the singers, and managing the sound for both.

At the end of the week, Mr. Hartsfield and his stage and tech crew always manage, and the show is ready to be put on. So when MSJ puts on their show each night, where is Mr. Hartsfield? Is he back stage helping the stage crew? Is he at home taking his well-earned nap? No.

View of the auditorium and stage from the tech booth

Mr. Hartsfield is still hard at work, stressing it out up in the tech booth “calling the show.” That means Mr. Hartsfield has a walkie-talkie and is still directing, in a way. Instead of cueing the actors, Mr. Hartsfield gives cues to the stage crew in the wings (off to the sides of the stage) to make important set or curtain changes. Being in the tech booth, Mr. Hartsfield also calls cues for sound changes, lighting, and specific sound effects they need.

As you can tell, there is a plethora of moving parts that go into each of the productions here at St. Joe, thanks to Mr. Hartsfield, his crew, and of course, all of the talented actors that participate. Another special thanks to my interviewees, Mr. Hartsfield and Brennan Hyde, for their time and a bit of an inside scoop.

Christopher Kelleher is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Mountain Biking Team excels at Schaeffer Farm race

Mount Men lining up before the hole shot

On September 8, Mount Saint Joseph kicked off the first race of their season. The race was held at Schaeffer Farm in Seneca Creek State Park, Germantown, and hosted by multiple teams including Mount Saint Joseph. The year prior, during the first season of the team’s existence, Schaeffer Farms was held as the last race of the season and was cancelled due to rain. So this marked the first time that many of the MSJ riders would be tearing through these trails.

A portion of the team arrived on Saturday, September 7, for a walk-through ride. This ride is used for teams to get a quick overview of the trails the day before the race to plan where to expend energy and record checkpoints. This option is available for riders the day before the race. The Pre-Ride is crucial to the racers before the race because it does not just give them a chance to overview the trails, but it also warms up the riders for going out on the trails during the real race so when you get out there you aren’t out of energy immediately.

Riders Trey Booth (Front) and Diego DeLaCruz (Back) flying through the finish line

September 8, Race Day, was packed with anticipation as Mount Saint Joseph’s 43 member team cleaned their bikes and prepared to head out on the track. The team gathered to cheer on Shenan Reese at 9:30. She is the sister of McKinley Reese and would be racing for St. Joe to give our school points on the female side of the competition.

Riders Evan Saverino (Left) and Teddy Carpenter (Right) finishing simultaneously

At 12:30, the male portion of the race began. The racers meet up to the hole shot, where all of the racers are split up by grade and sent out in two minute increments as the race begins.

During the race, parents and volunteers line the trails cheering on the racers as they fly around every bend and tear up every hill. Mount Saint Joseph ended up having three technicals, including a broken chain from Varsity racer Charlie Hanlon. Technicals are a short term for when something mechanical goes wrong with the bike, such as a flat tire or a broken chain. There was also an injury dealt to Zach Spitzer in the form of a gash to the arm leaving him requiring ten stitches.

Rider Scott Allen leading the pack.

In the end, Mount Saint Joseph ended up claiming:

Varsity Boys:

Ian Schwing – 1st place

Quinn Griffith – 5th place

JV Boys:

Gabe vonWachter – 2nd place

Tyler Hockstra – 4th place

Sophomore Boys

Scott Allen – 1st place

Riders and coaches alike considered this a very successful first race. Race #2 will be held at Fair Hill Frenzie on the 29th of September.

(All images courtesy of the MSJ Mountain Bike Team App page.)

Evan Saverino is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Earning his wings: How senior Brad Biagiotti is maximizing his senior project experience

The month of May is always an exciting time for seniors. Most are selecting where they will spend their next 4 years, counting down days until graduation, and preparing for prom on the 17th. Another exciting time in May are the 2 weeks dedicated to Senior Project. These 2 weeks are given to seniors who would like expand their interests and do a range of projects. Projects ranging from building benches on campus to writing a children’s book and everything inbetween. This year, the Mount has several unique and amazing Senior Projects from the class of 2019. One of those projects are being done by Bradley Biagiotti.

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Senior Brad Biagiotti is spending his senior project learning the basics of cross-country flying.

Bradley Biagiotti, an aspiring commercial pilot, will be spending his 2 weeks learning how to and flying a plane. For the past year and a half, Brad has been working towards his private pilot’s operating certificate. He will be spending his 2 weeks doing his project titled Learning the basics of cross-country flying. The term “cross-country flying” doesn’t literally mean flying across the country. In flying, the term means flying point to point as a part of training. To help visualize, cross-country flying is flying from Point A to Point B, Point B to Point C, the from Point C back to Point A. The exercise gives trainees the opportunity to learn several key aspects of flying. Brad will gain the skills such as navigation, communication, and many other aeronautical skills. He will be doing his project at Tipton Airport where he will do practice flights and ground training. When he is not at the airport, Brad will spend time studying material from his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) textbooks. He will also use his time wisely by planning out routes for the following day. As a final documentation of his project, Brad will present a video of his experiences.

Brad is one of the many Mount Men who use Senior Project as a way to expand his interests. “I have always loved flying. I’ve known from a very young that I wanted to become a pilot….When I learned of the opportunity to put these skills through Senior Project, I jumped at the opportunity.” Brad will continue to expand his knowledge and continue his pursuit in becoming a commercial pilot next year while majoring in Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Jonah Burns, Senior

Jonah Burns is a senior member of the Quill.

