Shining Stars

by Matt Cosentino; Photography Tim Hawk | Feb 8, 2019
Shining Stars

Meet eight standout athletes who are taking South Jersey by storm this winter.

Cloe Lowell, Eastern girls bowling
Lowell has come a long way in a short time in the sport, emerging as the anchor and a team leader for one of the premier bowling programs in the area. The senior is looking to cap her career by qualifying for states for the second time this winter.

South Jersey Magazine: How long have you been a bowler?
Cloe Lowell: Just four years. I started in high school. 
South Jersey Magazine: You never went as a kid?
Cloe Lowell: We would go on trips for summer camp once a year but that was about it. It was nothing serious. Me and my friends kind of signed up as a joke. We thought it would be fun; something to do in high school. The joke was on us because we ended up being pretty good at it and we actually all really like it.
South Jersey Magazine: When did it hit you that you had a talent for the sport?
Cloe Lowell: Our first year we made varsity and we were 12th in the state, fourth in our division and first in our conference with three freshmen on the team and two juniors. So we thought, ‘That’s funny.’
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like about bowling?
Cloe Lowell: I like being with all my friends, of course. It’s actually more competitive than you’d think it would be. We go to tournaments every other weekend in the winter and we bowl the best people in the state. South Jersey is not that good in bowling; they’re crazy good in North Jersey. Getting to bowl against really good girls and seeing how good we are compared to them is awesome. We usually place in the top 10 out of 40 teams so it’s nice.
South Jersey Magazine: Is there pressure during those tournaments?
Cloe Lowell: There’s definitely a little pressure because the last few years I’ve been anchor. The anchor has to keep everybody together. If everybody is not doing well it’s kind of on me to make sure I’m making my marks, doing the best I can and keeping the team excited and ready to go. 
South Jersey Magazine: Would you say going to states is your No. 1 goal for your final season?
Cloe Lowell: Definitely. We have sectionals in a couple of weeks, and the way sectionals works is the top two teams go on to states. You can also go individually; I think it’s the top 30 girls out of the 120 that are there go on to states as well. I missed it last year by 14 pins, which is only two spares. I was honorable mention all-state though, which is pretty cool.
South Jersey Magazine: Why do you think you’ve been able to be so successful in a short amount of time?
Cloe Lowell: Our coaches are amazing. Joe Strippoli is the owner of 30 Strikes and he’s one of our coaches. He’s a great guy. Mr. (Eric) Datis also helps so much. And the girls who were juniors when we started—Kristina Scimone and Anna Hileman—were great. They were a lot of help for me, Ryann [Werner] and Hailey [Dadi], the other seniors this year. They’ve been playing their whole lives so they knew what they were talking about. We would just sit there and soak it up like a sponge. Now we’re trying to help the younger kids like they helped us. 
South Jersey Magazine: After you started bowling for the high school team, did you pick it up the rest of the year too?
Cloe Lowell: Nope, just in the winter. Our coach always gets mad at us because we never practice in the offseason. We literally go two weeks before practice starts officially. ... I love bowling but I can’t bowl every day. I like to get out and do other things. 
South Jersey Magazine: Do you see yourself joining a league after high school or college? Do you think it’s something that will stick with you?
Cloe Lowell: Yeah, I don’t see why not. It’s fun and it’s a good way to make friends in college. I’ve had a few [recruiters] ask me for my email for scouting. I don’t think I want to do it in college because I really want to focus on school and I do a lot of stuff outside of bowling. I never have free time. But I would definitely like to join a club. Three of the colleges I’ve been accepted to have bowling clubs so it’s something I’m looking into.
South Jersey Magazine: What keeps you busy when you’re not bowling?
Cloe Lowell: I’ve worked the same three jobs all of high school. Now I work at Lafferty Family Chiropractic but I was a lifeguard, I was working at Bagel Bin and I was umpiring softball up until this year. I’m also a member of my church’s youth council so we are in charge of putting things together for the kids and coming up with lesson plans and planning trips. I also volunteer once a month at an animal clinic and that’s so much fun because I want to be a vet.
South Jersey Magazine: What kind of work do you do at the animal clinic?
Cloe Lowell: I get to watch post-op and pre-op. It’s a spay and neuter clinic so I help prepare the animals for surgery. I prepare syringes for the vet techs so they can put in the vaccines and stuff. At the end of the day I do paperwork and I help with inventory.
South Jersey Magazine: Did you always love animals growing up?
Cloe Lowell: Yes. I’ve always wanted to do something in the science field but I always come back to wanting to be a vet. I grew up around horses and I love animals. I have six pets, all rescue cats. That makes me sound crazy but three are my brother’s and he’s about to move out. I’m getting a dog next year and I can’t wait.
South Jersey Magazine: Have you made your college choice yet?
Cloe Lowell: I’ve gotten accepted to six schools but I’m still waiting to hear back from my No. 1 choice, which is Auburn University. I’ll actually hear back from them in [early February] but I’ll be in Haiti on a mission trip. Auburn is my No. 1 but I’ve been accepted to Michigan State and I just got accepted to Purdue. Those are my top three. 
Cloe Lowell: So you’ve got the South, the North and the Midwest covered.
CL: [Laughs] Yes but I have family at all three. My grandparents are 10 minutes from Auburn. My mom is from Michigan so all of her family is there. And my mom’s aunt lives in West Lafayette [Indiana] so she’s right next to Purdue.
South Jersey Magazine: Tell me about your upcoming mission trip to Haiti.
Cloe Lowell: My church is affiliated with another church there and we’re going to be volunteering with orphans for a week. They do this twice a year. It’s my first time ever leaving the country except for Canada, so I’m super excited. I’ve done mission work before but only in the U.S. This will be my second year working with kids; my first year was at a summer camp in Lewiston, Maine and it was awesome. Lewiston, Maine sounds like it would be a plain, boring city but a really high percentage of the population is refugees. So we were working with their children and I loved it. I’ll be doing the same thing in Haiti.
South Jersey Magazine: Do you have a favorite place to bowl?
