SuburbanOneSports.com recognizes a male and female featured athlete each week. The awards, sponsored by Univest, are given to seniors of good character who are students in good standing that have made significant contributions to their teams. Selections are based on nominations received from coaches, athletic directors and administrators.
Univest’s SuburbanOneSports.com Featured Female Athlete for week of March 3, 2022.
A likely misconception about cheerleaders is that they only exist in the high school realm to pump up the crowd at football and basketball games. While this is certainly part of the job, Samantha Castorina is walking proof that cheerleaders do a lot more than you probably think they do. They have the ability to make a tremendous impact within their communities, and sometimes even make a little history in the process. Castorina is a senior cheerleader at Abington, an activity she estimates she’s been participating in since kindergarten with the help of her mom who coached Castorina through her elementary school years and inspired her to keep going once she got to high school. Castorina did play softball before she got to Abington, even winning a couple of championships, but she ultimately found out that cheer was the only activity she got genuinely excited about every day.
The cheer schedule is so packed throughout the calendar year that Castorina was still in eighth grade when she initially tried out for the Abington varsity squad. Because football games occur in the fall and the cheerleaders need to be ready for those, tryouts occur each year the preceding April. Castorina made the team on her first attempt, and while she was more quiet and reserved as a freshman, she was also a huge component of the first-ever Abington cheer team to qualify for nationals in Orlando. Cheerleading requires intense strength, conditioning, coordination, and the acrobatic tumbling and tossing into the air spectators see at games takes countless hours of practice to perfect. This mostly occurs following tryouts during the “quiet” part of the cheer schedule in the summer, when Castorina and company are only meeting two days a week as a team as opposed to the five to seven once school is in session. The team is simultaneously working on its two-and-a-half minute routine that it will unveil at competitions that begin around November and stretch into the spring, as well as the tumbles, stunts and cheers that are seen at football and basketball games.
Castorina’s first year at Abington coincided with that of Krystin Baron, who was brought in as an assistant cheer coach and has since been elevated to the program’s head coach. Baron said that in a sense, the two were freshmen together, and they leaned on each other as they figured out their new surroundings. Baron recognized the potential in Castorina right away, from her skill set to the constant positive mindset that the sport requires. “I could definitely see that she had some skill assets,” Baron recalled. “But she was also incredibly driven and soaked up feedback like a sponge. Samantha is the definition of genuine excitement. Even when she’s having a bad day, she always pushes others to have a good day. She is always positive, and that’s what makes her special. You never see or hear it in her demeanor if she is having a bad day. She puts it all aside to be there to be the best for the team to be its best. That’s why I love her so much — she’s such a huge asset.” Quiet as a freshman, Castorina took on a bigger leadership role as a sophomore and has been someone that Baron has deeply leaned on ever since. “On a team full of cheerleaders, we call her everybody’s biggest cheerleader,” Baron said. “I never hear her say how great of a job she’s done; instead, she pats others on the back and gives them feedback. By her sophomore year, she was a completely different person who had found her place on the team. She’s driven and wants to do her best. If one of her stunts fails, she would drop to the ground on her own to do push-ups. She’s determined to do better for herself and her teammates. She’s able to talk to the team, figure things out and work out the kinks. She’s knowledgeable and has learned so much about the sport that she naturally takes on that leadership role and helps the team with it. You have to have that teammate mentality, because if we can’t function as a whole, then it’s not going to work. That’s why we call her everybody’s biggest cheerleader, because she is the definition of a good teammate.”
She’s not done, either. Castorina plans to attend Kutztown University in the fall to study physical therapy; not only that, but she plans to try out for the school’s cheer squad, because why mess up what has become such a good thing in her life? According to her coach, Castorina is the total package. “I had never coached before, and she helped me see confidence in myself,” Baron said. “She isn’t one to brag or be outspoken about what she can do, because it’s already inside of her and she lets those qualities show in other ways. I absorbed that from her, the ‘I can do this’ mentality. We came in together, so it’s hard for me to picture what it will be like without her leadership, smile and positivity. It will be hard to lose her because she is such a great person.”
