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Tennis player Kristen McCormick is a model of success at Absegami High School

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher If you happen to run into Karen McCormick at the grocery store or a coffee shop in the Galloway area, you’ll have to forgive her if she brags on and on about her daughter, Kristen. There’s plenty to brag about. Kristen is a 17-year-old senior at Absegami High School and is one of the captains of the tennis team. Although she never rose to the level of being a first singles player, McCormick has had an impressive career as a doubles player, and perhaps even more impressive is the type of young woman she has matured into away from the tennis court. She’s among the top 30 students in her class, does a host of charity work, including helping disadvantaged youth at South Jersey Field of Dreams in Absecon, and also happens to be Miss Teen Galloway. Senior Kristen McCormick not only is one of the captains of the tennis team at Absegami High School, she also is one of the top students in her class, does charity work and this year was named Miss Teen Galloway. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Senior Kristen McCormick not only is one of the captains of the tennis team at Absegami High School, she also is one of the top students in her class, does charity work and this year was named Miss Teen Galloway. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) “She does a lot. She juggles everything so perfectly and that’s hard to come by with a high school student. Between (Field of Dreams) and her having to fulfill the role of Miss Teen Galloway, she’s certainly the perfect person for it,” said her coach, Amy Landgraf. “She has grown into an adult and is seeing the world for what it is and not just in the eyes of a 17-year-old. She knows that there are some kids who cannot do certain things, but she doesn’t feel like they can’t and she will help them every opportunity she gets. She’s a great role model. She puts in the time for everybody else as well as herself, and that’s very impressive.” “She loves (Field of Dreams). One of her biggest mentors in her life is her cousin Erin (Anderson) who actually taught special education here for a few years. She and her cousin are very close and Erin always talked about how much she loves working with kids and about how what she does matters, and Kristen is the same. She’s always been great with kids,” Karen McCormick said. “I think some just have that gift with the little ones. It’s a natural thing for her to do and it’s wonderful to see her spend her time (at Field of Dreams). “It makes me want to cry. You can’t be any more proud of a daughter than I am of her. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard. I’ve been very blessed.” Joe Sabath, an assistant baseball coach at Absegami, has gotten a close-up look at what McCormick is all about the last couple of years. He’s heavily involved in the Field of Dreams, a league designed to give kids with mental and physical challenges the opportunity to play youth baseball in the spring and fall. Sabath said Kristen is one of those athletes who continues to show up, week after week, on her own because she wants to make a difference in the lives of those kids. “Athletic, intelligent. Those two things really stand out. And she is a genuine good person in that she always has a smile on her face. She will always cordially greet you, even when she’s having a bad day. She truly loves being a high school kid and everything that goes along with that,” Sabath said. “She is that role model high school kid, she really is. She’ll show up on her own whenever she can, and there are a lot of kids like that. If I put out an all-call at school if we don’t have enough volunteers for something, she’ll show up and ask what she can do to help.” “I was looking for service opportunities and Sabath encouraged me to get involved with the Field of Dreams. I had no idea of what it was, but after I went once I was hooked,” Kristen said. “I think I have learned more and benefitted more from the Field of Dreams than I could ever have imagined. It makes you put things in perspective. How lucky I am to be able to step onto the tennis court every day.” When Kristen first stepped on the tennis court as a freshman, she was timid and unsure of herself. But Landgraf said she had a feeling Kristen was going to be a major contributor to Absegami tennis. “From the beginning you could see. She comes from a great family. Her brother was an athlete, her parents are so supportive. (Karen and Tom) are at almost every single match and her mom is sort of like our tennis mom. So she gets the support from her family and great role models from her family,” Landgraf said. “Her brother was a very successful athlete at Absegami and they compete a little bit with their accolades. They are a very good family, and you could see from her freshman year that she was going to do great things. I can’t wait to see what else she does.” For the past three seasons, Kristen has played at the first doubles position. As a sophomore, she went 15-6. And as a junior she teamed up with Cassidy Calimer, who played at first singles this season, to go 14-7 and win the Cape-Atlantic League doubles championship. This season McCormick paired with Pridhi Arora to again form one of the best doubles teams in the league. Landgraf said the 2013 CAL doubles title is the crowning achievement of McCormick’s tennis career at Absegami. “It was a huge accomplishment. They had been working hard all season. The made a run and took the CAL tournament title,” Landgraf said. “The thing about Kristen is, she’s had three different doubles partners in her three seasons, but she makes the best partner. She’s the type of person who, between every point she talks to her partner, strategizes about what they are going to do next or how could they have done better on that last point. She’s such a good partner, such a good player, such a good person in general. To watch her out on the court, it’s really fun because she has learned so much in the four years that I have had her on the team. Girls go to her for advice. She’s really become like a coach in her own respect.” “It was unbelievable. Cassidy and I were freaking out because we were so nervous before the match. But it was amazing. The score was 6-3, 7-5 so the second set was really close,” Kristen said of winning last year’s doubles tournament. “At the beginning of last season, I pulled Cassidy aside after we had gotten partnered together and told her that we were going to win the CAL title and we did. She said she thought we had a good shot at it. We worked so hard. We practiced every weekend and put everything we had into it.” That kind of determination likely is what got her the title of Miss Teen Galloway. It’s not a beauty pageant, but rather a process that includes a written essay and a formal interview to determine which teen girl best represents the qualities Galloway Township wants to promote among its young adults. True to Kristen’s low-key nature, her coach and mother had no idea she had even entered the contest in which she beat out at least a dozen other girls. “I was shocked! I didn’t even know she was running and one of the girls said, ‘oh, did you know Kristen got Miss Teen Galloway?’ She’s not the pageant type and had never done anything like it, but she thought she would give it a shot and have people look at it in a different way, as somebody who is a good role model,” Landgraf said. “They chose her, and they did a good job. She certainly encompasses that, being a good role model for girls in Galloway. I’m so happy she did it, and shocked at the same time. She really does want to show that you can do it all and you don’t have to dress or act a certain way to be liked or to live a certain life or be popular, just be who you are and don’t be afraid of it.” “She didn’t even tell me she was going to do it! She made that decision without us even being involved that she was going to do it. A week before (the winner was named) she told me she was doing it. I’m proud she made that decision on her own. She didn’t want that mom advice. She was very nervous, but I was very proud of her. After she won the crown, I actually put it on my head. Just for fun I put it on and said, ‘oooh, this is really pretty.’ And she took it and said, ‘mommmm!'” Karen said with a laugh. “It’s not a pageant and I think that’s what made her do it. Basically, you represent Galloway Township and would you be a good representative for the township? It’s a small scholarship and it’s based on your community service and how you present yourself in the interview. She needed a platform and hers was ‘off your phone and on your feet.'” McCormick returns a shot during a match against Mainland Regional earlier this fall. McCormick teamed up with Cassidy Calimer to win the 2013 Cape-Atlantic League doubles championship, one of the highlights of her tennis career at Absegami. McCormick returns a shot during a match against Mainland Regional earlier this fall. McCormick teamed up with Cassidy Calimer to win the 2013 Cape-Atlantic League doubles championship, one of the highlights of her tennis career at Absegami. Kristen said initially she wasn’t gung-ho about the idea, but figured she would give it a shot. “My guidance counselor, Mr. (Joseph) Monteleone, persuaded me to do it. I was kind of on the fence about it,” Kristen said. “So then I applied and went and did it, and I got chosen. I was really nervous. For the interview, I was so nervous before it, but the women who run it are so nice so it was easy once I got started.” Landgraf said that Kristen seems to just have some sort of quality that people are naturally drawn to. It came as no surprise to her that Kristen was a landslide choice by her teammates to serve as team captain. “As a team we pick our captains. The girls pick them and I just tally the votes, and she won by an overwhelming majority,” Landgraf said. “Everybody certainly does look up to her. I have girls who will just sit and watch her play and try to imitate her moves and how she serves. She does a great job with the girls and is constantly helping them. She’s the type of girl who if I need something she’s the one I go to. “She has grown up to be a wonderful person and I could not be more proud to have her on the team and have known her these past four years.” “It’s such an honor. The girls on our team are great, and we know that what we do as captains reflects on them,” Kristen said. “It’s pressure, but it’s an honor and it’s something I wouldn’t give up for anything.” Karen McCormick said that being one of the leaders of the tennis team has made a big impact on Kristen’s growth as a high school student. It was similar for Kristen’s brother, Matthew, who was an outstanding soccer player at Absegami before graduating in 2012. “Athletically, here commitment level is through the roof. She’s done everything she could possibly do to be the best that she can be. The lessons, the training at the gym, the diet. She’s put everything into being a wonderful athlete. I think she was inspired by her brother. When you see that success, she wanted to do something special herself and she committed herself to that, and we’re very proud of her,” Karen said. “Every parent, of course, holds their breath through the teenage years. You do your best when they are younger, but the teenage years are tough because they have to make their own mistakes, they have to grow up, and you have to be there to support them and guide them. I remember high school. It’s very hard. “Honestly, I think with both my kids sports has been such a big thing. Academically they’ve always known what to do. That group of friends and that camaraderie and wanting to achieve things keeps you away from the things that could make you lose your goal athletically. It gives them something to work for that makes them want to do the right thing.” Doing the right thing has seemed to come naturally for Kristen McCormick, and there’s no reason to believe that will stop once her days at Absegami are over. “I’ve been blessed and I know there are so many opportunities out there for me and I know there are so many people out there who could use my help. It’s something I should do. If I have the opportunity to help someone, I don’t want to pass up that chance,” Kristen said. “I haven’t decided yet (on a college) but I know I want to do something with children. Field of Dreams kind of helped me figure out what I want to do with my life. I either want to go into occupational therapy for pediatrics, or be a teacher.” Whatever career path she chooses, Kristen knows it will take hard work for her to get where she wants to be. Then again, she’s never shied away from a challenge. “Everything I do is for my family. I want to be a role model for my younger cousins and that’s why I get so involved. I also want to make my parents proud, and my school and coaches,” Kristen said. “There are lots of nights when I don’t get a lot of sleep, but I think it’s worth it in the end.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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