Cloe Lowell: That’s hard. I have a least favorite place to bowl, which is the one in Cherry Hill, Playdrome. I do so bad there; I don’t know why. My favorite would either be 30 Strikes—because it’s our home lanes and I love everybody there and the staff is so nice—or Laurel Lanes because I bowl really well there and that’s where sectionals is held.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like about living in South Jersey?
Cloe Lowell: I like the location. I like that we’re really close to Philly and I have family in Reading, Pennsylvania so we’re not too far away. I love being close to the beach. That’s something I’m going to miss when I go to school. I love Cape May; that’s my favorite place in the world. It’s a cute little beach town that nobody ever talks about. You only ever hear about Ocean City and Wildwood, but Wildwood is literally 15 minutes away. Everything about Cape May makes me so happy.

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Brian Nasielski, Lenape swimming
One of the top 500 freestylers in South Jersey, Nasielski placed 12th in the state in the event last season and also qualified in the 200 free. A member of the renowned Jersey Wahoos, he will continue his career at Lehigh University.
South Jersey Magazine: What are your goals for your final season at Lenape?
Brian Nasielski: First, I want to get the school record for the 500 freestyle; I’m pretty close to that so it would be great if I can get it before I graduate. I want to make states again this year and hopefully make the A final. Last year I made the all-South Jersey team for the first time, so it would be great if I can repeat that too. 
South Jersey Magazine: Do you know who has the school record?
Brian Nasielski: Steve Shek. He swam for Jersey Wahoos and Lenape.
South Jersey Magazine: Is the 500 freestyle your favorite race?
Brian Nasielski: Yes. My coaches pushed a lot for distance training and it just kind of became my best event. I started to like it when I started getting good at it. Not a lot of people do it so I get to be one of the people who do it and actually enjoy it.
South Jersey Magazine: What did growing up as a member of the Jersey Wahoos instill in you?
Brian Nasielski: Definitely discipline and time management. I never had a harder experience than training with them for four years of high school. It’s five days a week, before and after school. It showed me that hard work pays off and gets you where you want to be.
South Jersey Magazine: So you must get up pretty early.
Brian Nasielski: Yep, 4:20, three times a week. But it’s worth it in the end. I try to go to bed early but it’s hard sometimes because I have so much homework.
South Jersey Magazine: Who would you say is the best swimmer in South Jersey right now?
Brian Nasielski: Destin Lasco from Mainland. I don’t know him personally but I swam against him growing up and I’m going to college with his older brother.
South Jersey Magazine: What led to your decision to attend Lehigh?
Brian Nasielski: I thought it was a great mix of academics and athletics. A lot of schools are either really focused on swimming or they’re really focused on schoolwork, but Lehigh was a mix of the two. It’s a highly ranked school, especially for engineering, which I’m going to major in. And the people were the best part. Meeting the team and the coaches, I felt an instant connection with them and I’m so excited to go there next year.
South Jersey Magazine: Are you ready to go away to college now or still savoring the high school experience?
Brian Nasielski: I really like high school. I’m sad it’s ending because I enjoy it a lot. But I’m excited for college at the same time. 
South Jersey Magazine: What are you going to miss most about South Jersey?
Brian Nasielski: Definitely my friends, my hometown of Mount Laurel and the Shore, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I go to LBI all the time. It’s the closest Shore town to us so me and my friends will go there at random times throughout the year. I love the people there and it’s a stress-free environment.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like about Lenape?
Brian Nasielski: The teachers are my favorite part about the whole school. Their passion for their jobs is inspiring to see every day. The school is so rigorous and so good at preparing me for college, and I’m actually not scared at all for my classes next year.
South Jersey Magazine: What kind of engineering do you want to study?
Brian Nasielski: I want to do chemical engineering and still minor in biology or biochemistry. 
South Jersey Magazine: What would you rather do on a Saturday night: sit home and watch Netflix or go out somewhere?
Brian Nasielski: I’ve never stayed home on a Saturday. I love going out with my friends. On Saturdays I’ll go to practice, come home and sleep and then get ready to hang out with my friends at night. It’s the only night I don’t have practice the next day so it’s the best part of my week.
South Jersey Magazine: Where do you like to hang out?
Brian Nasielski: In the summer we go to the Shore a lot. Sometimes we just drive around in circles. With Philly so close we’ll drive over and get cheesesteaks. Jim’s on South Street is my favorite.
South Jersey Magazine: Are there swimmers you look up to?
Brian Nasielski: A lot of my friends follow it closer than I do. I only know the big-name swimmers. I’m more interested in my friends and I look up to them after they graduate and move on to college. That just seems more real to me. They definitely inspire me. The big names like Michael Phelps and all of them are inspiring, but I like to see my friends do great in school and still swim fast in college. Some of my friends from Jersey Wahoos who I’ve seen go on to do great things are Matt McGough, Luke Snyder and Ryan Carroll.
South Jersey Magazine: Ryan Lochte is now on Celebrity Big Brother. If you had to be on a reality show, which one would you pick?
Brian Nasielski: I don’t really watch TV too much so I don’t know too many reality shows. But I have seen Big Brother and that seems fun so I’ll choose that one.
South Jersey Magazine: What’s the atmosphere like at states?
Brian Nasielski: It’s really competitive because there’s a whole half of the state that we never see here in South Jersey. I remember my first time freshman year, I went for a relay and there were kids there from North Jersey you’ve never heard of before who are so talented. It’s a really competitive atmosphere and I’m glad we get to do it. It’s electric with everybody in the stands.
South Jersey Magazine: What’s your pre-race routine before states or another big meet?
Brian Nasielski: Before I leave the house I always take an ice bath. Some people like that but a lot of people don’t. I feel like it relaxes my muscles so I love doing it before I go to meets. I don’t really listen to music or isolate myself before the race. I just stay conversational and hang out with people. I don’t take it too seriously leading up to it because I feel like I would stress myself out. 
South Jersey Magazine: During the race are you aware of the other guys or just focused on yourself?
Brian Nasielski: It depends on the circumstances. Some races if I’m swimming close to one of my training partners, it drives me to compete with them. But if I’m swimming a race and nobody is around me I’ll just focus on myself. You can’t control other people; you can only control your own times.
