Central Bucks West football captured the imagination of an entire community last fall with its magical run to an SOL Continental Conference title and the District 6A quarterfinals.
Four key members of that squad – seniors Jack Fallon, Tristan Hulme, Ryan McKenna and Jack Neri – were among nine West seniors recognized for committing to play their respective sports at the collegiate level.
“When I first started high school football sophomore year, I didn’t really think about (playing in college) too much,” said Hulme, an all-league linebacker. “But towards the end of my junior year, I started playing varsity.
“It became an opportunity I thought I might see out. Specifically, after the North Penn game this year (a 27-26 West win), I decided high school couldn’t be my end because I love the game.”
Hulme, who will major in applied economics, chose Ursinus College from a list that included several Centennial Conference schools as well as Lebanon Valley and Widener. The West senior liked the “vibe” of the school and the fact that it was a smaller college where everyone had the opportunity to get to know each other.
Fallon, the Bucks’ star running back, will take his talents to Kutztown University where he will major in business. He considered other PSAC schools, including East Stroudsburg, as well as Stonehill and Lehigh.
“Ever since I have been playing football, my dream was always to play college football,” Fallon said. “(Kutztown) really just fit me as a whole – I clicked there and just really enjoyed it.
“Especially on my official visit, I was able to interact with everyone, and I could totally see myself being there for the next four years.
McKenna, an all-league offensive lineman, chose the College of William & Mary from a final list that included the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova and Fordham.
“The head coach and coaches in general, the atmosphere I got from the players, the bond I fostered with the other recruits, the environment of the students – it was just all around a great visit,” said McKenna, who is undecided on his major. “I was always the biggest kid on my team, but I didn’t know I wanted to play in college.
“Starting sophomore year in high school, I knew I wanted to make it a future of mine.”
Neri, the Bucks’ field general at quarterback, will major in business/finance with a focus on sports management at Monmouth University. He also considered West Chester, Furman, Delaware and UConn.
“It was definitely the people at Monmouth – the coaches, the players,” Neri said. “And the campus – whenever I went to visit, it always felt like home. They always greeted me with open arms.”
The Bucks’ standout will follow in the footsteps of his father, who played collegiate football.
“At a young age, I knew I wanted to take it a step further and hopefully have a chance to play in college,” he said.
Jimi Leder and Ryan Van Pelt played key roles in West’s remarkable state runner-up soccer season last fall. Leder has committed to Temple while Van Pelt will play soccer at Widener.
Leder, who will major in business management, also considered Villanova and La Salle. Temple felt like the right fit and its offer made it the most affordable.
“When I first made the varsity team freshman year, I really wanted to play college soccer,” Leder said. “When I moved to Pennsylvania my junior year, my recruiting process just skyrocketed.”
Van Pelt, who will major in finance, also considered King’s College.
“The (Widener) campus was really nice, and they were talking about the opportunities they have with their business program,” said Van Pelt, who anchored the Bucks in goal. “I have been playing soccer since I was a little kid. My brother would shoot balls at me when I was about 3 years old and would tell me to try and stop it.
“In 10th grade, I started doing showcases with my club team, YMS, and ever since then, it just progressed.”
Luke Cimakasky will compete in both cross country and track at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown where he will major in mechanical engineering.
“I just thought the team was a really good fit for me, and I’d actually have a good chance to run there,” said Cimakasky, who also considered Hartford, Loyola (Md.) and Moravian. “In my sophomore year, I started thinking about it because a lot of my older friends were committing, and I thought – maybe this has a chance for me too.
“Then my junior year came and I really started to see my times drop. A lot of schools offered me trips to their school. I thought maybe I should take it up.”
Ryan Kelly will major in nursing and continue her lacrosse career at Florida Southern College. Any question marks she had about playing at the collegiate level were erased when – at the encouragement of her coach – she tried out for the U.S. National Tournament.
“I started emailing coaches, and I ended up going to Florida Southern’s recruiting camp because they saw my highlight film, and they were interested,” Kelly said. “There were three things I was looking for in a school. Number one would be a good nursing school, two – competitive lacrosse, and three – I wanted to be in school in Florida. Florida Southern checked all the boxes.”
Alexa Vail will major in international business and play soccer at Moravian College.
“I really liked the coach and the team,” said Vail, who also considered Haverford and Baldwin Wallace. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play in college. I kind of wanted to go to a bigger school.
“The more I looked at it – I couldn’t picture myself not playing soccer in college. I didn’t want my soccer career to end here. I looked at schools, and they say use the broken leg test, and if you break your leg, you’re still happy there, and Moravian was a good fit.”