The coronavirus pandemic has brought to light some of what was once the world’s most unthinkable challenges — like taking away the routine of daily life.
For Jack Newswanger, a Neumann University three-time Academic All-Atlantic East Conference midfielder, the hardest challenge he had to face in 2020 was the termination of his spring lacrosse season.
“It was heartbreaking,” the senior from Middletown said. “I still can vividly recall the range of emotions experienced in and around those days. Not only was my team off to one of the best starts in our program’s history, the group as a whole was clicking really well.”
Newswanger has been known as a faceoff machine for Neumann’s mens lacrosse team. He had just surpassed his 500th career faceoff win before the COVID shutdown. He was a star from the beginning, breaking the single-season faceoff school record with 153 wins as a freshman in 2018. In his sophomore year, he went on to shine even brighter being nationally ranked second in ground balls per game (12.81) and third in faceoff percentage (75%) as well as being recognized First Team All-Atlantic East Conference recipient.
However, Newswanger’s pursuit of a collegiate lacrosse career was generated out of a multisport melting pot.
“Growing up, I was definitely all over the place athletically,” he said. “I played soccer from the time I could walk, and I added ice hockey along the way in middle school. Going to a smaller high school (St. Elizabeth’s), I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be involved in a lot and play essentially whatever sports I wanted.
“I ended up a four-sport athlete, playing soccer, ice hockey, swimming, and eventually lacrosse.”
It was not until he received some direction by his present day coaches to go all-in on lacrosse.
“I had a really good season my senior year of high school and began hoping that playing somewhere in college could be a possibility. And it was around that time where I connected to Coach (Kyle) Gardner, Coach Z (Evan Zielinski), and the rest of the Neumann staff, and something special just clicked.”
Newswanger makes his faith a priority and believes growing up with a Catholic education has shaped not only the kind of athlete but the overall person he is today.
“Faith is obviously very important to me. Growing up attending Catholic grade school (Christ the Teacher), high school and now college has had a great impact on my development. It adds a layer of perspective to competition and helps guide me through the highs, lows and everything in between.”
He admits the pandemic’s impediment has provided the ultimate test for the mentality of a young student athlete. He has been grateful to have had a sturdy backbone of his friends, family, teammates and of course, his dogs, to lean on.
“Being essentially stuck at home from March through August proved to be a blessing in disguise, since I was able to hang out with my family (and dogs) a lot and really get quality time at home that I wouldn’t otherwise have. My friends and I would have group Facetimes several hours per day and that also helped keep me sane. And on top of that, our lacrosse coaching staff did a great job reaching out and organizing team Zoom meetings that reminded us through dark and unknowing times that we’d be back on the field soon enough.”
Aside from his athletic career, he is currently working to end this school year with a B.A. in Business Administration when he graduates in May. He plans to further his education in the fall, as he is currently in the process of applying to graduate school to obtain his MBA.
“I’m curious to see where the next step in my journey will take me and I’m really looking forward to continuing to learn and welcome my next challenge.”
The Neumann team celebrated on their Senior Day, March 31. They opened Atlantic East Conference play with a 23-8 victory against Immaculata University. The Knights are 2-1 and 1-0 in the conference. They head to Dover to take on Wesley College on April 7.
Newswanger said his team is geared to make up for lost time this year.
“We’re more mission-focused than ever to have a special season. Our 2021 team is probably the most experienced and skilled team that we’ve ever had as a program, so we really want to challenge ourselves to see what we can accomplish from conference play into the conference playoffs.”
He said his key to being a successful student-athlete is to set goals for himself that he works hard to attain.
“Personally, my goal is to try to be my best self every day and do whatever I can to help our team accomplish our objectives and to move our program forward.”