Varsity Athletes Find Teammates and Friends in Former Competitors


College second-years Kiki Widran and Lauren Fitts. Photo by Malika Pandey, Photo Editor.

Oberlin students come from 39 different states in the U.S. and more than 30 countries around the world. This diversity is reflected in the athletics department, where athletes from all over the world compete for the College. Despite these circumstances, several athletes have had encounters with and even competed against their current teammates during their high school careers. These encounters, while not necessarily significant in the moment, can be a unique experience that later develops into an incredible connection.

This year, College fourth-year André Campbell and College third-year Isaac Finestone are both members of the men’s basketball team. In 2015 and 2016, they were competitors in California, with Campbell playing at the Urban School of San Francisco and Finestone leading Lowell High School. While Campbell’s team ultimately won both times, Finestone made a strong impression on his future teammate.

“He was very tall and had a perimeter game that was very impressive for his height,” Campbell said. “I remember him always sticking out like a sore thumb with his length. His physicality was challenging for me, so I had to figure out a way to maneuver around him.”

Finestone wasn’t the only one who managed to make a solid impression during these early encounters.

“[Campbell] has always been strong, athletic, and lethal from midrange,” Finestone said, remembering his now-teammate’s knack for scoring and imposing his will on a game.

Similar to the basketball duo, the volleyball team also features a pair of former competitors. In high school, College second-years Kiki Widran and Lauren Fitts battled against each other in a club tournament in San Diego towards the end of their senior year. Knowing that they would team up in college, Widran wanted to impress her future teammate.

“I remember being really intimidated because I really wanted to prove myself to my future teammate,” Widran said, “I was telling my [club] teammates that we needed to win the game because I wanted to show Lauren that I was a good player.”

After the game, Fitts and Widran spoke briefly, both in awe of the skills and talent the other displayed.

“My team won in two games but I remember talking to her after the game and finding out that half of her team was injured,” Fitts said, “I remember being really impressed with her blocking, which made me happy being a backrow player.”

Like Fitts, Widran also noticed some strengths in her future teammate’s game.

“I remember thinking she was pretty good and that she was an extremely confident player,” Widran said. She and Fitts would suit up together for Oberlin volleyball mere months later.

College fourth-years Justin Godfrey and College and Chandler Laird were both familiar with one another before they joined forces on the Oberlin football team in 2016, having played against each other for all four years of high school. With Laird playing offensive guard and Godfrey at defensive tackle, the pair even ended up in a competitive play that led to a heated moment.

“I stomped on his leg after he cut blocked me and almost got kicked out of the game our senior year,” Godfrey said.

While Laird doesn’t remember this specific incident, he does remember having to specifically prepare for his games against Godfrey.

“If I’m being honest, I don’t distinctly remember the specifics of the games and game plans for my high school games,” Laird said, “[However], I do remember a more focused approach to [Godfrey’s] defensive line [when compared] to other teams in the conference.”

Despite the rough start to their relationship, both Laird and Godfrey have managed to put the past behind them. Now, they are not only teammates, but housemates too.

“It’s kinda insane to think that the dude I played in high school would be one of my closest teammates in college,” Laird said, “Obviously, there are still jabs at the past, but it’s all in good fun.”

Sharing a similar sentiment, Godfrey thinks their past could explain why the two have become so close since arriving at Oberlin.

“We hang out a ton and it’s cool to have grown up in the same area and have similar experiences, so I think it made it easy for us to become good buddies,” Godfrey said.

He and Laird aren’t the only two who have managed to bond over their past encounters. Widran and Fitts have also become close since they’ve teamed up at Oberlin.

“Kiki is way more than a teammate to me,” Fitts said, “She is one of my best friends and I’m so lucky to be able to play volleyball with her.”

Campbell and Finestone have also fostered a relationship since getting to Oberlin, with Campbell holding this connection to his teammate close to his heart.

“Coming from [San Francisco] to Ohio is a drastic change and very few people are willing to make the hike,” Campbell said, “It’s fun to have him on my team. He reminds me of home.”

For many athletes, coming to Oberlin is a new experience entirely full of new people. Developing a support system is crucial. Occasionally, high school teammates and even siblings will link together at college.

However, since these are rare occurrences, many athletes find themselves looking for anyone who they can connect with. For some, this can mean bonding with a familiar face, even if it is someone who you’ve competed against in the past. Like Campbell said, for a few athletes, these connections can bring a piece of home to Oberlin.