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Jun 23, 2017

Balanced Approach is Shaping Strong Female Scholar-Athletes

Every student athlete – and parent – understands the difficult juggling act that comes with trying to balance practices and games with school work. To the competitive player, missing even one training session can be detrimental to an upcoming tournament; at the same time, they know that missed academic instruction is nearly impossible to replace. Students at Ranney School in Tinton Falls, however, take pride in being able to pursue both tracks to their fullest.

As an independent school with small class sizes and flexible curricula, student-centered instruction and work-life balance are not only encouraged, they are part of the core mission. “We want our students to be curious and to achieve a life that is balanced in learning, creativity, sport, play, and relationships,” says Head of School Dr. John W. Griffith. “Our teachers and coaches make a point of collaborating and communicating with parents—and with each other—regularly to ensure that students’ individual interests are fostered in a balanced, responsible way.”

Each year, student-athletes at Ranney bring this mission to life – and in the past two years, several of them have been females. Five young women have been recruited for collegiate teams from the past two graduating classes of about 80 students: The Class of 2017’s Alexis Redish of Howell will play softball at Clark University and Olivia Smith of Manasquan will row at Bucknell; the Class of 2016’s Mallory Burlington of Spring Lake is a rower at Fairfield University, Audra Smires of Freehold swims for Lehigh, and Nicole Vaiani of Wall fences for the University of Pennsylvania. Looking ahead to the 2017-18 school year, rising senior Abby Boyan of Spring Lake and rising junior Ariana Mangano of Colts Neck are already making a name for themselves at the national—and even international—level.

Recognized as a top goal shooter in New Jersey, Abby Boyan has already verbally committed to play soccer for the University of Georgia after graduation. She credits Ranney with helping her reach her goals on and off the field. “Being a three-season athlete and handling the rigorous academic load at Ranney has not been easy, but has been made possible with the help and cooperation of my coaches and teachers,” she says. Having attending Ranney since Kindergarten, Abby joined the soccer, lacrosse, swim, and track teams in Middle School—and she hasn’t stopped since! “Teachers and coaches respect both areas and work with me to excel across the board. Whether I’m leaving a class early to make a game or missing a practice to attend a Math League competition, they work together to allow me to experience sports and academics to the fullest degree.”

In addition to varsity sports at Ranney, Abby plays on the nationally ranked PDA O’Reilly Club Soccer Team, which requires her to travel after school and on the weekends. She is just as involved in her academic life; in addition to competing in the Math League, she is an active member of the National French, Mathematics, Science, and Art Honors Societies.

“All of the characteristics that go into being a successful athlete—focus, hard work, discipline, and determination—also go into being a successful student and, in turn, having a successful life,” Abby explains. “’You have to employ all these characteristics constantly and the Ranney community encourages this.”

Mrs. Joy Vastola Mangano, Ariana’s mother, couldn’t agree more. “There is no way that Ariana would be able to fence at her level without the support of each and every one of her Ranney teachers,” she says. Ariana is not only a fierce fencer on campus—she’s an Olympic hopeful. Just this past spring, she was recognized as one of the most successful young epee competitors on the domestic circuit and earned a spot on the U.S. Junior World Team and U.S. World Cadet Team! At the 2017 World Championships in Bulgaria, her Junior World team took Bronze among competitors from approximately 30 countries and the Gold at this year’s Pan Am Championships in Cuba.

Earlier in the season, Ariana won Silver in the December North American Cup (Div I NAC), and Gold at the November NAC (Jr. and Cadet). To contend at this level, Ariana trains nearly six days a week year-round and, yet, she still finds time to complete her school work. “Her teachers make sure she knows the material she misses and they all give her the confidence and support she needs to fence with a clear head and not worry about the stress of school,” explains Mrs. Mangano.

Being able to pursue all of one’s ambitions with confidence and encouragement is something Ranney’s new Athletic Director, Natalie Gorman, understands at a personal level. The Ocean Township native comes to Ranney this summer from the University of Louisville, where she served as Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach. Natalie was Shore Conference soccer star during her own high school years at Red Bank Catholic before going on to play for West Virginia University—where she helped her team win the BIG EAST Conference two years in a row—and then for the professional women’s league, the Pittsburgh Sparks.

“We are so proud of the accomplishments of these female student athletes,” said Gorman. “They are extremely disciplined and able to manage their time very wisely.  It is a great time to be a female student athlete as the opportunities at the college and professional level are at an all-time high across many sports.  Our broad range of athletics at Ranney, coupled with the rigorous academic curriculum, gives our student athletes the life skills necessary to excel in any avenue they choose.”