NA Siblings Connect Through Arts and Science
May 3, 2019
From Donald M. Austin, Head of School
May 3, 2019
Share this article:

Preparing Student-Athletes to Play in College

Whether you’re the Gatorade Basketball State Player of the Year who goes on to be a Division I athlete or a Division III runner, the Newark Academy athletic experience helps prepare student-athletes to be successful on the field, in the classroom and in their communities at the collegiate level.

Jocelyn Willoughby ’16
Division I Basketball at University of Virginia

Jocelyn Willoughby ’16 decided to come to NA so she could “grow intellectually as well as athletically.” That is exactly what she did as an NA student, when she learned to handle the types of responsibilities that come with being a scholar-athlete at one of the most prestigious public colleges in the country, the University of Virginia (UVA).

“Newark Academy equipped me with the critical reading, writing, analytical and study skills I needed to be successful,” Jocelyn says. “I grew accustomed to long days with demanding schedules and learned how to juggle multiple activities.”

Currently a junior at UVA, Jocelyn is a representative on the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee, a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and a peer advisor. This busy schedule hasn’t kept her from excelling in the classroom: she was also named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) academic team during her freshman and sophomore years at UVA. On the court, Jocelyn surpassed the 1,000 career point mark in February 2019.

Now, after being in the starting lineup for nearly 100 NCAA basketball games, Jocelyn still views her time at NA as the foundation for her success. “Playing at NA helped me understand team dynamics and how to navigate them as a leader,” Jocelyn says. “Throughout high school, I developed a well-rounded game with an inside and outside presence. I became a player that could handle and shoot the ball from the outside, in addition to being able to drive, post up, and finish near the basket. My development at NA made me a valuable asset on the court in college.”

Jocelyn graduated from UVA in May 2019 with a major in global studies and a concentration in global development. She is pursuing a master’s in public policy at UVA’s Frank Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy, with one year of NCAA athletic eligibility remaining.

Ashley Ulrich ’11
Division I Cross Country, Dartmouth College

In 2013, Ashley Ulrich ’11 was an alumna chaperone on an NA pre-season cross country trip to Brewster Academy, located on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. “The trip was a great chance to reconnect with old coaches and help the new class of runners prepare for their season,” says Ashley, who ran cross country at NA during her senior year.

This past fall, Ashley started at Fordham University School of Law while also training for the 2019 Boston Marathon –her third. “Competing in organized sports for so long has shown me the importance of focusing on incremental goals,” Ashley says, reflecting on both of these pursuits. “It can be overwhelming to consider all the hard work and effort to achieve really big, long-term goals. However, breaking down the steps makes it more approachable.”

Sydney Persing ’15
Division I Fencing at University of North Carolina 

Some student-athletes don’t initially plan to compete in college, but thanks to motivation from coaches, they can become Division I athletes in sports they didn’t even start until their teen years. That’s what happened to Sydney Persing ’15, who first picked up fencing as a freshman at Newark Academy.

As a member and captain of the University of North Carolina (UNC) fencing team, Sydney played a pivotal role in helping win the 2018 ACC Championship. Sydney claimed the critical bout to beat Duke, resulting in the program’s first-ever conference title. As a two-time team captain at UNC, Sydney credits NA with making her a strong leader.

Sydney’s time at NA and the rigors that came with being a student-athlete set her up for such success. “One of my favorite things about NA is how academically challenging it is,” Sydney says. “On top of my workload, I practiced with our high school team and trained with my club team. I also competed in the tri-state area most weekends and traveled at least once a month for national tournaments.”

Sydney graduated from UNC in May 2019 with a double major in political science and media and journalism and with a concentration in broadcast journalism.

Johnny Capobianco ’16
Division III Cross Country and Track and Field at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Minuteman Athletics prepares students to succeed at the next level. Johnny Capobianco ’16 came to Newark Academy wanting to increase his potential to compete at a collegiate level in both cross country and track and field, which is exactly what he has done at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

“Learning to balance my coursework, extracurricular activities and athletics at NA taught me how to manage my time efficiently, and most importantly, I believe, to relax and not let the pressure overwhelm me,” says Johnny, who was named to the RPI Conference Academic Honor Roll. “I was more than prepared to handle the academics of an engineering school and the time commitment of a dedicated athletic program.”

While at NA, Johnny was a team captain for cross country and track, helping win the State Group Championship when he was a senior, and was named to the All-County Team. Johnny’s time running around NA’s 68-acre campus prepared him for the trails ahead at the small private institution in upstate New York. “Running cross country and track and field at NA taught me how to be a leader, trust in my abilities, and never stop working hard in order to improve because there is always room to grow,” Johnny says. “Here at RPI I have used everything that NA taught me and have seen great improvement in my athletic ability and enjoyed every moment of my athletic career.”

Johnny is majoring in environmental engineering and will graduate in May 2020.

Share this article: