Lenape's Norton is top girls' athlete

JLEN01P Lenape's Courtney Norton (20) tries to get around Ridge's defenders Brooke Burnett, L, and Erin Conway . Photo / Curt Hudson

Lenape senior Courtney Norton is known for her competitive spirit, but what makes her so special is that this attitude extends well beyond the games.

An Inquirer first-team all-South Jersey selection in both soccer and lacrosse this season who helped her teams win major championships in both sports, Norton also was known for her love of practice.

Yes, Norton, a Rutgers soccer recruit, had so much respect for her teammates and coaches that she treated a practice with the same reverence as a game.

No wonder she has been named The Inquirer's senior girls' athlete of the year. This is one athlete who practices what she preaches.

"She enjoyed working out and practicing and really thrived in that type of environment," Lenape soccer coach Kevin Meder said.

Lenape lacrosse coach Jill McCarthy agreed.

"She brought up the intensity of everyone around 150 percent every practice," McCarthy said. "That is what helped prepare us for big games."

Even her future coach has noticed Norton's enthusiasm for working out. Norton frequently attended clinics held by the Rutgers soccer staff.

"Courtney is all about bettering herself, and she never changes her demeanor and is always so positive," Rutgers coach Glenn Crooks said.

Of course, Norton didn't leave it all on the practice field.

In soccer, she was a defender who mainly played sweeper in her senior season and was a major reason that the Indians won a seventh consecutive South Jersey Group 4 championship. For good measure, Lenape also won a seventh straight title in the South Jersey Coaches Tournament, consisting of the area's top teams.

Norton played a variety of roles on the soccer field. Even though defense was her calling card, she added one goal and four assists, and countless times, she helped start the offense from the back end.

"What is really impressive is her versatility," Crooks said. "She can play a number of positions, which will enhance her opportunities with us."

Meder said Norton could play any position on the field. Norton also provided the enviable combination of finesse and power.

"She is the type of player who can drop a pass 30 yards downfield on a forward's foot," Meder said. "She has that type of touch and composure, and is one of the best we ever had at that."

In soccer and lacrosse, her success could be traced to how diligently she prepared for each game.

"Every single day in both sports, I would look forward to practices, even in the preseason in soccer when it was 90 degrees," Norton said. "I would still love to be out there and it was hard, but we challenged each other."

Those challenges in both sports paid off.

"We worked so hard in practice and everybody knew we were there for each other and you become close, like a family," Norton added.

Norton was a catalyst for the Group 4 state-championship lacrosse team. She had 21 goals and eight assists, but that doesn't begin to describe her value.

As a midfielder, she collected 134 ground balls and won 87 draw controls, a vital statistic in lacrosse.

She treated her so-called second sport as if it was her first.

"To have her in our program meant so much, and as a coach, I consider myself so fortunate to have coached her," McCarthy said.

McCarthy added that there were plenty of Division I lacrosse opportunities for Norton had she decided to pursue the sport in college.

But Norton is looking forward to her next challenge in college, and is grateful for all the great memories she had playing two sports at Lenape.

"It was so much fun and I definitely will miss it, especially all the great coaches and players I was with," Norton said.

And no doubt both programs will miss Norton, not only for all her contributions on the field, but also for her attitude, which showed that a champion plays the way she practices.