Pottstown girls lacrosse coach Brandy Scherer was the salutatorian of her high school class back when she played for the Trojans in 2000.
It’s something she jokingly reminded one of her current players, senior Winni Weng, of during her four years with the girls lacrosse team as she excelled in the classroom.
“I actually always mentioned it to Winni when she would bring up, ‘We’re this close,’ or ‘I’m 2,’ or ‘I’m 1,’ because obviously the kids that are that high up they talk about it,” Scherer said. “I always kind of made it a little competition between me and her as well.”
Weng, who is set to attend Emory University in Atlanta, ended up one-upping her head coach. She was named this year’s valedictorian as the top student in the Pottstown Class of 2020.
“It wasn’t really something that I was like, ‘Oh yes this is exactly what I’m going for, I want to be valedictorian,’” Weng said. “I always tried my best, I always excelled naturally at school. I always learned things a little faster, but it wasn’t something I needed to achieve. It sort of just kind of came along.
“I worked hard all four years of my high school career, and getting this award … it kind of shows that it pays off to work hard.”
Weng was involved in a lot during her high school career at Pottstown.
Along with excelling academically, Weng was the vice president of the National Honor Society, active in student government and a member of the Rotary Club. She also managed to fit in a job and dual-enrollment courses at Montgomery County Community College.
Weng was on the varsity lacrosse team starting in her freshman year, and she spent three seasons on the cross country team before playing field hockey for the first time this fall. She appreciated the balance sports gave her during her four years at Pottstown.
“Playing sports, it was a lot of free time away from school, so it wasn’t all about school, school, school,” Weng said. “Sports kind of gave me something else to focus on rather than being all focused on my academics.
“Being on sports, it definitely has taught me a lot because you get just the team bonding,” she added. “You really get to create a bond with your teammates and you get to learn how to function as part of a team rather than individually. It sort of puts you in a position where you have to be a leader or have to be a part of the team and think about others rather than just yourself.”
As someone who excelled both academically and athletically in high school and puts the team’s GPA as a priority each season, Scherer knew the balance Weng had to have managing a rigorous academic schedule and other activities while also playing multiple sports.
She said Weng and some of her teammates would have to occasionally miss practice to get to their dual-enrollment classes or other activities but would still find ways to get their training in; for example, showing up early to get an extra run in.
“It’s balancing time management and being open and honest with everything that you do,” Scherer said. “How do I manage all my time is something I try to teach the kids, too. Don’t overcommit, do the things that you love, do the things that you enjoy, but don’t overcommit yourself. Winni did a really great job.”
Weng was a four-year varsity player for the Trojans lacrosse team, a sport she didn’t pick up until middle school. Scherer said Weng’s leadership skills were essential back on defense.
“Most of the spotlight gets put on the offense, who scores goals. But when it really gets down to it, defense is the most essential part of a team,” Weng said. “Without defense, it doesn’t matter how much you score. … There really is less of an individual mindset, and you really have to work with your goalie, work with your defenders and work with the midfield trying to move the ball up and keep it up.”
After helping her lacrosse teams for three seasons, Scherer pushed Weng to play field hockey for her this fall for the first time.
Though it took her some time and effort to master some of the required skills, it was an experience Weng said she did not regret.
“Being as intelligent and athletic as she is, she was just kind of able to pick it up,” Scherer said. “She was not perfect, right, and probably not the most skilled player on the field, but she was smart enough to understand what I was asking her to do and able to make a difference.”
Pottstown was not able to hold a its typical in-person graduation ceremony, but Weng was able to address her peers with a recorded video speech.
In her valedictorian speech, Weng said she first thanked those who impacted her during her time at Pottstown. She then discussed the COVID-19 pandemic that ended her senior academic and athletic careers prematurely.
“I sort of turned it into a way where you can take this as an opportunity, a chance to slow down and be able to do things that you’ve never done before and really take this as an opportunity to find your passion or your silver lining,” Weng said.
Weng is unsure whether she will major in biochemistry or healthcare management at Emory, but she plans to be on the pre-med track either way. She also hopes to continue her athletic career on the club lacrosse team.
During her time coaching Weng at Pottstown, Scherer said she came away impressed not only with what Weng was able to accomplish, but also in the manner in which she did it.
“I really think she’s an exceptional student-athlete, and the most important thing is, she really was very humble through it all,” Scherer said. “She excelled in the classroom. She was very intelligent. … She was just very humble about everything — and that’s always important as well — and just a great team player and someone I hope will go on, hopefully, come back or lead in a way that will help those around her.”