2017 Athlete Showcase

A quick peek at the best performing athletes at Watchung Hills, based on stats and past achievement.

June 6, 2017

Our athletic population for the 2016-2017 school year has done exactly what it is best at doing- impressing us, breaking records, and taking the hats off of college scouts. We’ve celebrated in glory over a number of victories on the conference, county, and state level.

An analysis of this year’s statistics and general participation in the athletic program has allowed the sports department of The Arrowhead to determine the eight best athletes in the school. One male and one female were selected from each grade, and their athletic careers were examined even further to conclude if the proper selections were made.

They are as follows:

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Michael Bressler

Varsity Basketball and Soccer

Our first athlete to discuss is Michael Bressler, freshman varsity athlete of both the Men’s Soccer and Basketball Teams.

We’ll start with basketball.

Bressler has been dominating the courts since he was three years old. He began with recreational and travel leagues, and soon enough, he found himself in AAU programs. After winning a number of games there and ultimately being named MVP of his AAU team, Bressler advanced his career by joining Hoop Nation, a prestigious basketball program reserved for the best basketball athletes.

It should be noted that Varsity Basketball happens to be one of the most competitive athletic programs at WH. Talented juniors and seniors get cut from the team every year, so freshmen have virtually no chance of being considered. Considering the fact that the head coaches accommodate for approximately 18 athletes, the 50+ tryout pool can get a bit competitive. Froshe are almost always intimated and silenced by the bigger dogs.

Well, Bressler wasn’t.

Michael also held a spot on the Men’s Varsity Soccer team this year, which can be even more competitive than basketball. In soccer, about one hundred students attempt to out-run, out-play, and out-show off the other at the try-out week. Varsity takes no more than 20-25 athletes, so to earn that position, one has to be ranked in the 80th percentile or higher. 

Bressler has played soccer since he was three [we can infer that three was a big year in his life]. He’s played for travel leagues and his own middle school team. For future projections, Bressler hopes to play basketball and soccer until he graduates, and then, to play either basketball or soccer for the NCAA [you can read up on that in Julia Cunningham’s chapter].

Perhaps such an aspiration is reasonable for an athlete of Bressler’s caliber. We’ll just have to wait and see if it is.

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Sophia Cicchetti

Varsity Softball

Leading the women’s freshman athlete population is Sophia Ciccheti, varsity softball-er with an impressive record to boast of.

Sophia is the current starting center fielder, and she bats third in the lineup. Her batting average for 21 games is about 0.425, and she’s had 31 hits with 26 RBI’s. She’s clocked in at around five homeruns [that’s the school record, by the way], 5 triples, 4 doubles, 23 runs scored, and a pitch record of 11 strikeouts in 17 innings.

If that made no sense, that’s okay. It’s just important to know that she is very good.

Sophia was nominated in April for the Player of the Week of the Central NJ Courier News, and was also named by NJ.com as one of the top 20 freshmen athletes in the state. Sophia feels as though she has “greatly contributed to the team this year after losing seven seniors last year.” We think she has as well.

Sophia has been playing softball since she was eight, playing for a number of club and travel teams. She currently holds a spot on the NJ Venom, a softball club in Bridgewater dedicated to fostering a strong base for the most elite softball athletes in the country.

Sophia’s hope is to continue playing on her high school team, her club team, and to eventually play in college. She thinks it’s possible, and so do we. After all, she does have a good swing, so it’s most likely not a good idea to disagree with her.


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Marc Inacio

Varsity Soccer

Marc Inacio does exactly what his name says he does – marks.

Actually, he plays soccer, but having a bit of an imagination can’t hurt.

Inacio’s soccer career began when he was a toddler. He began playing for recreational and travel organizations, but soon was moved to higher-level club teams after realizing that he was pretty good.

Not too long ago, Marc tried for a spot on the Football Club of the United States, and he successfully earned it. He currently plays for the FCUSA’s Black 01 Team, which happens to be regionally and nationally ranked.

This year, Inacio took awards for best young player of the year and best 2nd player in the conference. He’s also traveled with the team to county and conference tournaments, where they’ve performed the best in years.

