Univest Featured Athletes (Wk. 3-15-21)

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 March 15, 2021


Dan Marsh describes Amanda Jackson as a basketball junkie. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty much how the Abington basketball coach came to meet the now Abington senior when she was in elementary school. “I remember a phys ed teacher had emailed me and said, ‘Hey, we have this kid over here that just loves basketball.’ We’re like, ‘Send her to a game,’” the Ghosts’ coach said. “She came to a game, and we gave her a t-shirt, and she wore it all the time even though it was way too big for her.” Jackson remembers the t-shirt. As a matter of fact, it’s still too big for her. “My gym teacher at Willow Hill, Mrs. Santee, introduced me to Marsh,” Jackson said. “My mom took me to the games, and he would let me be the ball girl. It might have been a Pennsbury game – I think I showed up and had an orange hoodie on, and (Marsh) said, ‘You can’t wear those colors.’ He went out to the car and got a maroon Ghost shirt. My mom still wears it to this day.”


Jackson’s interest in basketball was piqued by the movie High School Musical and its main character Troy Bolton, a star basketball player “My mom always tells me that story,” Jackson said with a laugh.  “After I watched High School Musical, he was my favorite and he played basketball, so that’s why my mom always tells me I started to play basketball after I watched Troy Bolton in the movie.” So passionate was Jackson about the sport that she began working with a trainer – Brian Neely - in elementary school and continues to work with that same trainer today. “He’s like my second dad at this point,” Jackson said.


The Abington senior’s love for the sport has never waned, despite some disappointments along the way. “Amanda grew up in our program and had a lot of expectations coming up to high school,” Marsh said. “The thing with Amanda that I don’t think people realize is the growth that has happened in the non-statistical ways. Amanda could be a fragile ego, especially coming in as a freshman. If she wasn’t making shots, she would get really down on herself, and it would be hard to get her back sometimes. But she always worked her butt off, always worked really, really hard.” It’s during the season just completed that Jackson faced her toughest challenge. “Amanda started as a junior and had a decent year, knowing there was some youth below her that was real strong, but she continued to push them, continued to be a leader,” Marsh said. “She showed them the ropes. At some point during this year, Amanda ended up moving to our bench and becoming a sixth or seventh man off the bench. I don’t know that there are too many kids that would have mentally been able to handle that. She’s been tremendous. Obviously, she wants to start. Obviously, she wants to play more, but she’s been supporting her teammates from the get-go. Her work ethic has not stopped. She’s just been all for it, just the ultimate coach’s dream.”


Make no mistake about it, Jackson would have rather seen more playing time. “Everybody wants to play – you don’t play basketball to not play,” Jackson said. “It was hard at first, especially having (a sophomore) take the starting spot, but at the end of the day, I just want to play, and I trust all of my teammates, and I have to trust the decisions Marsh makes. If I have to come off the bench, I’ll come off the bench. As long as I’m playing, that’s all I want to do.” Jackson says the experience has taught her some valuable lessons. “I think the biggest thing is – things aren’t always going to go your way,” she said. “There’s always going to be a bump in the road or something that happens. You just have to find your way around it or get past it.”


Jackson’s basketball playing days are not over. She will continue her career at Houghton College in upstate New York. “She’s just an all-around leader,” Marsh said. “The kids love her. She drives kids to practice and will do anything for anybody. She’s super kind, and she’s been a basketball junkie since day one. Her goal was to be a great Lady Ghost basketball player, and she has been.”


To read Jackson’s complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/female/amanda-jackson-0093370]


Univest’s SuburbanOneSports.com Featured Male Athlete for week of March 15, 2021.


Schoolwork plus swimming has equaled success for Pennridge senior Joseph Hong. You could say, though, that was also a process of elimination. Dropped from the equation was another word beginning with “S” – soccer – as Hong found out at a young age that he was, more or less, allergic to the sport. With an eye toward the upcoming PIAA state meet and an opportunity to swim at the next level at Virginia Tech, the breaststroke specialist can have a sense of humor about it now. “I was awful,” he recalled. “My parents took me out of it. I wasn’t having a good time. I was embarrassing myself. I was just like all little kids, trying out all different sports. I tried out a little bit of golf, a little bit of tennis. With swimming, I guess it just stuck with me.” He was placed in swimming classes and came under the tutelage of Jen Anselmo, who is now his high school coach and has relished the privilege of watching him grow and develop. “Joseph Hong is one of the hardest working athletes I have ever had the honor to coach,” she said. “I have known Joseph since he was 5 years old when he was taking swimming lessons in a class I was teaching. A few years later, he joined the Pennridge Aquatic Club team and that’s when his success really started.”

Hong confesses that he was not a natural as soon as he hit the water, but he saw it as a sport where he could set challenges and meet them. “I just improved, consistently,” he said. “Thankfully, I got to where I am today. But, as a kid, I was never really like a standout.” In the final analysis, he will be the first to say that it is all a matter of keeping your eyes on the prize. “I just don’t think you should limit yourself,” Hong said. “Chase your goals, chase your dreams. That’s how I’ve always looked at things.”

As a sophomore in 2019, Hong qualified for the PIAA State meet for the first time. It was from there that a star was born. “He really got a taste for that higher level of swimming there, placing 16th,” said Anselmo. “The next year, he set his sights on making the top 8 and raced against the best in the state to finish 5th in the 100 breast. This year he will once again be going to States for breaststroke, and he’s seeded 7th going into the meet.” (Editor’s note: Hong finished fourth at this weekend’s state meet at Cumberland Valley.)

Hong is equally driven in the classroom, even if it’s virtual, boasting an unweighted GPA of 4.0 while taking all AP and honors classes. It is the byproduct of what his mother and father – Jungah and Yoon Hong  – have instilled in him and younger brother, Tim, who is currently a middle school swimmer. A major reason for choosing Virginia Tech was the chance to work with head coach Sergio Lopez Miro, who was a two-time Olympian in the breaststroke with a bronze medal in 1988. “I was really fortunate for them to offer me a spot,” said Hong. “The coaching staff there is great, especially (Lopez Miro). With the success he has had there with Olympians and national level swimmers, it just really drew my attention to the swim team.”

Anselmo enjoys watching Hong turn into another being altogether when it’s time to compete. “On (the) deck he’s so easygoing, but as soon as the swim cap goes on and he gets behind a starting block, he becomes a different athlete,” the Rams’ coach said. “Joseph doesn’t know how to give less than 110 percent. He is like that with everything he does, he is also an excellent student and was awarded the Scholar Athlete Award for this winter sports season. He is also incredibly humble and well-loved on the team. Because he is such a competitor, he also brings out the best in his teammates. He is always up cheering for the team and offering advice when asked. Everyone wants to be their best when Joe is there, he raises the bar for himself and his teammates are right there to meet him.”


To read Hong’s complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/male/joseph-hong-0093369