Univest Featured Athletes (Wk. 2-10-21)

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 Feb. 10, 2021


Gabby Cooper  - a talented athlete and top-flight student – has enough activities to fill every hour of the day. Give the Plymouth Whitemarsh senior some spare time, and chances are she’ll settle in for some good television. “I just love TV so much,” Cooper said. “I know that’s a cliché, but I could literally sit and watch TV the whole day – TV and movies, either one. I like action and drama, that soapy drama, but I think what draws me in is really when you’re so enthralled with the story that you feel like you actually know the characters and people.” Cooper’s interest in television goes beyond just watching a good show. A gifted writer, the PW senior could well see her name in the credits of a television show one day. “I think – as of now – I’m majoring in psychology and something relating to creative writing,” she said. “My end goal would be writing for a show like Grey’s Anatomy or The Blacklist.” According to her coach, those aspirations are not far-fetched. “She could absolutely do it,” PW basketball coach Dan Dougherty said. “She’s so talented. She’s one of these kids that has so many doors open to her.”


Cooper is a Writing Fellow at PW’s Writing Center, the first and only student-run Writing Center in the Greater Philadelphia Area and helps students improve their writing skills. She is in the top 10 percent of her class, has not selected a college, but is considering a list that includes Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia. “Academically, she can go anywhere she wants,” Dougherty said. “She could go to the Ivy League if she wanted to. Maybe she’ll go to one of the small elite academic schools or maybe she’ll go to a big school. She has options. When you’re that good of a student, you have a lot of options.”


Cooper is part of an outstanding senior class that has taken the basketball program to new heights. She and Anna McTamney have the rare distinction of being three-year captains. On a PW squad loaded with talent, Cooper is assigned the task of defending the opponent’s best offensive player. “She will memorize the other team’s plays, she knows everybody else’s responsibility,” Dougherty said. “She just has this intense fire and competitiveness to her that a coach just loves. She’s a legit 6-foot tall, almost 6-1, and her wingspan has to be close to 6-5. It’s really impressive. She puts her hands out, moves her feet, and she’s disciplined.” “I love that role,” Cooper said of being a defensive stopper. “I’m kind of a defense generates offense type player. Knowing you’re guarding the best player on the other team is such a confidence booster.


It’s the same story on the soccer pitch. “What I like best about Gabby is she is so versatile,” PW coach Ryan Zehren said. “She can do a number of different things. She’s athletic, so she can play defense, she can guard the other team’s best player and shut them down. We put her against D-1 prospects, and she took them out of the game. She does the same thing in basketball. You can put her up against the other team’s best player, and she won’t back down. She’ll never back down from a challenge whatever is asked of her, and she has the ability to do that, so she’s confident in that. She’s got such a confidence about her.”


Away from sports, Cooper is a member of the National Honor Society and has been on the distinguished honor roll for seven semesters. She is passionate about her involvement in Best Buddies. “You form bonds with kids with disabilities, going to after-school events to just becoming friends with them,” she said.  ‘To create this whole other community is super awesome and rewarding.” These days, Cooper is keeping busy as a key member of a PW basketball team with its sights set high. Last year, their successful season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic after the Colonials – the SOL American Conference champions – advanced to PIAA 6A state quarterfinals. “It was extremely difficult,” Cooper said. “We really thought we could make it all the way to the end. We were ready to play in the state title game and just having the season end like that – it was really hard at first, but it fueled our fire for this year, our redemption year.


To read Cooper’s complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/female/gabby-cooper-0092926


Univest’s SuburbanOneSports.com Featured Male Athlete for week of Feb. 10, 2021


For some, success is measured by the ability to see the forest through the trees. For others, there are no trees. Just the forest. And they have the enhanced wisdom to absorb and enjoy the view. Take, for example, Council Rock South four-sport – repeat, four-sport -- athlete Andrew Belder. Sitting atop the entire senior class with the maximum GPA, not much has been able to slow down the runner/swimmer. Not growing up in a house where only Russian was spoken, as he considers it a blessing it – not a curse -- to be bilingual. Not having asthma, putting him at a higher risk in the COVID era. Not dealing with a mudslide at the PIAA state cross-country meet and coming away laughing about the havoc it wreaked. And not even collapsing near the finish line of this year’s SOL division meet, and having to crawl to a fifth-place finish after always finishing first. “I either overly exerted myself, or had an off day, but I physically collapsed,” he said


When he awakened from being unconscious, he cared less about not finishing first, and more about costing the team. He was never more proud to learn that his teammates still captured the flag. “I thought I cost us the chance to win the league,” he said. “It ended up that our team was able to rally. We ended up still winning. Everyone else really stepped up.” What made Belder most gratified was that his teammates were digging down deeper for him. “They were all saying they really wanted to race for me, as a senior who was always pushing them,” he said. “They were so happy that they were able to come together and support me and get me a third league championship. I was incredibly proud of my teammates for being able to step up. That’s the mentality that I was always trying to foster – being there, and bringing each other up, no matter what the circumstances are.”


When it comes to leadership, Belder considers leading his team just as important as leading the pack in a race. For Belder’s coach, Paul Wilson, it was all a snapshot of who Belder is and what he has meant to the highly successful program. Beyond his success -- a cross country career in which Belder was a SOL three-time first team performer and a two-time PIAA State qualifier, not to mention an important member of three league champion teams and teams that finished seventh in 2018 and eighth in 2019 at the PIAA State Championship meet – there is the leadership factor. When the ugly head of COVID-19 was reared, it was Belder rallying the troops. “Most significantly Andrew began preparing himself and the returning CR South cross country runners for the 2020 season shortly after last year's track season was canceled,” said Wilson, adding that this was long before the CRSD school board made the decision to support a return to extra-curricular activities, before the PIAA, District I and the SOL had decided to support a fall sports season.   Wilson added: “That to me is the definition of two extremely important characteristics of Andrew; leadership and optimism.  Andrew convinced his team to practice while allowing them to believe that there would be a season to prepare for.”


As far as running is concerned at the next level, there are many options. “It depends where I go to school,” he said about competing at the next level. “I may try to walk on.” His No. 1 choice is M.I.T., which competes at the Division III but has a notoriously strong track program. Penn’s Wharton School, NYU and Temple’s Fox Business School are all under serious consideration. “Once I hear back, I’ll have some decisions to make,” said Belder, who expressed gratitude to all his beloved grandparents, three of which are still living, for making their way to America for a better life. “I really love technology and math. I’m really a nerdy guy. Going to M.I.T. would really be a dream come true.” And it would be a dream well-earned with hard work. “Academics have always been my first priority, even before sports,” said Belder. “Even though I’m super involved with sports and really love sports and sports are such an integral part of my life, school has still been the priority. That means that, if I have to take a day off from practice to study for test, I’ll do that.” Belder currently takes five AP classes. He took four as a junior and several as a sophomore.


Belder is heavily involved in the Travis Manion Foundation (www.travismanion.org). That translated to involvement in a 5K run, with 100 runners that raised $3,500. Belder’s outside activities don’t end there. He’s now the vice president of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter, Mathletes (team captain) and a wildly lauded Robotics team.


To read Belder’complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/male/andrew-belder-0092923