This week‚Äôs female ‚ÄúAthlete of the Week‚ÄĚ is somewhat of a newcomer to her sport, while her male counterpart is a veteran of his.
They are Bristol Central junior Natalia Popielarz, a second year competitor in cross country, and senior Ethan Rembish, a midfielder and striker for St. Paul, who has been playing organized soccer for a dozen years.
Popielarz, the daughter of Marek and Justyna Popielarz, ran the most notable race of her brief career on Friday in capturing first place at the city championship meet in 21.39 on the Rams‚Äô home course at Rockwell Park.
‚ÄúNatalia, or ‚ÄėPop‚Äô as I call her, has worked super hard over the last year,‚ÄĚ Rams coach Tamara Stafford-Kirk said of her three-time 2019 individual winner. ‚ÄúShe didn‚Äôt run cross country her freshman year but after strong indoor and outdoor seasons, I encouraged her to come out for the team. She had a good first year, but she is a different runner this year. She worked really hard over the summer and she is gaining more confidence each week. ‚ÄėPop‚Äô has quickly become someone the other girls on our running teams can look up to.
‚ÄúI knew going into the city championship that ‚ÄėPop‚Äô could win it. She gets very nervous, so I stayed really positive, but tried not to add any pressure. The end result was amazing. She hammered the course in the second fastest time by a BC girl on the Rockwell course since we changed it in 2011. I‚Äôm so proud of her and I am looking forward to the rest of the season for ‚ÄėPop‚Äô and the rest of Bristol Central cross country.‚ÄĚ
Before starting the race on Friday, Popielarz knew she‚Äôd be facing Bristol Eastern junior Avery Braccia, last year‚Äôs winner, as well as others who would give her a run for the money.
‚ÄúI was like really, really nervous because I knew my times were pretty close to Avery‚Äôs,‚ÄĚ Popielarz said. ‚ÄúIt was on our home course, so that put more pressure on me. It was anyone‚Äôs race, so I thought that whatever happens, happens. I took the lead from the beginning, St. Paul took the lead going down, and I took it back with two miles into the race. I wanted to finish strong. I saw where I could do this. Last year I finished fifth.‚ÄĚ
Rembish, the son of Mark and Melissa Rembish of Southington, is having a solid season for the Falcons, coming in as a two-time all-conference player.
He scored seven goals in a 14-0 home¬†victory against Kennedy a week ago, a matchup in which he suffered a concussion, missing the last two games. He‚Äôs ready to go this week and has 12 goals this season in five games to go along with a pair of assists.
‚ÄúWhat can I say, good kid with a lot of potential,‚ÄĚ Falcons coach Victor Lira said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a great soccer player. I‚Äôve known Rembish for three years now and this is my second year as his coach. It‚Äôs very obvious the progress and improvement in his skills over the years.
‚ÄúHe works hard, he likes to compete and he likes to win. I enjoy coaching Rembish and I‚Äôm happy to say that he hasn‚Äôt reached his full potential yet ‚Ä¶ looking forward to seeing him grow.‚ÄĚ
After missing the past two games, Rembish is glad to be back in action. The Falcons are 3-5 coming in to face visiting Torrington this afternoon.
‚ÄúIt was tough sitting on the sidelines and I‚Äôm thankful it was just those two games and not the rest of the season,‚ÄĚ Rembish siad.
He added that the team goal this fall is to make both the NVL and state tournaments. He recalled losing in the second round of class play in 2018 and that the Falcons want ‚Äúto make a go of it‚ÄĚ this year.
His personal goals are not about numbers, but to just to go out and give 100 percent every game.
‚ÄúLast year we reached the [state] semifinals and lost to Coventry and we were a high seed,‚ÄĚ Rembish said.¬†
In addition to soccer, Rembish is also a pitcher for the school‚Äôs baseball team. In fact, he was selected as an all-conference pick his sophomore year. He had tendonitis his junior season, but added that his arm had healed just prior to this past summer.
Next year the Southington resident will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey, where he has a scholarship to play baseball. As far as studies go, he‚Äôs thinking it may be in the area of business, but is not quite sure at this time.
Contact Bob Montgomery at or by calling 860-973-1808.