Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 34
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
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DEVELOPING SITUATION: Cheeky Herr smiles in a team photo for the Princeton Tiger Lilies. Herr, a Princeton resident who is entering the eighth grade at the Princeton Charter School, starred last month playing in the Girls' Select 14 age group at the USA Hockey Development Camp in Rochester, N.Y.

Herr Displays Her Cheekiness on the Ice, Starring at U.S. Hockey Development Camp

Bill Alden

The word "cheeky" is defined in the dictionary as meaning impudent or contemptuously bold.

For Princeton resident Julia "Cheeky" Herr, that boldness has come out on the ice as she proved to be a precocious hockey player soon after she got out of the crib.

Tagging along at the rink with older brother, Brooks (now a hockey player at Princeton Day School), and older sister, Sarah (now a hockey standout for Lawrenceville), Herr started skating at age 3.

A year later, Herr was playing for the Nassau Hockey League's in-house program. By age seven, Herr was playing with the boys for the Mercer Chiefs, becoming the third girl to make the high-powered program.

Last year, Herr joined the elite Princeton Tiger Lilies program, scoring 27 goals in her debut with its U-16 club.

Last month, Herr made her presence felt on the national scene as she played in the Girls' Select 14 age group at the USA Hockey Development Camp in Rochester, N.Y.

Herr was selected for the camp being chosen as one of the top six players in her age group in the Atlantic District in tryouts held at the Lawrenceville School.

In reflecting on her ascension up the hockey ladder, Herr believes that playing with the boys has steeled her for high-level competition. "Sometimes it can be very stressful; it's always tougher being the only girl," said Herr, who was tagged with her nickname as a toddler by her sister after a babysitter likened Herr to a "cheeky monkey" from a Saturday Night Live bit.

"I've had a lot of great coaches there; they all supported me and made a player out of me."

Herr's father, Mark Herr, believes that his daughter's skills and character have developed as result of her time with the Chiefs. "You learn to be faster and quicker by playing with faster and quicker players," said Mr. Herr.

"You have to make sure that the other team understands that you are not going to be a patsy; just because you have a ponytail doesn't mean that they can whale on you."

Herr needed her skill and toughness as she looked to excel at the National Development Camp. "It was a very high level; it was much quicker," said Herr, who scored five assists playing center for the "Gold" team at the competition.

"You're always on the move; you could never stand still because if you did you would just get blown away. You were always on the edge of your seat."

The players at the camp were kept on the move as they put in 12-hour days. "You would have a practice after breakfast and then go to team building," recalled Herr. "We'd have lunch, then we'd have a talk or a video. All the coaches talking to us had different areas that they were good at. We'd have a rest time in the afternoon and then we'd head back to the rink for dinner. After dinner, we would warm up and then play a game."

Spending all that time together helped Herr and her "Gold" teammates develop some tight bonds. "We just clicked from the first day," said Herr, whose efforts helped the team go 3-2 in its five games at the camp.

"We did so many things together. We made tank-tops and we gave ourselves a name, we were the 'Golden Gators.' We ordered pizza, we ate at a big table together."

Herr needed the support of her teammates as she battled against players that were typically much bigger than her. "The players were all tall," said Herr. "I was one of the smallest players. I am 5'2 and one of my teammates was the same size and there was only one other girl smaller than us. I liked the challenge. It really made me realize that I have to keep running. I need to lift weights and build body strength."

The experience in Rochester has strengthened Herr's resolve to go as far as possible in hockey. "I definitely know I can't take getting to be in a game for granted," asserted Herr, who is entering the eighth grade at the Princeton Charter School. "All my coaches say they miss playing. My short-term goal is to play for a prep school. I would like to go on and play Division I hockey and, if possible, play on a national team."

Herr displays a love of the game that should carry her far. "The great thing about playing at a high level at this age is that you get to the point where you are with girls who really want to play this game," said Herr.

"It's the only thing that matters besides schoolwork. They are not going to the dance on Friday night, they are going to the game. You also learn to give your all. You don't want to do something that would make you look in the mirror and say 'if only' and 'but if,' and if I had only done that I would have been that player in the newspaper and not the mediocre player."

Based on the boldness she has shown on the ice so far, Herr looks like she is going to be a headliner for years to come.

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