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Athletes of the Year

by Editorial Staff--Suburban Family Magazine

From home run sluggers to sabre fighters, surfing pros to gymnastics champs, this year's premier athletes all share three things in common: talent, hard work and a fierce desire to win. Here, meet some of the most impressive young individuals from across our region, including a quarterback who has both a mean spiral and a good head on his shoulders, a figure skater who's preparing for the 2014 Olympics and a lacrosse player who came back from suffering a stroke on the field to return the following season. We think you'll be just as impressed as we were by their power, commitment and potential for the future.

Andrew Lisa (pictured)
A quarterback for Moorestown High School’s Quakers—and considered among the top QBs in South Jersey—senior Andrew Lisa threw for 2,240 yards last season, for a total of 24 touchdowns. His team went 7-3 last season, and earned a berth in the Group 3 playoffs. But this year, Lisa is determined to do even better, and has a state championship in his sights.
Who’s your football role model? That would be Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons, because he’s a big, tall quarterback who has a good head on his shoulders. He may not be really athletic, but he plays from the neck up and he’s very good mentally. And that’s how I feel I am, so I relate to him.
What’s your goal for this year? My goal this year would be to win a state championship, just like every other year. And last year we fell short. But we have some good kids on the team, and we’re going to work extremely hard this year to make it to the state championships, and hopefully win it. All the hard work we put in during the off-season and the season will hopefully pay off in the end.
And for the future? I’m hoping for a football scholarship to one of the best schools in the country, an Ivy League school. I’m hoping to get the best education possible, hopefully to be part of a topnotch football team and a great academic school.
Any advice that has helped you succeed? My dad always gives me the saying, “Talent beats hard work, until talent doesn’t work hard.” So it’s my motto to keep on working hard and everything will fall into place. If you’re prepared, there’s no need to be nervous, and I know I’ll be fine when it comes to a game situation.

Alexandria Zaugra
A senior lacrosse goalie for Shawnee High School in Medford, Zaugra won Performance of the Year from Lacrosse Magazine for her 21 saves in the Renegades’ game against Moorestown, resulting in a 7-6 win. Zaugra was the only high school player to receive an award, and was featured alongside players from NCAA lacrosse finals teams.
What was the best part about beating Moorestown? The best part of defeating Moorestown was experiencing the thrill of accomplishment with my teammates that many haven’t been able to do.
You’ve been into lacrosse for many years now. What inspired you to start playing? It was up and coming—the new sport to play—and all of my friends played it. My eighth-grade teacher, Hope Coughlin, saw me as an aggressive athlete and encouraged me to give goalie a shot. But I was a field player then; that’s when my career as a goalie began.
You’re going be playing on a college team soon. What made you decide on the University of Delaware? I decided to attend Delaware to continue my lacrosse career because on my first visit I was sold on all aspects. I instantly knew and felt that I had to be there.

Taylor Styer
Marlton Middle School student Taylor Styer isn’t your average 12-year-old. After all, Styer is a gymnast who has already taken first in the state at the level-six competition in rings, vault, parallel bars, high bar and all-around. (He also placed second on the pommel horse and fourth in floor exercises.) This year, he came in second in regionals—a competition of students from seven states—despite suffering from a knee injury. Now, Styer has even bigger dreams for the future.
When did you start gymnastics? I started when I was 2. I had been in a movement class, and the teacher said for a 2-year-old I had excellent coordination and strength. So I went to a gymnastics class and it never stopped from there.
What’s your favorite competition? Rings. I’m good at it and I’ve won a lot of medals.
What’s your goal for the future? The Olympics. I want to go to Ohio State for college Olympics, and then be on the U.S. team.
Where do you train? This summer, I went to IGC, International Gymnastics Camp, where Olympians come and work with the kids. They trained me to get better and do better. Also, my coach, Ty Elam at Will-Moor School of Gymnastics in Mount Laurel is an amazing coach and has really brought me very far.
How much do you practice? I train five days a week for three hours a day. But I never get tired of it. I love it.

