At the close of the 2021 fall season, Berkeley High School’s (BHS) varsity football team finished with a 3-6 record. “The guys played really hard. We had the opportunity to win every game, even if it didn’t always go our direction,” said James Hodgins, head coach of varsity football. “Our main focus for next year is to really just continue to gel our team together and create more of a family feel. Our team is really young and talented and if they continue to work hard, they’ll be unstoppable.” The football program began off-season workouts on November 15 and will continue with strength, speed, and agility training Monday through Thursday mornings until the end of 2021, open to anyone interested in joining the 2022 team.
“I think the cross country season went well. It was a … good season to come back on,” said Aris Carter, a BHS junior. The practices held six days a week were punctuated with meets every few weeks. The league season concluded with the team dominating in the Western Alameda County Conference (WACC) 12 league finals. The most notable achievements were the junior varsity boys placing first, varsity boys placing third, and both the frosh boys and girls coming in third as well. The now-underway winter season is a time of relative rest for the runners, who must balance preparation and recuperation before the spring, when it is common for cross country members to run track.
Girls volleyball at BHS had a successful season as well, with an 11-14 record. Every weekday without a game was a practice day for the team, which also competed in three separate tournaments. However, according to junior Samara Hackett, the season could have gone better. The recent loss of the previous head coach coupled with the introduction of new leadership created difficulties with the team dynamic. “It’s been difficult after Coach James [Manuel] passed away, who was the best coach I ever had. His coaching style was so perfect, and I feel that it’s really hard for people to come in after him and to expect … to be as good [as Manuel,]” said Hackett. Despite these difficulties, the team made strides this year and will continue to make gains next season.
BHS’s water polo program thrived this year, with varsity boys and girls water polo finishing with records of 21-8 and 8-16 respectively. In addition to practicing at the BHS pool Monday through Friday before or after school, each team played multiple games a week against other Bay Area teams. “I think as a team we improved a lot this year, especially with our team chemistry,” said Lily Welsh, a BHS junior. There’s also a large crossover of water polo players in the fall going to the swim team in the spring, while the winter — like for cross country runners — gives the water polo players a chance to rest.
BHS wrestling has many features that head coach Ben Nathan believes set it apart from other programs. These include the lack of expectation for people to come in with any experience, and the no-cut policy, allowing anyone to join the team. Fans enjoy the fast-paced nature of the quick matches. Nathan looks forward to “getting back to something approaching normal. Last year, when I had a very good senior class, our season was three matches… I think this year we have 16 tournaments lined up.” This includes one at BHS on January 13.
The girls and boys basketball programs wrapped up tryouts on November 8 and are heading into a new season with heads high. Last year, COVID-19 brought the girls program’s usual three teams to one. Amiyon Gray, a senior and three-year player for the girls basketball team, looks forward to “finally getting back on the court, and hopefully getting the students to come out and watch.” With their first games weeks away, Mazi Brooks, a junior who has played two years of boys basketball, looks forward to “working hard.”
Soccer is one of the most competitive sports at BHS, but as girls soccer coach Alejandro Mendoza said, the team is also a family. Mendoza’s girls varsity team continued as the 2020-21 West Alameda County Conference Foothill division league champions for the third year in a row, finishing with a 9-0-0 record. Mendoza looks forward to “games, and more games, and just having fun, and being able to compete with the best schools.” Naod Habte is a BHS junior about to begin his third BHS boys soccer season and looks forward to “going face to face with competitors and … my teammates.” The soccer seasons are structured with frequent home games, the girls teams kicking off on November 29 and the boys teams on December 10.