College recruits: Four student athletes take their sport to the next level

February 1, 2022

Seniors Jodi Au, Samantha Wu, Mei Corricello and Alyssa Meng will be attending college as student athletes in the fall. (Graphic illustration by Susanna Tang and Catherine Zhou)

Jodi Au

Senior+Jodi+Au+will+dive+for+Northeastern+University.

Photo by Susanna Tang

Senior Jodi Au will dive for Northeastern University.

Senior Jodi Au will be attending Northeastern University as a diver and a business major after seven years of diving. Au’s athletic career began with gymnastics but she transitioned into diving because of the intense time commitment that came with gymnastics.

Au had a head start when it came to diving techniques and competition mentality because of her prior experience in gymnastics, which allowed her to excel in her new sport and participate in her first diving competition in seventh grade. Au’s main events are the one-meter and three-meter springboards, which are scored on degree of difficulty and execution, but she occasionally competes on the five-meter and seven-meter platforms too.

Au has incurred challenges throughout her diving journey; in her sophomore year, she felt burned out from trying to balance her academic, social and athletic life. Her days started with school, then going home to do homework before going to practice, which was followed by more homework. 

“I’ve never not had a sport, so although my daily routine is packed, it’s quite normal for me,” Au said. “This also meant turning down invitations to hang out with friends and other events that I would have otherwise liked to have gone to.”

When the pandemic struck during the latter half of her sophomore year, Au was able to reflect on her priorities since she was forced to take a break from diving. She is now intrinsically motivated and dives for her own enjoyment rather than just to see her friends at the pool. 

This year, Au also has a lighter schedule to accommodate her priorities and practice schedule. She practices two hours a day, six days a week. With only first and second period at Lynbrook, Au is able to work at a cafe in the mornings, take classes at De Anza College and end the day with practice at the diving pool. 

Beyond the strength of their diving program, Au also evaluated colleges based on their academics, how well the environment fit her personality and their location. After emailing some of her favorite schools and keeping in touch with them throughout the summer, Au finally decided to commit to Northeastern.

“I chose Northeastern because they have an amazing co-op program and because their coach was the most supportive and understanding in acknowledging that student athletes have a lot to juggle,” Au said.

Au looks forward to building a community with her team and coaches and experiencing different team dynamics the most. 

Samantha Wu

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Photo by Susanna Tang

Senior Samantha Wu will be competing for the UPenn gymnastics team.

After 15 years of training, senior Samantha Wu will continue her gymnastics career to the University of Pennsylvania, where she hopes to concentrate in health science or neuroscience. When Wu was 3 years old, her mother introduced her to gymnastics, hoping the sport would be a fun way to improve her balance. Three years later, Wu’s coaches promoted her from the recreational side to the competitive side of the gym after seeing great potential in her. 

“I was pretty nervous at my first competition,” Wu said. “But it was also exciting because competing shows off all of the hard work you put into every single practice.”

Since then, gymnastics has become an integral part of her life. Wu advanced one level each year until she entered level 10 and started her elite career — a path that gymnasts take to compete in higher national-level competitions.

In 2015 and 2017, Wu competed in the Hope’s Secret Classic, a competition in which 17 to 25 gymnasts across the nation were qualified to attend. Qualifying in 2015 was among Wu’s proudest achievements because it was the most prestigious competition she had competed in at the time.

“Even though I was nervous, I felt honored and proud of myself to be able to qualify for this competition in the first place and compete with some of the greatest gymnasts in the nation,” Wu said. 

Wu admires the diversity of power and artistic ability in each of gymnastic’s four events: vault, bars, beam and floor. She also enjoys the social aspect of gymnastics, in which she is able to befriend athletes from different levels, teams and even countries, despite the individual and competitive nature of the sport. 

Throughout Wu’s journey as a gymnast, her parents, friends and coaches have actively supported her progress. Wu has trained at the same gym, West Valley Gymnastics School, for her entire career, allowing time for her to form strong bonds with her coaches and friends.

“I also have a friend named Emily Lee who I’ve been training with since I was around seven or eight,” Wu said. “She got up to the 2021 Olympic trials and she’s one of the top gymnasts in the nation. I’ve always looked up to her and tried to follow her footsteps.”

Injuries were one of the greatest setbacks for Wu. Throughout her 15-year career, Wu has broken her foot, thumb, toe and wrist; each injury hindered her training for multiple months. However, with passion, a strong mentality and a great support system, Wu returned to the gym each time to become a better gymnast than she was before.

A typical day for Wu begins with all her classes at school, then going to the gym immediately after school, warming up, training for all four events and ending practice with conditioning for strength and endurance. After rigorous five-hour practices, Wu comes home at 9 p.m. to begin her homework. Wu initially found it challenging to maintain a balance between her academic and gymnastics career, but these challenges allowed her to practice and improve her time management — a crucial skill for every student athlete.

After talking to the team’s coaches, Wu and her family were incredibly happy after receiving an offer to continue her career at UPenn. Her friends who have been with her through her ups and downs were beyond proud of her commitment.

“Originally, I was accepted by UC Davis, but my dad kept telling me to keep my options open,” Wu said. “Then UPenn came into the picture. Since it’s one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation, I thought I was able to get the best of both worlds: academics and gymnastics. I also have cousins who live in Philadelphia, and it’s nice to know that I have some family members around me, so I decided to choose UPenn.”

Wu plans to continue and conclude her gymnastics career at UPenn as a student athlete. She is most excited about UPenn gymnastics’ team spirit and the opportunity to experience the cultures of the East Coast. 

“College gymnastics is more of a team sport than an individual sport,” Wu said. “It’s a lot more fun than club gymnastics, so I’m really excited to be part of a group of people that hypes you up every single practice and constantly supports everything you do.”

Mei Corricello

Senior+Mei+Corricello+will+play+volleyball+at+Georgetown.+

Photo by Emma Cionca

Senior Mei Corricello will play volleyball at Georgetown.

Senior Mei Corricello began her volleyball career as an 8-year-old, working her way up through both club and school teams. Nine years of dedication and commitment has netted Corricello admission to Georgetown University as a volleyball player and a political science major.

Corricello grew up watching Stanford volleyball games. Admiring the student athletes who played at such a high level, Corricello resolved to one day be in their shoes. 

Her journey started with the Mountain View Volleyball Club and took her through recreational league teams, other volleyball clubs and school volleyball. Throughout it all, she was able to meet her best friend of eight years, influential coaches and supportive peers. 

“It’s a really amazing and unique feeling to be out on the court with people that love and support you when you are all working toward the same exact goal,” Corricello said.

However, Corricello also faced setbacks, including a hip flexor injury in her junior year. While the injury limited her ability to play volleyball at a national competition, the experience was extremely formative.

“I realized the importance of rest and diversifying my training,” Corricello said. “You don’t necessarily have to train in the same sport nine hours each day; there are many other things you can do to make you a more well-rounded athlete.”

Corricello’s free time is often spent in the gym, whether it be practicing, coaching younger kids or competing in tournaments. On some schooldays, she stays at the gym until late at night, and during tournament weeks, she spends around 30 hours a week on volleyball. While it’s an intensive routine, Corricello’s passion and love for her sport, as well as her teammates, drive her forward.

“Finding people who believe in you, and who you believe in too, is the key to success,” Corricello said. “That’s what makes Mountain View Volleyball Club the right environment for me. It’s like my second home.”

She began to consider a collegiate career in volleyball at 15 with the encouragement of an assistant coach. COVID-19 proved to be a challenge in getting college coaches to see her play in-person, but Corricello persistently emailed different universities and presented her skill through game recordings. Through all her research and in-person visits, Corricello found Georgetown to be the perfect intersection of academics and athletics, with a great surrounding environment and a history of civic engagement. 

“I really liked Coach Heller, the Georgetown coach,” Corricello said. “He supports his players both on and off the court — both their classroom and their career achievements. After meeting with other players, I realized that this was the right college for me.”

It took one year of waiting, but finding out that she was accepted to Georgetown was a momentous and rewarding achievement for Corricello. Corricello hopes to continue her volleyball career throughout college and stay connected to her sport afterward, potentially by coaching volleyball. 

“All my coaches have really supported me and helped me grow as a person and player,” Corricello said. “I’m really inspired by the work they do, so I want to do the same for other people.”

Reflecting on her path to college volleyball, Corricello shares her advice to other aspiring recruits. 

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Corricello said. “Don’t tell yourself that you can’t do something; plenty of other people are already going to tell you you can’t. Don’t cross a school off your list before they cross you off their lists. You have to believe that you can do it because no one else is going to believe for you. And you always have to be your biggest advocate. If you do, then I think anything’s possible.”

Alyssa Meng

Senior+Alyssa+Meng+will+attend+NYU+as+a+track+and+field+athlete.

Photo by Susanna Tang

Senior Alyssa Meng will attend NYU as a track and field athlete.

While senior Alyssa Meng’s relay-racing team may have its quirks, including kowtowing to apologize or being so spirited that their fights and casual conversations can seem indistinguishable, Meng wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Sometimes before a race when we’re nervous, all four of us just hold hands and jump in a circle,” Meng said. “We look silly, but we all look silly together.”

After six exceptional seasons, Meng will attend New York University in the fall as a track and field athlete and a political science major. However, her journey to recruitment wasn’t easy. 

Meng started her track career in middle school, joining the track and field team as a sixth grader. She didn’t particularly enjoy spriting in the beginning, but she soon found a close-knit community that pushed her to continue. 

“The track community is like my second family,” Meng said. “I carried on because of the people, since I knew that at the end of the day, they would support me no matter what.”

Meng was thrilled when she made the varsity track team as a freshman, but she was also anxious due to the expectations set upon her. This pressure resulted in mental blocks that persisted throughout her underclassman years, but during quarantine in her junior year, Meng was able to reflect on track and field and what the sport meant to her.

“I improved over junior year because I changed my mindset,” Meng said. “My proudest achievement was overcoming my anxiety; instead of racing for time, I focused on just finishing the race, finishing it strong and being around people I enjoy spending time with.”

​​It was also during this time that she started to consider track and field recruitment, emailing different coaches and universities to set up interviews. She finally landed on NYU, her dream college, and after an online meeting, she flew to New York to sit down with the university’s coach in person. When she eventually received her acceptance letter, Meng and all her friends, family and teammates were incredibly happy.

“I remember that when I got my acceptance letter, I texted my best friend Jodi,” Meng said. “She immediately came to my house and picked me up to go eat, reminiscing about our paths and how much we’ve seen each other grow.” 

When Meng thinks about track and field, community is the first word which comes to mind. She is inspired by her teammates, seniors Claire Wang, Alison Tjoe and Vanessa Su, who have been by her side throughout high school track and field.  Meng also values those outside the team who have supported her, especially her parents. 

“My parents serve as inspiration, not necessarily in an athletic sense,” Meng said. “But I think that their ambitions and work ethic definitely translate into how I do track.”

​​Meng is incredibly thankful and acknowledges the prominent role the sport plays in her life, and she similarly advises other students to consider their own passions. 

“The college process is different for everyone, and there isn’t a certain template of how a college application goes,” Meng said. “There’s something unique about everyone, and you just have to find your uniqueness and use it as an opportunity.”

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About the Contributors
Photo of Jason Shan
Jason Shan, Staffer

(he/him) Jason Shan is a junior at Lynbrook High School and a returning staffer on the Epic. Outside of school, he likes to participate in community service...

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Susanna Tang, Staffer

(she/her) Susanna is a sophomore, and this is her first year on the Epic staff! Her favorite thing to do is eat sushi and poke. She also loves to travel...

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