From Austin, Texas, to Orange County, Calif., young athletes from Philadelphia raked in medals at the JCC Maccabi Games this summer.
Norm and Colleen Millan met on a basketball court. Norm coached at Camden County College. Colleen played at Spring Garden College. Colleen’s wedding ring is in the shape of a basketball hoop. So it’s not surprising that one of the first things the Huntingdon Valley couple gave each of their two children was a basketball.
It also should come as no surprise that Rachael, 14, and Tyler, 15, each played on the Philadelphia under-16 basketball teams at the JCC Maccabi Games this summer. Tyler’s team, which did not win a medal, was in Austin, Texas, where a delegation of 37 athletes from Philadelphia participated from July 28 to Aug. 2. Rachael’s team came an overtime shot away from winning the gold medal last week in Orange County, Calif., where 104 athletes from Philadelphia competed, according to information provided by the Kaiserman JCC, which organizes the local delegation.
Rachael, who will be a freshman at Lower Moreland High School in the fall, said one of the highlights of her first Maccabi experience was befriending athletes from as far away as Washington state and Great Britain.
“The basketball was one of the best parts of it, but it was also meeting everyone,” said Rachael.
If you expected to hear that winning a silver medal was her most memorable moment of the games, then you don’t know the Millans. A few days after the defeat, Rachael was still thinking about what might have gone differently.
She was defending the player on the Boca Raton team who made the overtime, turnaround, prayer of a shot, and Rachael thinks if she had had her hand just that much higher, she would have blocked it.
“I felt like the whole game was my fault, but my friends were trying to tell me they made mistakes during the game, too,” said Rachael.
Norm Millan understands what his daughter is going through. He coached Philadelphia JCC Maccabi basketball teams for eight years in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
“Is she happy to have a medal?” said the president of Congregation Kesher Israel in Center City, who asserted that the only thing more important to his family than basketball is Judaism. ”Yes, but we’re pretty competitive.”
On the lacrosse scene, Hannah Anderson won gold at the games in Orange County as part of the Philadelphia girls lacrosse team, but to her, athletic achievements are secondary to interacting with people from around the world.
Anderson, a sophomore at Friends Central School in Wynnewood, speaks as a Maccabi veteran, having competed at the games the past three years. The last two games she competed as a swimmer; this was her first time on the lacrosse team.
“It’s really incredible to just be walking around and hearing people with British accents and people speaking Spanish,” the 15-year-old said.
The Philadelphia lacrosse team didn’t face much competition this year. They defeated Baltimore in the finals by 11 goals, and Anderson said that was by far their toughest game.
The majority of the Philadelphia group had already played on a club team together, so chemistry came easily.
“After wining the gold medal we all ran and dog-piled on our goalie,” Anderson said. Even though the game was never in doubt, “it was still really exciting. We knew that we played really hard and worked for it.”
There were a number of other medal winners in both cities. In Austin, the dance team took home seven medals, while the swim team took home 27 medals.
In Orange County:
• The boys under-16 soccer team won silver;
• The boys under-14 basketball team won bronze;
• The tennis team won one silver;
• The swim team won seven gold medals and one bronze; and
• The track team, which featured just two participants, Colin Harker and Josh Goetz, won five gold medals, six silvers and five bronze.