Jeannette seniors have winning mentality in athletics, classroom

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Monday, May 11, 2020 | 6:05 PM


Editor’s note: This is the ninth in an 18-part series profiling nominees for the Westmoreland County Scholar-Athlete Excellence Awards.

All Justin Cramer needs is a challenge.

Tell him the quarterback is quick to the outside and he’ll show you how slow he can make him look.

Tell Cramer his wrestling opponent rarely gets pinned and he’ll find a way get him on his back.

The Jeannette senior grinds to be the best linebacker and wrestler he can be, but he likes to compete in the classroom, too.

Pride swells when he makes a sack, pins somebody or gets an A.

An Edinboro football recruit, he carries a 3.2 grade-point average. A rare four-year starter on defense, the all-state pick is believed to be Jeannette’s all-time leader in tackles with 427.

He’s wrapped up a few tough assignments, as well.

“I put a lot of work into my academics,” he said. “In ‘student-athlete,’ student comes first. There would be nights I wouldn’t go to bed until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning because I knew if I didn’t perform in the classroom well I wouldn’t be able to perform on the football field or the wrestling mat.

“My family has always held me to a very high standard with my academics as well. I am thankful for that.”

Cramer wrestled at Hempfield at 195 pounds as part of a co-op with Jeannette.

Faith Johnston, a classmate, follows a similar blueprint at Jeannette.

The Jayhawks softball program put a lot of Faith in its pitching — or, pitcher.

A standout pitcher who has the Jayhawks’ program record for career strikeouts (283), Johnston pitched every inning of every game for Jeannette for three years.

She helped the Jayhawks return to the WPIAL playoffs after a six-year drought.

Her 3.5 GPA might be slightly higher than her ERA, but that is not a bad thing.

“Time management is key,” she said. “I have learned a lot throughout the years playing softball: work ethic, building leadership skills and teamwork,” she said, “which all have made me a better student in the classroom.”

A Waynesburg commit, Johnston also is one of the top hitters in the county. She batted .460 and hit four home runs last season. Her senior season was dashed by the coronavirus restrictions.

Cramer and Johnston are ranked in the top 30 of their 70-member senior class.

Cramer hopes to carve out a path to professional football, but if he doesn’t land in the NFL or elsewhere to play the game he loves, he plans to become a state trooper.

Johnston, who also lettered four years in soccer, said in five years she hopes to be working and traveling.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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