This past June, members of the Fenwick boys’ team made another splash in Australia, where they studied and competed in cricket, footy and, of course, pool-polo!
By Kyle Perry
At a Dominican conference about 30 years ago, so the story goes, two Dominican priests — both presidents of their all-boys, Dominican-sponsored schools (the only all-boys Dominican schools in their respective countries) — overheard each other bragging about the competitiveness of their water polo teams. Blackfriars Priory School, located in Prospect, a suburb of Adelaide, Australia, already had a “world tour” in the works with stops in China, France, England, New York, Los Angeles and Waikiki. Both presidents were determined to put a quick stop in Chicago on the itinerary. So, in 1992, the first group of Blackfriars boys and school representatives arrived at Fenwick as part of their world tour.
Since then, Blackfriars has visited Fenwick four times while Fenwick has visited Blackfriars three times. In addition to these water-polo exchanges, there have been two students from each school who participated in student exchanges, and two teachers participated in one six-month teacher exchange. There’s even a marriage in the exchange’s history; and in 2016, a Fenwick alumna and a Blackfriars old scholar welcomed their first child into the world!
Australia means a lot to me. When I think of Australia, I often think of my father [Coach Dave Perry], who as I am writing this, passed away eight years ago today. When I was seven, my family spent the entire summer traveling the continent. I returned again after college when my sister was studying there. My parents had already been in Australia for several weeks and eventually joined us for the end of the trip as part of one of our last big family vacations. When I think of these two trips, I am reminded of how much I love my family and how much I miss my dad.
“So, do you want to go to Australia … with our kids … and a bunch of high school boys?”
When the 2016 exchange occurred, my wife and I were realizing the joys of parenting a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Australia would have to wait. My sister, alumna Elizabeth Timmons ’04, a science teacher and aquatics coach at Fenwick, headed up the 2016 trip. In 2019, realizing that parenting had not really gotten any easier now that my son was six and my daughter was four, I figured why not give this a shot. My wife needed a little more convincing. Thankfully, she gave the green light, and the Perry family, along with our seven new “sons” (Nathan Krippner ’19, Wil Gurski ’21, Peter Buinauskas ’21, Liam McCarthy ’21, Owen Krippner ’21, Caden Gierstorf ’21 and Ethan Wyles ’22) soon found ourselves on the longest direct flight out of Chicago to Auckland, New Zealand. From there, another short flight brought us to our final destination, Adelaide, South Australia. After 26 hours of travel, our host families greeted us at the Adelaide airport; the Fenwick boys went with their host families, and my family went with our host family, Sue and Jon Harmer.
School in the summer?
We met outside the St. Dominic statue at Blackfriars Priory School (BPS) at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 11th, for our first day of school, a tradition we maintained every day that the boys went to class. School started each day at 8:40 a.m. with home group. Students then attended three classes before having a 20-minute recess. Following recess, students had two more classes and then lunch. After lunch, students finished up their day with their final two classes.
BPS has an open campus, and since winter temperatures typically fluctuate between the fifties and the sixties, a full hour of the school day is spent outside! Our first day also coincided with Nathan Krippner’s 18th birthday, so we gathered together a large group for the traditional happy birthday song. In addition to attending classes, Blackfriars arranged for our boys to practice some cricket and Aussie Rules Football, or footy as they would say. Our boys thought challenging their Aussie hosts in basketball would be a good idea; no one on the Fenwick side probably wants to remember that game. In addition to the boys attending classes, my wife, a teacher too, and I had opportunities to observe several classes. My son, Ryan, had a blast becoming best friends with the 17 other boys in his year-one class, and my daughter, Nora, enjoyed attending Blackfriars’ Coed Early Learning Centre.Continue reading “25 Years of Friars Playing Water Polo ‘Down Under’”