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Talent Show
Thanks to their natural ability and hard work behind the scenes, these eight student-athletes from South Jersey are looking forward to a successful spring season.

by By Matt Cosentino; Photography by Tim Hawk

Lena, Stella and Anna Stolarick
Haddonfield Girls Lacrosse/Girls Track

These triplets have already left their mark on the Haddonfield athletic program and have one more season to add to their accomplishments before moving on to college. Lena, a defender, and Stella, an attacker, have helped the girls lacrosse team win two state championships and will head to the University of Delaware together in the fall. Anna, a distance runner on the track team, placed third at sectionals and eighth at states in the 800 meters last year, and is committed to Holy Cross.

SJM: What’s it like to have your time at Haddonfield winding down? Has that sunk in yet?

LS: It’s so sad that we’re finally leaving after being here our whole lives. Leaving Anna will be really hard.

SS: Growing up in Haddonfield and going through the school district, you’re always like, “I can’t wait to be a senior.” But now that I’m a senior, I don’t really want to leave. I love my town and it’s such a great community to grow up in and play sports in.

AS: I’m really excited to go to college, but it’s definitely sad leaving them too.

SJM: What are your goals for your final season?

AS: After committing, I just want to have fun and enjoy my final season. I have a meet today, so I’m excited. I’m running the 1,600 and the 800 and I hope I can PR.

SJM: Are those the two races you specialize in, along with the relay?

AS: We haven’t [finalized the relay]. In the winter, me and Stella won the 4x8 at the Meet of Champs, but I’m not sure if our relay is going to be as strong since we’re missing two of the runners. But I think we’ll still have a good season.

SJM: That must have been cool to win the relay together at the Meet of Champions during the indoor season.

AS: It was, especially since we didn’t expect it.

SS: I never really played a sport with Anna before, so I really wanted to do winter track with her my last year. I was going to do swimming because she normally does swimming in the winter, but when she switched I decided to stick with winter track to have one more year with Anna before she goes to a different college.

LS: I did it sophomore year but it wasn’t for me.

SS: Track is not for Lena [laughs]. It’s not for the weak.

SJM: So you’re saying Lena is weak?

LS: Yeah?

SS: No, no, no, I’m not [laughs]. I’m just saying it’s brutal.

SJM: In lacrosse, you’ve obviously had so much success. Is another state title high on your wish list for this year?

LS: Every year, we have the goal of getting to the last game. We work so hard as a team every practice, every game. I have a lot of confidence in our team this year and I think we can make it.

SS: Playing Summit last year [in the state final] and losing definitely sucked, but they’re such a great team and I think we’re ready to come back and get on top. We still have to work hard. We had our first loss against Moorestown, and obviously you don’t want to lose, but I think we learned a lot from that game and we’re going to continue moving forward and hopefully come out on top at the end.

SJM: Is Summit at the same level as last year?

SS: They’re always a great team and they’re ranked nationally. It’s fun to play great teams and hopefully we can come out on top.

SJM: Do you two help each other since you play different positions in lacrosse?

LS: Yeah, because I know Stella’s weaknesses and I try to help her, and she does the same for me. We tell each other what we need to work on.

SS: Especially with her being a defender and me being an attacker, I definitely like to go against her in practice. She knows what I do best and what I don’t do best, so she definitely pushes me. Sometimes we might get in little fights, but it pushes us to get better.

SJM: You never played lacrosse Anna?

AS: Nope. I don’t know why, I just never did it. When did you guys start?

SS: We started playing in fifth grade and Anna was always a runner and a swimmer. She would have been good too—she’s a lefty.

AS: Well, whatever. It’s too late now.

SJM: When did you get into track?

AS: I really started getting into it [seriously] my junior year, but I’ve done spring track since my freshman year. This is my first full year of running. I did cross country last year too and [added winter track this year].

SS: Anna was always the runner of the family. She always won when we did 5Ks.

SJM: Track and cross country are renowned programs at Haddonfield, just like lacrosse. Is it fun to be part of that tradition?

AS: It’s a really great program. Recently, coach [Nick] Baker from the boys team passed away, and he really created this whole program. Everyone is so close and supports each other, and it’s really fun. I love coach [Jason] Russo, he has so much passion for the sport and pushes all of us to do our best.

SJM: Let’s talk about your college decisions. Stella and Lena, did you know you wanted to go together?

LS: It wasn’t the priority to go with each other, but we both got the same looks from the same schools, and ultimately everything just worked out. Delaware was one of our top schools when we first started the recruiting process.

SS: I wanted to go to school with at least one of my sisters. Delaware was the best option for both of us and it just so happened that we could go together, and that made it even better.

SJM: Are you going to room together?

SS: No!

LS: Our Delaware coaches assign us [our roommates], but hopefully we’ll live together later on.

SS: I think it would be a little hard to live with Lena because she’s a little bossy and a little messy. It will be good because we can meet new people and also have each other at the same time.

SJM: The three of you don’t share a room at home, do you?

LS: We used to—we were shoved in the attic.

SS: But now we all have our own space.

