Matthew Ruskan ’17 has gone the distance with Kenyon men’s soccer — quite literally. During this year’s NCAA Division-III tournament, Ruskan, Kenyon’s first student sports broadcaster, followed the Lords to Lynchburg, Va. and Medford, Mass. to call play-by-play for Kenyon’s livestream of the postseason matches. In Medford, he weathered whipping cold winds as Kenyon faced off against Tufts University in the Elite Eight on Nov. 20. When Tufts won 1-0 in double overtime and ended Kenyon’s season, Ruskan delivered his usual closing remarks and, his voice shaking, thanked the Lords’ seniors for letting him come along for the ride.
“I will leave you with this thought,” he said as he signed off. “It’s just under 300 days until September 2017, when the Lords will come marching in once again.”
With that, Ruskan wrapped up his final broadcast for Lords’ soccer. He has called play-by-play for Kenyon soccer since last season. In that time, the Lords claimed their second and third consecutive North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Championships and advanced to the national quarterfinals twice in a row.
Ruskan began his broadcasting career as a first year in 2013, when Kenyon Athletics looked to add a student to its sportscasting staff. He applied for the sports broadcaster position with no experience in announcing. “I’d never touched a mic before in my life,” he said. “I was freaking out at first. I was trying to remember all these names and how to pronounce them. That was terrifying.”
In that first year, Ruskan found mentors in Ryan Gasser, Kenyon’s assistant sports information director at the time, and Curt Ashcraft, who worked as a broadcasting assistant for Kenyon Athletics from 2013 to 2015. “Curt had a huge influence on me,” Ruskan said. “I had never called a basketball game in my life, never was a huge basketball fan. He actually took me to a local high school basketball game and kind of taught me different things there.”
Now, with countless games under his belt, Ruskan approaches broadcasting with serious craft. In a notebook he carries with him everywhere, he writes down quips and phrases from other sports commentators that he wants to incorporate into his announcing. Before any game, he pours hours into memorizing players’ names and uniform numbers, analyzing statistics and researching any school rivalries. He has befriended Kenyon coaches and players, whom he quizzes about their strategies and scouting reports. All this work is in the service of telling a good story.
“For the people sitting at home or listening, I want them to understand the story of the game,” Ruskan said. “The players, the coaching and the two schools going at it, too — we have some fantastic rivalries here.”
Outside of broadcasting, Ruskan also contributes to Our Sports Report, a sports blog where he covers the NHL, writing articles and recording a weekly podcast with fellow Kenyon senior Max Black. Ruskan hopes to turn his passion for hockey and sportscasting into a career in NHL broadcasting. He dreams of calling play-by-play for the Washington Capitals, especially if they make it to the Stanley Cup finals. He would also jump at the chance to cover the U.S. men’s national hockey team in a gold medal game — “if they ever get there,” he said.
Four years after he put on the headset as Kenyon Athletics’ first student broadcaster, Ruskan is preparing to pass the torch to Marc Delucchi ’20, whom Ruskan has helped train in broadcasting this year. Ruskan will finish up his senior year announcing for Kenyon basketball and baseball, softball and lacrosse in the spring season. Even after graduation, when he looks to tell the story of teams beyond McBride and Mavec Fields, he says he will be watching the Kenyon broadcast from afar, listening to the play-by-play of another student sportscaster and rooting for the Lords and Ladies all the way.