Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Being able to play high school field hockey with my best friends the past four years.
Funniest moment competing in sports: Wiping out in front of an opposing student section as my turf shoe flew off 10 yards away from me.
Music on mobile device: Pretty much everything
Words to live by: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Future plans: To study finance at Villanova and contribute to the field hockey team.
One goal before turning 30: Successfully complete my education, have a good job, and travel.
One thing people don’t know about me: I can recite the alphabet backwards.
By Mary Jane Souder
Jamie Pennington was destined to become a field hockey player.
How could she not? After all, the Neshaminy senior – daughter of former Neshaminy head hockey coach Lisa Pennington - was all but born on the hockey field.
“My mom tells me the story every year on my birthday that she went into labor with me when they were playing Methacton at Methacton,” Pennington said. “The game went into overtime, and she was going into labor with me on the bus ride home from the game.”
The following day, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2001, Jamie was born. She didn’t have a hockey stick in her hand, but it wasn’t long before she did. Her mother, meanwhile, was back on the sidelines that Friday.
It goes without saying – the Penningtons are a field hockey family. During her years at the helm, Lisa – a Neshaminy grad who went on to play at Temple – led the Redskins to seven league titles and a District One championship.
Lisa Pennnington, according to Jamie, encouraged her two daughters to pursue whatever they wanted. For siblings Christen and Jamie, it just happened to be field hockey.
Christen Pennington – four years Jamie’s senior – had a stellar career at Neshaminy and went on to play at Villanova University, and Jamie will be following in her footsteps. Not because she had to but because she wanted to.
“I honestly don’t think there was any pressure at all,” the Neshaminy senior said. “At one point in my childhood, I was a lot more into soccer than I was into field hockey.
“I kind of thought that was what I was going to continue doing, but I started to love field hockey even more.”
A four-year starter for the Redskins and a first team all-state player, Pennington was a captain of this year’s squad that won the program’s second consecutive SOL National Conference title.
“Jamie is a different type of player,” coach Jamie Pinto said. “She’s very skilled, but she’s very smart. She sees the open pass, and her stick skills – honestly, she’s good enough to control a game, but she’s smart enough not to and composed and humble enough not to because she gets everybody else involved.
“She’s always looking one pass ahead. She always knows what she’s going to do with the ball, but what’s really special is she can turn it on, and when she turns it on, she can truly dominate a game.”
Hockey is just one piece – albeit an important piece – of Pennington’s life. She also excels in the classroom and is in the top five percent of her class. She plans to pursue a finance major and it’s easy to imagine Pennington landing a job on Wall Street, but trumping the smarts on and off the hockey field, according to her coach, is a personality that made the her such an exemplary leader and teammate.
“Everyone respects her,” Pinto said, “She goes out of her way to help people. She’s there for the freshmen, she’s there for the seniors. It doesn’t matter what age they were – she was helping whoever needed her.
“She’s special because she’s good, and she’s just genuinely a nice person. I think that makes her the great leader she was because people respected her play and they respected her in general because of her personality.”
Jamie Pinto isn’t exaggerating when she says she’s known Jamie Pennington since the day she was born. Pinto was on Pennington’s team that played the overtime game at Methacton in 2001.
“She had contractions on the way home, but we didn’t know that,” Pinto said. “The next day we were off for Rosh Hashanah, and the assistant coaches brought donuts, and Mrs. Pennington didn’t show up because she had Jamie that night. I don’t remember her not being at a game.”
As a youngster, Jamie Pennington played a lot of different sports, but soccer and hockey were her favorites. She began playing travel soccer when she was eight and joined Mystx on the club field hockey circuit around the same time. She continued both sports until middle school.
“By then, I was more into field hockey, so I decided to be done with soccer and focus on field hockey,” said Pennington, who still plays for Mystx.
Pennington was on the sidelines for some big moments in the storied past of Neshaminy field hockey.
“I remember the night they won the district championship in 2008,” she said. “I just vividly remember being there.
“It went into overtime, it went into sudden death penalty strokes. It was such a good game. I thought it was so cool.
“I remember a few times my mom would bring us to some of her team’s preseason practices. We would stand off to the side, and me and my sister would play with our little sticks and we’d watch them and think, ‘These girls are so cool. I want to be like those girls one day.’”
These days Pennington is one of those girls that youngsters want to emulate, and according to her coach, they’d be hard pressed to find a better role model.
“Even with our team, she’s the one getting the equipment, she’s the one jogging over to get the balls,” Pinto said. “She doesn’t make a big deal out of it. She’s just jogging over and grabbing it because she’s that type of leader.
“She sets the tone, and that’s a great leader to have. She’s not super loud, but she leads by example.”
Pennington didn’t have to look far to find role models of her own in her mother, now an assistant at Neshaminy, and sister.
“They both have been people I’ve looked up to, especially my sister being four years above me – she has gone through all of her schooling as I’m entering, so I definitely model myself after her,” Pennington said. “My mom has been so encouraging and supportive. Being my coach, she’s tough on me, but I would not be the player I am today without that toughness.”
Pennington has played a key role in countless wins over the past four years, but ask the senior captain what she’ll remember most, and it’s not any of the wins or championships.
“Looking back on the four years as a whole, my teammates have become like my sisters,” she said. “Neshaminy field hockey is very deeply rooted in tradition, and I’ll always remember singing the alma mater on the bus rides home, decorating our bricks and doing the team bonding activities that we all got so close because of.”
Pennington and her fellow senior leaders were instrumental in pulling the team together when they suffered the unimaginable loss of assistant coach Janet Dougherty, who passed away in her sleep on Sept. 28, 2019.
“This year especially, we went through a lot, something no one would expect or plan on going through, but it really showed me how tight of a bond we all do have and how being there for each other can get you through the hardest times in your life,” she said. “Something that is so unique about team sports is that you always have your teammates to rely on. I could not imagine going through something like that alone.”
The season ended sooner than Pennington and her teammates had hoped with an opening round district 1-0 loss to Council Rock South.
“It still stings in the moment, but in hindsight, looking at all we’ve accomplished in the past four years is even greater than that,” she said. “We just picked the wrong game to come out flat in.”
Pennington’s field hockey career is far from over. She is committed to play at Villanova University.
“I love the sport a lot, and I can’t imagine not having it in my life,” she said. “I knew I wanted to play somewhere. I started contacting college coaches in general my freshman year.
“My sister was on the team there, so it was a familiar place for me – I might as well contact them. It ended up working out, which is good because that’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.”
Actually, Pennington got her first glimpse of the Main Line campus when she and her sister – as youngsters – spent the weekend there with one of their mother’s former players, Lauren Campanelli, an All-BIG EAST selection who went on to be named BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year.
“There used to be a thing called Wildcat weekend,” Pennington said. “The students could bring their younger family members or friends who had little kids.
“You can stay for the weekend, and they’d take you to a basketball game. I was really little, but I thought it was the coolest place ever. Since then I’ve always wanted to go to Villanova. The campus is beautiful, the academics are fantastic, the team is great, so it was perfect.”
In addition to her four-year stint with the hockey team, Pennington is treasurer of Student Council. She boasts a 4.37 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. She is also in the concert choir and is involved in Neshaminy’s annual Gym Night.
Pennington recently had her annual end-of-the-season interview. This one marked the end of the senior captain’s high school career, but Pinto’s message was always the same.
“It was always – ‘Jamie, you can dominate out there. It could really be your show if you wanted it to be,’ but she doesn’t want it to be,” Pinto said. “It’s never really about her.
“She’s just a very likable, humble girl that is there to play hockey, and she’s proud to be on the team and wants everybody to do well.”
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