Captains of Change: Redefining Stuy Athletics

Meet Ava Quarles and Kaeden Ruparel, longtime Sports editors of The Spectator and superstar captains of their respective sports teams!

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Cover Image
By Ellen Ching Lee

Name: Kaeden Ruparel

Sport: Soccer

Grade: 12

Height: 5’6’’

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Brown

Date of Birth: May 10, 2006

Name: Ava Quarles

Sport: Basketball

Grade: 12

Height: 5’6”

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Brown

Date of Birth: February 5, 2006

1. How did you guys get into your respective sport?

AQ: I did a lot of sports at Stuy. When I was a freshman, I did stunt because I wanted to make friends and try it out. Sophomore year I did dive after I got “recruited” because I had dance and gymnastics experience. It was an interesting experience; difficult, but the coach was really nice and the team was too. It was just hard and not really my thing. Then I started Stuy basketball that winter because there wasn’t basketball the previous year because of COVID; it was so fun in part because I played basketball in middle school. Then I played softball that spring because it was the same coach as basketball and a lot of the same girls, and Coach Vincent Miller really encouraged me, and it was so much fun. So sophomore year I did three sports, but after that, I just stuck with basketball because I devoted my time to other stuff in the fall and spring. I manage sports now as well; I started managing [boys’ varsity] football, which I absolutely love, and it brought me a lot of opportunities in many spheres of life. I've always loved football and I want to work in sports. This was a really good opportunity for me to dip my feet in the water, make some connections, and just learn about the sport of football and what goes on behind the scenes in it. Football was honestly so cool because we started writing articles all the time and I met other managers [who] were nice and got to know the coaches. I also managed some softball and boys’ soccer—that was really fun—and I managed girls’ soccer too, which was also really fun. 

KR: I ran away from soccer at a really young age because all my friends were doing it and I just felt pushed into it. I thought, “I really don’t want to do that.” When you’re a soccer player, you start at four or five or whatever, but I didn’t start until I was eight, which comparatively is much later. I played recreationally, and then I dropped out of soccer to pursue other things for the time being. It wasn’t until Stuy that I came back to soccer after I quit at about age 11. I’ve never played on a travel team or anything besides a year on the Downtown United Soccer Club. Not taking it as competitively or as seriously over the course of those years helped me join the team as a fun thing. I actually had played striker my whole life, but halfway through tryouts, I switched to left back because I knew I wasn’t making the team as a striker.

2. What’s your favorite moment on your respective teams?

AQ: One moment was our senior night last year. Sofia Hernandez and I—and the other juniors—worked really, really hard for a while to put everything together. In the end, we gave them a song. We sang a little parody of “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys. We included all their names, and it was really fun. And then we gave them flowers, cards, t-shirts—everything. It was such a fun experience. There were a lot of people in the stands, a big audience, and it was so cool to see how that came together. That’s my proudest moment, even though it’s not directly playing a sport. That was amazing.

KR: I have to pick something from this year, obviously. For me, this is going to sound snarky, but beating Beacon the first time was just amazing. The second game, we destroyed them. I remember looking at Giles El-Assal at the end of the game, and we just turned to each other. And we’re thinking, “This season, there’s something that just feels different about this season.” I remember, that moment was the first time where I was like, “Wow, there’s a genuine chance we can get this done.” Honestly, the second moment where I thought that was Martin Wu’s penalty at the end of the round of 16; it was one of the most beautiful things in my life. The goal was just something else. 

AQ: Another proud moment that we shared was in sophomore year when we went to the baseball quarter-finals. Kaeden and I were the only two sophomores there; I was really scared because it was only seniors, and we went all the way to Williamsburg or something crazy. And then the baseball team made it to the semis for the first time ever. Ever. Shoutout to former Spec Editor Sam Levine and all of the other studs on that team.

3. Do either of you have any superstitions/rituals before the game?

AQ: So this year our team has gotten into playing music, and that’s been a big part of the Phoenix. For all our home games we have a playlist, including “Rich Baby Daddy,” by Drake ft. Sexyy Red, SZA, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” by John Denver, “Juju on That Beat,” by Zay Hilfigerrr, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” by Mariah Carey, and “Fireflies,” by Owl City. We also listen to some country music including Luke Combs and Maren Morris. That's pretty much our pregame ritual. And we’ve actually played some AC/DC recently because Coach Miller likes them, so “Back in Black” is one we include.

KR: One superstition was a little bit weird—Sid Mutha buys me a banana and Leonardo Guidi opens it. Sid goes to Ferrys every single time. Before the semis, Sid bought me a banana and Stefan Broge opened it, and we lost, so just saying—that proved the banana works. Farzad Hoque and I used to have this thing in junior year—I don't fully remember what it was—but it was something about my left cleat having to go on before my right cleat. And also the chain doesn’t come off until the referee asks.

4. What’s the hardest thing about your sport?

AQ: This year, the hardest thing was I got injured. Right before our first game. Literally the week of our first game, I hurt myself in a scrimmage. I sprained my ankle and tore a ligament and was in a boot for a month. Then I was in a brace for a while, and I’m still recovering from that. And we have a couple games left, and I probably won't be able to play the rest of the season. So that was 100 percent the hardest thing of being on the basketball team. My senior season was not at all what I expected it to be. But I still learned a lot from it, and I still had a really, really good time.

KR: I’d say for me, the most difficult part of soccer is keeping yourself in check mentally. There’s been a couple of times when I’m not playing as well as I could be, and it always comes down to a mental game and how I’m approaching each thing. Sometimes if I’m trying too hard against a given team, I tend to get into my own head a lot. There were a couple of games where I just pulled myself off the field because I was playing like [EXPLETIVE]. And just learning to sort of shift my mentality after I come off to take it a little bit easier. Probably the most difficult thing is being aware of that. And crosses.

5. What’s one thing that you would have liked to accomplish during your time playing at Stuy?

AQ: I would have liked to have made the playoffs this year. I would have liked to see a girls’ basketball crowd as filled as the boys’ basketball crowd. I actually have so many things I would have liked, such as unifying the mascots and team names. I was really close to doing that last year, but I didn’t get to in the end. It probably would have been the Peglegs, but it could have been anything else—literally anything. I had a really good movement going last year, but then certain things didn’t fall into place.

KR: I would have loved to see us beat MLK. I honestly think this team had it in us. Also, this kind of sounds cocky, but we were two lucky kicks away from playing in the championship. I've woken up knowing that every single day since. I can’t believe we were so [EXPLETIVE] close. I don't know what I would give to just have one more chance of that.

6. How have you worked to promote sports culture at Stuy?

AQ: Kaeden and I have done a lot to change sports culture at Stuy. This is not just us, but also our team and the administration. We’ve done all the cross-sport and faculty games, run the @stuysports Instagram, and a lot of other stuff that has just evolved out of our role as editors. At least for me, Spec was the way that I got into doing all of that. Being a Spec Sports editor gave me more opportunities to do that kind of stuff. It’s been really cool to see how Stuy’s sports culture has changed in the time that I’ve been here. Not just because of me, but because of a lot of things. I hope that it will continue to improve, and people see how unifying sports can be. I’ll be sad to leave.

KR: I remember Ava and I went to a varsity game in our sophomore year, and we peeked in and there was no one there. It was just sad. When you go to varsity games now, you get sad when there’s not many people in the crowd. Now, I think you see a lot more people caring. When sports teams win championships, it kind of becomes common knowledge—it’s more part of our high school community in the way that I think it should be.

AQ: There’s so much work to be done. But the Stuy Sports brand has become a thing, and I hope it continues to stay strong and other people step up after we leave because there are so many opportunities that come with it. It’s given me so many opportunities and has been truly fulfilling for me to see grow. Hopefully one day we'll all have one mascot. And for some words of advice: I hope that every student goes to the homecoming football game; I hope that everybody dresses up for the spirit themes; I hope that everybody goes to a home basketball game, a girls’ and a boys’; I hope that everybody knows when teams win PSAL championship. And I hope that everybody respects our sports culture.

KR: From an athlete standpoint, it definitely motivates you when you see people in the crowd. I think at the end of the day, when you're there supporting your teams, there’s motivation to do better, and true community forms around the teams.

7. Do you plan on continuing your sport after Stuy?

AQ: I’d love to play rec or intramural or in college.

KR: I mean, if I can make a team.


Funniest Teammate: Max Schwartz

Favorite Co-Editor: Ava Quarles

Favorite Article: “Beneath the Rooney Rule” by Ava Quarles

Preferred Drink: Red Bull

Favorite Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

Favorite Player: William Nylander

Pregame Song: “Ruthless” by Lil Tjay


Funniest Teammates: Niki Chen and Mia Laks

Favorite Co-Editor: Kaeden Ruparel

Favorite Article: “Sports and the Two Sides of Feminism” by Boone Ireland

Preferred Drink: Matcha Latte

Favorite Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

Favorite Player: Jimmy Butler

Pregame Song: “I’m the One” by DJ Khaled