October 18, 2021

Marathon seniors’ big ‘what if’

Tom Vartanian/Sports Editor

These five Marathon Central seniors were part of the first ever state championship soccer team and four of them were on a run to return to the state semifinals in basketball before the COVID-19 pandemic ended their last season. From left to right are Owen Hoyt, Diego Castellot, Kenyon DePuy, Andrew Tillotson and Jared O’Shea.

The 2019-2020 sports season began with the highest of highs before the COVID-19 pandemic brought a screeching halt to the Marathon Central boys’ basketball season and wiped out the spring season altogether.

For Diego Castellot, Andrew Tillotson, Owen Hoyt, Kenyon DePuy and Jared O’Shea it became the “what if “ season for the Olympian seniors.

For five seasons, Castellot and Tillotson helped the Marathon boys’ soccer team post a 78-15-4 record that culminated with the Olympians’ first state championship. Along the way were five IAC North Small School and Overall Championships (2 co-overall champs with Trumansburg), four Section 4 Semifinals, three Section 4 finals, two Section 4 championships and one runner-up effort, two state regional championships and the 2020 state championships.

“A state championship was the best way to end it,” Castellot said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more than to bring the school its first state championship.”

“I am happy for Coach (Chip) Stewart,” Tillotson said. “He has been working at it for a long time. He’s been close a few times and had some great teams. I’m glad he finally got one with us. We are all brothers from different families. I feel there was no one who could stop us when we played as a team.”

DePuy and O’Shea (along with Cameron Nielsen) were 65-10-4 over four-year careers while Hoyt (plus Nick Allen) were 52-5-4 in last three soccer seasons.

“It has always been a dream of mine,” DePuy said. “All of our coaches said this was the team. We really have played together since like kindergarten. We played in summer leagues. We played our whole lives and it was the ultimate goal. I was so happy we finally put it all together in our last season ever. It was with all our friends. We had eight seniors on the team. It was amazing and the pure emotion that came out of winning. All the fans and people in the town supported us. It was amazing, it was great to have everybody here. It was great to play with all these guys for 13 years of my life.”

“We had the same mentality from day one that we wanted to win states,” Hoyt said. “You set out to do that and it was an amazing run. Staying at the hotel really puts you in that state of mind. It means business. Professional athletes do it by staying in hotels for away games. We went to the hotel and it felt great.”

“It was really cool because we have been playing together our whole lives,” O’Shea added. “To be the first team to win the state title was great. We had all those teams before us to pave the way and it felt good finally winning it after building it up every year before.”

“This is a very special group,” Olympian boys’ soccer coach Chip Stewart said. “It was a privilege to be part of their careers. They make me look good.”

Castellot, Tillotson, DePuy and Hoyt were also part of a turnaround for the Marathon boys’ varsity basketball team. Castellot played five years on varsity with a career record of 51-57 that included a 0-20 season in 20162017 during his freshman season. Tillotson and DePuy joined the team in 2017-2018 and the Olympians went 6-14 that season. The momentum was building and Hoyt joined the 20182019 team that went 15-10, won the Section 4 Class D title and went all the way to the state semifinals before fall-ing to Harrisville. The quartet picked up its first IAC North Small School Division championship this season, won a second straight Section 4 crown and was into the state regionals before the COVID-19 pandemic hit to end their 20-3 season. The Olympians were just one win away from a second state final four appearance. Tillotson and DePuy finished with 41-27 records while Hoyt was an impressive 35-13 over two varsity seasons.

On the turnaround over the four years, Castellot offered these thoughts.

“I just knew we had to get bigger, stronger, faster. if we wanted to compete at a higher level,” he said. “When all my friends got up there, it was smooth sailing.”

“It was definitely our chemistry,” Tillotson added. “We have all played together for a very long time. We know each other’s play styles. We learned to adapt to each other and play well together. Our starting line-up was able to take over a game at any time and we had good kids coming off the bench.”

The rug being pulled out from under them this season was tough for the Olympian quartet.

“This season will be known as the ‘what if’ season,” Castellot said. “I am pretty confident we could have gone all the way this season.”

