SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 7, 2011

2011 Salem News Student Athlete Award nominees


ALISON LANOIS, HAMILTON-WENHAM

It seems like only yesterday that Alison Lanois was a promising young athlete for the Hamilton-Wenham Regional track and field team.

Nearly four years later, Lanois has more than fulfilled that promise athletically, academically and with her mission trips to work with struggling communities in New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.

The Dartmouth College-bound Lanois was instrumental in leading the Generals' cross country team to a 72-0 record and four consecutive state divisional championships, plus the overall state title in 2008. She also helped make H-W one of the most competitive teams in the state both indoors and outdoors.

Individually, Lanois earned Cape Ann League Runner of the Year and Salem News All-Star honors multiple times, and she's been a state indoor champion in the mile, an Eastern Mass. champion in cross country and a team MVP and captain, among many other things. She owns school indoor records in the two-mile and mile and was on three relay teams that also set school marks.

The academic segment of her life has been just as impressive. Lanois has been on the High Honor roll every year and she's a member of the National Honor Society. She ranks in the top 5 percent of her class, has a 4.29 GPA and had a perfect 800 in the writing portion of her SAT test.

"In addition to her achievements on the track and in the classroom, Alison lives a life of giving and service," said Hamilton-Wenham Principal Matthew J. Fox. "One of our teachers wrote, 'Whether it's her time at the food pantry or the mission trips she takes with her church, she is dedicated to helping those in need and making a difference.'"

JOHN GRAM SLATTERY, ST. JOHN'S PREP

St. John's Prep is one of the relatively few schools in the state that offers sailing as a varsity sport. John Gram Slattery of Marblehead could serve as a model for others on how to capitalize on a rare opportunity.

Slattery joined the sailing team as a freshman and subsequently was a two-time captain and, in his junior year, helped the Eagles capture the state championship for the first time in the 24-year history of the program.

Taking advantage of another sport that's not generally in the spotlight, Slattery was also on the Prep's ski team for four years and contributed to the squad's state title as a freshman. He took home the Coach's Award in alpine skiing as a ninth grader and was the sailing team's MVP as a junior.

Slattery attacks his academic responsibilities with the same fervor that he approaches sports. He has a 4.5 GPA and scored well above 700 in all three parts of the SATs. He was recently named a National Merit scholar finalist.

"I feel privileged to coach a young man of such integrity, commitment to team play and talent," said St. John's Prep sailing coach Bill Mackinson. "Gram enriches us all with his expertise and genuine sense of humor."

JULIA JENNINGS, SALEM

Salem High softball coach Dan Bertone describes third baseman Julia Jennings as the backbone of his team's defense. The coach would quickly add that she's also one of the best leaders he's ever had.

Jennings is one of the chief reasons why the Salem softball program has returned to the state tourney the last two years after a long absence.

A two-time softball captain for the Witches, Jennings has been considered the backbone of her team's defense for four years now. Last spring, she hit .436, knocked in a dozen runs and seldom struck out. Bertone considers her one of the best players he's ever had. Jennings has been an NEC all-star multiple times and was Salem's Player of the Year as a junior.

Jennings was also a captain, team MVP and Northeastern Conference all-star in field hockey.

On the academic side, Jennings is No. 5 in a class of 265, carries a 4.4 GPA and was named to the National Honor Society as a junior. Owner of a 1900 score on her SATs, her community service activities included a stint as the director of the city-wide sports field clean-up. Julia has also served as a mentor the last two years at both a summer field hockey clinic and as the Salem High Freshman Orientation.

"Julia leads by her character," said Salem High Athletic Director Scott Connolly. "She is one of the most sincere, attentive, honest and caring athletes I have ever worked with."

Said Craig Massey of the social studies department, "Julia impresses you with her strong sense of integrity. She is concerned about what is doing right first rather than putting her needs ahead of others. I can think of no more admirable trait for a student to have."

HANNAH O'FLYNN, IPSWICH

Hannah O'Flynn could easily carry the title of Miss Versatility for the Ipswich High Tigers.

O'Flynn played all five positions for the basketball team this past season and became just the fourth player in the history of the girls program to surpass 1,000 career points. More importantly, she led the Tigers to their deepest state tournament run since 2006. On Senior Night (i.e., the final home game of the season), O'Flynn, wearing her basketball uniform, played the National Anthem on her saxophone.

Her skill level in other sports has also been exceptional. O'Flynn was the goalie for the Ipswich soccer team that made it all the way to the North sectional tournament final and, in track, she broke the state Division 2 record in the 400 meters. She also set the school record in the 800 while competing in that event just one time.