LS: We did have a bathroom and a big attic, but it was three beds all together.

SS: It was fun, though. I do miss it sometimes.

SJM: Anna, what led to your decision to attend Holy Cross?

AS: I started the recruiting process at the end of my junior year. I didn’t know where I wanted to go and I didn’t know if I wanted to run. But Holy Cross had everything I wanted in a school: It has great academics, I love the team, I love the campus. It’s definitely sad that I’m not going to be with them next year, but I’m really excited to be independent from them. And I can go visit them all the time.

SJM: I’m sure they’ll visit you too.

LS: I’m going to miss Anna a lot.

SJM: Do you know what you want to study?

AS: I think I’m going to go into business, something along those lines. I’m not really sure yet.

LS: I think I’m going to do elementary education. My dad is a teacher and he really wants me to.

SS: I’m thinking about doing something in the medical field. I’m going to major in kinesiology, but my mom is a nurse and I plan on being a nurse or a PT.

SJM: Stella, have you always been a scorer in lacrosse?

SS: I actually started out playing defense when I was in fifth grade. I think I fit more into an assisting role this year. I like to score goals, obviously, but I don’t think I was always a scorer.

SJM: Lena, did you gravitate toward defense?

LS: It’s funny, because I started at attack and then I switched to defense. I remember, my club coach—Lesley Graham, the Ocean City head coach—switched me to defense the summer of my sophomore year, and I’ve just loved it ever since.

SJM: Do you like growing up in Haddonfield?

AS: I love it. I really like the community and I like knowing everybody, but also at the same time, I feel like everyone knows everyone’s business, which is kind annoying. But growing up here is great and I’m happy we lived here. My parents are actually moving next year, but not far, to Haddon Township.

SS: I would consider living in Haddonfield when I’m older. Like Anna said, it’s a great town to grow up in. I was so excited to go to college, but I don’t want to leave now.

SJM: What do you like about South Jersey in general?

LS: I can totally see myself living here when I get older. I’m so grateful that we have such a good community in Haddonfield, where everyone knows each other and the athletics and academics are so strong.

SS: South Jersey is such a close-knit community and has a great lacrosse community and track community. It’s fun to compete against great athletes.

SJM: What are the best and worst parts about being a triplet?

AS: Sharing stuff is definitely the worst part. We get in a lot of fights about that.

SS: We share our 2011 Honda Civic, Rhonda. She’s great.

LS: I would say the best part is growing up with them. They’re my best friends, they always have my back and we’re always doing things together, so it’s great.

AS: We have the same friends and we do everything together, really.

SS: We kind of won the sibling lottery. I can’t imagine not being a triplet. It’s the best thing ever and I’m really lucky to have two best friends to grow up with. Being all girls is even better.


Yashahya Brown, Washington Township Boys Track

One of the top hurdlers in the country, this senior is coming off a sensational indoor track season in which he won sectional, state and Meet of Champions (MOC) titles in the 55-meter hurdles for the second year in a row and set a state record of 7.06 seconds in the event. This spring he is aiming for a state crown in the 110 hurdles after winning at sectionals last year and placing third at states and the MOC.

SJM: What an indoor season you had. Are you excited to keep the momentum going this spring?

YB: Of course. I plan on keeping it all going, making sure I keep it all the same and just improving on it.

SJM: How did you feel about your accomplishments over the winter?

YB: I was very happy with it. I was happy to come in second at New Balance Nationals and to be undefeated all indoor season and take a state title meant a lot to me.

SJM: You set a state record in the 55 hurdles as well. Is that something you thought was possible coming into the season?

YB: I definitely did. It was something I had on my objective board. Right after I finished my junior season, the one thing at the top of my list was taking down the state record before I finished high school, and that’s what I did.

SJM: Is there a big difference for you between competing indoors and outdoors?

YB: It doesn’t really affect me a whole lot; I wouldn’t say there’s much of a difference. I’m more of an outdoor runner and the short distance [indoors] just helps me with my start. I just have to work on the last two hurdles, that’s about it.

SJM: What are your goals for the outdoor season?

YB: Of course, I want to take the state title. I definitely want to qualify for and win U-20s, because I know it’s going to be Worlds this time. I want to stay undefeated and set the state record and bring it down even more.

SJM: How did you get into the hurdles in the first place?

YB: I actually started running when I was 9 or 10, and I was just doing it for fun. I was playing around at practice one day, trying to get out of practice, and I jumped over a hurdle and fell down. My coach saw me, came over and said, “You’re a hurdler now.” I was off and on with track, but once I got into hurdles I knew it was something I wanted to do. My junior year is when I decided to focus on track, because before that I was a multi-sport athlete. I did football and track growing up and a little bit of soccer, but I saw that track was more my thing.

SJM: Are you competing in the relays this year?

YB: I am—the 4x1, 4x2 and 4x400. Hopefully, if we can get our third leg right, our goal is to go sub-40 [in the 4x100]. 

SJM: Do you like running the relays?

