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Morgan Burchhardt

Explore CDSWOY All-Time Roster Members

Addyson Galuski’s resume is already impressively full: State champion, all-state athlete, leading scorer in Waterford-Halfmoon girls’ soccer history.
The best word to describe Amanda Chambers, a member of the UAlbany cross country and track & field teams, is perseverance.
Amelia Canetto, a senior at Taconic Hills, combined all that throughout her high school career, which saw her star athletically, achieve academically and make her mark within her community.
During her career at Averill Park High School, Anna Jankovic stood out with her athletic and academic achievements, but it was the way she treated others that impressed so many people around her.
Ayaka Suesada’s school encourages everyone to explore their creative side, and although she called herself “not the best artist necessarily,” a school administrator credited Suesada for her “beautiful works of art in drawing, painting, sculpture, weaving, wood, iron and stone.”
With plenty of time on her hands last year because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Guilderland High School’s Beth Irwin put her sewing talents to good use.
When it comes to Queensbury senior Brigid Duffy, there seems to be no such thing as too busy.

Ayaka Suesada

Member of the CDSWOY Class of 2022
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Written by Mike MacAdam, The Daily Gazette

Ayaka Suesada’s school encourages everyone to explore their creative side, and although she called herself “not the best artist necessarily,” a school administrator credited Suesada for her “beautiful works of art in drawing, painting, sculpture, weaving, wood, iron and stone.”

When it came to Suesada’s senior season playing basketball for the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, she needed to tap into that creative side like never before.

Her graduating class totaled all of 11 students, so perhaps it was no surprise when numbers came up light to field a girls’ varsity team.

Not to be deterred, Suesada hatched the idea of playing on the boys’ team, and the result was a rewarding season that capped a career in which she played varsity basketball since seventh grade, while thriving academically, embracing the unique culture at Hawthorne Valley and helping her parents, who are caregivers at Triform Camphill Community, look after residents with special needs there.

With all that on her plate, missing basketball senior year would’ve left a gaping hole in Suesada’s high school career, but the so-called “gym rat, first to arrive and last to leave,” as Wildcats boys’ coach Jason Middlebrook described her, was able to find a way to fill it in an unusual way.

“When I was a senior, I guess a lot of girls weren’t interested in basketball, and I still wanted to play, so I was talking to the coaches and kind of joking around, ‘Oh, maybe I could be on the boys’ team, that could be fun,’” Suesada said. “My coach was like, ‘No, yeah, let’s make it happen.’ I’m really thankful that I was able to play, and it was really fun, probably one of my favorite seasons.”

That, despite the fact that Hawthorne Valley, one of the smallest schools in the entire New York State Public High School Athletic Association, did not fare well on the scoreboard while playing in the Central Hudson Valley League. Still, Suesada said that by the end of the season, the Wildcats had improved substantially, to the point where teams that had beaten them by large margins earlier in the season found themselves in very tight games the second time around.

Middlebrook credited Suesada, who was a captain on the team while playing point guard, for setting an excellent example for teammates to follow.

“Ayaka was fearless throughout her senior year, competing with and against young men and never backing down,” he said of Suesada, one of 10 high school honorees for the third-annual Capital District Sports Women of the Year awards. “She was a vocal leader on and off the court throughout her school career – but especially this year.

“After every practice this past season, Ayaka went to the weight room, while the boys on the team went home.”

“At our school, everyone is super-accepting and welcoming, so they were very down with me being one of the captains,” Suesada said. “And it was really fun, also, being a senior. You have a little more confidence, so you don’t feel as shy to say, ‘Hey, stop doing that’ or ‘Come over here so we can stretch.’

“I usually don’t think of myself as competitive, but then when I start playing games, I’m a little bit competitive, and I don’t like losing. So I try my best, and I think everyone tries their best and puts everything on the court. We fight hard, and it’s really fun.”

Suesada carried a 4.0 GPA in the classroom and plans to study sports management at Syracuse University.
Besides basketball, she has competed in cross country, club soccer and varsity volleyball, for which she earned all-CHVL honors despite the fact that this was her only season playing the sport.

Besides having been exposed to the Waldorf School philosophy at Hawthorne Valley, where students are taught and encouraged to adopt principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, Suesada enjoys helping her parents at Triform Camphill.

“For me, most of my involvement is during the summer, when they need more help and I’m off school,” she said. “I’ll help in different work areas, often the bakery, because I enjoy that area. I do a lot of childcare for the other families.

“During the year there are events where I help out. I love the community. It’s very tight-knit. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly, and you meet new people all the time. I feel a lot of fulfillment in many ways, and I’m so happy here.”

At Hawthorne Valley, Suesada has served as a mentor to younger kids in athletics, academics and social justice issues.

“I tell them to enjoy the present,” she said. “Be in the moment, because I think nowadays kids are very accelerated in their development in a lot of ways, and I think it’s important for them to live in the moment and enjoy being young and having this freedom to do anything when you’re young, and have fun with it.”

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