South Jersey Magazine: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Brian Nasielski: I want to be living in a city, hopefully Philadelphia or New York. I want to be working for a drug development company, helping to design or do research on drugs. I want to work in immunology; that’s why I want to minor in biology or biochemistry to get that background. It goes back to my teachers in school, who have taught me to love math and science so much. I just find it interesting.

Ava Therien, Cherokee
A three-year starter at forward, Therien led Cherokee in scoring last season and made the all-South Jersey first team. Two years ago—playing with her older sister Isabella—she helped the Chiefs win a sectional title, and she hopes to do the same this season with her younger sister Alexa.
South Jersey Magazine: How is senior year going?
Ava Therien: It’s good but it’s a lot with basketball and everything. It’s going by pretty fast. I feel like I’ve been in high school for so long but getting to play with my sister, I’m starting to realize now it does go by fast.
South Jersey Magazine: What kind of impact did Isabella have on you in basketball?
Ava Therien: She had a huge impact. I learned so much from playing with her. I learned from watching her too; she played her hardest in every game. It teaches you to go out and play just as hard as she does. Being her little sister I got to live with her too. She not only helped with basketball but everything else. I looked up to her for everything. Now I’m going to play with her in college and that’s awesome.
South Jersey Magazine: Was that an easy decision to commit to Loyola?
Ava Therien: I think they offered me going into my junior year and I thought it was a good school but I wanted to wait and let it play out a little bit. I committed last summer. We had so much fun playing together in high school and the chemistry was there. She loves Loyola; it’s a nice school and it’s not too big. I already know most of the people there and the coaches are great so it’s a good fit.
South Jersey Magazine: Now you have to get Alexa to go there.
Ava Therien: [Laughs] We’ll see.
South Jersey Magazine: Are you trying to be a mentor for Alexa like Isabella was for you?
Ava Therien: I’m trying. She’s catching on to everything pretty fast. She already has five offers and I think she’s going to be better than me and Isabella. She’s working really hard and she’s growing. With coach [Ron] Powell and coach [John] McFadden she’s learning a lot. She’s getting better every day.
South Jersey Magazine: One of the best things about your game is that you’re a scorer, but you don’t have to score to impact a game. You’re a very good defensive player and rebounder too. Do you like those parts of the game?
Ava Therien: Yes. Not a lot of people would say this but I think I like defense better than offense because you can steal the ball, get a rebound or stop the other team from scoring. It’s fun to get a rebound and push the ball up the court. I like defense a lot better than offense.
South Jersey Magazine: Who is a challenging player from South Jersey who makes you step up your game defensively?
Ava Therien: I would say Shannon Mulroy from Lenape. They just beat us on a buzzer-beater and we’ve been playing her for a while. She works hard every game and every time you play her you have to be on your A game or she’s going to pop 3s in your face. She’s a great player to go up against and Lenape is great competition. Shannon is definitely the type of player you want to play well against.
South Jersey Magazine: Is Lenape the game you look forward to the most?
Ava Therien: Definitely. They’ve been our rival for a while, especially in the conference. I remember my freshman year, I didn’t play varsity but I was on the bench. It was when Shaye McGoey and Cailey Gibson were seniors. It was the South Jersey final and I remember losing to them. The next year I was playing as a sophomore and Isabella was a senior and the first time we played them we lost again. Ever since then it’s been a rivalry because they’re our sister school and they’re always good. We always try to bring our A game and sometimes we fall short, but that’s definitely the game we want to win the most.
South Jersey Magazine: You were part of a sectional championship as a sophomore and you went back to the final last year. Is your No. 1 goal to get back there?
Ava Therien: Oh yeah, but we’ll take it game by game. We want to win the South Jersey Invitational again, we want to win our division and then see what happens with getting back to the South Jersey final. We’ll be ready since we lost last year. We’re going to prepare more this year and we’ll see how it goes.
South Jersey Magazine: The South Jersey Invitational seems like a good tournament to get ready for the playoffs.
Ava Therien: Yeah, we love that tournament. It’s good competition and this year Gloucester Catholic is in it, and we love playing them too.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?
Ava Therien: I like to hang out with my family. I feel like during the season I don’t get to see a lot of them. I like to play hockey with my brother outside, or we play indoor basketball. We have a little net and we’re always playing 1v1. I definitely enjoy hanging out with my family and friends.
South Jersey Magazine: I guess your dad [former Flyers defenseman Chris Therien] likes to see you playing hockey.
Ava Therien: Yeah, I’ll put the pads on and go in net and my dad and brother will shoot on me. My dad’s not as good—his shot is a little off—but he’s still got it.
South Jersey Magazine: Do you remember him as a player?
Ava Therien: I remember him playing for Dallas more than the Flyers because I was older when he got traded. Then he came back. So I remember a little from the end of his career. We follow the Flyers of course. They’re not doing so good but it’s fun to watch, especially when you’re there watching it live.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like about going to Cherokee?
Ava Therien: It’s a big school and a lot of my friends go there. The sports teams are good and we go to watch the boys basketball team. All of the sports teams are very supportive of each other, which I think is nice. My sister goes there and I run into her a lot, so I like that.
South Jersey Magazine: Do you know what you want to study at Loyola?
Ava Therien: I’m not sure yet. Probably something in business. That’s what my older sister is studying.
Daimere Wilson-Turner, Washington Township wrestling
Wilson-Turner transferred to Washington Township last year and had an impact on the program right away, as he won 30 matches and a district championship at 220 pounds. In his senior season he is hoping to contend for a region title and compete at the state tournament in Atlantic City.
South Jersey Magazine: What are your goals for this season?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: I’m looking to place in states. It’s my last year so I’m looking to go big. I want to work hard in practice and get better every day.
South Jersey Magazine: It looks like you’ve been going back and forth between 220 pounds and heavyweight. What weight class do you plan on competing in for the postseason?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: I’m going 220. Right now I’m still a little above 220 but I’m getting close. I don’t like this heavyweight stuff. Those guys are too big. I wrestle like a heavyweight a little bit, but some of the stuff I do doesn’t work against them.
