Athletes of the Week Ari Solomon and Amirah Al-Sagr are back on the field after two-year pandemic hiatus

Al-Sagr and Solomon
From left to right: Amirah Al-Sagr (senior) and Ari Solomon (junior) at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. Theodore Tang/The Occidental.

Ari Solomon

For first baseman Ari Solomon (junior), Saturdays during baseball season begin at Anderson Field at 7:40 a.m., where he gets in some extra swings before the double header. Once warmed up, Solomon and his teammates prepare for the day’s 18 innings.

Solomon hit a home run against George Fox University and batted 7-for-14 as designated hitter during the weekend of Feb. 12. He is currently hitting .400 on the season through 11 games.

“It feels good to finally see the fruits of your labor, and I’ve worked really hard to get here. It’s nice to see something tangible paying off,” Solomon said. “It felt like I saw the ball really well this past weekend, especially after a really frustrating first game [of the season].”

Solomon’s success in the batter’s box comes as no surprise to roommate and teammate Jonathan Marshall (junior).

“I think [Solomon has] been playing really well, which is impressive considering we’re coming off a year of not playing meaningful baseball,” Marshall said. “He works really hard in practice, so I’m not surprised that it’s showing up in games.”

The pandemic’s impact, through sports cancellations and postponements, is not the only obstacle Solomon has faced as a member of the baseball team. Solomon was recently moved to be a first basemen this season, despite playing behind the plate as a catcher since he was 4 years old. But Solomon says he welcomes the change.

“Saying goodbye to catcher was a little bittersweet just because I’m really close with all the other catchers,” Solomon said. “But at the same time, [playing first base] been a lot of fun. The growing pains are kind of a struggle but I’ve always embraced and enjoyed that.”

Solomon looks forward to getting back on the field with his teammates after two seasons stolen by the pandemic.

“I’m really looking forward to the team trips, the away games on the bus,” Solomon said. “I haven’t been a part of that in so long, those become core memories. And you miss that, you miss out on that when you don’t have a season.”

Amirah Al-Sagr

Two seasons lost to the pandemic and a semester away at the Kahane United Nations Program were not enough to turn Amirah Al-Sagr (senior) away from her love for and involvement in track and field.

At Occidental’s home opener in a dual meet against Pomona-Pitzer, Al-Sagr competed in the high jump, clearing a mark of 1.35 meters. Going into both the meet and the season, Al-Sagr said she avoided putting pressure on herself.

“I think I was accepting anything, considering I hadn’t done the event [in awhile],” Al-Sagr said. “With high jump and pole vault, you need a lot of equipment. The last time I had done it was the last meet we had before COVID, so it’s been two years.”

Like all other teams, the pandemic put a damper on track and field and reduced their team’s numbers. But Al-Sagr said she sees this as an opportunity to get back into normalcy and prepare for the future.

“I think as a team, we’re all just hoping to remember what this feels like again and create the foundation for something new and improved,” Al-Sagr said. “I’m just looking forward to being in track meets again.”

What makes the meets special, Al-Sagr said, is the environment and charm of the sport.

“The Greeks invented track and field for a reason,” Al-Sagr said. “Every event was a different way to display your physical ability. Seeing everyone get out there and just really pursue physical excellence is kind of amazing, and there’s an atmosphere to that.”

Eric Looby (senior), a fifth-year, has been teammates and friends with Al-Sagr since 2018, and said Al-Sagr makes an impact on her teammates on and off the track.

“She always has a positive attitude and knows exactly what to say to cheer up those around her,” Looby said via email. “I have never met someone who is so willing to go out of their way to help people, no matter how trivial the issue may seem. People on the team look up to her because she exemplifies what it means to be a great leader and teammate.”

Al-Sagr is now making post-graduation plans and focusing on two senior comprehensive projects for Diplomacy & World Affairs (DWA) and Comparative Studies in Literature & Culture (CSLC), while still putting in the effort to stay dedicated to her sport.

“I do the sport because I love it,” Al-Sagr said. “I’m very busy right now, and it’s still a commitment that I’m willing to set aside time for.”