Top of the class
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
Geoff Schneider: Sports Union
You can just picture it. It’s a cool fall day, the leaves are changing. The colors are just magnificent. There is the crisp in the air. The campus is buzzing with students walking around in their hoodies, coffee in hand.
It’s a picture-perfect day for a football game on the Harvard campus. The crowd is starting to gather into Harvard Stadium, a U-Shaped stadium that holds a little more than 30,000. While the crowds aren’t that big anymore, it’s something about Harvard, or any Ivy League.
The draw of an Ivy League education, sometimes, is just too hard to pass up. There is something about walking on that campus and seeing the old buildings - and all the history that goes with it.
Not many students, or student-athletes, can say they are taking classes where former presidents sat, but that’s what you get when you step on the campus of Harvard University.
St. Francis High School’s Logan Reaska is pretty good at football, and track and field, and basketball, for the Red Raiders. He also is a very good student. So, when it came to choosing a school to further his athletic and academic education, Reaska had a lot of options.
“Ever since I was young my parents instilled in me a sense that academics come first. Homework gets done right after school and no play until the work is done,” stated Reaska. “But really, so long as you have the right focus and priorities, it’s not that difficult to do well academically, especially at a school like St. Francis with its vast resources.”
St. Francis High School makes sure they get their students ready for the next level. Their academics are top notch, and they challenge their students to think daily. When it comes to athletics, as much as they would like to win, the football program does make sure academics comes first.
Long time coach, Jerry Smith, cares about his players. He makes sure his players are dialed in on the football field, and in the classroom. He does an academic hour before every practice, so his players can get a head start on their homework for the day.
“At St. Francis, Coach Smith provides us with an “academic hour” before every practice and gives us the chance to get a head start on our work,” stated Reaska. “In school we also have many opportunities to study and work at various times of the day. It takes a level of commitment to balance the sports life with the academic side of things, and you certainly lose out on certain social aspects. But, it’s definitely worth it in the end.”
The academic side was one of the big draws for Reaska when he chose Harvard. Reaska was planning on attending a bunch of camps over the summer, but that all changed when he received his offer from the Ivy League school.
He knows football helped him get where he is going, but he also knows that football won’t be there forever. An Ivy League education can go a long way when all is said and done on the football field.
Reaska is thinking about his future, and not just the now.
“The discipline on the academic side of things has certainly opened opportunities that transcend football alone. Harvard (which I recently committed to) is only accessible to those who commit themselves completely to elite academics and athletics. You cannot have one without the other, and having both opens a whole new world of possibilities both as a player and prospective worker years later,” stated Reaska. “I planned on going to five camps this summer, but obviously that changed when I got the offer I wanted most. Mega camps are tough and I would not recommend them if you are trying to get offers - they are more for experience. But at the smaller, school specific camps, you will get enough reps to prove whether or not you really deserve to play there. It isn’t so much a matter of pressure as it is actually being able to perform; there’s no deceiving your way into the next level.”
To see where Reaska is now is just an amazing thing. Four years ago Reaska strapped the pads on for the first time. He was the raw freshman trying to find his way around the football field.
Four years later he is getting ready to go off to Harvard. That shows the type of commitment that Reaska put in to working on his game, and the commitment by the coaching staff to make him a better player.
“Freshman year was my first playing football. And so to be in the position I am right now is a great testament to the coaching staff at St. Francis. Coach Smith’s and Coach Otremba’s tough love styles create a special bond between both players and coaches while demanding the most out of us,” stated Reaska. “But the best part about playing for them is the sheer amount of knowledge and wisdom between the two, both about football and life.”
This season has been a little different for Reaska as well He has mainly been a receiver during his time with St. Francis, always lining up in the slot. But, this year he is lining up at the tight end position.
While some might not see it as a big switch, especially with how offenses are run these days, it still took a little getting used to. But, Reaska is a student of the game. He put the time, and effort, in to learning the position - and is thriving.
“Last year I was solely a wide receiver, primarily in the slot but sometimes split out. This year is going to be my first at the TE position, but I’ve been working hard to get ready for the much more physical play,” stated Reaska. “I’m up 25 pounds from last season and have been in the weight room a ton. But in terms of last years success, I owe that to basketball. Freshman year was my first playing football, but eight years of basketball before prepared me athletically for a new game and also helped with catching ability.”
When football season is over, Reaska jumps right into other sports. Like he said, Reaska has been balling for years before he stepped foot on the football field. Basketball is something that he loves, and is good at. It also helps him with footwork when it comes to the football field.
Another sport that Reaska has grown to love is track. It was a love hate relationship in the beginning, but Reaska has grown to love the sport. The only reason why he went out for track anyway is because he was challenged by his quarterback at the time.
The one thing he didn't know was how hard the practices would be. Reaska will even admit that track practice is a little bit harder that football.
“I almost didn’t do track, but my quarterback, who is also a big part of the track team, told me that I was “scared of the numbers,” so I had to do it to prove him wrong,” stated Reaska. “To be completely honest, track practices are much more difficult than football ones and I had no idea what I was in for. But it was also surprisingly fun and very beneficial for my speed, so it was definitely worth it.”
What turned out as a dare turned into a very good season for Reaska. He qualified for all four events at the All-Catholic tournament in the spring - and placed well in each event. St. Francis as a whole had a great spring.
“All Catholics was awesome, and I was fortunate enough to qualify for 4 events, which is the maximum. In the shot put I placed second, third in the 200m, and we got first in the 4x100m relay. But for St. Francis to continue its legacy of track dominance in a big year was great for the program and I am really happy I was able to be a part of it,” stated Reaska. “For me, most of my “break” from football is playing other sports, namely basketball and track. Of course I hang out with friends and family but as I said earlier, playing sports at a high level comes with certain sacrifices at the social level. But, if you bond with your teammates, I feel that satisfies that social need. After every season I like to take a week or so (sometimes more) to recoup and regenerate physically and mentally to prepare myself for whatever is coming next.”