Caleb Winfrey ’20 - Introduction


My name is Caleb Winfrey, and I am a senior from Boca Raton, Florida. I am currently double majoring in Statistics and Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought. On campus, I am a member of the varsity crew team, a writer for several publications, a research assistant for a few academic departments on campus, and a tour guide. Off campus, I love to paddleboard and mountain bike (there are some great trails on-campus too). I love the taste and smell of coffee, so I brew it in my dorm room. I can always be seen with a cup full of espresso, cappuccino, or Cuban coffee while I am doing work with my friends. When my work is done for the day, I'll usually watch something on Youtube (usually videos related to roller coasters, movie reviews, sports analytics, news, tech, or transportation). I always go out to eat on Friday nights, which is easy because Amherst College is at the end of downtown Amherst. I usually have crew on Saturday mornings, but the rest of my day is dedicated to relaxing, hanging out with friends, and sometimes going to events on campus. Sundays are usually my day to get out and explore everything the Pioneer Valley has to offer. Stay posted on my blog if you want to know more about my time here on campus!

The Rise and Fall of a Dodgeball Champion, Part I: The Rise

On a snowy day back in 2016, we walked into the Alumni Gym. Each of us wearing our Amherst College Orientation 2015 t-shirts with the sleeves cut off. Some of us have headbands, others have eye black, but each of us has the same goal: domination. We look across the gym at the competetion, a hodgepodge of first-years who live in James and Stearns. The lack of coordination in their unifroms mirror their lack of hand-eye coordination. My team of six pairs up for warm-ups. Across the gym, I throw a fastball at my teammate. She catches it with ease. She gives me a hard throw back. I catch it and take a step forward. This repeats until we are three feet away from each other, yet there are still no drops. To my left and right, my teammates are doing the exact same thing. The game begins, but it is soon over. Each of us remain on the court. This was the first of our many victories. 

It all began during my floor's tea time when we all returned from student break. After eating some Pita Pockets and going through our highs and lows of the week, my resident counselor read some of the campus news, which included the winter intramural sports. One jumped off the page: dodgeball. We assembled our core six members. Each of us were from different regions of the U.S. with the exception of one member who was an international student. Additionally, we all came from different athletic backgrounds. Some never played an organized sport while others were on sports teams at Amherst. However, this team had three things in common. Each member lived on the first floor of Charles Pratt, threw dodgeballs at breakneck speed, and caught any ball within reach. 

Week after week, the wins kept piling up, so we earned a bid to the championship game. We underestimated our competition and were getting knocked out left and right. Three of us were left against their full team of six. I take aim at an opposing player's foot (the shoe shine is a classic dodgeball move) and throw it with all my might. It hits the top of his foot and pops up right to his chest for an easy catch. As I drift toward the other eliminated players, our best player has six balls thrown at him at once. Unfortunately, he takes multiple hits without a catch. There is only one player left. He was arguably our weakest link, but he could dodge like no other (dodge is 2 of the 5 D's of dodgeball). He ran to the back of the court and dodged everything thrown at him. When all the balls were on his side, he rolled them back and proceeded to dodge. 

I know what you are thinking. "A 6-1 lead is insurmountable". However, this is 2016. Lebron and the Cavs were able to overcome a 3-1 lead and beat a 73 win superteam in the 2016 finals. Something was different about this year. My teammate runs to his left to avoid a ball. As he ran, he put himself in the path of another ball. Without looking, he reached down and grasped the ball that was headed for his hip. To this day, I don't know if he saw the ball in his peripheral vision or if it was just dumb luck. The teammate who was freed from elimination immediately caught a ball over her head. The tides had turned and soon there was only a single opponent remaining. He carried a ball in each hand. We threw as hard as we could, but his grip was steadfast. I ran to the side of the court and threw in sync with my teammates. I launched the ball with a sidearm motion to add additional curve to it. As the lone survivor focused on blocking my teammates' simultaneous shots, my throw's combination of velocity, angle, and spin knocked one of his balls loose to the floor. By the rules of the game, he was eliminated. Victory was sweet, but our thirst for domination was still not quenched. It was time to take our talents to other intramural sports. 

To be continued.... 


The Rise and Fall of a Dodgeball Champion, Part II: The Fall

3 on 3 tournament t shirt After my success in dodgeball, I thought it would be a seamless transition to intramural basketball. The 3 on 3 Basketball Jamboree seemed like the perfect place to reintroduce the college to my athletic prowess. However, I needed to form a team. While I could have simply recruited two of the athletes from my dodgeball team, I wanted to prove I could be successful without them. With recruiting still on my mind, I sat down with a large group of friends in the upstairs section of Valentine Dining Hall. This section of the dining hall complemented my ego. I was eye-to-eye with the 1872 national championship crew shell, which hung over the back room of the dining hall. Additionally, I was able to look down at all of the students eating below me. My eyes then turned back to my table of friends. I stared at each of them to determine the best pair of teammates. I determined that AT* and AC* would be the perfect teammates to enhance my game. 