As all athletes do, Inacio’s “big goal” is to play for college, but he’s also developed a number of smaller aspirations to pursue in the meanwhile. He expressed that he wishes to play for the All State Team for high school, a prestigious opportunity reserved for the [you guessed it] best.

Marc’s future projections are quite bright for the next men’s varsity team. He’s said that “it’s his role to partially lead the team to the county and state championships.” He places a tremendous amount of confidence in the soccer program for next year, and he has reason to do so. The future team will be very good, with to-be seniors Ryan Santos and Gabe Ferreira, to-be juniors Davin Lui, Max Costa, Chris Meireles, and to-be sophomores Michael Bressler leading the team in its season.

Marc’s mentality and goals are to lead, achieve, and score more goals, which is something that’s certainly attainable for an athlete of his level of play.


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Portia Jones

Varsity Track and Field

Portia Jones is perhaps the best varsity track athlete on the WH women’s team. She’s maintained her varsity spot for both this year and the last, attending a number of invitational and championship meets for WH.

She’s broken records and won virtually every race in the 100m, the 200m, and the 400m. Just this year, in fact, she and her relay team won at the county championships and set a new record in WH history.

Meet of Champions Meet, where Portia ran the 200m for WH

Portia’s track record [no pun intended] is regarded amongst track athletes in our school as one of the best in the conference, the county, and in the state. Her 100m time is 12.34, her 200m time is 25.29, and her 400m time is 57.02.

As a comparison, Ivy League recruiting standards are about 12.5 for the 100m, 25 for the 200, and and 57 for the 400. She’s flattened two of these three, and it’s likely that she’s flatten the other one at some point in her career.  D1 standards are about the same, and DII are all much slower. Again, Portia is a sophomore.

Portia’s perspective on track is one of devout seriousness. She feels as though she’s “pushed herself beyond her limits, leading her to become better than what she was before.” In her opinion, track is her opportunity to demonstrate the talents she is most capable of expressing. After all, she has been running since sixth grade, so it’s expected for her to be as determined as she is.

WH Women’s Record-Breaking 4X400m relay team. Top left and right are sprinting coaches Gerkenz Senesca and Alexander Reyes, respectively. Next [from left to right] are Olivia Xu, Jessica Carrieri, Carolyn Texeira, and Portia.


Portia has her fair share of state rankings, as well. In the winter season, she ran the sixth best 400m team in New Jersey, which is a statistic to be reckoned with. She’s also traveled to a number of regional track meets that are reserved for the top athletes in the country.

Yes, Portia is fast.


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Dan Pilsbury

Varsity Basketball

Pilsbury plays ball, and he does it well.

Pilsbury’s career stretches as far as his arms do – he started playing at an extremely young age and eventually accelerated to advanced basketball programs. He’s developed his apt for the game on a number of teams in a number of shoes, and now, as a high school varsity athlete, he’s demonstrating his abilities on our courts.

Thus far, Dan has 799 points in his high school career, a statistic fairly close to some of WH’s best. He resides not too far from the 1000 point standard, an achievement reserved for the top-notch basketball athletes in WH’s history. It certainly is possible for him to break this threshold in his senior year – as a sophomore, he scored 305 points in a single season, 37 three-pointers, and 41 rebounds in 22 games. This year, he added 417 points to his total.

Pilsbury’s involvements in basketball exist not only at WH, but for advanced, high-level basketball organizations in the country. He’s played for AAU’s Pure Basketball, a nationally-ranked team that often sends the majority of its athletes to the NCAA.

Dan has [partially] led the varsity team to a whole slew of conference and county victories. He’s scored over 30 points in some games, eleven rebounds in others, and 4-5 assists in some more.

It is Dan’s intention to play for the NCAA upon his graduation from WH, as it is the intention of virtually every other athlete in this article. It can be said with confidence, however, that his chances are considerably greater than a large portion of athletes in our school that have the same goal.

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Julia Cunningham

Varsity Basketball

Julia Cunningham’s name has been echoed quite frequently in the school community, and for good reason.

