● By Steven Hoffman
Morgan Curl, Grace Hennessey, Sarah Johnson, and Mike Weber all signed letters of intent to play their respective sports at the collegiate level in 2017. A Nov. 14 signing ceremony at Oxford Area High School recognized the accomplishments of four of the school's top student-athletes.
Curl, who is heading to the University of Pennsylvania, rewrote Oxford's record books as arguably the best female swimmer in the school's history. Hennessey's talent and hard work has earned her a spot on the Millersville University basketball team. Johnson will be realizing her dream of playing field hockey for Stanford University. Weber, a dedicated catcher and a force in the middle of Oxford's lineup, will be delivering his clutch hits for the Kutztown University baseball team in the near future.
“I am very excited for the future of these four student-athletes,” said Oxford Area High School athletic director Michael Price. “They give many student-athletes a great blueprint of how to succeed on and off the field, and what it takes to play at the next level.”
If there is a common denominator among these four athletes who excel in four very different sports, it's their extraordinary work ethic.
Curl's day frequently begins before the sun comes up, as she travels 45 minutes to compete in the Delaware Swim Team's early-morning practices. She'll swim for 60 or 90 minutes before heading to Oxford Area High School for a full day of classes. After school, she'll swim and work out some more. All the hard work paid dividends as Curl has developed into one of the top swimmers in the state. She is a three-time state-qualifier heading into final season at Oxford. Curl is hoping to improve her times and finish with the best time in the state in the 500 freestyle.
“Morgan has brought a lot of exposure into our swimming program,” Price said. “Watching her grow as a freshman who qualified for states to now being a three-time state qualifier going into this season has been amazing. Morgan is goal driven and works very hard at everything she does.”
That includes academics, where Curl was as much of a standout as she is when she is competing in swimming meets. She said that the education that she received at Oxford Area High School increased her opportunities when she was deciding on a college.
“I felt really prepared academically,” Curl said. She explained that she looked at colleges of all sizes and at varying locations, but ultimately decided on the University of Pennsylvania. She is thinking about pursuing a career in architecture.
Regarding her favorite personal highlights as a member of the swimming team, Curl said that she will remember all the fun that she had with her teammates. She is looking forward to the upcoming season and seeing the team improve.
The same can be said for Hennessey, who is a four-year varsity starter for Oxford as her senior season is about to begin.
Hennessey has already established herself as a leader on the team. She plays center, and specializes in grabbing rebounds and picking up hard-earned points around the basket. She averaged 12.2 rebounds per game during her junior season, helping Oxford to reach the first round in district playoffs.
“Grace has worked hard in the off-season the past few years to get where she is today,” Price said. “To see all of her effort and work ethic pay off is something that the younger girls in the program can look up to.”
One of Hennessey's favorite personal memories while playing for the Hornets is actually a team achievement—a one-point win over Great Valley, a team that Oxford usually has a difficult time beating. Oxford was 13-10 last year, and Hennessey is hoping the team will improve upon that in the coming season.
“I'm hoping that we improve our record and make it deeper into the playoffs,” Hennessey said.
While many members of the Class of 2017 are still going through the process of determining which college they would like to attend, Johnson has known that Stanford University was her first choice since she was a seventh-grader—which is the same year that she started playing field hockey competitively.
It's impressive for a high school study to have such lofty goals at a young age and then achieve those goals.
“Sarah works very hard to reach all of her goals,” Price said. “She came from dreaming about how she would like to go to Stanford to actually making it a reality.”
Price said that Johnson is a special student-athlete who has made a big impact on Oxford's field hockey program and her teammates. Oxford field hockey coach Anne Marie Anderson agreed, pointing out that Johnson loves field hockey so much that she would probably be playing the sport 95 percent of the time if she could.
Johnson couldn't wait to join Oxford's field hockey team, and she earned a spot on the varsity roster as a freshman—a rare occurrence.
“She was the first freshman that I've taken on varsity,” Anderson explained. “You could see right away that she had the skill level. But it was also the maturity. She's a very fluid and poised player. She doesn't get rattled. She's very driven and very determined. She's a strong player all around.”
Anderson added that Johnson is the kind of player who makes her teammates want to work harder so that the team improves.
Anderson said that Johnson was well aware of Stanford's prestige, and how difficult it would be to earn a spot on the school's field hockey team, but she never backed down from the challenge.
Johnson acknowledged that one of her strong points as a field hockey player is her competitive drive.
“I'm definitely very driven,” said said. “I hate losing.”
Oxford's field hockey team plays in a very competitive league, but it has improved during Johnson's four years on the squad, reaching the playoffs during the 2016 season—a major accomplishment for the program.
“As a team, we've gotten so much better,” Johnson said.
She is looking forward to stepping on the field as a member of the Stanford Cardinals field hockey squad. Johnson said that she plans to major in mathematics education or psychology.
Like Curl, Hennessey, and Johnson, Weber has made a big impact on his team during his time at Oxford. Weber has been a varsity player for all four years. He's a dependable catcher and also hits at a .370 clip in the middle of the lineup for the Hornets.
Price said that he has watched Weber improve his skills on the diamond in all facets of the game.
“I’ve known about Michael as a ballplayer before he came into the high school,” Price said. “He has always been a terrific hitter, but his game has really expanded the last few years. Michael will be missed as a leader of the high school baseball program.”
Weber said that his favorite personal highlight during his first three years at Oxford is hitting a game-winning home run in the ninth inning of a game against Octorara during his freshman year. He has delivered many big hits for the Hornets since then, and has one more season to go before heading off to Kutztown University.
Everyone at the signing ceremony was delighted by the achievements of four of Oxford's top student-athletes, and pleased at the opportunities that await them.
“I am very proud of each of them for their accomplishments,” explained Price, “and the Oxford Area School District wishes them well.”