Carlos Merejo (left) and Norah Flinn (right) are the Thunderbolt Sports Media 2022-23 Athletes of the Year.
(Photos courtesy of The Cranston Herald, ConnectLax)
When Tim Yean, TSM President, and Charlie Adams, TSM Lead Writer, approached me with an idea for naming an athlete of the year, I was at first hesitant to approve the project. It wasn't that I thought they couldn't handle such an undertaking, but rather the fact that after being involved in high school athletics in one way or another (playing/coaching/announcing) for the last 35 years, I knew all too well the bent feelings that accompany the naming of any award at this level.
There's always going to be multiple people who can lay legitimate claim to an honor. Someone always feels disrespected and overlooked. The effort of those who work to evaluate candidates and the select a recipient can be an unrewarding one when the complaints start piling up. And the old football coach in me, who preached unit success for our defense and then team success over the importance of the individual, always cringed when having to discuss awards for one player.
However, now that I've crossed over onto the media side of things and am a proud parent of a high school student-athlete, I say BRING ON THE AWARDS! Let the nominees and the recipients enjoy their moment in the spotlight.
Coaches from (almost) every Cranston East athletic team responded to Tim's email and nominated a member for consideration. Those nominees were then placed on the ballot for voting by East's student body. We were blown away by the level of participation and the methods used to cast as many votes as possible for someone's preferred candidate. It showed we were onto something with this project.
Once those votes were tallied, one vote was cast on behalf of the students for their top male and female vote-getter. Then, select members of Thunderbolt Sports Media - those whose time and effort drove our coverage throughout the year - cast their votes. Once those votes, along with a vote from yours truly, were tallied, two names emerged above all the others.
That's not to say there wasn't some spirited debate among the TSM members about the candidates and the criteria that should be considered when voting.
Should excelling in multiple sports be valued more than an outstanding performance in just one? How should we factor in team success when considering an individual? Can we fully evaluate spring athletes whose season isn't yet complete? And, are we fairly considering athletes who participated in sports that did not garner as much attention because of the setting in which they are held?
Trust me, we considered and discussed EVERYTHING. We discussed that we have two second team All-State selections (Sarina Marines, volleyball; Eneas Castillo, wrestling), a record-setter in track who is now thriving as the softball team's leadoff hitter (Nevaeh Fatorma), a member of the division champion girls' cross country team (Stella Loezos), etc. We considered individual sport performances, performances throughout the year across the seasons...
As stated earlier, we considered everything and looked at this from all angles. Now, since we don't have a budget at TSM, the best we can offer (other than prestigious recognition) the winners is a serving of our "Press Box Turducken" at halftime of the 2023 Thanksgiving Day Football Game. (For those not familiar, a turducken is a de-boned duck inside of a de-boned chicken inside of de-boned turkey with layers of Cajun stuffing in between.)
Here are the 2022-23 Thunderbolt Sports Media Athletes of the Year:
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Carlos Merejo, Class of 2024, Baseball
Dominant. Feared. Respected. Ask any opposing player or coach in Division I. None of them want to see Carlos Merejo coming to the plate.
Merejo's performance this spring for the playoff-bound Cranston East baseball team isn't just outstanding. It's historic. His slash line of .489/.657/1.021 is plain ridiculous. His OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of 1.678 is absurd. He's hit 6 home runs, driven in 17 runs, scored another 16 runs...and that's in spite of being walked 22 times in 70 plate appearances. Simply put, he's had an all-time season playing against the top level of competition in the state.
If he's not a first team All-State selection, Mr. Rueb and Mr. Koch from The Providence Journal have some serious explaining to do.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Norah Flinn, Class of 2023, Soccer/Indoor Track/Lacrosse
Flinn was the only Cranston East student-athlete to be nominated in two different sports. That immediately moved her into serious consideration for female athlete of the year. A deeper look into her performance moved Norah to the top of the list.
Anchoring the defense a resurgent girls' soccer team in the fall, Flinn co-captained a squad that was winless in 2021 to a playoff berth in 2022. She earned 1st Team All-State for Division III, 1st Team All-Division for Division III-A, and was recognized as the top student on her team.
After running indoor track during the winter, Flinn dominated this spring during lacrosse season, scoring 48 goals, including multiple games scoring six times in a contest. While the team was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by an East Providence squad that is now in the finals, Flinn's performance this spring could not be ignored.
She will take her academic and lacrosse talent in the fall to Poughkeepsie, New York, where she will attend Vassar College.
Congratulations, Carlos and Norah. Come see us in the press box on Thanksgiving Day!
RANDOM THOUGHTS & THANKS
Thunderbolt Sports Media could not survive without the efforts of our student members. We have been fortunate since our inception to have a group of dedicated students who work to provide as much coverage as possible for our athletic teams. They give their time and energy to make TSM the best it can be simply motivated out of pride to make it the best it can be (and community service hours and occasional free apparel).
We have a strong crew of returning members for the 2023-24 school year and are excited to add more elements to our coverage. However, we need new members from the classes of '25, '26, and '27 to survive moving forward. If you or anyone you know would like to be part of our crew, please see a current member or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Yean, TSM President, has kept the operation running while I try to get my neck back to normal function. He's kept up with all of his daily responsibilities for TSM while assuming all of mine as well. There is no TSM without Tim.
Charlie Adams, TSM Lead Writer, has done such an amazing job chronicling our events in a professional manner that The Cranston Herald has published several of his articles. Doing what he does is not easy, but Charlie makes it look that way.
I am amazed at the abilities of Jeselin Marizan. She is a superstar in the world of social media and has brought TSM into another stratosphere thanks to her talents. Jeselin expanded our coverage and brought well-deserved attention to teams that we haven't been able to fully cover in the past.
Larry Yin deserves credit for the advancements in our photography and videography coverage. Larry brought a new perspective to our coverage, and his content creation in the fall helped open us modernize the way we were able to report on games.
A special thanks to Ben Chen, the assistant to the administrative assistant to the undersecretary of TSM, for carrying my tables and equipment back to my office or Room 130 after most basketball games. My lower back really thanks you.
I apologize if I miss anyone, but thank you to everyone who contributed to TSM this year: Alexis, Angel, Andy, Ari, Ashton, Brady, Cam Felici, Cam Lind, Chinasa, Gabriella, and Junior. Your effort in making this the most extensive year of coverage we've had at TSM is greatly appreciated.
Mr. Simone, TSM Advisor