Top of the class: Turners Falls twins, athletic standouts Anne and Ella Kolodziej finish 1-2 in graduating class

Turners Falls’ Anne Kolodziej makes contact during the Thunder’s game against Hampshire Regional on Monday in Westhampton.

Turners Falls’ Anne Kolodziej makes contact during the Thunder’s game against Hampshire Regional on Monday in Westhampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Franklin Tech’s Ella Kolodziej (9), right, celebrates after scoring a first-half goal with teammate Mady Lynde (12) last fall.

Franklin Tech’s Ella Kolodziej (9), right, celebrates after scoring a first-half goal with teammate Mady Lynde (12) last fall. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 05-14-2024 6:20 PM

Balancing extracurricular activities and school work is a constant challenge. 

Anne Kolodziej and Ella Kolodziej made it look effortless. 

The twin sisters, who are seniors at Turners Falls High School, have starred on the Franklin Tech girls soccer team — which co-ops with the Thunder — the last four years, helping the Eagles reach the MIAA Div. 5 state tournament this past fall. 

Not only were the two playing sports, they were working for the athletic department at games, doing the public address announcing at events throughout their time at Turners. 

Despite all the time spent on extracurricular activities, Anne and Ella managed to graduate at the top of their class. Anne will be the school’s valedictorian and Ella the salutatorian. 

“We knew at the end of last year we were one and two,” Ella said. “We had to hold on for one more semester. We didn’t get the official word until January that we were going to be one and two. It’s a big accomplishment.” 

Anne, who is older by one minute, was able to take the top spot, though the twins said they really just wanted to make sure they finished in the top two slots. 

“We were competing against everyone else in our class,” Anne said. “We’re competitive and wanted to beat everyone else. It was a lot of work but it was very rewarding.” 

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Like many who spend their time working or playing sports after school, doing the actual class work can be a challenge. 

It’s not easy to work up the energy to complete homework after getting back from a game late at night, after a day of tutoring other students or after returning home following a long day of work, but both Anne and Ella were able to stay balanced and accomplish their goals. 

“The work itself was easy enough,” Ella said. “The hard part was working up the motivation to do the work after all the events we did. We’d be getting home at 10 [p.m.] and have three hours of homework to do.” 

For Turners Falls athletic director Adam Graves, getting the twins to handle the PA during games was an easy decision, and he said they took the role seriously and worked to do their best at it. 

“Both of them have been great,” Graves said. “They’ve made my life so much easier. Every game I need them, they’re there. They took pride in how they announced the names and getting it right. They got to have some fun DJing during the games as well. They got more comfortable the more they did it. 

“They were always there and very professional with what they did,” Graves added. “You’d go up in the press box during basketball games and they’d be working on homework as they’re playing songs or announcing. It shows how hard they worked to be one and two in their class.” 

It didn’t surprise Franklin Tech girls soccer coach Jason Butynski when he found out Anne and Ella graduated one and two in their class as they displayed a hard-working mentality playing for him on the pitch. 

“When I took over the soccer program three years ago, Anne and Ella were two kids that a lot of the other girls looked up to because of their abilities,” Butynski said. “Over the past three years they’ve not only developed into wonderful soccer players but wonderful people. It’s not a surprise to me they finished one and two in their class. On the soccer field, I see what hard working people they are.” 

From tee ball through seventh grade, the twins also played softball, but when they were in eighth grade, COVID-19 struck and took that season away. 

As freshmen, the schedule was shifted and the Fall II season took place in the spring. The twins played soccer and didn’t go out for softball right after, deciding to work for Graves instead. 

“We took the money over playing softball,” Anne said. 

Once basketball season ended this past winter — and having already sealed up the top two spots in their graduating class — Anne suggested that she and Ella go out for softball again this spring for their final season. 

They decided to join the Thunder program, hoping to bring another state title to the Powertown. 

While it was an adjustment getting back into softball at first, the two have since carved out starting roles and have been contributors on a Turners Falls team that currently has a 12-4 record. 

“[Softball is] very time consuming,” Anne said. “Way more than any other sport. The hard thing was getting back into hitting. The coaches and all the players on the team have been very patient. We’ve come a long way.” 

One of the bigger adjustments was having to take a step back from a vocal leadership role. After captaining the Tech soccer team in the fall, Anne and Ella had to go from being the stars to re-learning the intricacies of softball and leaning on others’ leadership. 

“It’s different because in soccer, we knew what was going on,” Ella said. “Soccer has always been in our family and we’ve been playing it since we were young. We were captains and we were a lot more involved in the drills and conversations about what was going on. In softball, we didn’t know how to lead people when we didn’t know what we were doing at first.” 

The play of the season so far came from Anne. 

Taking on Greenfield in a rematch of the 2023 MIAA Div. 5 state championship game, the Thunder found themselves trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning earlier this month. 

Turners loaded the bases on a trio of walks, but no Thunder player had been able to get a hit off Greenfield ace MacKenzie Paulin. 

Anne — who nearly faced the same situation just days prior against the Green Wave — came to the plate and smashed a base hit up the middle, driving in a pair of runs to tie the game 2-2. That hit sent things to extras, where Greenfield ultimately came away with a victory. 

“The first time we played Greenfield a few days before, if [Mia Marigliano] had walked I was going to have to go up to bat in the same situation,” Anne said. “I was looking at Ella and saying no way I can actually do it. Of course, it happens [the second time against Greenfield].

“I had already struck out twice and my first strikeout was horrible,” she continued. “I was holding my breath when I got up there. I’m not the strongest hitter and I know what the dugout was probably thinking. I can’t believe I hit the ball and we didn’t get shut out.” 

What’s in the future for the twins? They’re currently looking into attending Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. 

Ella is looking to major in finance while Anne wants to go to work in homeland security. For now, the softball season and the end of the school year will keep them plenty busy. Turners is eyeing a return to the state title game, and the twins would like to be the missing link for a championship.