YB: Yeah, I do. It’s really nice, just having that sensation of taking everyone out and then seeing your anchor leg, who you know is going to win, take it home. It’s a great feeling.

SJM: Do you miss playing football?

YB: I definitely miss running routes, but other than that, I don’t miss it too much.

SJM: What are your plans for next year?

YB: Of course I’m going to do track in college. Right now, I’m intending on going to Rutgers, but I still haven’t fully made my decision yet.

SJM: What are your goals for the next level?

YB: The three goals I’ve had since I was little are to run professionally, to set a new American record and then to go for the world record. But coming into my freshman year, I definitely want to get my name out there and show that I’m not just a high school runner. 

SJM: Do you know what you want to study?

YB: Probably sports management or finance, but I haven’t decided yet.

SJM: You have times that are among the best in the country. What did that do to your confidence when you started to realize that?

YB: I was always taught to stay humble. I can celebrate a little bit in the moment, but I don’t want it to get to my head. Once that race is over, I move onto the next one.

SJM: Do you allow yourself to dream about the Olympics?

YB: All the time, I just don’t say it out loud. 

SJM: What else do you do for fun when you’re not training?

YB: Well I work too, and I picked a job that’s fun. I work at Urban Air, a trampoline place, so I get to have fun with the kids.

SJM: Have you always lived in Washington Township?

YB: I was actually born in New York and lived there, but then I moved to Maple Shade and that’s where I spent most of my years. I didn’t come to Township until my freshman year of high school. It’s a lot different than I expected. It’s a very open area, and they love their sports. At first they weren’t worried about track as much, but as me and the team started bringing it together, they started focusing on us more. Now they’re showing all the sports attention and not just football.

SJM: Are there any professional hurdlers you like to watch?

YB: There are two people I’ve been watching: Grant Holloway and Devon Allen. I used to try to copy their form, and I got it down, but I realized it wasn’t doing it for me. I had to find a way to take their form and combine it with mine … and I kind of made my own thing.

SJM: How do you get ready for a big meet?

YB: I always eat a bagel and some fruit when I wake up, nothing too big. I have my headphones on before the race, but no specific playlist, just whatever is playing. I’ll spend the first hour just going over my hurdle drills, and by the time I’m ready, it’s time to run.

SJM: Who’s the big competition for you this year?

YB: In Jersey, I would say Alexander Holliman [of Williamstown]. Nationally, it will be everyone I see at New Balance Nationals.


Nick Styliades, Moorestown Boys Tennis

Styliades did not start playing high school tennis until last year as a junior, when he seized the No. 1 singles position for Moorestown and led the Quakers to a sectional title. On an individual level, the Washington College commit qualified for the state singles tournament and reached the quarterfinals of the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships.

SJM: What are your goals for your senior season?

NS: Honestly, I just want to do the best I can against the top players who are left. Last year, we had a pretty good season and played a lot of good teams. At first singles, I played a lot of good players: Darrin Lerner, Milan Karajovic, Kunaal Jaganathan. I’m still playing Kunaal and I want to see how I can compete against him and the other top players.

SJM: Was last year your first playing tennis for Moorestown?

NS: Yes. I was homeschooled before, and freshman year I was down in Florida playing. I decided I wanted to play high school tennis my junior and senior year, just to have the experience. It was a new experience, because you’re playing for the team and not just yourself.

SJM: How did the opportunity in Florida come about?

NS: I was training with one of my old coaches here during COVID, and then he decided to move down to Florida to train with an ATP player, Chris Eubanks, who he was friends with from Georgia Tech. So he told me to come down and train with him and play in tournaments, so I took the opportunity. I learned a lot and I got to play a lot of good players. It’s a much different game than in New Jersey and it was a good journey for about a year and a half.

SJM: You made the quarterfinals of the South Jersey Interscholastic Tournament last year. Do you feel like you can make a deep run again this season?

NS: I do, yes. I just have to practice hard and work on the things I need to fix. If I focus on those things, I think I’ll be ready for it this year.

SJM: How did you first get into the sport?

NS: My sister first played, and she’s much older, she’s a senior in college. I guess I picked it up one day because my parents said, “Go play with your sister.” I think I was 6 years old at the time. Then I started playing tournaments, and the first one I played, I lost to a kid I would definitely beat now. I went to the U.S. Open when I was 12 and saw the players walking around, and I thought it was cool. I started playing more tennis and got the love for it slowly. I got coaching and that’s how I progressed.

SJM: Did you try other sports?

NS: I played soccer, I played flag football, I played baseball when I was really small. But team sports weren’t really working for me—I needed something individual in my own little box, where I could focus on myself and not worry about everything else going on.

SJM: Do you follow professional tennis and are there certain players you like to watch?

NS: I do, yes. When I was really young I used to like [Rafael] Nadal and the top three. Now I’m into [Daniil] Medvedev, [Andrey] Rublev and I also enjoy watching Chris Eubanks, because he’s got a big serve. I’m trying to improve my serve, but I’m not quite the same height as him, so I struggle in that aspect.

SJM: Have you ever attended any of the other Grand Slams other than the U.S. Open?

NS: No, but I’ve been to a few of the smaller tournaments: the Citi Open and the Miami Open. Those are two that I’ve really enjoyed over the years. I’ve been to the Citi Open three times I think, and it’s a great tournament. I love walking around, feeling the energy and seeing players you normally wouldn’t see on the smaller courts, because they’re usually on the bigger courts at a Grand Slam. The venues are awesome and it’s a good place for someone who wants to try something new and see tennis at a level they don’t normally see.

SJM: What part of Florida did you live in?

NS: I was in Orlando—Lake Nona, near the USTA [National Campus]. It’s big, they have a lot of courts there. It’s right near the airport, so planes take off and land all day long. It’s a cool little part of Orlando.

SJM: What led to your decision to commit to Washington College?

NS: I decided to go down to Maryland to see the college, talk to the coach a little bit and see a match that the team was playing that day. They have a pretty good team and I talked to the coach, and he wanted me to come down and play some tournaments that they were hosting in the summertime. So I went and I played pretty well in those tournaments, and I think he saw my competitiveness and felt I could be a good fit for the team. … I’m not expecting to be in the singles lineup right away, but if I can play some doubles matches, that would be pretty good for my first year. I like the location of the campus in Maryland—it’s in a small town, right in the middle [of the state]. It’s not too far from home, an hour and a half, and I wanted to be able to come home when I wanted to.

SJM: Do you know what you want to study?

NS: Biology. I love biology—when I took it in high school it was something I understood and enjoyed, so I think it will be a good thing to major in.

SJM: So you’re a volunteer firefighter in Moorestown, which is awesome. How did that come about?

NS: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with fire trucks and first responders in general. In 2022, I found out that you could apply to be a volunteer at the local department in Moorestown, starting at 16. So I filled out the application and I started within a week as a junior firefighter, and now I’m a probationary firefighter. Last summer, I started fire school, the basic training you need to be able to go into burning buildings, and I completed it after six months. Now that I’m done, I can basically help anyone in need. This past Sunday we had a warehouse fire in Mount Laurel, so that was pretty cool to help. I just love helping people and I’ve always wanted to put others before myself. It’s been great and I love the thrill of it. It never gets old.

SJM: What do you like about growing up in Moorestown?

NS: When you’re out of town and come back, it just feels like home. It’s a quiet town and you kind of know everybody. … It’s a big community and everybody is together. 

SJM: Do you still play a lot of tennis with your sister?

NS: I do, yes. When we were younger she was the better one, but I slowly caught up to her. It’s good because I can help her now. I don’t care if I beat her, I just want to help her for her college season.


Kerry O’Day, Cherokee Girls Track

A senior captain, O’Day is the latest in a long line of premier distance runners to come through the Cherokee program. A standout in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, she is coming off a winter season in which she medaled in both the mile and two-mile races at the Meet of Champions, and she placed in the top six at states in both events last spring. She will continue her career at Bucknell University.

SJM: Is it fun to be part of the great running tradition at Cherokee and help carry it on?

KO: Yes. It’s definitely made me a better runner.

SJM: How did you get into running in the first place?

KO: I actually come from a swimming family, but I did a couple of 5Ks when I was younger. My [twin] sister always beat me in the pool, but when I started beating her in these 5Ks, my parents said, “Maybe you should check it out.” So I ran on the cross country team in middle school and I really liked it, and I continued in high school.

SJM: When did you stop swimming?

KO: After my freshman year. I just didn’t have the time for all of it. Running all year and getting the base for spring track [in the indoor season] definitely helped.

SJM: What are your goals for the outdoor season?

KO: I definitely want to place at the Meet of Champs again and I want to lower my PRs. But I also just want to have a lot of fun. It’s my last season with the team, so I want to go to practice, put a smile on my face and just enjoy the team and the atmosphere.

SJM: Are you planning on running both the mile and the two-mile at the MOC, like you did in the winter?

KO: I have to see how everything lands, because nationals is usually that same week and I don’t want to go too overboard. But if everything works out, it’s a very fun double, but also a very hard one, so we’ll see how it works out.

SJM: The two races were pretty close to each other during indoor, right?

KO: Yeah, there was like an hour and a half in between, which was pretty rough.

SJM: Do you have a preference between the two races?

KO: I go back and forth a lot. I usually tend to do better in the two-mile, but I’ve started to get more speed in the mile recently.

SJM: With so many great distance runners on the team, do you bring out the best in each other?

KO: Yeah, we definitely humble each other and it’s nice to be actively competing with girls on my team. It’s very fun and it’s a great group.

SJM: What stands out as your favorite memory from your athletic career at Cherokee?

KO: Definitely my sophomore year of cross country. Our team went undefeated, which is pretty much unheard of in cross country. It was the COVID year, so it messed up a couple of things, but we won states and Meet of Champs and NXR, which is Nike Regionals. We didn’t get to go to nationals that year because they didn’t host it, which was a bummer. It would have been out in Portland, which would have been really cool. But just being able to win all of those races and being the underdog was super cool. We weren’t even in the top three for rankings coming into the Meet of Champs, so being able to pull off the upset was fun. The state meet and Meet of Champs is held on the same course at Holmdel, and I think on average, each girl dropped 50 seconds off her time from the state meet to the Meet of Champs, which showed how much we really wanted it.

