CHICAGO – When the calendar flips to July, college students will be well immersed in their summer plans – travel, internships and plenty of relaxation.
The University of Chicago wrapped up its varsity sports schedule on May 27 and are on a three-month break until the fall season arrives. But for student-athletes Alyssa Rudin and Tali Naibryf, the competition is not over. The Maroon duo will soon be embarking to Israel as participants in the 20th World Maccabiah Games.
Rudin and Naibryf are included in the Maccabi USA delegation, which will bring a team of approximately 1,100 athletes to the World Maccabiah Games. They will join the 8,750 Jewish athletes from 80 countries contending in 43 different sports. The two-week event will take place from July 4-18.
The Maccabiah Games were established in 1932 as quadrennial Jewish Olympics held in Israel. One of the key goals of the Games is to "provide Jewish athletes all over the world the opportunity to share their heritage and customs in competitive athletic settings," according to Maccabi USA. More than 62,000 athletes have participated over the past 85 years.
Starting her junior year in the fall, Naibryf currently specializes in the sprints and hurdles for the UChicago women's track & field team. The Weston, Florida native ran a variety of events during the indoor and outdoor seasons, including the 60 meters, 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 400-meter hurdles, 4x100-meter relay and 4x400-meter relay.
The tennis hard courts were Rudin's domain in a standout debut campaign. As a first-year, the left-hander was a consistent source of victories for the top 10-ranked Maroons. She posted a 21-3 singles record between fifth and sixth singles, while also going 20-7 at second doubles. A native of Irvine, California, Rudin was picked Second Team All-University Athletic Association (UAA) in singles and doubles.
Naibryf has a very personal connection to the Games – her father represented Argentina in the 12th Maccabiah Games in 1985. He raced in the sprint events (100, 200 and 400 meter dash) and brought home one of nine medals for Argentina. "Growing up, my siblings and I always competed in track and field and this year, being selected to represent the United States of America in Israel was an opportunity I could not pass up," Naibryf said.
Rudin has prior Maccabi experience to draw from. She participated in the Maccabi USA Games at age 13 and also the European Maccabi Games the summer before her senior year. Her initial exposure to the Games came through her local Jewish Community Center (JCC).
The Maroons will not be sitting idle for much of the two weeks in Israel. Naibryf plans to race in the sprints category, which includes the 100 meters, 200 meters, 400-meter hurdles and corresponding relays. Rudin's tennis categories include women's open singles, women's open doubles and possibly mixed doubles as well.
Both athletes are coming off demanding varsity seasons. Indoor and outdoor track runs from January through May, while tennis plays fall tournaments and a spring schedule from January to May.
Rudin took a brief break from tennis right after her season concluded, and added that "as soon as I get back home, I'll be training again with my coach at home and trying to hit the gym as much as possible to get ready for two weeks of competition in a lot of heat."
For Naibryf, the preparation has been four years in the making. She's worked steadily towards her goal of making the USA roster. "This dream became more attainable when I joined UChicago's incredible athletic program," the junior stated. "This year I trained in the fall, and competed in both the winter and spring seasons. Since the games are mid-July, I had to extend my season through the summer. Assistant Coach [Stephen] Fleagle and I worked together to write and schedule workouts. His support during this adventure has been instrumental in getting me there in a position to score."
As far as competition goals go, the duo is looking to bring home hardware. Rudin previously took bronze in singles at the European Maccabi Games. Naibryf is also hoping to set new personal records in her races, including the 400-meter hurdles which she began to train in this past spring.
The bonding among the competitors and teammates may well be the biggest highlight of the trip.
"What's really special about this experience with Team USA is that we go to Israel a week early and the teams train in the morning and then come together and explore the famous Israeli sites, so that's a big source of tourism," remarked Rudin. "I'm not sure what the schedule is during competition weeks, but a lot of the fun is going to other sports' sites and cheering on our friends and teammates."
"I will be traveling 10 days before the start of the program to participate in Birthright Israel with other members of Team USA," Naibryf stated. "We will be hiking, rafting, camel riding and floating in the Dead Sea. I look forward to traveling all over the beautiful country."
Looking at the experience as a whole, Naibryf hopes to grow as an athlete and represent the U.S. well. Rudin also points to the interactive experience off the court as vitally important as well.
"I'm most excited about meeting Jews from around the world and forming lasting connections with them," noted the incoming sophomore. "I'm still friends with people from all over the world who I met at the European Maccabi games, which is wild considering I haven't seen most of them in the almost two years since that competition, and I really hope I can recreate that experience. I also can't wait to explore Israel for the first time and really appreciate the ancient history of my people and our faith."