A three-sport captain in her senior year, O'Flynn was instrumental as Ipswich won three Cape Ann League basketball titles in four years. She'll be competing in track at Dartmouth College.

One of her passions is the improvisational nature of jazz music, which she plays on the saxophone. She is familiarizing herself with the history of the music and counts musical legends such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane among her favorite artists.

A member of the National Honor Society since her junior year, O'Flynn is in the top 10 percent of her class and has a 4.13 GPA.

"Simply put, Hannah has left her mark at Ipswich High as a musician, an athlete and with her achievements in the classroom," said her basketball coach, Mandy Zegarowski.

KAITLYN O'CONNELL, PINGREE

A wise Jedi master said "Size matters not" and it certainly hasn't mattered for Kaitlyn O'Connell, Pingree's 5-foot ball of energy who has been a leader in everything she's undertaken in high school.

A Danvers native, O'Connell is captain of the field hockey, ice hockey and softball teams at Pingree. She's also a three-year member of student government and president of the A Cappella singing group. O'Connell is the confident, vivacious leader who can turn a locker room from sullen to hopeful with her energetic style and contagious belief.

Academically, O'Connell loves science and plans to pursue a career in dentistry when she attends Colby College next fall, where she'll also play field hockey. She ranks in the top 15 percent of Pingree's senior class and has tackled three Advanced Placement courses.

A Salem News all-star in both field hockey and ice hockey, O'Connell excels most on the ice. The speedy center led her team to the Eastern Independent League title game this winter, ranking fourth on the North Shore with 29 points. She was honored with Pingree's prestigious Wheeler Award for service and dedication to girls hockey.

"Kaitlyn was instrumental in the growth and development of our team," said ice hockey coach Sarah Carpenter. "Her spirit and positive attitude are infectious, and she can always find the best in anyone and in any situation win or lose."

An accomplished musician, O'Connell is a member of two choral groups at Pingree: the "singers" and the "varsity a cappella." She has also volunteered as a Pingree School tour guide, taken service trips to Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and volunteers at Beverly Bootstraps.

OLIVIA RAISNER, MARBLEHEAD

When Olivia Raisner puts her mind to something, it almost always gets done. The senior from Marblehead has been a builder and a leader in her time as a Magicians athlete — most impressively helping the girls basketball team's 180-degree turnaround that ended with a state tournament berth last winter.

Raiser, a guard, simply wouldn't hang her head when the team had tough years early in her career. A captain this past winter, she set the bar with her work ethic and 3-point shooting as Marblehead made the tourney for the first time in six years.

Ranking No. 20 in Marblehead's senior class with a grade point average of 4.11, Raisner is a National Honor Society member and a well-rounded student who has been honored with the Excellence in Honors Algebra II Award, the United States Legal Award and the Letters About Literature Award.

With a strong spirit of volunteerism, Raisner has taken humanitarian trips to Cuba and Ecuador and serves as a acolyte at St. Andrew's Church in Marblehead. She captained the MHS Powder Puff team that helped raise $10,000 for Girls Inc. and also volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Salem.

Raisner is also a leader that captures the admiration and respect of her peers. In addition to captaining the varsity basketball and lacrosse teams, she is secretary of the MHS Student Government Association. She lettered in soccer at MHS and hopes to continue her lacrosse career at Bowdoin.

"Olivia is an outstanding young woman of sterling character," MHS athletic director Mark Tarmey said.

ZACH ZANIEWSKI, MASCONOMET

Rowing may be the ultimate team sport, with each rower in a boat working in sync towards a common goal. Masconomet senior Zach Zaniewski exemplifies that kind of teamwork in everything he does.

A member of the Essex Rowing Club (as Masconomet does not have a varsity rowing team), Zaniewski has been an asset and a leader in the water and is also a three-year varsity basketball standout for the Chieftains, captaining the hoops team his senior year. The rugged rebounder helped his team qualify for the state tournament this past winter.

Zaniewski's interests are as diverse as the number of fish in the rivers he rows through. As a singer, he is a member of Masconomet's elite chorale which performed at venues across Northern Italy last spring. He is also a member of the student emergency response team and is taking EMT training this year.

An Eagle Scout, Zaniewski earned that prestigious distinction through a 154-hour community service project. In the classroom, Zaniewski is a National Honor Society member that ranks No. 55 in his senior class. He earned the Al Brown Award for Outstanding Achievement in World History and also twice placed in Masconomet's science fair.

"Zack is truly an outstanding student and individual. He exemplifies the meaning of the world role modal," Masconomet guidance counselor Irene Duros said.