SJM: What made you want to go to school at Bucknell?

KO: I definitely liked the Patriot League because the balance of academics and athletics is super important to me. It’s a great school and they have a great program, so I had to take them up on the offer. 

SJM: Do you know what you want to study?

KO: I’m studying mathematical economics. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with my career, but I really like math. I’m taking AP econ right now and I’m really enjoying it.

SJM: Do you think it’s going to be strange to be separated from your twin sister Heather, who is going to Colgate for swimming?

KO: I’m a little nervous about it, but I feel like it will be for the better. Being a twin, you get compared a lot and you get put together a lot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it will be good for us to go on our own paths and grow. We’ll still keep in contact and I should be able to see her, because I think she might have some meets at Bucknell and I think I’ll have some meets at Colgate.

SJM: What do you like about going to school at Cherokee?

KO: It’s a pretty big school, which is nice because you’re always meeting new people, even as a senior. My freshman year was online because of COVID so I never really got to go to the school, so my sophomore year I felt like a freshman again because I didn’t know where any of my classes were. But I got the hang of it eventually.

SJM: What else do you do for fun?

KO: I like to cook. My family gets HelloFresh meals, so you get the ingredients and directions. That’s a fun hobby I have. I also like to go on hikes and walks and stay active.

SJM: Do you run for fun or just for training?

KO: I wouldn’t have made it this far if I didn’t enjoy it at least a little bit. I think it’s super fun.

SJM: How do you get fired up for a big meet like states or the Meet of Champs?

KO: I like to remind myself about all of my training and everything I’ve done. I journal, so I write every good thing that happens during every practice, and I like to look back on that and have a race plan. [I tell myself] I deserve to be there and being in the atmosphere gets me excited.


Jon Young and Ryder Garino, Cherry Hill West Baseball

These senior standouts grew up in the same neighborhood, have played on multiple teams together throughout their childhood and hope to lead Cherry Hill West to a state championship before continuing their careers in the SEC. Young, a shortstop who hit .386 as a junior, is headed to Alabama, while Garino, a right-handed pitcher who posted a 1.49 ERA and struck out 91 last year, is committed to South Carolina.

SJM: Do you have certain goals in mind for your final season together?

JY: The biggest goal is to win the Group 3 state championship. That’s the team goal, and a personal accolade I would like is South Jersey Player of the Year, maybe even Gatorade Player of the Year. I know it’s a reach but those are my goals.

RG: Like he said, we want to win Group 3 along with our conference, and South Jersey Pitcher of the Year is my goal.

SJM: How long have you two been playing together?

JY: Since we were 7 years old. It’s been pretty cool see each other transform into the players we are today. We were scrawny little boys, and then he shot up to about 6-5 and I put some muscle on. It’s definitely cool playing with all of my friends I’ve always played with, especially him. 

RG: It’s great. The chemistry we have is unbeatable.

SJM: Ryder, do you ever pitch against Jon?

RG: Yeah, in intrasquad [scrimmages]. It’s good competition.

JY: It’s competitive, but it’s all love at the end of the day. After the at-bat is done, I tell him good job.

SJM: Jon, what’s tough about facing Ryder?

JY: His mentality. There are a lot of pitchers throughout the year who kind of pitch around me, but he goes right after me and I don’t know what’s coming next, if he’s throwing a slider in the dirt or he’s throwing a fastball high and in.

SJM: Ryder, what’s your approach when you’re facing Jon?

RG: There’s really no approach. You can’t really pitch to him, he hits everything.

SJM: You guys could face each other for real next year as conference rivals.

JY: That’s the goal.

SJM: Was it just a coincidence that you both ended up in the SEC?

JY: Any school the Bama coaches were at, I think I’d want to go to. Those guys are awesome. I’ve never met a coaching staff better than them at the college level. They’re real team guys and they transform you into a different player. It’s like another family when you get there.

SJM: Ryder, what did you like about South Carolina?

JY: It’s always been a dream of mine to play down South, and I like how the coaches transform the players and improve them so well. I really connected with the coaching staff right away.

SJM: Do you know what you want to study?

RG: No, not yet.

JY: I want to do something with sports training and stay around the game as long as possible, whether it’s weight training or just end up doing hitting lessons. I want to do something I love and baseball is what I love. Anything to help out the youth would be great too.

SJM: There are so many great players in the SEC. What do you think it’s going to take to carry over your success to that level?

JY: I think I have to keep performing, but above all else it’s about mindset. College gets real lonely, especially as a freshman if you don’t play, but just believing in yourself and trusting the process is huge. If you don’t play freshman year, you’ll play sophomore year. Keep the outside distractions out, people talking smack or whatever, and just focus on me, my inner circle and my people.

RG: I have to keep getting better day by day and keep working.

SJM: Ryder, what pitches do you have in your arsenal?

RG: I throw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup.

SJM: Jon, are you projected to play shortstop in college?

JY: I’m projected to hit. As long as I get in the lineup, I don’t care too much where I’m playing. I just want to help the team and get my name in the lineup. I played outfield as a freshman and I can play both corners, and on my summer team we have a lot of Power Five guys in the infield so I play some first base. I think I can play most of the positions on the field, so it’s just whether or not I perform in the box.

SJM: Do you have certain MLB guys you like to watch or steal things from?

RG: I’ve been compared to Jacob deGrom a little bit because he’s tall and skinny and his mechanics are a little like mine.

JY: I like looking up to Bryce Harper. He embraces the villain role but he’s loved in Philadelphia, and I think that’s what matters most. A lot of people have a lot to say about me outside of my inner circle, but I don’t really let that get to me. I just play for the people around me. So I admire that about him, and obviously he’s a big lefty bat—who wouldn’t want to swing like Bryce Harper? I take a lot from his swing and try to implement into mine.

SJM: Did you guys get to play at Citizens Bank Park last year in the Carpenter Cup?

JY: We made it to Citizens Bank, but I had an Area Code tryout—it’s a thing for pro scouts.

RG: I did and it was so surreal. It was crazy.

SJM: If you could pick one big-league park to play in, which would you choose?

RG: I’d stay home and say Citizens Bank Park, for sure. It’s the nicest stadium in MLB. The ball does fly though.

JY: Obviously, Citizens Bank, but also somewhere like PNC Park [in Pittsburgh] or Oracle Park with the Giants. Those are beautiful fields. I wouldn’t have a problem playing in any big-league park to be honest with you, but the bridge in right field [at Oracle], you can’t really beat that. I’d also like to play in Colorado and see how far I can hit one with the altitude.

SJM: Who are the teams you get most fired up to play against?

RG: I would say Eustace and Shawnee. Those are back-and-forth, tough matchups.

JY: Delsea is a big one too. We played them in the Diamond semis and lost, and we played them in the Group 3 semis and were right there with them in a one-run loss. That hurt, but at the end of the day it’s all respect with them. We might not like each other, but off the field I respect them as baseball players. 

SJM: What do you do for fun away from the game?

RG: I like to go to the gym, and I just got into MLB The Show. I like hanging with friends and I have a girlfriend.

JY: I don’t do too much. Usually after school I’m at the gym, and I enjoy doing that. I see that as something that’s fun and I see hitting as fun, and when I’m not doing that the only thing I really do is hang out with friends and maybe watch some sports or get food.

SJM: Jon, do you have a walk-up song?

JY: We used them in scrimmages but we haven’t had a home game yet and we have to decide if we’re going to do them. Mine would be “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire. It gets the crowd going and has a good vibe. I like that and “Bad Boys,” the Cops theme song. Those are interchangeable.

SJM: It’s different for a pitcher, but if you were coming in from the bullpen Ryder, what would your entrance song be?

RG: When we did our scrimmage, I picked “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC. I always grew up with that. When we played together [as kids], his dad was our coach and during BP we would always listen to music. That’s one song I always remembered.


Madison Konopka, Shawnee Softball

A four-year starter, this senior shortstop batted .500 with 29 runs and 24 stolen bases as a junior for the South Jersey, Group 3 champions. A St. John’s commit, she collected the 100th hit of her career earlier this season and is the program’s all-time leader in steals.

SJM: I know you achieved a big personal goal already with your 100th career hit, but what else are you hoping to accomplish in your senior season?

MK: I’m just really looking to help my team. I’d probably like to add to my steals record too. I set that last year and I’m currently at 42, I believe.

SJM: What did the 100th hit mean to you? Was that a goal ever since you entered high school?

MK: Yeah, definitely. I’ve always been looking forward to that ever since watching my sister play and seeing girls get [certain] achievements. It was very important to me and a very exciting moment.

SJM: How did you get into softball?

MK: My mom played growing up as well and played in college. We were all raised playing the game and watching, even baseball, so it was a whole generational thing for us. I started around the age of 5.

SJM: What was it like to be part of a sectional championship last year?

MK: It was a surreal moment. All of our hard work came to fruition and it was very satisfying.

SJM: Did you have a good view of the triple play [turned by second baseman Ashley Murphy]?

MK: Yeah, definitely [laughs]. I was trying to sprint over and be there just in case, but she got it all on her own. That was crazy.

SJM: I know this year’s team is off to a little bit of a slow start, but do you feel you have the potential to turn it around and make another run in the playoffs?

MK: Yeah, absolutely. We’re trying to get better at our communication and we keep working hard every single day. I can see us coming together and bonding more. Yeah, it’s a rough start, but we still have the rest of the season to get better.

SJM: With your sister Kaitlyn coaching at Seneca, what’s it like to face her team?

MK: It’s a little intimidating at first, because she’s coached me on the side as well and she knows how to nitpick me in certain situations. But I just try to ignore it. She’s just another coach and another team, so I have to do my job. … We’ve had very close games but we end up pulling through.