Michael Vanaman
The Sicklerville resident rides alongside adults—and schools them—as one of the premier youth surfers in the nation. Vanaman placed first in the 11-and-under Northeast Regional Eastern Surfing Championship two years running, and second in the 14-and-under Surfing America competition. He has sponsors including ERGO (he’s on their professional team), Aloft Surfboards, Filtrate Eyewear, Seventh Street Surf Shop, XTRAX and Magna wax, and he travels across the country with competitions and professional surfing tours. Did we mention he’s only 10 years old?
How’d you get into surfing? I grew up going down the Shore on the beach, and just started surfing and picked it up. I started at 5 on a boogie board, by 6 I was riding a surfboard, and by 7 I was competing in contests.
What do your friends think? No one at school does it. But people support us, and we have YouTube videos.
What’s your favorite part about surfing? Getting barreled. It’s when the waves come over your head and you’re stuck in the wave and you shoot out of it. In the northeast and in Jersey, we have the best barrels.
You surf even in the middle of the winter? Yup. Even in December and January when it’s snowing and the water is 30 degrees. I’ve been surfing in the winter since I was 8 years old.
Where’s your favorite place to surf ? Middles in Puerto Rico. It’s big, and it’s sick.

Alex Epifano
Alex Epifano is a fighter. As a Cherokee High School junior, he suffered a traumatic brain injury on April 1, 2010 during a lacrosse game against Kingsway High School. For a year he was in and out of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, undergoing numerous MRIs, angiograms and treatments to recover from the incident; he also worked with a speech therapist to overcome a mild aphasia he had developed. In December 2010, he was diagnosed with a brain aneurism, and he underwent a nine-hour surgery in January. But Epifano was determined to return to lacrosse, and the doctors permitted him to participate again just a few days before his senior season was to begin. He ended up playing all but a few games throughout the entire term.
What was the most difficult part about being injured? What kept you going? The worst part of being injured is not being able to play in games and practice with my team, knowing that they are playing without me. My coaches and teammates helped me to get back on the field, because without [their support] I just could have just stopped playing altogether. My doctor [at CHOP] really helped me, because I really wanted to play and I had all the trust in the world in him.
How did it feel to hold a stick again after a year of sitting out? My favorite part of lacrosse is hanging around with all my teammates, and of course just playing the game as it is supposed to be played. The atmosphere on the field and off the field is totally different than any other sport. Holding the stick again was very exhilarating, but I was still nervous for the first game…. But after that first whistle it was like any other time I was playing.
How did it feel to have your community support you? It felt amazing just knowing that a lot of people knew the story and that the community supported me. That just makes you want to keep going. One thing I learned from this experience is never to take life for granted because you never know what’s going to be around the corner.

Shriya Joshi
Joshi, 16, of Cherry Hill, placed 25th in the country in Cadet Women’s Sabre at the National Fencing Championship in Reno, Nev., a competition of 3,500 athletes from across the nation. Joshi, who previously placed first at the 2010 nationals, ranked sixth in Women’s Sabre at the 2011 NJSIAA State Championships. The Cherry Hill East student trains at the Fencing Academy of South Jersey every week.

Maria Tsakiris
Tsakiris, 18, of Cherry Hill, will represent Greece in the 2014 Winter Olympics in figure skating. Tsakiris, a 2011 Cherry Hill East grad, has competed in four Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating events, including in France in 2010, Croatia in 2009 and Italy and the Czech Republic in 2008.

Julianna Foss
Foss, of Shawnee High School, broke the school record for 100-yard backstroke—as a freshman. Foss swam it in 1:00.92, shattering the previous 1:01.03 record from 1992. She also broke the Burlington YMCA Hurricanes team record in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:14.15. The rising sophomore has been swimming competitively since 2002, when she was 5. “My best personal swimming experience was probably breaking the school’s 100 backstroke record,” she says.

