By Miguelina Felix
Special to the Voice
Three members of the WHHS-SHA hockey team have found a way to balance scholastic performance and athletic excellence. That excellence has been rewarded as all three have been named to the 2021 All-State Hockey Team.
Mackenzie Gardner, Grace Nowak, and Jenna Hunt are three young women who have made a name for themselves in the Sharks hockey team. However, these girls have spent equal time not only taking part in various sports, but also concentrating on academics. Maintaining a balance between both can be an overwhelming task, but they have shown that it is indeed possible.
Mackenzie Gardner is the captain of both the soccer and lacrosse teams at West Haven High School. Her involvement goes beyond sports, serving as the Board of Education student representative, member of the SADD club, Class Council President, Peer Advocates, and National Honor Society.
Gardner stays equally involved outside of school, participating in Prevention Council, pageants, and volunteering at WH Learn to Skate to help young boys and girls begin their hockey careers. Outside of all these activities, Mackenzie has discovered a passion for pageants and taking part in community volunteering. She maintains a positive attitude and motivation and has even already signed up for a few 5ks coming up this summer. Mackenzie is a true team player embodying team spirit, responsibility, leadership, and dedication, according to Coach Erin Blake.
“The list goes on. She is a trueborn leader. ‘Mama Mack’ always is prepared. Her work ethic is admirable not only on the ice, as well as in all aspects of her life,” Blake said.
Holding a 4.085 GPA, Mackenzie’s future aspirations include attending college at the University of Tampa or the University of New Haven. She plans on obtaining a bachelor’s in finance and then attending law school with the dream of becoming a lawyer in Long Island someday!
Grace Nowak is an outstanding athlete and student. With a 4.344 GPA, Grace is very involved at West Haven High School. She is a member of the SADD club, Fill-A-Bag, Fuel-A-Mind, class council, mock trial, and theatre. Grace is also on the girls’ soccer team and was recently named captain for the 2021 season.
Her involvement outside of the high school extends to forms of art that she enjoys such as pageants, singing, and acting. She also volunteers to help at WH Learn to Skate.
Blake describes her as, “an all-around all-star.”
From high heels to hockey skates and giving her all to others, to giving it all on the ice, everything Grace does she does wholeheartedly, according to Blake.
“On the ice, she is the backbone of our team. When she touches the ice each game you can see the determination in her eyes to win the game, and nothing can take that away from her,” Blake said.
Nowak’s future aspirations come from her involvement in theatre since the age of eight. She plans to attend a performing arts college in New York, where she will double major in musical theatre and pre-law. Her dreams involve one day being on Broadway with a fallback career as an entertainment lawyer.
Jenna Hunt rounds out the trio. Although Jenna is a student at Sacred Heart Academy, she is very much a team player and piece of the puzzle on the hockey team. She is an A student and stays active as a member of the Ski Club. She is a member of her school’s Key Club, a service organization to encourage leadership through serving others.
Hunt also plays lacrosse at Sacred Heart Academy and enjoys hanging out with her friends in her free time. Jenna is known for her strength, determination, aggressive play, and putting the puck in the net. Coach Erin Blake says, “Jenna has always been a force on the ice since her freshman year. She can always be counted on as a leader on the ice to rally the team by putting the puck in the net. Her strength on the ice and keen hockey sense has been a key part of our success this season.”
This motivated all-around team player aspires to be an athletic trainer someday and will be attending the Frederick Gunn School next year to play hockey!
Academics and sports represent a complete package that enables success to happen for life, say experts. These three young individuals have gained knowledge and confidence through sportsmanship and academics in the classroom. They have learned to win and lose gracefully. They have learned that nothing worth having comes easy and that hard work pays off.