SJM: What made you commit to St. John’s for college?

MK: I just love how the coaches are as people. If they see something wrong with your form, then they’re going to correct you immediately. There’s no second-guessing—they’ve very knowledgeable and they’re on it. All of the teammates there are very accepting and kind, and very good resources for any questions you have.

SJM: Do you know what you want to study?

MK: Anthropology. I’ve always wanted something with science and history. I took a lot of time researching and I saw that St. John’s had that as a major, so I looked into it more and it was something I could totally see myself getting into. From then on I was like, that’s the career path for me.

SJM: What are you going to miss the most about home when you’re at school, other than friends and family?

MK: Just the community [of Medford] in general. Growing up, we always had huge events with the town and a bunch of parades, and everyone was always so kind. The town itself and Main Street are obviously not like New York, which is vastly different. I’ll definitely miss that.

SJM: What else do you like to do for fun?

MK: Mostly just hang out with friends. Most of my time is with my sport or school, so I’m very busy.

SJM: Do you play any other sports?

MK: I do winter track at school just to keep in shape for the season. I just finished up my fourth season and it was a lot of fun.


Chase Huggard, Eastern Boys Lacrosse

A junior attackman, Huggard has been a prolific playmaker for Eastern since his freshman year, when he burst onto the scene with 32 goals and 16 assists. Last season, the St. John’s commit recorded 48 goals and 48 assists to help the Vikings reach the South Jersey, Group 4 final. 

SJM: Last year was a memorable one for you and the team. Are you excited to build on that momentum?

CH: Definitely. We return a lot of guys so it will be fun to see how far we can make it again.

SJM: Are you close with your teammates?

CH: Yeah, definitely. We hang out a lot after school and go out to lunch all the time.

SJM: Do you think about last year’s sectional championship a lot, coming up just short against Cherokee in a 10-9 loss?

CH: Oh yeah, and I feel like a lot of the guys do. It’s motivating us for this year.

SJM: Do you have any individual goals for this season?

CH: No, winning sectionals is the biggest goals I have in my mind. Everything else will just come along with it.

SJM: How did you first get into lacrosse?

CH: Funny story: I was 4 years old at my brother’s practice and a kid came off the field because he didn’t want to play. So the parent asked me if I wanted to try the gear on and I did, and I ended up practicing with the older kids. I loved it and stayed with it.

SJM: Have you always played attack?

CH: No, I actually play middie for summer ball. Attack is just for high school—I’m naturally a middie. 

SJM: What’s your favorite part of the game? 

CH: I love passing and assisting because you have another person to celebrate with and you’re not just celebrating yourself scoring. I love how fast it is and how it’s a team game. It’s kind of like football, where everybody is so close and you’re kind of going to war with the other team.

SJM: You’re a point guard in basketball, so you must be used to setting up your teammates.

CH: Yeah, that’s where I get it from.

SJM: Did your brother play for Eastern?

CH: Yeah, he played basketball and lacrosse. I played with him as a freshman. I was figuring everything out and he definitely helped me out a lot. High school sports are a lot different from youth so it was nice to have that.

SJM: Did you expect to play such a big role as a freshman?

CH: I knew I would have a big impact because the team wasn’t great the year before—we were two games below .500. So I knew I could step in and impact the team, but I honestly didn’t have any expectations. I just wanted to help the team.

SJM: I know you’re closing in on 100 career goals [as of press time]. What would that milestone mean to you?

CH: It would be awesome. Our attackman, Sam Zak, just hit it and it was pretty cool, everybody had balloons. 

SJM: You were part of a great season in basketball this year as well. Which sport is first for you?

CH: I absolutely love basketball and I love the guys on that team, but I’m better at lacrosse and I have a bigger role on this team.

SJM: And you’re going to play lacrosse in college?

CH: Yes, at St. John’s.

SJM: What made you want to commit there?

CH: I loved the coaches when I got on campus. From the start of the recruiting window, they were always reaching out and checking in on me. I loved the campus, how it’s close to the city but doesn’t feel like it’s in the city.

SJM: Do you know what you want to study?

CH: I’m not positive, but I got into their honors business college so something to do with business.

SJM: How is the lacrosse program?

CH: This is another reason why I loved it: They’re not like a Notre Dame or a Duke, but I loved that they’re building it. The head coach is in his second year and he’s looking to bring the program back to the top of the Big East.

SJM: Have you always grown up in Voorhees?

CH: I grew up in Voorhees but played lacrosse in Marlton and then went to Eastern.

SJM: So you played with a lot of the guys from Cherokee?

CH: Yeah, that’s why playing Cherokee is fun, but I know a lot of them and it’s personal because I used to play with them for seven years.

SJM: What do you like about going to school at Eastern?

CH: I love how diverse it is. It’s a big school and I love getting to experience playing other big schools. We get a loaded schedule every year being in the Olympic Conference. As for the school itself, I love all the teachers.

SJM: What else do you do for fun?

