Springing Ahead
Elite athletes from area high schools prepare to take their talents to the next stage
by Marc Narducci


Spring—a time of activity, of reinvention, of things slowly returning to life. It’s also a time when the sports fields at suburban Philadelphia high schools bloom with the talents of athletes in their developmental prime.


Suburban Life’s Marc Narducci spoke with five elite spring-sports athletes from the area’s high schools, covering everything from the skills they developed on their high school teams and their personal triumphs thus far, to the next step in their athletic and academic development, otherwise known as college. Here’s what he learned.



Will McNamara

Haverford School | Lacrosse

McNamara is considered one of the top lacrosse players in the country. ESPN.com ranked him as the No. 2 player nationally in the senior class. An all-American as a junior, McNamara helped Haverford School go 23-0 last spring and finish No. 1 nationally in several polls. He has accepted a lacrosse scholarship to the University of Virginia, the defending NCAA champion.


Question: Could you talk about your decision to attend Virginia?

Answer: They made it very simple for me and very easy. The coaches recruiting me at all schools, especially Virginia, let me take my time in making my decision and I really respected that. The school overall is the best place. I wanted to go to a school that, if I didn’t have athletics, I could enjoy where I am going. It provides a great combination of academics and athletics, and the people are amazing.


Q: What about the tradition at Virginia, which is the defending NCAA champion after earning its fifth national title?

A: That is obviously important. The tradition is great. We had Haverford guys before and I looked for them for questions. I talked to John Haldy, who was the captain of the national championship team [in 2011] and he was very helpful.


Q: Do you know your course of study?

A: I have said before I might like to go into business but now I am more interested in psychology and possibly going into teaching.


Q: How long have you been playing lacrosse?

A: Since second grade. I grew up in a neighborhood [in Haverford] with a bunch of kids who played lacrosse and I picked it up early.


Q: You also played soccer and basketball at Haverford School. How difficult is that to play three sports and manage your time?

A: I have been doing it my whole life and I don’t know anything else. Sometimes it is hard to manage my time but I make it work.


Q: What has been your signature highlight in lacrosse?

A: Last year the Malvern Prep game. We were down pretty much the whole game and Carl Walrath’s goal with 32 seconds left gave us the victory, which capped the [unbeaten] season and gave us the Inter-Ac title and were ranked No. 1 in the country in every type of poll. That was just a great game.



Jackie DiPietro

Hatboro-Horsham High School | Softball

A versatile performer capable of playing several positions, DiPietro was a standout second baseman for Hatboro-Horsham’s PIAA state AAAA championship team her junior year. Known as a “slapper” at the plate, she is the consummate table-setter at the top of the lineup. She also competes in American Softball Association play at the highest level for Tuff n Tuffer Gold. DiPietro has earned a softball scholarship to Seton Hall University.


Question: What was it like winning the state title?

Answer: It was amazing being in that situation. It was a lot of pressure but the team kept calm and focused on winning.


Q: What made you choose Seton Hall?

A: Seton Hall was the first school I was looking into. I went to different colleges and this was the best fit for me. Plus I like the fact that it isn’t too far from home.


Q: Do you have a college major?

A: I am not positive, but I am thinking of physical therapy.


Q: What is it like playing ASA softball? It seems you really must be dedicated to play.

A: We play so many games, probably over 100 in the summer and 80 or so in the fall. We’ve taken trips to Florida, California, Georgia and Virginia. You have to really love the game, which I do.


Q: What is the best part of being a member of the Hatboro-Horsham team?

A: We all know each other and many of us have played together a long time. We are all pulling for each other and enjoy being together.


Q: What was your best moment in softball?

A: There have been many. Between all the great experiences from my travel team, to being recruited by colleges and winning a state championship in high school. That was amazing.


Q: You have done one of the more difficult feats, switching from being a right-handed batter to batting left handed.

A: I learned how to hit from the left side … because it does take advantage of my speed. I am not a power person and it’s easier to beat out ground balls when hitting from the left side. It’s been a lot of work but I am glad I did it.


Q: Could you talk about a key influence in your softball development?

A: Our shortstop is Valerie Sadowl and her dad, Bob Sadowl, coached me and really helped me a lot. Valerie is my best friend and she is going to Connecticut so we will be playing each other in college. That will be fun.



Drew Magaha

Upper Moreland High School | Track

Magaha is one of the top track performers in southeastern Pennsylvania. Last spring he was a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association AAA state champion in the 1,600 meters, setting a AAA mark in a time of 4:07. During the summer he also competed in the United States Track Association championships in Eugene, Ore. Magaha will continue his education and track career at the University of Pennsylvania.


Question: Why Penn?

Answer: Penn was pretty much the ultimate school for me. I took a field trip there in elementary school for history and I am a history buff and I never thought I could get in. When I got the recruitment letter, I talked to coach [Robin Martin] and we really clicked and developed a great relationship. It’s also really close and everything seems to fit.


Q: Will competing at the Penn Relays have even more meaning since it will be your future school?

