As Big Blue readies itself for the fall season, it hopes to improve upon its record last season, during which the team took third in the Metropolitan Independent Football League.
Every year, seven Pingry seniors are chosen to represent the School as scholar athletes in Somerset County, the Skyland Conference, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), and the New Jersey Independent Schools Athletic Association (NJISAA). Below are the seven Pingry seniors—equally committed in the classroom as they are in their sport—who met the criteria this year.
Somerset County Scholar Athletes
Darlene Fung '19
Four-year letter winner and co-captain of the Girls' Varsity Swim Team, Darlene was part of Pingry's first female relay team to achieve the All-American qualifying standard (in the 200 freestyle relay, in 1:35.74). She is a four-time Meet of Champions winner in both the 50- and 100-yard individual freestyle, four-time NISCA All-American, and two-time Scholastic All-American. Additionally, she holds the Meet of Champions record in the 50-yard freestyle and school records in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, and 100-yard butterfly. Darlene was named Prep Championship Girls Swimmer of the Meet in 2018, Courier News Girls Swimmer of the Year in 2018, and NJ.com Girls Swimmer of the Year in 2019. Outside of swimming, she has been an Honor Roll member all semesters, an AP scholar, a Journal Club team member, a Peer Leader, and co-head of the Writing Center. She will swim for Harvard University in the fall.
Head Coach of the Girls' Varsity Swim Team Deirdre O'Mara: "I have watched Darlene over the last few years become the complete package—incredibly smart, interested in everything, motivated, articulate, and yet humble, empathetic, measured, and compassionate. . . her swimming is nothing short of fantastic. She finished her senior year with two state titles along with a state record in her signature event, meanwhile, during the dual meet season she swam every event that we needed to her to swim. . . Darlene's attitude was always positive, unselfish, without question she did her best for the team, even when the events I asked her to swim were not her favorite. She even mentored the other teammates who were also club swimmers how to navigate this space. Harvard swimming will benefit not only from her performances in the pool but her ability to be a great teammate and create a positive dynamic for those around her. I am very grateful that my freshmen had a year with her!"
Kevin Ma '19
Kevin is a four-year letter winner and senior co-captain of both the Boys' Varsity Swim Team and the Varsity Water Polo Team. In his junior year, he was named an All-American in Pingry's 200-medley relay, which broke a 30-year New Jersey state record. His senior year, he was again named an All-American swimmer in the 200-medley relay, which took gold at the Meet of the Champions. He also earned All-American status in the 200-freestyle relay, and was awarded All-American consideration in the 400-freestyle relay and the 50 freestyle. Outside of athletics, Kevin has been on the Honor Roll every semester, works with the Humanities Independent Research Team (HIRT), and was named a National AP Scholar and a national merit semifinalist.
Head Coach of the Boys' Varsity Swim Team Steve Droste: "A quiet, consummate leader and serious student, Kevin was the glue of our team over the winter season. As captain of both the Water Polo and Boys' Swim Teams, he really took on a leadership role this year."
Skyland Conference Scholar Athletes
Nate Hefner '19
Nate is a four-year letter winner in football and baseball, and three-year letterer in basketball. Senior captain of the Boys' Varsity Football Team, he twice earned First Team All-League honors, and broke Pingry's single game rushing record at 257 yards. As captain of the Basketball Team his senior year, he received All-Conference honorable mentions for two consecutive years, as well as Hustle Player of the Year honors—decided by the coaching staff—his junior and senior years. And, as a junior- and senior-year captain of the Baseball Team, he earned Second Team All-Conference honors for three straight years. He was recently inducted into the Cum Laude Society, and will be attending Northwestern University in the fall.
Head Coach of the Boys' Varsity Football Team Chris Shilts: "Nate is the consummate team player. His ability to govern allows him to communicate well with all the different personalities on the team. He's intensely driven and has an ardent will to succeed."
Grace O'Mara '19
Grace is a four-time varsity letter winner and senior captain of the Varsity Water Polo, Swim, and Outdoor Track & Field Teams. As a swimmer, she placed sixth in the 50-freestyle at the 2019 Meet of Champions and was selected to the All-Conference Second Team in the event as both a junior and senior. She was also part of several school record-breaking relay teams—in the Meet of Champions, she helped both the 200-free and 200-medley relays to third-place finishes. Grace was also a member of the state-winning water polo team her freshmen year, and has helped the team to a second-place finish in the tournament for three consecutive years. Committed to throw for Lafayette College next year, she currently holds the school record in the discus (123'05") and has the second farthest throw in school history in the shot put (35'09"). In 2019, at the Non-Public A Championships, she won the discus and took third in the shot put.
Head Throwing Coach Norm Lavalette: "Although the throwing events are associated with power, speed, and size, all of which Grace possesses, she is a technician, a stickler for detail, who understands the importance of all of the progressions and positions critical to each of the events. She has both an athletic and a scholarly attitude toward them, which is reflected in her critical thinking and problem-solving vernacular, and the way she speaks with me and her teammates. This has transferred to the other athletes as well—even our youngest competitors—who clearly look up to her. She has improved my coaching as well; I am constantly looking for more information and better avenues and cues to communicate what she needs to know. The past four seasons have been special and will continue to resonate with the members of our team who have been so positively influenced by Grace's tenure with us."
NJSIAA Scholar Athlete
Josie Jahng '19
Four-year letter winner and senior captain of the Girls' Varsity Field Hockey Team, Josie has been a starter and central player on the team since her freshman year. In her first year, she finished second on the team in goals scored and received All-County, All-Conference, and All-Non-Public nods, recognitions she has earned every season since. A midfield/forward, she led the team in goals scored her junior and senior years and finishes her career with 79 goals and 25 assists, despite missing the majority of her sophomore season with a torn ACL and meniscus. In her last two seasons, she was named one of NJ.com's Top Midfielders to Watch, Regional Players to Watch, and was included in the MAXFH Class of 2019 Top 100 National Player Rankings. In addition, she was an All-North Jersey and All-Region pick and was selected to play in the New Jersey Field Hockey Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game. Outside of Pingry competition, she has been selected four times to represent New Jersey at the USA Field Hockey National Futures Championships. Josie will head to Yale University in the fall, where she will play Division I field hockey for the Bulldogs.
Former Head Coach of the Varsity Field Hockey Team Julie Delinsky: "Josie is a player who leads by the example she sets. She is a quiet leader and her hard work and dedication to the sport of field hockey more than speak for themselves! Several days she would leave the field at Pingry to do additional individual training. She puts the success of the team on her shoulders and is the player to score the winning goal. In fact, the last two years she led the county in goal scoring with 26 and 25 goals, respectively. Josie is also very humble in her accomplishments and uses her knowledge to teach and encourage her teammates. She is beloved by them and it's not hard to see why!"
NJISAA Scholar Athletes
Cathleen Parker '19
A four-year letter winner on the Girls' Varsity Cross Country, Winter Track & Field, and Lacrosse Teams, Cathleen served as captain of the cross country team her junior and senior seasons, and captain of winter track and lacrosse her senior year. Prep Champion in the 1600-meter run indoors as both a sophomore and junior, she was also a member of the 4x800-meter relay team that took ninth at New Balance Nationals Indoor in March 2018. In the winter of 2019, she set a school record in the 600 meter run in 1:43. Cathleen made U.S. Lacrosse's New Jersey National Schoolgirls A Team in 2016 and 2017. Outside of athletics, she is a four-year member of the Pingry Politics Club, serving as club leader her senior year, and a three-year member of the Journal Club. An honor roll member every semester, she was named a National Merit Commended Student. Cathleen will attend West Point Military Academy in the fall, where she will play lacrosse.
Head Coach of the Girls' Varsity Lacrosse Team Carter Abbott: "Cathleen is the consummate scholar-athlete. The combination of her work ethic and talent have made her a captain and top contributor to all three teams she is a part of. She will make Pingry proud as she heads to West Point next year as a recruited scholar athlete in lacrosse."
Leighton Mayers '19
Leighton, whose parents were born in Great Britain, is a six-time British national age-group champion in the 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly, and 50 freestyle (he won these events in 2015 and 2016). He is also a two-time Great Britain Olympic Trials qualifier in the 100-meter backstroke. His senior year, he served as co-captain of the Boys' Varsity Swim Team, helping Big Blue to tie the state record for the most number of consecutive high school state titles in New Jersey history. Leighton is a 14-time Skyland Conference Champion and, at the 2019 Meet of Champions, he won the 100-yard backstroke in All-American consideration time. He was also a key member of two relay teams that earned gold in All-American time. He will be swimming for Bowdoin College next year, where he is considering a pre-med track.
Head Coach of the Boys' Varsity Swim Team Steve Droste: "Leighton is a natural leader; even as a freshman, he was boisterously cheering on his teammates."
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, email@example.com