Jones and Emptage: East Hampton High School Honorees

Balance in swimming — competition and teamwork
Madison Jones, left, and Lucy Emptage Durell Godfrey Photos

Two of the captains of East Hampton High School’s league-champion girls swimming team, Madison Jones and Lucy Emptage, were the focus of attention at the high school on Nov. 14.

Emptage, at 1 p.m., signed a national letter of intent to attend La Salle University in Philadelphia on a lacrosse scholarship, and, at 1:30, Jones, Channel 12’s scholar-athlete of the month, was interviewed and filmed in the high school’s halls and, later, at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter’s pool.

Emptage, who also is soon to be feted as the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s female high school athlete of the year, began playing lacrosse with the Long Island Top Guns travel team based in West Babylon when she was a fifth grader at the Amagansett School. Jones has been a member of the Y’s swim team, the Hurricanes, for the past 10 years, and both have been on Craig Brierley’s standout varsity team throughout their high school careers.

Both, as you can imagine, are self-motivated, and personable, and are ocean lifeguards. Jones worked with East Hampton Village crews this past summer; Emptage, on weekends, with town crews in Montauk. On weekdays, she was a Devon Yacht Club camp counselor.

Asked what it was she loved about swimming, Jones, an A student — as is Emptage — said, “It’s an escape for me . . . it helps me to balance academics and athletics. . . . I love swimming in the ocean too.”

Emptage comes by her athletic ability naturally. Her mother, the high school’s strength and conditioning coach, was a Junior Olympics gymnast, and her father played lacrosse at Lynchburg College. 

It was her mother, she said, in answer to a question, who encouraged her to play lacrosse initially, a suggestion that has borne fruit. Emptage is just the latest of a number of East Hampton High School female lacrosse players to win scholarships — Maggie Pizzo, now a senior at Yale, and the Seekamp sisters, Amanda and Carley, the former at Hofstra, the latter at the United States Naval Academy, and Jacqui Thorsen, who matriculated at Wagner this fall, having preceded her.

Not only her mother, but her Top Guns coaches, Bill and Shannon Smith, and Erin Tintle, who oversees the girls youth program here, had been helpful, Emptage said, in taking the next step.

Emptage gave La Salle a verbal commitment when she was a sophomore, and is now signed, sealed, and delivered, as it were, though, when this writer said she could let her grades slide now, she said, with a smile, that she could not.

Both honorees have been heavily involved in extracurricular pursuits, Emptage primarily with the Old Montauk Athletic Club and with Paddlers 4 Humanity — she made the 18-mile Montauk-to-Block Island crossing on a stand-up paddleboard with the group this past summer — and Jones with the high school’s U.N. club, which she and Myra Arshad have headed for the past four years. 

In model U.N. conferences in New York City she had been, she said in answer to a question, a representative from France, a representative from Sierra Leone, a representative from Oman, from Switzerland, and from Swaziland.

“I went to Africa this past spring,” Jones added, “with my A.P. government class. There were about 15 of us. We helped build a school in Malawi during spring break. It was an amazing experience. The children were so happy to see the photos we took of them — they swarmed around us, they don’t have mirrors, they don’t get to see what they look like.”

As for the mock U.N. round-table discussions and debates, here and in New York, “I love them,” said Jones. “They’ve helped broaden my perspective.”

As for Emptage, who plans to major in elementary education, she said she was grateful that lacrosse — the Top Guns play in regional tournaments throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states for most of the year — had given her an opportunity to broaden her perspective. Coaches at showcases, she said, with a smile, often refer to Long Island as “Strong Island” when it comes to lacrosse.

Asked what the girls’ season would be like this coming spring, Emptage, who loves to run and who as a midfielder loves to play offense and defense, said, “We’re hoping to make the playoffs. . . . I’ve been going through the halls recruiting. It’s a go-go game. If they like to run, we’ll show them how to catch the ball!”

Jones, who’s also a clarinetist in the school band, said, in answer to a question, that she has yet to make a college decision. She’s applied to a dozen colleges, Vanderbilt, the University of Virginia, the University of Southern California, and Southern Methodist University among them, and wants to major in business — a career in finance appeals to her. Math had begun to click, she said, when she encountered Barry Mackin. 

“I wasn’t great at math until he became my teacher last year. I like all my teachers, but he’s a great one — one of the best. I take two A.P. calculus classes with him.”

Channel 12 — the interview is to air Tuesday — has given Jones a $1,000 scholarship check, and she stands a chance to receive even more should she be picked as the channel’s top recipient in June.

Emptage said she liked it that other La Salle recruits against whom she’s played in tournaments, players from Pennsylvania and Maryland, will be with her at the university. “It’s like a family,” she said.

In swimming, said Jones, “there’s a good balance challenge and teamwork. We challenge each other, but we also work together. It raises the level of all of us.”