South Jersey Magazine: You earned a big win over Penns Grove’s Tyreke Brown earlier this year. What did that do for your confidence?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: My confidence was very high after that. I remember him from last year; everybody was saying how good he was even though I didn’t get to see him at regions or anything. He went to states and I didn’t, so going against him this year and beating him felt pretty good.
South Jersey Magazine: So you transferred to Washington Township last year from Dover High School in Delaware. Did you grow up in Delaware?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: I was born in Voorhees and I lived all around New Jersey, including Burlington and Sicklerville—my grandmother has lived in Sicklerville for years. I went to Township as a kid. But in seventh grade I decided to live with my grandfather in Delaware and it changed my life. That’s where I started to wrestle.
South Jersey Magazine: Were you happy to come back to Washington Township?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: Yeah, I was pretty happy about it. Everybody said it was tougher in wrestling. I was doing OK in Delaware but I needed to see how I could do against tougher competition. I didn’t move here just for wrestling but it was good for me.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like about school?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: I have a lot of cool friends. The school has really nice programs and classes. I have very supportive teachers and counselors and it’s definitely a good school.
South Jersey Magazine: Eric Ring was a standout wrestler himself. What is he like as a coach?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: He’s a hard coach. He demands a lot in practice and everything. He’s amazing; I love coach Ring.
South Jersey Magazine: Have you ever been to states in Atlantic City as a spectator?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: I went last year and watched for a little bit. That was my first time in New Jersey. It was huge; Delaware is not that big. It kind of reminded me of the Beast of the East but even bigger.
South Jersey Magazine: You got to wrestle in the Beast of the East this year at the University of Delaware. What was that experience like?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: I went 3-2 at the Beast. It was my first time ever and it was amazing. It definitely made me better. I learned a lot from what everybody was doing. You don’t usually get to see Blair Academy and how they practice. You get an idea of why they’re so good.
South Jersey Magazine: What is your frame of mind going into a big match?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: It kind of depends on whether it’s a dual meet or a tournament. If it’s a dual meet, everybody is getting hyped. It’s us versus them and we’re going to win; that’s our frame of mind. If it’s a tournament I just have my headphones on and music blasting, getting ready for what’s going to happen.
South Jersey Magazine: What kind of music do you listen to?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: I love Eminem. He’s my favorite rapper. I listen to rap, R&B, anything.
South Jersey Magazine: What are your hobbies away from wrestling?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: When it’s not wrestling season you can always find me playing PS4 with my friends. I love playing video games. I tolerate Fortnite but I play Red Dead a lot; I’m trying to beat it as fast as I can. I don’t do it a lot anymore, but I used to read a lot when I was a sophomore and junior. I don’t really have time since I’m looking into colleges and everything.
South Jersey Magazine: How is the college search going?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: I’m still working on it. I know I want to go to college and I think I want to go for wrestling, so I’m working with a recruiter.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you want to study?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: At first I thought I was going to study electrical engineering, but I’m thinking more psychology now. I like working with people and helping people so I think it would be good for me.
South Jersey Magazine: During a tough practice, what person on the team can lighten the mood with a funny joke?
Daimere Wilson-Turner: Probably the coaches. When something tough is happening you need the people in charge to lighten things up and they’ll crack jokes. But then we get right back to work.
Mike DePersia, Haddonfield boys basketball
A four-year starter at point guard with more than 1,200 career points, DePersia scored the game-winning basket in a wild playoff victory over Camden last year and went on to lead Haddonfield to the Group II state championship. He will continue his career at the Division I level at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI).
South Jersey Magazine: I know you missed a big chunk early in the season with a broken bone in your wrist. How did you handle it?
Mike DePersia: It’s definitely not how I planned to start off the year but it could have been worse. I tried to keep a positive attitude through it all. I got back on the court quicker than the original diagnosis so that’s always a positive. When I wasn’t playing I tried to be a coach on the bench and I gained a new perspective. I tried to help my teammates in any way I could.
South Jersey Magazine: I guess it helped that the team played well in your absence.
Mike DePersia: Yeah, obviously we still have a good team without me. We have a lot of good players. In the long run, everybody is getting better and I think it’s going to make us even better in the end.
South Jersey Magazine: Looking back on last year, it was such a great run. What stands out from the game against Camden in the sectional semifinals, when you hit the game-winner?
MD: That was a lot of fun. That game was amazing. We were down by 14 at half and we didn’t have too much going for us. But we came out in the second half, fired on all cylinders and played great defense. I had that layup at the end and it was kind of a miracle ending. The whole run was amazing but the win against Camden was probably the biggest win we had.
South Jersey Magazine: What did it mean to bring another state championship to Haddonfield?
Mike DePersia: It had been 12 years since it happened. It’s only happened six times in school history and I think four were under coach [Paul] Wiedeman. Winning a state championship just cements the team in school history. It was a lot of fun and really special. Obviously the goal every year is to win a state championship, but to actually go out and do it was awesome.
South Jersey Magazine: Is coach Wiedeman extra hard on you since he was a point guard himself?
Mike DePersia: I’ve been playing since freshman year and we’ve always had a pretty good relationship. My job as a point guard is to try to be a coach on the floor. I’ve always done my best to listen to him because he’s a great mind and one of the best coaches in South Jersey. We’ve always had a good connection.
South Jersey Magazine: What kind of impact did your older brothers, twins Nick and Rob, have on you?
Mike DePersia: I learned a lot from them. Ever since I was able to walk I’ve tried to copy them. I always hung out with them and their friends. We had a court in the backyard and there were a lot of brawls out there. I’d come in crying a lot of times. But I learned everything from them and my mom and dad. We have a close family in general and basketball is a big part of it. It’s always been a sport that we loved. We work out together in the offseason and they critique me on what I can do better. They’re my No. 1 supporters.
South Jersey Magazine: You also have a twin?