A: It’s different now that I am at Penn. It will be kind of like a homecoming for me. This year will be a little bit different. I am focusing on the mile. Penn is my home now and I want to win my first race there.


Q: Distance running is a test of endurance. Can you talk about the type of shape one has to be in to be a distance runner?

A: It’s not like any other sport. In track it’s both a mental and physical thing because you put yourself out there. You feel your whole nervous system shutting down because you are working so hard.


Q: How long have you been competing in track?

A: I have been competing since the seventh grade.


Q: Could you list a memorable moment that you have had while competing?

A: When I was a sophomore I won the Suburban One American Conference cross country title. That really sky-rocketed me to the mentality of working hard. When I crossed that finish line I realized I am a runner now, and that was kind of my track christening.

Q: Considering your love of history, will that be your major?

A: I will go in undeclared because I want to leave my options open. My mom’s side of the family has teachers so maybe I will minor in education. I would love to continue in track but you need something to fall back on.


Q: What got you into being a history buff?

A: My grandparents are history buffs and I am part of a history society. I spent a lot of time when I was young with my grandparents and I developed their love of history.


Q: How much do you train a week?

A: I am a low-mileage guy because in track I work a lot with the sprinters. Before cross country I may do five to six miles a day to build up a base.



Kelly Cross

Upper Dublin High School | Lacrosse

As a junior Cross was a first-team U.S. Lacrosse all-American. A three-time all-Suburban One League selection, Cross was named the No. 10 senior in the country by Inside Lacrosse in September. Cross was also a second-team all-state field hockey performer in the fall. She has earned a combination academic and lacrosse scholarship to the University of Syracuse, where her sister Amy just completed her sophomore season.


Question: What made you choose Syracuse?

Answer: I want to go into broadcasting and the Newhouse School of Communications is one of the best. That was a major factor. Plus my older sister Amy is there and the chance to play with her for two years is something I really wanted. It was a great experience playing with her in high school, so I wanted to do it again.


Q: You play for your mom, Dee, the successful head coach at Upper Dublin. How has that gone for you?

A: It’s been fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and it’s so much fun play for her. It adds a little bit of pressure, but it’s been great.


Q: You are joining one of the top lacrosse programs in the country at Syracuse. What are your thoughts on the program?

A: They are making a name for themselves and going to the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) will be a huge step. It is very exciting.


Q: Last year you finished with 95 goals and 54 assists and you should finish with well above 200 career goals when all is said and done. That is some serious scoring.  

A: The goals I score wouldn’t happen without the rest of my team. We have a fun group of seniors and the kind of experience unlike any other.


Q: What was your best lacrosse moment?

A: Probably making it to states last year. … We had to beat North Penn in the second round to get to the states. Our team still talks about it. Nobody expected us to win even though we were only one seed below them. We were having so much fun out there and there was never a moment where we felt we were going to lose the game.


Q: You also have an older sister playing lacrosse at Shippensburg and a youngster sister who will be a freshman competing for Upper Dublin. If that isn’t a true lacrosse family, then I don’t know what is.

A: I think I was in first grade [when I first started playing]. I don’t remember a time when there was not a stick in my hand. I have three sisters and we all started young.


Q: Have you set any goals this year?

A: To make it back to the states. Last year we put our name on the map and we need to step it up and make sure we belong there again and that it was not a one-time thing.



Jake Drossner

Council Rock North | Baseball

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound lefthander is one of the top pitchers in the area after going 7-0 as a junior while representing his high school by pitching in the prestigious Carpenter Cup tournament. A fourth-year varsity performer, Drossner has accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Maryland.


Question: Why Maryland?

Answer: Maryland was a great fit for me. … I also wanted to be in the ACC because it has some of the best baseball in the country and if you want to be the best, you have to compete against the best. Plus I liked the academic environment and believe I will receive a good degree.


Q: Do you have a major?

A: Maybe sports management but I probably will go in undecided.


Q: Are you a big sports fan?

A: Very big, especially when it comes to the Phillies who I have grown up watching.


Q: What is the best part of being a pitcher?

A: Having the ball in your hands all game. Controlling the game, doing that and helping your team win.


Q: You made your commitment to Maryland in the fall of your junior year. What was the recruiting process like?

A: The recruiting process was good. It was tough. It really hit me sophomore year when schools started to come. My dream was to always play collegiate baseball and when I saw that I had the opportunity, I was psyched and felt very fortunate to have offers from some great schools.


Q: Even though you have committed to Maryland, there is the chance that you could be selected this spring in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. Do you think about this possibility?

A: Eventually I would love to play in the majors. Every kid growing up would like to play in the majors. I am not thinking about it much. I am concentrating on my high school senior year and having fun. There has been some interest from pro scouts and if it happens this year and I am lucky enough to have that chance, then I will look at everything.


Q: What best part of competing for Council Rock North?

A: The best thing is getting the opportunity to play for the school with the logo on the front and try to do good things for your school, your friends and family. It’s really a great opportunity to be able to represent your school.