Stankus, O'Neil compile highly impressive four-year transcripts at Brentwood
Between classwork, extracurriculars and maintaining a respectable social status, managing time through four years of high school could be the hardest task a young person can face.
But for two recent Brentwood High School graduates, four years might not have been enough.
Josh O'Neil and Sydney Stankus were named male and female scholar-athletes of the year earlier this month before graduating at the top of their class.
Both were four-year letterwinners in two sports, leaders of the swim team, and graduated with cumulative grade-point-averages above 4.0 among numerous other after school activities.
“They just want to succeed in anything they do,” said Mark Wroblewski, head coach of the Brentwood swim program who coached the talented duo since eighth grade. “They're go-getters. They lead by example.”
O'Neil and Stankus immediately struck up a friendship when both joined the swim team in eighth grade. They discovered they shared the same competitive drive.
“I want to be No. 1,” O'Neil said. “I think that's the whole reason I did well in school because I'm extremely competitive.”
Stankus said: “I wanted to work really hard to be at the top of my class. I get competitive all the time.”
With such similar personalities, a natural rivalry might occur. But both insist neither tried to outdo the other in the pool or in the classroom.
“We have no rivalry at all. We're actually best friends,” O'Neil said. “My rivalry isn't with other people. It's more against myself.”
There is much more to these two student-athletes than just handing in their homework on time and going to practice.
Both were involved in several clubs, and both volunteer within the community.
O'Neil, for instance, competing in soccer and swimming; was a drum major in the band for two years; qualified for district, region and state honors in the band; served as lead engineer of the ‘F1 in Schools' team that took first in the state and fourth nationally; was president of the school's mock business, Brent Industries; and mentored younger students through Brentwood's after-school tutoring program.
“I just take it in stride,” O'Neil said.
“Since I've been doing so many sports at a young age, I developed a knack for managing time. I grew up that way.”
Stankus was just as busy, competing in cross country and swimming; serving as Interact Club president; holding chairs on the superintendent's council and principal's roundtable; volunteering at Jefferson Hospital; and taking every math course the school offered en route to earning salutatorian honors for having the second-highest GPA of her graduating class.
“There was a lot of late nights with homework,” Stankus said, “but I wanted to give my full attention to all the things I did. I didn't want to do anything halfway.”
Constant dedication and a sense of self accomplishment helped O'Neil and Stankus compile such impressive transcripts — characteristics Wroblewski believes others try to emulate.
“They're two super kids,” Wroblewski said. “These kids get through their four years and other kids look up to them and want to be the next captains.”
Neither O'Neil or Stankus will play a sport in college, but it's not for a lack of interest.
O'Neil will attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has one of the top engineering programs in the country, in Daytona Beach, Fla., for aerospace engineering, and join the Air Force ROTC in hopes to pursue a career in the Air Force as an engineer.
“I was able to do what very few kids could, which is manage sports excellence and academic excellence,” O'Neil said of his days as a high school student-athlete.
Stankus will enroll at St. Francis University of Pennsylvania in the fall and pursue a five-year bachelor/masters degree in physician's assistant science.
She also plans to continue volunteering at the hospital.
“It definitely got me out of my comfort zone,” Stankus said of her past four years.
“I made so many friends — friends for life.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.