To read Castorina’s complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/female/samantha-castorina-0099264
Univest’s SuburbanOneSports.com Featured Male Athlete for week of March 3, 2022.
Nick Militello can’t imagine life without Springfield Township senior Bennett Grothusen as part of his swim team. There’s certainly no mistaking the Spartans’ coach will miss Grothusen’s contributions in the pool where he holds several program records, but it’s much more than that. “Our running joke with him is he’s so sharp that when he finally graduates the assistant coaches and even myself will actually have authority again because when he comes to practice, he looks things over,” Militello said. “Not that we’re doing it on purpose, but if we make a mistake, he’s the one who’s going to find it. When he comes to practice, he looks over things. You transcribe and as you transcribe, you make mistakes, so you put a time down that doesn’t work or sometimes is too slow or too fast or sometimes a set doesn’t work - he can just read it and then tell you the mistakes.”
Grothusen laughs when the running joke is mentioned, and there’s no question he has enjoyed keeping his coaches on their toes. “Our one coach is very, very meticulous about everything she does, and I think I’m one of the few people to ever call her out on her mistakes,” Grothusen said. “Literally really minute things like writing mistakes on the board. It’s a joke, but they’re going to have a lot of errors next year.” Grothusen is only half joking, and his coach credits his senior captain for forcing him to up his game. “That’s actually something as part of the coaching team that you look forward to,” Militello said. “You want somebody who’s going to challenge you. Otherwise, you don’t grow, so he as an athlete helps you grow as coaches. Once he’s gone, we’ll be in charge again. I’m not sure that’s a good thing because he challenges us, and if there’s going to be a problem, we know Bennett is going to catch us. He’s not arrogant, but he does not lack in confidence.”
That confidence is well founded. Grothusen excels in the pool, earning a trip to states all four years of high school. As a freshman, he competed in states as part of the relays, but the past three years, he also qualified individually. Recently, the Spartans’ senior captain captured the gold medal in the 200 IM at the District One 2A championships, breaking a program record that stood since 1993. He also won the 100 backstroke and will have an opportunity to break his own program record in that event when he competes in the PIAA 2A State Championships later this month. Grothusen played a key role in the Spartans’ run to the District One 2A team title. “He’s just a fantastic athlete with a strong personality and clear drive,” Militello said. “You always hear coaches complain about phenomenal athletes who have no drive, and then you have the kids that have the drive and no matter how hard they work – they’re impassioned, but genetics does play a factor, and they’re not going to be a superstar. They’ll be good, but they won’t be both. I don’t know about superstar, but Bennett is pretty darn close.”
Grothusen also excels outside the pool. He is enrolled in four AP classes, and as a member of the National Honor Society, he is involved in peer tutoring. He is the treasurer of Springfield’s Youth in Government Club. “He’s one of the brightest kids I’ve ever worked with, and he’s fun too,” Militello said. “He’s just got a great sense of humor. It’s a rare combination. There are a lot of good athletes, but he just fits the character profile of somebody you want to know.” Rochester Institute of Technology will be home to Grothusen for the next four years. He will major in engineering undecided – although he is leaning towards mechanical engineering. He will also continue his swimming career. A remarkable ending for someone who didn’t want to go out for the swim team “He was a swimmer of mine from the age group level, so when I talked to him his eighth grade year going into ninth grade, I said, ‘Are you swimming.’ He’s like ‘Heck no,’” Militello said. “Then he plays water polo, loves the team, which is how we usually get people to drink the kool-aid, and then he fell in love with the swim team, and he stuck as a swimmer. He’s one of the few athletes I have who’s going to be swimming in college, so above and beyond saying he wasn’t going to swim, he not only stuck with it, but he’s become a college swimmer as he moves forward.”
With a district title and several individual golds already in his pocket, Grothusen will close out his high school swimming career at states. “States is always more fun for us because the competition is so much harder,” the Spartans’ two-year captain said. “We just go and do the best we can and we’re happy with that. I don’t think it could have ended any better.”
To read Grothusen’s complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/male/bennett-grothusen-0099265
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