Mike DePersia: Yeah I have a twin sister, Natalie. We have two sets of twins. She also broke the same bone in her wrist the day before I did. I guess that’s a twin telepathy thing. She was a starter in basketball but her main sport is lacrosse, so she’s trying to make sure it’s healed up for that. Hers was also a more significant break and it was her dominant hand.
South Jersey Magazine: So there must have been a lot of fights in your house with two sets of twins.
Mike DePersia: There were definitely fights, but it’s hard not to be close with two sets of twins. There’s always somebody right next to you. No matter what, you know you have a family member who always has your back. That’s been preached since we were younger—family comes first.
South Jersey Magazine: Do you think it will be weird next year in college when she’s at Rowan and you’re at IUPUI?
Mike DePersia: Yeah, I’m going out to Indianapolis, nine hours away. I’m the first one who won’t be a half hour away at Rowan. It’s a big distance and I guess I’ll have to get used to it. But I don’t think it’s anything I won’t be able to adjust to.
South Jersey Magazine: Are you excited about playing Division I?
Mike DePersia: Yeah. That’s always been the dream since I was younger. To see it come true and sign in November was awesome.
South Jersey Magazine: And to play in Indiana is great for a basketball fan. Have you seen Hoosiers?
Mike DePersia: Of course. It’s a classic.
South Jersey Magazine: How close are you to the career point totals of your brothers?
Mike DePersia: Nick’s got the most. I think he had 1,480. I think I’m in the mid-1,200s, so I have a pretty good shot at catching him. Obviously I don’t play for points—I play to win. But it will be kind of cool to beat them.
South Jersey Magazine: You’ve always been more than a scorer though. Is that important to you?
Mike DePersia: Yes; you can’t just be a scoring point guard. I think the great point guards do whatever it takes to win and there are many different parts to the game. If you’re the point guard you’re the floor general. You have to create for yourself and create for others, play defense and do whatever it takes to win the game.
South Jersey Magazine: If you were playing pickup with just South Jersey guys, who would you want to run with?
Mike DePersia: Ooh, that’s tough. I’d definitely go with Babatunde Ajike from Camden Catholic. I’d go with Mattia Morini from [Bishop] Eustace. Let’s see, I need some shooters. I’d go with Marcellus Ross from St. Joe’s-Hammonton as my shooter. I probably would have gone with Owen McGlashan from Cherokee but he’s now at Don Bosco, so it’s hard not to pick Dan Fleming, my teammate from Haddonfield.
South Jersey Magazine: What are your interests when you’re not playing basketball?
Mike DePersia: My main hobby is basketball. I always get asked what I like to do without it, but I just love playing basketball and everything about it. I have a good group of friends in Haddonfield. I don’t live in Haddonfield; I live in Cherry Hill and I’m a tuition student. But I was able to adjust well and make a lot of good friends who I’m really close with. All of the athletes support each other. I was at every football game and they’re always in the front row at every basketball game. We’ve been doing really well in sports. Football was No. 1 in South Jersey and fifth or sixth in the state. They set high standards for the basketball team and we’re willing to take it on.
Nick Cartwright-Atkins, Moorestown boys basketball
A senior guard, Cartwright-Atkins is the leading scorer for a squad that reached the sectional championship game last year and is among South Jersey’s best teams again this season. He is a three-sport standout who also stars in football and track & field.
South Jersey Magazine: After making the sectional final last year, your team has challenged itself with a tough schedule this season. Do you embrace that?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: Yeah, of course. Playing a tough schedule is the best. It shows how good you are and how good you can be, and it pushes you to be your best.
South Jersey Magazine: Last year was a memorable one and most of the team is back. Do you have high hopes for this season?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: Of course we have high hopes, but we also have a target on our back. Last year we kind of snuck up on teams and shocked them. They didn’t know how good we could be. Now people know who we are and what we have.
South Jersey Magazine: Did this core of seniors grow up playing together?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: It’s actually kind of crazy because I was on the B team and most of those guys were on the A team [in youth basketball]. I played freshman basketball; most of them moved up to JV. But I’ve always been a guy who was accepting of my role and sophomore year when I started to get time on varsity, I just jelled with them. I knew Brian [McMonagle] because he’s my quarterback in football and we had chemistry. It’s a good group in general.
South Jersey Magazine: To go from the B team as a kid to leading the team in scoring as a senior shows how hard you’ve worked. Does it make you proud?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: Yeah, it’s crazy. If you told me in eighth grade that I even would have played varsity as a sophomore, I wouldn’t have believed it. I know a lot of guys just play basketball, just play football or just run track. I worked hard in three different sports and became a good player.
South Jersey Magazine: Did you ever consider giving up one of your sports?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: No, because I love competing. I never wanted to go right home after school. I think competing is the best feeling ever. I remember how seriously I used to take Wii sports. I get competitive no matter what it is.
South Jersey Magazine: Do you think you’ll focus on football in college?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: I’ve gotten some basketball interest and I would love to play basketball in college. But as of right now, I’ve gotten more [scholarship] money in football so I’m probably going to play that.
South Jersey Magazine: You have some school records in football. What does that mean to you?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: I have the record for most receptions in one year—65—and receptions in a career, which is 100. I also have the record for career receiving yards, which is over 1,400. It’s always good to have a legacy and it’s fun to be recognized. In track we have a 4x400 record of 3:18 because we had a guy named Brandon Outlaw who was absurd. I don’t think that’s ever going to get beaten. So it’s great to be recognized and I think it’s awesome.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like to do when you’re not playing sports?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: You probably hear this a lot, but I like to play video games. I also like to draw and I like reading books. People would never think I’d like to do that but I do. I’m also a huge superhero fan so I love reading comic books and watching movies. I’m a big Marvel fan. I got that from my dad.
South Jersey Magazine: So who’s your favorite superhero?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: That’s a hard question. It’s either Wolverine or this other superhero called Nightcrawler. Not a lot of people know him but he’s blue, he has a tail and he can teleport. He’s from X-Men too. I also like the Flash, because he’s a quick-witted guy and I love saying quick-witted things.