Lindsey Kane
As a Bunker Hill Middle School eighth- grader, Kane placed first in the 1,500-meter competition at the Colgate Women’s Games, the nation’s largest amateur track series. Kane, of Sewell, earned 60 cumulative points to win the middle school competition, with the bonus take-home prize of a $1,000 scholarship.

Tyler Arsenault
Arsenault, a rising senior at Shawnee High School, is one of three talented triplet brothers—all stand-out athletes for different Shawnee varsity teams. In the spring, Arsenault plays varsity tennis: by his sophomore year, he was at No. 2 singles, finishing with a 17-2 record. And this fall, he returns to the soccer team as a captain and a star defender. Last season, he was key to the team's 16-1-7 record, and helped Shawnee emerge as one of the top 10 soccer teams in South Jersey.

Dawson McCartney
McCartney, of Voorhees Middle School, is among the best U13 youth soccer players in South Jersey. The midfielder was chosen to attend the exclusive U14 U.S. National ID Camp, which calls 80 fresh-faced players to the field for a week-long training and scouting program, in Carson, Calif., this August. Out of 1,500 boys and girls from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, Dawson was also selected to participate in the YSC Union Juniors Academy, the official youth development partner for the Philadelphia Union Major League Soccer Team. This student also maintains a straight-A average while playing travel baseball, basketball and lacrosse.

Amy Wang
Wang, an 8-year-old Bells Elementary School student, is an elite table tennis player at the national level—and she even beat Philly Mayor Michael Nutter in an exhibition match. The Washington Township resident won the 9-and-under girls’ table tennis championship at the 2010 U.S. Open, and took second place in the 11-and-under level.

Ryan Dickerson
Tennis ace Ryan Dickerson went to the 12-and-under super nationals with a second place finish in both singles and doubles—out of 256 kids throughout the country. Dickerson plays at the Sports Club of South Jersey.

Kaitlyn Bonnet
Eleven-year-old Kaitlyn Bonnet ran the Elizabeth Haddon School’s seventh annual 5K fundraiser, beating out both adult and child competitors, with her speedy 6.5-minute mile pace. Out of 238 racers, Bonnet finished first in the women’s overall category, in 19 minutes, 54 seconds.

Chris Santo
The 2,000-point club is a hard group to join. No membership cards here, just hard work and determination. Chris Santo, a Cherry Hill East basketball star, joined the elite group of South Jersey basketball players who have scored more than 2,000 career points, during the first half of a game against Triton this winter (where he also broke the East school record for most steals in a single game, with nine total). Santo, the leading scorer in South Jersey and a McDonald’s All-American nominee, is just one of 28 South Jersey boys to reach that milestone. He has received a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Vermont.

Shannon Dennehey
Dennehey broke the school record for scoring the most goals in a single season for the Shawnee Renegades varsity girls’ soccer team, ending the season with a record of 17 goals, nine assists and a 16-7 record. The two-time first-team All South Jersey player was named National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All American and NSCAA New Jersey Player of the Year. She was also chosen as the South Jersey Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Anthony Scerati
Three-year captain of the Lenape High School varsity bowling team, Scerati bowled three perfect 300 games last season and was named to the Olympic Conference First Team All-Stars for the fourth year in a row.

Anthony Scerati
Three-year captain of the Lenape High School varsity bowling team, Scerati bowled three perfect 300 games last season and was named to the Olympic Conference First Team All-Stars for the fourth year in a row.

Jesse Streb
As an eighth-grade student and captain of Marlton Middle School’s wrestling team last season, Streb finished second at the South Jersey Middle School Wrestling League Tournament. His 12 regular season victories helped his team with their first-ever championship. He has a 44-10 record over his time at the middle school.

Kyle Klaus
At first glance, Kyle Klaus, a wrestler who graduated from Haddonfield Memorial High School this year, may not look imposing. But at 5-foot-9 and 112 pounds, Klaus was a leader on his team since freshman year, when he scored 20 wins right off the bat. The two-time District 28 champion reached win No. 100 on a snowy day in January, defeating Paulsboro for their first loss at home in 41 years.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 6 (August, 2011).
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