“I know we would have liked another chance at the finals,” Tillotson said. “It would have been good matchups all the way through because all the teams are good at that point. I really like our chances. It’s unfortunate that our season got cut short.”

“I think making that final step this year was in the realm of possibility, but you can’t say what if, what if, because it never happened,” DePuy added. “As much as we would have loved to get together and possibly play DeRuyter with no spectators, all of us seniors definitely thought we would have made it.”

“The beginning of our senior year was great,” Hoyt said. “Things were continuing to go up and then the season got canceled. It’s tough because of that, but what are you going to do? It really stinks to have it end. The worst part is not knowing what you could have done, like what would have happened. The good thing is that we did end with a win. We still had a chance to do more, but it really stinks to not know.”

“I say with ease that they are the most successful and accomplished group I’ve been able to coach,” Olympian basketball coach Jim Holland said. “Each athlete was a major contributor to the team and to the program over the last three to five years.”

The spring sports season saw the guys go their separate ways. Castellot, DePuy and O’Shea were golfers while Tillotson and Hoyt were baseball players. This spring would have seen Castellot and DePuy play baseball for one final season together for those seniors.

“It took me three years to really convince them to come over,” Tillotson said. “They finally came to their senses and decided to play baseball. It would have been fun this season. We got together a few times last summer.

I would hit to them to see how they would do and we had a blast every single time. We would have liked to see what we could do. There were no expectations, but it would have been fun.”

“We had planned to play baseball together and end our senior season the right way,” Castellot added. “We had another great coach in Coach (Bryan) Hoyt. I wanted to play for him and I’m really disappointed that I couldn’t do that.”

“We did switch to baseball, well a majority of us did,” DePuy said. “We played the previous summer and it was really fun. We got to the baseball field and we did batting practice and throwing stuff. It was a blast. We had a great time as a group and we were all like “Hey, why not play baseball and see how far we go.” In golf, it really isn’t team, it’s more individual. I just wanted to have a team setting one more time with all my friends before it was all done.”

“I was the one who decided to stick with golf,” O’Shea said. “I wasn’t real interested in baseball, but none of us got to play that final season.”

All five guys are now looking forward to college after excelling in the classroom as well as on the playing fields. O’Shea is the Class of 2020 Valedictorian (100 average), Tillotson (98) in the Salutatorian, Castellot (97, ranked 4th in class), DePuy (96, 5th in class) and Hoyt (85, 32nd in class).

All five are heading to college in the fall, but only Hoyt is looking at playing collegiate sports at this time. He will be a freshman basketball player at Cazenovia College. Castellot is heading to Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland (Florida) and will play intramural sports. Tillotson will attend the University of Iowa and may play some intramural basketball. DePuy is attending the University of Buffalo and may play some club sports. O’Shea is headed to Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach (Florida) for astronomy and won’t be doing any sports.

While they guys are moving on, they will take some memories from their days growing up in Marathon.

“I’m definitely going to miss all my teammates and the chemistry we had,” Castellot said.

“My memories are of my friends,” Tillotson replied. “I look forward to telling my new friends the things we did and maybe recreate some of those memories with my new friends.”

“The fan support and the friends that I am going to miss because I’m not going to be able to play with them,” DePuy said. “I’ll miss playing with the underclassmen also. The memories of the state runs are so special and all the funny moments that happened.”

“In eighth grade I wrote on a little memo that my one goal was to make a state championship game and I did that in my senior year,” Hoyt recalled. “I am proud of that. It was suppose to be for basketball, but it was okay that it was in soccer. I wanted it for both, but making to states and the two back-to-back runs in basketball are the best things.”

“I feel bad for those guys in basketball,” O’Shea said. “I’m glad we got our fall sports in, but winter sports came to an end too quickly.We never got spring sports in so it has been a very weird time. I hope the kids can have their best sports times next year and don’t take it for granted because it can end too quickly. I will take what I have learned here to work harder in life and hopefully reached my goals like we did last fall.”

These were just five Class of 2020 members who had a very unique senior year at Marathon. There is no doubt they left their mark on their school and community as they now look to the next stage of their lives.