South Jersey Magazine: Are you looking forward to Avengers: Endgame?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: I woke up at like 5 in the morning to watch that trailer. The trailer wasn’t even that crazy, but being a fan you just had to see it. I’m stoked for that movie. I’m definitely seeing that opening night.
South Jersey Magazine: What’s your favorite sports movie?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: Like Mike is where it’s at. Lil’ Bow Wow? Come on, he killed that movie. It was funny and I liked seeing Lil’ Bow Wow do his thing.
South Jersey Magazine: Do you know what you want to study in college?
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: Engineering. I got my passion for engineering from my uncle, Keith Atkins. He’s an engineer and he taught me about exploring new things. If you work hard at something and finally get it to work, that’s the best feeling ever. I actually did robotics freshman year. I would right go right from basketball practice to robotics, so I’d be at school until 8 or 9 o’clock. It was crazy but I wanted to do robotics and be in a room where I could learn more about it.
South Jersey Magazine: You have a busy schedule.
Nick Cartwright-Atkins: [Laughs] Yes I do. I work better when I’m busy because it helps me stay organized. When I have a lot of free time I can wander off. My grades were the best when I was doing robotics.
Sierra Sanson, Shawnee girls basketball
The leading scorer for Shawnee the last two seasons, Sanson is a senior forward who loves to play a physical style of basketball. Also a standout goalie in soccer, she will focus on basketball at Gettysburg College.
South Jersey Magazine: How’s senior year going?
Sierra Sanson: Pretty good. It could be a little bit better but we have a good group of girls and we have good chemistry. We’re all having fun.
South Jersey Magazine: Are you trying to become the leader and guide the younger players?
Sierra Sanson: I’m trying to. It’s weird though; I still feel like I’m a freshman. It all went by so quick.
South Jersey Magazine: From what I understand you’re the kind of person who loves to be in the gym, working on your game. Do you think that’s what has made you into the player you are today?
Sierra Sanson: Yes. My AAU coaches over the last few years would say, ‘Have a ball in your hand every day and send me what you do every day or else you’re going to be in trouble when you come to practice.’ I just love basketball and I want to play as much as I can and get as good as I can.
South Jersey Magazine: What is your favorite part of the game?
Sierra Sanson: Definitely finishing through contact and I love and-one plays. That’s pretty much how I score all of my points. I’ll shoot a 3 if it’s open and I’ve been working on extending my range and incorporating a jump shot more into my game.
South Jersey Magazine: What led to your decision to commit to Gettysburg?
Sierra Sanson: I’ve always liked Gettysburg even before I started talking to the coaches. When I did start talking to them I loved the head coach and the assistant coach. I went to visit and I loved the campus. Their program is everything I wanted. They want to win and they have a history of winning. I want to compete, hopefully win a couple of conference titles and try to win a national title. I think it’s a great place both athletically and academically.
South Jersey Magazine: Do you know what you want to study?
Sierra Sanson: No. I have thoughts but it changes every week. I like the sciences and psychology, so I might minor in psychology or something with the sciences.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like about growing up in South Jersey?
Sierra Sanson: Medford Lakes is awesome because everyone is so close. My cousin lives right across the street and all of my friends live up and down the street. I would bike wherever I wanted to go.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like about Shawnee?
Sierra Sanson: I love the teachers and I’ve met my best friends there. The school is so good at athletics each year, but the coaches are more worried with your academics. If I had to miss practice to talk to a teacher, they’d all be OK with that. But they also want to win. They do a good job of balancing that.
South Jersey Magazine: Who would you say is the funniest person on the team?
Sierra Sanson: Ciana Viccharelli. She just does weird things; I don’t know how to explain it. I’ll turn around and she’ll be dancing in the huddle. Or during practice, we’ll be doing dribbling drills and I’ll turn around and she’s doing something weird.
South Jersey Magazine: Chrissy McGovern was a great player herself and has now become a successful coach. What is she like to play for?
Sierra Sanson: She’s tough but it’s tough love. Personally, I want someone to yell at me and tell me what I’m doing wrong. A coach who doesn’t do that isn’t going to accomplish anything. Not that she yells that much, but she tells us what she expects and she gets mad when we don’t do it, which I like. Even today after practice we were talking about ways we can do more team bonding, and even if we have to take time out of practice we’re going to do it. She builds the team culture. Obviously she wants to win, but she cares more about us playing hard and having a great attitude.
South Jersey Magazine: If you were playing a pickup game with players from South Jersey, who would you want to run with?
Sierra Sanson: I’m going to say Lauren Fowler from Cherokee. I played with her in AAU and we have pretty good chemistry.
South Jersey Magazine: What team do you get pumped up to play the most?
Sierra Sanson: Lenape, because they’re our rival and those are always tough, physical games.
South Jersey Magazine: What are your interests away from sports?
Sierra Sanson: I love hanging out with my friends. I like to be doing something; I don’t like just sitting around. I ski in the winter when I can and I love that. We go up to Vermont and I love the mountains. I’m just an outdoorsy person. I also love a lot of music. I listen to a lot of alternative. I’m not really a big fan of rap or country but I listen to pretty much all pop.
South Jersey Magazine: What’s the last concert you went to?
Sierra Sanson: Zac Brown Band. I did not know a single song but it was a lot of fun.
Annie Behm, Cherry Hill East girls swimming
Behm, a sophomore, placed fourth in the backstroke and seventh in the 200 freestyle at the Meet of Champions during a memorable freshman year at Cherry Hill East. Last summer she competed at the Junior Nationals for the first time, finishing seventh in the country in the 200 backstroke, and she could be in contention for a state title in March.
South Jersey Magazine: How did swimming become a passion for you?
Annie Behm: I took swim lessons when I was little for as long as I can remember. My parents put me in lessons after I loved the mommy-and-me lessons at Wahoos so much. I stuck with it ever since and grew out of other sports I was doing. It was something different and I really liked it.
South Jersey Magazine: What kind of impact has swimming for Jersey Wahoos had on you?
Annie Behm: Ever since I was little at that program, you would always see the older kids practicing and it was really special because you could look up to them and think, ‘One day that can be me.’ Watching all their hard work pay off was something that really motivated me.
