Emily DeMarco and Mike Gesicki led their high school sports teams into big games against the best competition in New Jersey.

The two set school records, earned college scholarships and wowed crowds with their athletic ability.

But what made their high school careers special to them is where it happened.

Both are devoted to their schools.

DeMarco of St. Joseph High School in Hammonton is The Press Female Athlete of the Year. Gesicki of Southern Regional is The Press Male Athlete of the Year.

DeMarco excelled at field hockey and softball for the Wildcats. St. Joe won the South Jersey Non-Public field hockey championship last fall. DeMarco scored a team-high 41 goals.

She will attend American University in Washington, D.C., on an NCAA Division I field hockey scholarship.

"My years at St. Joe were ones to remember," she said. "I wouldn't have wanted any other school experiences. It's the closeness of everyone. St. Joe has great teachers that know what they're talking about. They have great coaches. Not only are they coaches, but they're lifelong friends."

Meanwhile, Gesicki made a name for himself on the football field and basketball and volleyball courts. He sparked the Rams to their second straight state volleyball championships. One of the nation's top high school tight ends, he will attend Penn State on an NCAA Division I football scholarship.

"I had great coaches, great teammates," he said. "I played in front of a great community. It doesn't get any better than playing for Southern Regional."

At 6-foot-6, and 235 pounds, Gesicki looked like a force even before the games began. But what set him apart was his leaping ability. He soared over the competition to catch touchdown passes, dunk basketballs and spike volleyballs. He graduates as Southern's career leader in football receiving yards (1,817), basketball points (1,866) and volleyball blocks (519).

Fans came to games, especially in basketball, just to see what kind of acrobatic play Gesicki would make next.

"Michael played sports," Southern athletic director Chuck Donohue Jr. said. "He was a traditional three-sport high school athlete. He became a great competitor. He's done things athletically that are freakish for a 17- or 18-year-old kid."

DeMarco is one of the state's top field hockey players. St. Joe played in state finals in three of her four seasons. DeMarco used her speed to stick handle around opponents. She used her power to blast the ball into the cage.

DeMarco's family is devoted to St. Joe. Her father, John, is the field hockey coach. Her older sister Megan (a 2011 St. Joe graduate) is the school's career field hockey scoring leader with 126 goals - two more than Emily.

"It warms the heart to see (Emily) go through the St. Joseph school system," said Candi Dean, the St. Joe head softball coach and field hockey assistant. "Not everybody has that pride for their school and their love for their sport. Emily exudes that."

And so does Gesicki.

That, along with their physical talents, makes them The Press High School Sports Athletes of the Year.

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185

@ACPressMcGarry on Twitter

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