Discussing BOSS and the importance of black teachers at St. Joe

In the video below, I was able to sit down with Mount St. Joe High School teachers Ms. Wittelsberger and Ms. Claiborne. We discussed the newly founded club, B.O.S.S., how it is run, and what the goal of this club is. Also, we discuss the subject of black teachers at St. Joe and how it particularly affects other black students in regards of academics and willingness to learn.

Mark Ramsey, Senior

Mark Ramsey is a senior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

MSJ Business Club: Behind the scenes of the club’s success

Over the past few years, the attendance and activity of the Mount Saint Joseph Business Club has exploded.  The Business Club is a business-focused club that teaches members business strategies and teaches them financial strategies. They also host numerous events such as externships, guest speakers, and Waffle Wednesdays. To learn more about the Business club, I sat down with the Business Club moderator, Mr. Julius Prezelski and Business Club Vice President Ray Kovasics to interview them about their thoughts behind the success of the club.

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The Vice Presidents of the Business club with guest speaker from T Rowe Price Ms. Aimee Decamillo (Photo Credit: Mr. Prezelski)

To learn about the present status and the future of the club, I had to first learn about the beginning of the club. When I asked Mr. Prezelski about the origins of the club he told me, “Business Club started because a few students came to me and wanted to get into FBLA, which is Future Business Leaders of America club. So when the kids came to me, I said (being the business and personal finance teacher) sure I’ll do it.”

So why don’t we have an FBLA club anymore? Mr. Prezelski explained why the Mount Saint Joseph FBLA club no longer exists. He said, “Then, we realized that FBLA wasn’t the way we wanted to go, and we thought that DECA might be something different because it is more project oriented. So we flipped over to DECA.”  DECA, which stands for Distributive Education Clubs of America, was a good pathway for the club because of the projects they offer and the competitions they sponsor. DECA also hosts challenges which give their student members opportunities to demonstrate the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom through innovative challenges in partnership with several corporate partners.

Although it sounds like DECA was the right pathway for the club, we know that Business Club split from DECA and became it’s own self independent club. Mr. Prezelski explained that, “We did this because in order to do FBLA and DECA in the state you have to offer certain classes and we didn’t have enough room in the schedule to do what everyone else does in the public schools and therefore competing in the competitions without offering those classes, you just can’t do it.”

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Business Club members building their resumes during a meeting (Photo Credit: Mr. Prezelski)

After learning about the history and pathway of the club, I had to learn the story behind the popularity of the club. Speaking to Mr. Prezelski, he answered me by saying, “Number one, I know they like the externships, I came up with it because of my daughter in college, where they have externships as Sophomore’s and I thought why couldn’t we do that with high school kids? They know what major they are taking in college, you guys have no idea and are trying to find out what you want to do in college. So, I came up with the idea of doing an externship.” 

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, an MSJ Business Club externship is a one day “internship” where a student spends a day in the life of a worker in some related field they are interested in. The purpose of the externship is to figure out if you really want to be in the field you witnessed for the day. Some of the companies that MSJ Business Club students have done externships with include: Choice Hotels, Baltimore Ravens Medical Staff, and 105.7 The Fan.

Mr. Prezelski then explained why he thought that the idea of an externship was so popular by saying, ” I think, since you guys did it yourselves, you telling other people or they are hearing on it through social media and now they are like why am I not doing that or parents are telling them so now the kids are more involved.”

Another aspect that Mr. Prezelski attributes to being a big draw for the club is the effort to make it less redundant and more fun. He explained, “This year we also are going to do once a month Donut or Waffle Wednesday, where we are going to provide donuts or waffles and drinks so a lot of kids are like, ‘hey I like that, they are doing something different’.” One quote that really stands out is when he said, “We are trying to make it fun, not everything is fun, but I think some things we do are good for you, like resume-building and bringing in the speaker.”

Business Club speaker Mr. Craig Costabile '12
Guest Speaker Mr. Craig Costabile ’12 (Photo Credit: Mount Saint Joseph High School)

Guest speakers are also a large draw for students coming into Business Club. Some of the guest speakers that the Business Club have hosted include Leon Thomas ’82 , Craig Costabile ’12 from Under Armour, and Ms. Aimee Decamillo from T. Rowe Price. The speakers often talk about their jobs and how they got to where they are today. They also give advice to students and interact and communicate with them.

I also asked him why he thought being involved with Business Club or taking Business-related classes was important for students to do during High School. He answered my question by saying, “Some of the classes we teach are just for personal use, like personal finance, whether you are a business major or not, the topics we discuss, anything from taxes to investing to healthcare, checking accounts, banking, all of that is in your daily life and can help you a lot, just in your daily life because eventually you have to figure out how to do this.”

Now that I had this information from the teacher leader of the Business Club, I wanted to gain the perspective of a student leader in the club, so I interviewed Ray Kovasics a co-vice president of the club. I first had to figure out why he was interested in joining. He said, “I joined Business Club because I like Mr. Prezelski as a teacher, and I wanted to get into business competitions and learn more about the business field. I also wanted to get his take on the exciting events that he was able to participate in through the Business Club.” After a few seconds of thinking, he continued, “Going to a Wizards business event in DC, first seeing all the colleges, hearing the sports executives speak, and then of course watching the game itself.”

Going forward, the Business Club is having more events than ever. The juniors in the club are preparing to have their externships arranged, while the freshmen and sophomores are working on building their resumes. Also, a speaker Mr. Butch Conner is coming on November 6th. With all these events planned, the business club is as active as ever, and looking to grow interest among the students. If you are interested, make sure to see Mr. Prezelski in Room 15 or talk to one of the student leaders.

F2CDC190-0B76-4D69-A7CF-5F292E4CBD2DTommy Stinson is a senior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.