South Jersey Magazine: Has being a swimmer taught you discipline? I’m sure you’ve had to miss some fun kid activities over the years.
Annie Behm: Yeah, you really have to put in the time and effort to get what you want. Sometimes it’s frustrating when you don’t get everything you worked for. But when you do, it’s such a rewarding moment.
South Jersey Magazine: Are there days when you don’t feel like going to train?
Annie Behm: Oh yeah. There’s always days when I wish I could come home after school and take a nap after a long day. But I know those are the days I have to go the most, to show myself that I need to do it for myself because if I don’t I will regret it later.
South Jersey Magazine: You had an immediate impact last year at Cherry Hill East. Did that surprise you?
Annie Behm: I had a pretty big time drop in a lot of events last year, so I was pretty surprised. I was really happy we could go to [the state final] because I knew a lot of seniors from that team who I swam with at Old Orchard and they were excited for my class to come in.
South Jersey Magazine: Is winning a state championship the team’s No. 1 goal this year?
Annie Behm: Oh yeah, absolutely. Everyone is so excited, especially after our wins over great teams like Haddonfield and Moorestown. That really gave us confidence and I think everybody is excited to go in and give our best in the playoffs.
South Jersey Magazine: What are your personal goals?
Annie Behm: I don’t really know. I just want to place the best I can. Our medley relay got second last year and I think this year we can go for first place in that event, so that will be exciting.
South Jersey Magazine: Has the backstroke always been your best event?
Annie Behm: When I was little I wasn’t a backstroker; I was a breaststroker until I was 8. George Breen at Wahoos—one of the oldest coaches there—asked me if I wanted to do the 200 backstroke for the first time. I thought, ‘That sounds fun.’ I had minor success but I loved it and thought it was so fun, so I always wanted to do it again.
South Jersey Magazine: Is it a goal to win a state title in the backstroke, if not this year then before you graduate?
Annie Behm: That’s certainly something I think about. I think it would be fun to go for it. Of course, that’s always on everybody’s mind when you go into any final, to try and win it. I know there’s a lot of great competition and I just want to try my best and see where it goes.
South Jersey Magazine: What else do you like besides the backstroke?
Annie Behm: I like freestyle and I’ve been working on my IM. It’s getting slowly better.
South Jersey Magazine: What was it like competing at nationals last summer in Irvine, California?
Annie Behm: That was the first time I’ve gone to something like that so it was really fun. I always get nervous for meets so I was nervous at first. But it was more of an exciting thing than a nervous thing. The atmosphere was unlike anything I had ever experienced so I wanted to let go of the nerves, relax a little and enjoy it while I was there.
South Jersey Magazine: Just seeing the best swimmers in the country and being one of them must have been a cool feeling.
Annie Behm: Oh yeah. When you’re there you really can’t believe that you earned your way there and you can be among people like that. I have a qualifying time for nationals this summer too so I’ll be there. This year it’s at Stanford.
South Jersey Magazine: You were also one of 48 girls chosen for USA Swimming’s National Select Camp at the Olympic Training Center this past October. How was that experience?
Annie Behm: When I first got there I was really nervous because I didn’t know a lot of the girls, but I’ve heard of them because they’re all so fast. When we had our first practice it was really hard because of the altitude shift in Colorado Springs. It was also long course and everybody was just starting short-course season in October. But I met so many great people; people I still talk to today. It’s nice to know that I have friends I’ll be able to see at these big meets.
South Jersey Magazine: How would you describe the Olympic Training Center?
Annie Behm: Oh my gosh, it’s crazy. It’s really big, first of all. We were only in the pool section where water polo and swimming are, but there are a lot of people. The cafeteria is nice and the food is really good. The dorms were pretty nice too and so is the pool. It has a lot of features to it and we used a lot of cool stuff during practice that I had never seen used before.
South Jersey Magazine: Is that your dream down the line, to compete at that level?
Annie Behm: Yes. Right now my time from Junior Nationals last summer is slightly below the Olympic Trials cut. I still have to do it again within the time frame in order to qualify. That’s always on my mind, especially at meets where we do long course. I definitely think this summer is my best shot to do it, so I’m really excited.
South Jersey Magazine: Are you a big fan of the Olympics?
Annie Behm: Yes. I’ve always watched it since I was little. I think it’s so interesting to watch those kinds of races, because for some people that’s the biggest moment of their careers. It’s exciting.
South Jersey Magazine: Who do you look up to?
Annie Behm: Definitely one of the backstrokers on the U.S. national team, Regan Smith. She’s really fast. She’s only two years older than I am and in 2016 she did not make the Olympic team, but she’s been on the national team for a while and she’s done really well at big meets. I really want to see her make the team. I met her at the camp because her team was on a training trip to the Olympic Training Center. She’s so cool and she deserves to make the team so much.
South Jersey Magazine: Have you started thinking about college yet?
Annie Behm: Yeah, I’ve started to think about it. I have my little tentative list. I don’t really look at stats or anything yet because I want to pretend I have a lot of time before college. But I know it’s coming up and as I get closer I’ll look a little bit more.
South Jersey Magazine: What subjects are you interested in at school?
Annie Behm: I love science; that’s probably my favorite subject. This year my favorite teacher is actually my English teacher, so that’s a favorite class. Moving forward I’d like to be on a pre-med track because I love math and science.
South Jersey Magazine: What do you like about growing up in South Jersey?
Annie Behm: South Jersey is really fun. There’s a lot of people and you get to know a lot of people even if you don’t live right next door to them. You can meet so many people through different activities and clubs. It’s like a big community and it’s cool.
South Jersey Magazine: When you get some breaks from swimming, what are your hobbies?
Annie Behm: I love art; I think that’s really fun. I’m not a big drawer but I love painting and clay and stuff like that. I took a 3D art class last semester at East and that was really fun. I love hanging out with my friends too. We like to play board games and Mario Kart and Just Dance. It’s a good time.

More topflight athletes to keep your eye on this season.

Boys Basketball
Babatunde Ajike, Camden Catholic: A 6-5 senior forward, Ajike is the leading scorer for Camden Catholic but can also impact a game at the defensive end. He led the Irish to a sectional title and an appearance in the state final last year.
