Souderton's Christie & CB West's Estes Named Univest Featured Athletes

Thanks to our continued partnership with Univest Financial, will once again recognize a male and female featured athlete each week. The recognition is given to seniors of high character who are students in good standing that have made significant contributions to their teams or who have overcome adversity. Selections are based on nominations received from coaches, athletic directors and administrators.

Univest’s Featured Female Athlete (Week 9)

In sports, as in life, you can be your own worst enemy or your own best friend. The difference? Not letting others rent space inside your head to the point that you are full of self-doubt. There is no need to tell that to Souderton senior Grace Christie. As a lifelong softball player who has competed in water polo since 8th grade, while also swimming for her school, she has experienced how much sports are played from the neck up as they are with the body. “All three sports I play are very mental sports – mental as much as they are physical ones,” she said. “That’s also why I know some of the struggles people could be going through, and I want to be able to help with that.”

A year back, she joined Souderton’s Athletic Leadership Council, under the guidance of Athletic Director Dennis Stanton. It helped crystallize a career path to lead her to sports psychology. “It’s been tough, growing up through the different sports, having coaches that I didn’t agree with or who didn’t see my full potential,” Christie said. “But I’ve also been lucky enough to have coaches - after the coaches who put me down - who have helped build me back up.” One coach who never doubted Christie’s full potential is water polo coach Daniel Fleck, who came in as head coach at the same time Christie joined the varsity squad. She immediately made an impact, not only as a goal scorer – at a clip of between 2 and 3 goals a game, but as a positive influence within the team. “Grace stood out right away as someone who would take the lead in both practice and in games,” said Fleck. “She didn’t really ever come out of the pool.” Although the Indians did not experience success in terms of wins and losses this fall, Christie’s impact as a leader will be important for the future of the program. “She is vocal but also leads by example,” said Fleck. “She plays hard, but she is not afraid to speak up when someone needs to speak up. We have some more quiet girls on the team, who aren’t quite yet ready to lead, so Grace is sometimes that bigger voice.”

Despite her individual success on the water polo team, it is not Christie’s No. 1 sport. She is still looking to carve out a place in Souderton’s strong softball program. Despite playing showcase level travel softball for the Boilermakers, Christie was not up with the varsity squad until the end of the season last spring. “I haven’t had the best time on my high school team, just because there is so much talent,” she said. “I shine more in travel.” For what it’s worth, coach Carol Atkinson liked what she saw of Christie, with her attitude standing out. “Grace is a super great kid,” she said. “She’s just so nice. She’s a team player. She’s always there, every practice, always looking to learn more. Wherever you put her, whatever you ask of her, she’s there.” Atkinson will have a senior-laden team this year, with a pair of Division One commits among them, but she envisions Christie somewhere in the picture in the outfield, perhaps left or center field, but knows she can plug her in at other spots as well. “It’ll definitely be a big season,” said Atkinson. “She’s going to see a lot of playing time and be a good asset to the team.”

Christie’s goal is play softball at the college level, and she hopes to do it at Catholic University, which has a Division III program. It’s just a matter of getting accepted (she has a 4.1 weighted GPA) and getting a financial package that works. Division III schools, while giving aid packages, do not give out athletic scholarships. Christie is also in the National Honor Society, works as a cashier at Giant and as a swim coach in the summer. She has been taking honors classes since 8th grade and has since added AP classes, accounting for her stellar GPA. How does she do it, while playing three varsity sports – and adhering to a year-round travel softball program – and keep herself focused? A simple-yet-tiring formula: School. Practice. Shower. Homework. Dinner. Bed. Press repeat. “It’s easier for me to stay on track having that kind of a schedule,” she said. “I’m much more motivated during the season. I find it easier to do my schoolwork when I have less time to put it off.”

To read Christie’s complete profile, please click on the following link:

Univest’s Featured Male Athlete (Week 9)

Versatility – it’s a trait coaches covet it in their athletes. Jackson Estes apparently has far more versatility than he even knew he possessed. At least on the defensive side of the football where he has just about done it all. The Central Bucks West senior’s natural position is linebacker, but after a rocky sophomore season playing linebacker that was filled with nagging injuries, he found himself at cornerback as a junior. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. “He ended up starting our first couple of games, he had some struggles, faced a lot of adversity and ended up riding a lot of highs and lows,” West coach Rob Rowan said. Then, during the summer prior to his final high school season, Estes was approached about playing yet another position after arguably the team’s top defensive player – Jack Wierzbowski, a first team all-league defensive tackle – was lost for the season to an injury. “We were looking for somebody to step in his shoes and give us a similar production that Jack was going to give us,” Rowan said. “We actually went to Jackson probably right before camp started. We said, ‘Hey, listen, we’re going to move you to defensive tackle. We know it’s not something you’ve ever played before, but if you take coaching and you play with tremendous heart and effort, we think you could be really productive.’”

A tall order, to be sure, especially for Estes, who at 5-11, 185, is hardly your prototypical lineman. “He came up to me during warmups and said, ‘You’re going to be moving to noseguard,’” Estes said. “I sort of thought he was joking at first. Once I realized he was serious, I was all for it because I love the constant battling and action that happens there. I think it’s worked out pretty well.” Estes is blessed with some very valuable intangibles: effort, determination and heart, and the senior has been remarkably effective for a West squad that advanced to the District 1 6A semifinals as the 11th seeded team out of 16. “He’s way, way undersized, but his effort has been off the charts” Rowan said. “He doesn’t get enough credit. He’s giving up a hundred pounds every week, and he just battles his butt off, and he makes tremendous plays every week, and they’re effort plays. I know he’s got five or six sacks on the season.”

Estes actually had a promising future in baseball, but instead of following the path of least resistance and pursuing baseball, the West senior went with his heart, walking away from baseball in favor of his passion – football. The choice was not an easy one, especially since Estes appeared to have his ticket all but punched to play baseball at the next level.  “I just didn’t enjoy it as much as football, which stinks,” Estes said. I wish I loved it more because I probably could have excelled at that, but I just wanted to play football.” As a member of the freshman team, he saw plenty of action at running back and linebacker.He was a pretty dynamic freshman – we had a lot of high hopes,” Rowan said. “His sophomore year, which was the COVID year, obviously was just a mess.” If the pandemic wasn’t enough of a setback, Estes found himself battling some unforeseen injuries. “I tore my one quad and pulled my hamstring at the beginning of sophomore year,” Estes said. “It happened right before the first game, and it took me out of most things.” Junior year, Estes stepped into the unfamiliar role of cornerback, filling in for a player who was suspended but returned and took that spot back after three games.Honestly, when that happened, I lost a ton of my confidence,” he said. “It just did a lot to me.” But just when it seemed as though his story on the gridiron might not have a happy ending, along came an unlikely opportunity. Estes seized the moment and has had a senior season to remember.

Off the gridiron, Estes – an excellent student – takes honors and AP classes. He is a member of the National Honor Society and has been active in its community service projects. He also leads his football team’s optional weekly Bible study that meets before games. As for next year, he hopes to return to Colorado where his father’s side of the family still resides. “Right now, my number one choice of colleges is the University of Colorado,” said Estes, who lived in Colorado until his family moved to this area when he was five years old. “I’m looking to go into mechanical engineering, hopefully, specializing in aerospace.”

To read Estes’ complete profile, please click on the following link: