Nothing random about their performance

Published 9:44 pm Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Strictly doing the math, there are 9.2 quintillion ways to fill out your March Madness bracket before Thursday at noon.

To be exact, that’s 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 different ways to select the 63 basketball games coming up over the next three weeks. Las Vegas isn’t going out of business anytime soon.

According to, if every person on the planet filled out a bracket randomly, the odds would still be 1.5 billion to one any one person on Earth would go 63-for-63.

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Now, sure, when ruling out Lehigh going all the way and a few more easy picks, the actual odds of the perfect bracket are way more realistic, perhaps similar to winning Mega Millions on back-to-back draws.

Bring the odds down a little more and you get the chances of Suffolk having three field hockey players, all around about the same age, being on U.S. National Field Hockey teams at the same time.

That’s what Suffolk has in Lakeland’s Kelsey Smither (under-17 U.S. team), Nansemond River’s Stephanie Tarafas (under-19) and Lakeland’s Kelsey Cutchins (under-21).

Then again, luck has very little to do with it. It all boils down to the endless hard work these kids put into being elite in their sport.

Credit also goes to parents and coaches — from Tara Worley at Lakeland and Darryl Yandle at Nansemond River to the many camp/travel/select/national team coaches who’ve guided Smither, Tarafas and Cutchins for many years.

Then again, it comes back to the athletes themselves. It takes special kids not only to be athletically talented enough, but to want to put up with all the coaches, all the camps, all the travel and time it takes to go all over the country for camps, tryouts and elite teams.

Back to the odds, though. It’s nowhere near 9.2-quintillion-to-one, but on the under-17 team, only four players on the squad aren’t from the northeast part of the country. It’s the same on the under-19 team, plus some of the players are college players. On the under-21 team, three players are from states other than New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

Cutchins graduated this past spring from James Madison after being JMU’s starting, and All-American, goalkeeper for four years. Tarafas is headed to JMU this fall. Smither, a junior at Lakeland, will have her choice of colleges and field hockey programs within a few more months.

Smither and the under-17 U.S. team are in Uruguay playing for the chance to go to the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore this summer.

Tarafas is one of two goalies on the U.S. team heading to Argentina in a couple weeks. All three are on a very selective list for the full national team and the U.S. Olympic Team in the coming years.