Anthony DiCaro, Cherokee: DiCaro, a 6-3 senior guard and three-year starter, has bounced back from an injury early in the season to reclaim his spot as
a key player for one of the area’s best teams.

Ryan Ems, Eastern:
 A dangerous scorer and rebounder in the paint, this senior center should have the Vikings in contention in the Olympic Conference American Division and South Jersey Group IV.

Dan Fleming, Haddonfield:
 A returning starter at forward from last year’s Group II state championship team, Fleming has emerged as a go-to scorer in his senior season.
Hartnel Haye, Paul VI: Along with fellow senior Tyshon Judge and sophomore Wisler Sanon, this 6-7 forward has helped the Eagles rejoin the ranks of South Jersey’s elite teams.
Conor Regan, Gloucester Catholic: One of the best shooters in South Jersey, this three-year starter became the 14th player in program history to join the 1,000-point club earlier this season.
Jagger Zrada, Moorestown: A varsity player since his freshman year, this outstanding 3-point shooter recently hit the 1,000-point mark for his career and will look to lead Moorestown back to the sectional final.

Girls Basketball
Azana Baines, Gloucester Catholic: This senior guard will take her game to Tobacco Road next year when she heads to Duke, but for now she is thrilling South Jersey with her penetrating and passing skills.
Keegan Douglas, Haddonfield: After earning a starting job as a freshman, this sophomore guard has taken her game to the next level this season.
Shannon Mulroy, Lenape: A four-year varsity player, Mulroy makes the Indians go at both ends of the floor and will continue her career at Cornell.
Morgan Robinson, Kingsway: A senior point guard, Robinson is a well-rounded leader who can score, set up her teammates and defend the other team’s best player.
Bella Runyan, Moorestown Friends: A 6-foot junior forward—who also stars in soccer and lacrosse— Runyan has been a starter since her freshman season and joined the 1,000-point club earlier this year.
Bella Steidle, Clearview: A junior forward who started at Gloucester Catholic as a sophomore, Steidle has emerged as one of the area’s top players in her first season at Clearview.
McKenzie Bell, Kingsway: In his first two years at Kingsway, Bell won more than 60 matches and two district titles while finishing second at regions twice and placing seventh in the state as a sophomore. The 120-pounder is on the same track this season.
Nick Bennett, Delsea: Bennett, a senior, won his second district title and first region title and went on to finish second in the state at 145 pounds last year. He hopes to make another run at 152 this season.
Andy Clark, Collingswood: A two-time district champion and still only a junior, Clark is one of the premier 132-pounders in New Jersey and should become the 12th wrestler in Collingswood history to reach 100 career wins this season.
Carmen Giumarello, Clearview: A senior, Giumarello claimed district and region crowns last year at 106 pounds and is now considered one of the top 113-pounders in the state.
Santino Morina, Paulsboro: Morina, the nephew of legendary Paulsboro coach Paul Morina, is a two-time state placewinner who is eyeing his first state championship this year before moving on to Old Dominion.
Cooper Pontelandolfo, Cherokee: After posting a 32-6 record and reaching the district final at 120 pounds as a freshman, Pontelandolfo has continued to shine while moving up to 138 pounds this year.
Lucas Revano, Camden Catholic: A state champion last year at 132 pounds, Revano also placed at states as a freshman and sophomore and is seeking the fourth district and region crowns of his career this season. He is committed to Penn.
Boys Swimming
Alex Chiu, Washington Township: A top swimmer for the Minutemen since his freshman season, this senior won both the 100 and 200 freestyle at the recent South Jersey Interscholastic Swimming Association (SJISA) Coaches Invitational. He set a meet record in the 100 free and school records in both events.
Josh Fong, Moorestown: Fong, a senior, has placed third in the state in the butterfly each of the last two years and recently broke the meet record in the event
at the SJISA Coaches Invitational. Also a standout in the breaststroke and individual medley, he is committed to Virginia.
Destin Lasco, Mainland: Lasco broke his own record in the 200 IM at last year’s Meet of Champions and also took first in the state in the 500 free while helping Mainland win titles in the 200 and 400 free relays.
Jacob Narvid, Gloucester Catholic: A terrific competitor in the 500 free, Narvid placed seventh in the state last year as a sophomore. At this season’s SJISA Coaches Invitational, he took first with a meet record time of 4:35.98.
Jack Watson, Cherry Hill East: A senior, Watson placed ninth in the state in the backstroke last year. He won the event at this year’s SJISA meet and also helped the Cougars take first in the medley relay and 400 free relay.
Girls Swimming
Ava Berzanski, Haddonfield: A junior, Berzanski has competed at the Meet of Champions each of her first two seasons and placed ninth in the state in the IM last year.
Erin Cavanagh, Bishop Eustace: Cavanagh’s memorable freshman season included a third-place finish in the 200 free and a 10th in the 100 free at the Meet of Champions. She recently won the butterfly and took second in the 200 free at the SJISA Coaches Invitational.
Emily Jones, Gloucester Catholic: Jones, a senior, took fourth in the 500 free and 12th in the 200 free at last year’s Meet of Champions. She won the 500 free and placed second in the 200 at the recent SJISA Coaches Invitational.
Abigail Miller, Kingsway: Miller qualified for states in both the breaststroke and 100 free as a freshman and has high hopes for her sophomore campaign. She tied for first in the breaststroke and took second in the 100 free at the SJISA meet this year.
Emily Wisniewski, Moorestown: Wisniewski, a junior who placed eighth in the state in the 200 free and 12th in the butterfly as a sophomore, took second in the fly at this year’s SJISA meet.
Grace Yoon, Cherry Hill East: Yoon’s first two seasons at Cherry Hill East yielded three individual state titles and she is poised to add to that total as a junior. She claimed crowns in the IM and breaststroke at this year’s SJISA meet.
To read the digital edition of South Jersey Magazine, click here.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 11 (February 2019).

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Author: Matt Cosentino; Photography by Tim Hawk


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