Jul 12, 2022
By Lori Draz and Robby Manse
Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform their peers and parents. If you are a teenager who would like to write your story, contact Le Journal. We’ll help you polish it, so don’t worry, let’s get to sharing.
Earlier this year, we caught up with Robby Manse, an 18-year-old senior at Christian Brothers Academy. This month he will become the first ABC graduate to attend West Point in more than 20 years and only the third on record. He is nationally ranked in shot put and athletics, but he is also well known as an intelligent, kind and compassionate young man who, despite his athletic commitments, still honors his faith by volunteering as a GURU (Giving Us Religious Understanding) at ABC. Robby’s journey has been led by many mentors who taught him confidence and compassion, and now he shares those lessons with others. Here is Robby’s story.
It all started in the driveway of my old house in Middletown. It was my fantasy basketball court in elementary school where I perfected my superstar shots. I spent hours watching Shaquille O’Neil and Michael Jordon as I perfected my craft. I learned that the grind and the hustle would be valuable when I entered Christian Brothers Academy.
My freshman months at the ABC were some of the toughest but most rewarding of my life. I had to adapt from being an honor student at a public school to student life at a well-known and challenging high school. More importantly, I wanted and needed to find my hobby. I was not an athlete; running and endurance weren’t my thing, so it was the ping pong club. ABC President Brother Frank Byrne ran the Friday Club. He was the most caring guy anyone could ever meet, and I constantly looked up to him as a mentor. When the Friday Ping Pong club ended, I thought about basketball, but it didn’t happen.
My homeroom teacher, Mr. Andrew Cusick, noticed that I was a big kid who could learn to put the shot. Shot put ? Are you kidding me? What is this sport? But I trusted Mr. Cusick. He was always nice in class and cared about me, so with some hesitation, I went to the indoor track trials. I didn’t know how to prepare for the shot put. All I did to prepare was prepare my outfit. It wasn’t a great tryout and I felt a bit defeated, but Mr. Cusick kept me on the team because he believed if I worked hard I could be a great pitcher.
The turning point of my freshman year was joining the track team. I met seniors who really loved sports and inspired me to become a better athlete. The captains were happy to share tips and man-to-man examples that forever changed my view of the shot put. I spent countless nights studying shooting, so much so that my father bought me a 400-page book on the sport. I also checked my grades, as the seniors pushed me to do. I learned to manage my time and finished my freshman year as one of the top underclassmen on the team. My parents and my coaches believed that I could be someone, and they made me believe it too. They taught me never to take anything for granted or give up what you love.
I became an avid weightlifter and even bought my own weights for a preschool pump. This sport has changed my life for the better. I stayed engaged and got in much better shape. I worked hard to set records, and from junior year I knew I wanted to pass on my knowledge and love of the sport to the underclassmen, just like those seniors did for me. It was a pleasure to help them improve and believe in themselves. I continued every year and finished in the Top 5 in the ABC shot put and discus rankings. I am now ranked seventh in the country in the shot put. More importantly, I was touched when a number of Division 1 coaches contacted me. They trusted me too.
The one that really caught my eye was the United States Military Academy at West Point. I followed their throwing page on Instagram and thought, “Wow, these people have a lot of respect for throwing and serving their country. That must be cool. When I told my parents that West Point contacted me, they were honored but equally scared. I am an only child who knows his parents want him to be safe. Putting yourself in a situation where you could go to war is the last thing a parent wants you to do.
After months of talking with Coach Ryan Hershberger at the Army, on July 8, 2021, my parents and I made our first visit to West Point. It was the most significant experience of my life and that of my family. From the moment we set foot on campus, we were struck by the richness of West Point’s beauty and tradition, and that admiration only grew as we spoke to the coaches and admissions officers. We walked the campus and visited the classrooms, realizing with every step the powerful footsteps we were following.
We visited again on September 11, 2021. Met potential incoming caddies, had in-depth conversations with track coaches, and bonded over fireworks, a soccer game, and more dinners.
On September 26, 2021, I verbally committed to USMA and on November 11, 2021, I officially signed with my dream school.
Who would have guessed that I would be in this position? I guess my parents did, and for that I will be forever grateful. My parents, all my coaches and classmates are my heroes. They taught me to never lose hope and to be kind and supportive in every way possible.
It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you and feed you positive thoughts. It’s also important, as I learned while tutoring the subclasses, to support others. Find good spiritual, athletic, educational, artistic, and social role models. Find good people and be one yourself. I’m going to West Point to excel personally, but also to excel for this nation as a second lieutenant and for all the people who make it great.