CH: I hang out with my friends, go play pick-up basketball, go play football at the fields. A lot of outdoor stuff—we’ll also go fish once in a while.

SJM: How do you get ready for a big game?

CH: I have a lot of rituals—I like to keep everything the same and not throw myself off before a game. I listen to music and get locked in. I’ll joke around with the guys, but 20 minutes before the game I’m getting locked in and ready.

SJM: Who’s the funniest guy on the team?

CH: Sam Zak always has a smile on his face and Thomas Keating knows how to make anybody laugh at any time. Our team is funny in general—we have a good dynamic.


Angelina Tolentino, Lenape Girls Golf

Tolentino, a senior, has been named to the all-state first team every season of her career. She is a three-time Burlington County Open and Olympic Conference Tournament champion, and last year she won the South Jersey sectional title for the first time. She will play collegiately at Vanderbilt University.

SJM: You’ve been one of the state’s best golfers since you were a freshman. Is it hard for you to believe that this is your final season at Lenape?

AT: Yes, because time really passed by so fast. I love my team and I love making all the connections with the girls that I’ve met over the years. It’s very bittersweet.

SJM: Do you have any particular goals for this season?

AT: A state championship. Last year, I wasn’t able to go because Megan [Meng] and I were at the [U.S. Women’s Amateur] Four-Ball Championship in Washington. But I’m feeling really good about my chances and I hope to make a move and get that win.

SJM: What did the sectional title mean to you after coming so close the previous two years?

AT: It meant a lot. I knew that course [McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links] already because of the other times I played it, and I had a gauge of the wind, the yardages and what clubs to use on all the holes. I felt really good and it would be nice to go back-to-back this year.

SJM: How old were you when you first started playing golf?

AT: I was 6 when I started and 7 when I started playing competitively. My sister was the one who started with lessons. I watched her and picked up where she left off. I would say from the get-go I had a fierce, fiery personality and the competitiveness really fit with me. I’ve loved competing since I was young.

SJM: What else do you love about the sport?

AT: I’ve been to so many different places and met so many people who are lifelong best friends. I’m very grateful.

SJM: What was it like to play in the Four-Ball Championship with some of the best amateur players in the country?

AT: Oh my God, I loved it. It was in Seattle and it was so hot. I thought it would be rainy, cold, 60 degrees, but it was sunny and 80 degrees every day that we played.

SJM: Do you have a favorite local course?

AT: Honestly, not in state. My favorite course of all time is Olde Stone in Kentucky. I know it’s random but I played there for the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2022 and I absolutely loved it.

SJM: What’s your dream course that you would love to play?

AT: Augusta, 100%. I’m trying to make it to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, that’s also a big goal. Hopefully, if I work hard enough I can get there.

SJM: Do you like to watch the professionals?

AT: Yes, I do. I started watching [The Masters] during school through the app.

SJM: Who are your favorite players?

AT: On the men’s side, Jason Day for sure. On the women’s side, I love Lydia Ko: Her personality, her mindset, how she views the sport and her perspective on life.

SJM: Do you play year round, even in bad weather?

AT: I try to. We have a long winter break at Lenape, and that’s when I go down to my uncle’s house in Orlando and practice down there. Up here, I practice in my garage and I also like to suffer sometimes at Burlington out on the range. I’ll just bundle up and wear layers.

SJM: What led to your decision to attend Vanderbilt?

AT: Oh my God, I get so giddy about it. No. 1 was definitely the coaches, because their personalities and the way they like to handle things was a huge factor for me. Also, I loved the campus itself because it has a nice mixture of both greenery and the city. We all live near Philly, so I wanted to get the city vibe. The team is a family—I know some teams focus on their own goals and not the connections with the other girls, but I feel like I wouldn’t like that. I wanted to have the bonds with the other girls.

SJM: Do you like country music?

AT: No.

SJM: You might have to learn to like it.

AT: [Laughs] I know, sooner or later I will. I’ll probably get into it once I head down there.

SJM: Do you know what you want to study?

AT: Not yet, but I know there’s this one major called human organizational development. It’s really hard to explain but I like to say it’s psychology but within a business setting, so you get to study how people interact with their colleagues and why people act the way they do. It’s interesting.

SJM: What’s your ultimate goal with golf? How far do you want to take it?

AT: The LPGA. A backup plan would be working for a big athletic company like Nike or Adidas: Similar to what Michelle Wie does now. She played on Tour for a while and now she’s an ambassador for Nike, which is really cool. But professional golf first.

SJM: What else do you like to do for fun?

AT: When the weather gets nicer, my sister and I and also my friends play pickleball at the local tennis court. We’re not good, but we play for fun. I don’t know what’s so fun about it, but it gets my mind off of things, especially when things get stressful.

SJM: What do you like about growing up in South Jersey?

AT: The diversity. As a minority, I feel like it’s kind of hard to meet people who have the same background and culture as you, but Mount Laurel is so diverse and it was easier for me to make friends who were kind of similar and had the same traditions as my family. 

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Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 21, Issue 1 (April 2024)

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