Western Reserve Academy junior Cristen Barnett spent the summer working on her field hockey game as she competed in both the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games and the National Futures Championship.
Barnett, of Brecksville, was one of just 128 players selected nationwide for a roster spot at the Junior Olympic Games, which took place July 28 to Aug. 2 at the University of Iowa.
The games are the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the country.
The event features more than 16,000 participants competing across 20 sports.
As a member of the 16-and-younger team at the National Futures Championship she competed with players from around the nation in Lancaster, Pa., from June 27 to July 2.
The competition is the top championship event for USA Field Hockey's youth program and is attended by college recruiters and USA Field Hockey high performance staff.
"The experience with the Junior Olympic team was unbelievable and I feel so fortunate to have been selected," Barnett said.
"I learned so much about myself and even more about field hockey from my teammates and my coach. The week I spent in Iowa is one that I will never forget.
"With the under-16 team, I had the opportunity to learn from Olympians and coaches from around the country. I'm looking forward to taking the skills I learned this summer and not only applying them to my game this fall, but also sharing them with my teammates."
Barnett's growth as a player has been evident during preseason practice, according to head coach Haley Preston.
"Cristen is a really smart player, one who knows there is more to field hockey than just what happens during games," she said. "She takes the time to improve her game both mentally and during practices.
"There is a visible improvement from last year to this year in her game and for someone who is already one of our top players, to put in that kind of work says a lot."
As she prepares for the start of the field hockey season, Barnett is ready to reclaim the feeling of joy that comes from seeing the team's hard work pay off.
We are constantly challenged at WRA -- whether it is in the classroom or on the sports field," she said. "It amazes me, though, how even after an eight-hour day of school, many classmates and I participate in two-hour sports practices and put in 100-percent effort.
"We may be tired from studying for that extremely hard test or maybe we had a bad day, but when you're on the field and your teammate scores the game-winning goal, it is all worth it.
"On the athletic field, we are all working together for one goal -- whether it's to win or become stronger and better.
"I am so lucky to have spent two incredible years playing with the WRA field hockey team and I can't wait for all the great moments to come."