*Author's note: both of these players would like to keep their identity confidential due to the events of February 29, 2016.

At the time, I thought I created the perfect team. While my ball handling was subpar at best, I had the court vision to make difficult passes. Moreover, I had the hustle to get open and the ability to make easy/wide-open shots. AT was our team's big man. I have previously seen him play pick-up games against friends where he would use his 6'4" frame to rebound, defend, and rack up points in the paint. AC would be our team's primary offensive weapon. AC was an international student from REDACTED** who was the self-proclaimed Kobe Bryant of REDACTED** high school basketball. In REDACTED**, he worked best in one-on-one situations against defenders and would score with his ball handling skills and pull-up jumper. Together, we formed the Thundercats. 

**Author's note #2: I have chosen to omit the name of this nation due to the events of February 29, 2016. To no one's surprise, it is not a nation known for its basketball. 

As we started practicing before the tournament, we were in the metaphoric upstairs of Val. I was staring at a team of fellow champions, and we collectively looked down at the rest of our competition. However, anyone who has been to Val knows no one can stay upstairs forever. Eventually, you will need to come back down to the first floor to return your dishes ("what goes up must come down"). 

In 2011, the 1980s classic cartoon, ThunderCats, was rebooted. The show lasted one season, which consisted of 26 episodes, but was inevitably cancelled. Ironically, the 2016 Thundercats basketball team lasted only one night, which consisted of four pathetic games. 

"There will be eight teams. Two teams will start on each court. Games will be played to three with half-court rules. Teams must win by two points. The winning teams stays on the court while the losing teams moves to the next court counter-clockwise. If you return to your original court you will be eliminated. Final four will compete in a single elimination tournament" - 2016 3 on 3 Basketball Jamboree First Round Rules

Game 1: The first team we face has an average height of 6'8". Somehow in the college's population of just over 1,800 students, I have never seen any of the tall men standing before me. I start off with the ball and attempt to drive toward the basket. The defender's long strides keep me from making any moves. I first look to pass to AT, but his usual height advantage is eliminated by the 6'10" guy covering him. I pass back to AC, who is deep past the three-point line. He chucks up the shot...AIRBALL! Once the giants received the ball, the game was pretty much sealed. Three quick passes and easy lay-ups later, the three of us moved to the next court. Final Score: Team Domination 3, Thundercats 0. 

Game 2: The first game was a disappointment, but there was little we could do against such a tall team. Fortunately, the next team we faced had much more manageable heights. I once again begin with the ball. I throw a quick pass to AT in the paint. He makes an easy basket in the paint to give us a 1-0 lead. With the ball back, I pass to AC, who is both far from his defender and far back from the three-point line. I am excited to see what he does with this much spacing given his reputation. However, he chucks up another deep shot, which sails far to the right of the basket. The other team gets the ball and does not relinquish it for the rest of the game. One player makes a deep shot while I am right in his face and another jukes past AC and AT for the final bucket. Final Score: Skillz that Killz 3, Thundercats 1

Game 3: Our next game was against Three of the Four Seniors of the Amherst Varsity Men's Tennis Team in the Year of Our Lord 2016 (we'll just call them the Tennis Seniors). I start with the ball and make a quick pass to AT. After an easy bucket, I start again with the ball. I fake it to AC and pass it to AT at the basket. He misses the shot, but I grab the rebound and put the bull in the net after a quick pump fake. Up 2-0, we have a chance to end the game right here. I drive past my defender right at the basket. I have a wide-open lay-up. I underestimate my momentum and the ball bounces right back from the backboard. The ball is tipped up by a few defenders, and it somehow makes its way into the arms of AC, who is once again behind the three-point line. To no one's surprise, he takes the shot. However, this shot is headed toward the basket. There may be hope! The ball finishes its arc and hits the very front of the room. Unfortunately, it ricochets to a tennis senior who is wide-open and behind the three-point line. The game is now tied. We did not want to blow this lead, so each of us was playing tight defense. The guy I am covering attempts to make a cross-court pass. I attempt to swap it down, but I change the ball's trajectory directly toward the basket. The ball hits the top of the rim and spins around it. Somehow, it falls into the basket. Final Score: Tennis Seniors 4, Thundercats 2

Game 4: This was our elimination game. How would we react with our backs against the wall? We are up against some guys on the football team, and I look across to find my former dodgeball teammate. Times have changed. He was 3-0 in the tournament thus far. He was still undefeated in his intramural sports career. Perhaps this was my chance to restore myself to my former glory. For the fourth time, I begin with the ball. I make a move to the right, but my former teammate steals the ball and dishes it out to his teammate beyond the three-point line. The ball goes in. The football guys now have possession. I am covering my former teammate, who makes a beeline to the basket. I continue to stay with him as he receives the ball. He jumps up and dunks over me. I was just posterized by my former dodgeball teammate at an intramural basketball tournament. This was rock bottom. We were now eliminated. Final Score: Crank It! 3, Thundercats 0.  Dunk

Character arcs come in all forms, but mine was shaped like an arch.