She may not even need a formal introduction, but we’ll include it anyway. Julia plays basketball, and she is perhaps the best at what she does.

She’s good enough to score 1000 points in her career, good enough to compete at championship-level games, and good enough to be offered a spot at Princeton University’s basketball program.

The only other female basketball player to score 1,000 points in Watchung Hills’s history was Megan Kopecki in 2007. Julia’s name has joined hers on the banner than hangs in gym 5/6 .

Julia needed 23 points on a winter Tuesday night, which she reached in the first few minutes of the second quarter. In the first two minutes of the game, she had one assist and one steal. Later in the first quarter, she scored two three-point shots in less than a minute and thirty seconds. Leading the girls with a 20 point lead at the first quarter, she stepped onto the court to begin the second. When she walked off, it was with a bouquet in hand and smile spread wide across her face.

And that’s all one accomplishment. Let’s not forget about Princeton.

Julia has had the basketball in her hands since her fourth grade, and she’s participated on a number of basketball teams since then. Currently, she plays for the Amateur Athletic Union’s [AAU] New Jersey Demons, which has competed at tournaments on the national level. Her reputation is vastly expanding, and it can be easily said that we are very lucky to have her wear our uniform.

This season, Julia has led the Varsity Team to 20+ victories, and she’s already making projections for the potential of next year’s team. She plans to lead WH as far as possible to state and county tournament games, while working on her own personal statistics: she’s scored more than 1000 points and earned her spot on the school’s banner, but she’s only a junior, and she has a full season to build that number even more.

Next year, she’ll have another season to lead her team to victories, tournaments, and successful championships. After that, she will demonstrate her sophisticated playing style for an Ivy League, D1 Team, which is much easier written than done. But it is Julia, so it may not be too difficult.



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Ryan Martins

Varsity Track and Cross Country

Ryan Martins runs.

Competing at the varsity level for four years, Ryan and his shoes have run at virtually every running competition WH has participated in. He’s competed at invitational, sectional, and championship meets, and he’s won at a good majority of them.

Ryan lies in the 95th percentile or higher in the 1600m, the 3200m, and the 5k out of all New Jersey high school athletes, placing him amongst the best runners in the state. He’s won first at conference and county championships for cross country [running at a time of 15:50, which translates to a 5:16 mile for three consecutive miles].

njmilesplit.com – A list of Martins’ running statistics. Listed are some of his most impressive times, including his 15:50 5K and 9:23 3200m.

Ryan has committed to the University of Nebraska’s running program, which happens to be ranked amongst the nation’s best. He will compete with the best college athletes in the Big Ten Conference, which will be quite the step up from the intensity of the Skyland Conference.

Ryan has also received frequent recognition from nearby newspapers and reporters who’ve had their hats blown off by his performances. Click here to check it out.

Derived from nj.com

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Brooke Stannicki

Varsity Fencing

Brooke’s talents have been sharply expressed through her four years’ of performances on the Varsity Fencing team.

Brooke currently ranks as the second best fencer in the district, the second best in the conference, and the eighth best in the state. She was crowned the Female Scholar Athlete of the Skyland Conference, and she’s participated on the All State Fencing Team for 2017. She’s won approximately 2oo bouts at Watching hills, and she’s fenced for three District Champion teams.

Yes, that is quite a lot of fencing.

Brooke has fenced for six years [she’s participated in private club programs as well], and she’s also played on the Varsity Soccer team for three years of her high school career.

WH’s fencing program recently received a new coaching staff, and the transition was hard for a number of athletes. The change in leadership forced the team to develop new playing styles and strategies, which proved to be a bit difficult. Brooke, however, led the team to a district championship. She mentioned that she was “extremely happy with her team’s accomplishments even in the face of adversity.”

Brooke has also committed to Johns Hopkins University and its fencing program. She’s expressed that she will be “looking forward to competing with skilled fencers from all over the country”.

Brooke’s apt for the sport has placed her amongst the best athletes in our conference, the county, and the state. Hopefully, her striking edges will remain polished enough to impress Hopkins’ crowds as much as they’ve impressed ours.


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