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Given their strong play on the fields, and their dedication to the team as captains off the turf, along with their hard work in the classroom, 2017 Newtown High School graduates Makenna Cerney and Cormac Roe earned the distinction of Newtown High’s Scholar Athletes this past school year. This accomplishment coupled with the fact Cerney and Roe are multi-sport athletes have led them to earn recognition as the Newtown Bee’s Newtown High School Athletes of the Year.
As always, there are numerous standouts in a variety of sports to wear the Nighthawk blue and gold, and Cerney and Roe not only had strong senior campaigns, but solid high school careers at NHS.
Cerney was a four-year varsity soccer player in the fall and also ran during the winter indoor track and field and spring outdoor track and field campaigns. Roe, who played football in the fall, also competed in both indoor and outdoor track and field.
“When you have student-athletes like Cormac Roe and Makenna Cerney they truly are much more than just students and just athletes. They’re outstanding people. They’re leaders, role models, kind, considerate, and hardworking individuals. It’s such a special thing watching them on the track and the fields, but seeing them act as leaders in the building is truly the best. I have known Makenna since 2012 when she was in my eighth grade class,” said Newtown High School Athletic Director Matt Memoli, who previously worked as a middle school teacher in town. “Seeing her develop into an outstanding three-sport athlete at NHS has been awesome. Cormac I met this year and it was great seeing him lead on the football field and the track. His time dedication and commitment is second to none.”
Soccer Leads To Success On Track
Ironically, Cerney got involved with track for the purpose of conditioning for soccer but ended up excelling in her mostly-for-fitness activity — so much so that she set a trio of school track records on her way to being recruited to compete in hurdle races at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Penn.
“I started track to keep up my fitness for soccer and I ended up really liking track,” Cerney said.
She also turned out to be very good at it. Cerney set records in the 300 and 400 meter hurdles, and was part of the school’s 4×200 meter relay team.
“Makenna is an exemplary student-athlete. She is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached and always strives to be better. She continually does the little things so often overlooked and never quits no matter how hard a day’s session is,” said Rich Marcello, track and field coach at NHS. “She is a great leader and an inspiration to every athlete on our team, young, or old. Most importantly, she brings contagious optimism and joy to practice every day, and is always smiling and having fun.”
Being a part of the track teams was good way for Cerney to meet new people, she notes.
“Often times people forget how much of a team sport track really is. When you’re in-between events you’re cheering your teammates on,” Cerney said. “On top of having fun I fell in love with the sport.”
Running track helped her with soccer from not only a physical standpoint but from mental standpoint as well, giving Cerney the confidence she was in shape on the soccer field. That said, being mentally prepared for a race or game was the most challenging part of high school sports, said Cerney, adding that she and the other athletes had to work hard in practices two-plus hours each day to gear up for competitions. “It’s hard to be confident you’re ready,” she added.
Cerney, an All Colonial Division South-West Conference soccer player, took home All SWC First Team track accolades this year. She also earned All State track honors last year.
The outdoor track and field team won the SWC championship this spring, making for one of the highlights of Cerney’s high school career.
“We’ve always wanted to win the SWC title. We were so close so many times,” said Cerney, referring to runner-up placements behind Weston, including one championship meet that came down to the final event. “This year it was amazing. It was an amazing feeling.”
In addition to being a part of the team success, Cerney captured an individual conference title in the 300 hurdles.
On the soccer field, Cerney, a forward, helped the Nighthawks be among the toughest teams in the conference year after year.
“She really evolved as a player. She evolved as a person. Her leadership was amazing,” said Marc Kenney, Cerney’s soccer coach. “I’ll miss her a lot because she’s been a great part of the program. She’s such an amazing, great kid. She’s made me a better coach and she’s made me a better person.”
“This year was so much fun for soccer. I’m definitely going to miss the athletes and the team itself,” Cerney said.
She added that among her favorite memories was interacting with Portsmouth, R.I., soccer players during annual preseason scrimmages. Cerney said what she likes most about sports is being competitive with other athletes yet socializing with them after the game or race is over.
Cerney is looking forward to the next chapter in her athletics career.
“I’m so excited,” she said of running at Bucknell, where she is undecided about her major. “It’s definitely going to be more challenging but I’m ready for a challenge.”
Fond Memories At Blue & Gold Stadium
Roe, who transferred to Newtown High in his sophomore year, put together some memorable moments as a Nighthawk. A linebacker and tight end, as well as a special teams contributor, Roe earned First Team All SWC accolades in football and helped the track team’s 4×100 relay team earn a top-five finish in the conference championships.
During indoor track, Roe ran the 55 meter dash and was part of the 4×200 relay, and in outdoor season he ran the 100 and 200 along with the 4×100, and also took on throwing the shot-put in his senior year.
Weightlifting for football, naturally, helped Roe’s strength which benefited him in the throwing event. Roe learned the shot-put throwing technique and did so quickly, qualifying for the SWC championships.
Roe, like Cerney, got involved with track as a way to help out his football play and meet other classmates. Roe said participating in track helped him stay loose on the football field.
“It opened up a whole different door to students in the school,” said Roe, adding that a unique element to track and field is the opportunity during breaks between events to talk with opponents from football season and catch up, something opposing players can’t do on the gridiron.
Among Roe’s best memories include in his junior year when the NHS football team, which had lost in the first round of the state playoffs in previous appearances, defeated Glastonbury in a nail-biting state playoff battle.
“That was a superfun experience to get over that hump and be a part of team that did it,” Roe said.
Other highlights included Newtown’s come-from-behind victory over Bunnell of Stratford and the win over Masuk of Monroe in the annual Thanksgiving Eve contest.
Roe had to overcome injuries during his high school playing days, including a broken hand and shoulder tear. The shoulder injury, at the end of his junior year, required rehabilitation two to three times per week for six months in order to rebuild strength, Roe said. He had to wear a brace, which limited mobility during the summer workouts heading into his senior campaign, as well as during his final season with the Hawks.
Roe gets some good praise from Steve George, his football coach at Newtown High, who stepped down after this past season.
“He would play any position we wanted him to. He’s very coachable, he listens, and he works hard,” George said. “He’s a special kid. He makes other kids better. He’s a true leader. He’s a very good leader, a very strong leader. He always does things the right way.”
Roe will miss playing football and running track at Blue & Gold Stadium.
“I’m going to miss it a lot. I love the high school community here,” said Roe, adding that he received tremendous support from classmates, parents, and past athletes who came back to their old stomping grounds.
Roe’s football playing days aren’t over. He will suit up for The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where he plans to study political science.
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to play football in college and attend a great university,” Roe said.