An honor roll student, Zaniewski will bring his considerably diverse interests to the College of the Holy Cross next year.

ANGELA ELLISON, PEABODY

Both on the soccer field and in the classroom, Angela Ellison exudes poise and grace. The Peabody High senior is rare athlete whose focus on the most minute of details helps her teammates succeed, and that attention and dedication has helped her attain the No. 2 ranking in Peabody's class of 430 seniors.

A center midfielder and four-year varsity player, Ellison led the Tanners to a 36-3-3 record in her two years as captain (including the longest playoff run in program history as a junior). She was named Northeastern Conference MVP and All-New England as a senior, but honors and statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.

Ellison is the epitome of a selfless player, often embracing a defensive role that took away statistics and potential headlines, but led to ample victories. Her precision passing and absolute control on the pitch were a sight to behold for the soccer aficionado.

Her interests range much wider than just soccer, though. A National Honor Society member, Ellison has taken four Advance Placement classes and has a particular interest in science. She earned PVMHS' University of Rochester Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award and hopes to study medicine.

Ellison volunteers at Rosewood Nursing Home, Haven From Hunger, at the Annual Hospice Walk and as a peer tutor at the high school. She has also been an ambassador to the MIAA and has earned varsity letters in indoor track.

"Angela is always ready to lend a hand," Peabody High principal Ed Sapienza said. "Quiet, yet assertive when necessary, Angela makes the perfect teammate and classmate."

Ellison, whose older sister Emilee was Peabody's nominee for the Salem News Student-Athlete Award in 2005, will study and play Division 1 soccer at Quinnipiac University in the fall.

WILLIAM CURATOLO, MANCHESTER ESSEX

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but for William Curatolo it's done nothing but fuel his drive both on and off the field at Manchester Essex.

A four-sport varsity athlete (soccer, indoor track, sailing and lacrosse), Curatolo's contributions to his high school range as far as representing the Hornets at Boys State and in sailing regattas to leading the Hornets in their first year as an indoor track program this spring. The soccer captain at Manchester Essex also undertook a once-in-a-lifetime internship with the Cowen Lab for Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Mass General.

Curatolo's long list of honors include both the science and math teams, National Art Honors Society, National Honor Society, the Algebra 2 Excellence Award, earning high honors for four straight years and an appearance at the Debate National Tournament of Champions qualification — all while maintaining high honors every semester.

If his combined score of 2370 on the SAT's wasn't proof enough of Curatolo's intellectual fortitude, the senior has managed to carry a 5.13 (out of 6.0) GPA while taking the toughest curriculum Manchester Essex has to offer. Normally the school limits each students enrollment in AP courses to three a year, but as a junior Curatolo took four and received the highest possible grade (5.0) on the final tests.

"One of Will's qualities I admire most is his desire to try new experiences and his 'Just Do It' attitude," Manchester Essex counselor Karen D'Amour said. "He possesses a strong sense of self."

JORDAN CASTILLO, NORTH SHORE TECH

Jordan Castillo has never played on a losing varsity team at North Shore Tech, a fact that speaks more to his character and leadership abilities than any athletic skill.

When Paul Worth was asked to return to the school's football head coaching position, the first task on his agenda wasn't comprising a new playbook or getting new uniforms — but to get Jordan Castillo, a member of his baseball team, to join the squad.

A bit undersized, Castillo was hesitant at first. But any ground he gave up in stature was more than made up by his determination, and when the fall rolled around Castillo was a two-way starter for the Bulldogs football team

"I felt we needed his work ethic and leadership skills in our program," explained Worth. "He was never the star player, but his leadership skills were of high quality."

A member of basketball, baseball and football teams that all won league championships, Castillo's drive is even more apparent in the classroom, where he has managed a 3.7 (out of 4.0) GPA to rank 16th in his class. Castillo's vocational area of focus is Machine Technology, and the senior challenged himself throughout his high school career with a very rigorous courseload, according to Principal Brad Morgan. So far this year has been Castillo's most impressive academic showing with a 4.1 GPA for the opening semester, which was fourth best out of 109 students.

When he goes on to college, this proud Bulldog will study in hopes of one day becoming an engineer.

PETER YASI, SWAMPSCOTT

Peter Yasi was named MVP of the Big Blue for his efforts on the gridiron this past season, but it's an entirely different "MVP" that shows just what kind of individual will be headed to Bowdoin College to play football in the fall.

Yasi was chosen to be a member of the Mentors in Violence Prevention program at Swampscott High, a gender violence, bullying, and school violence prevention approach that encourages young men and women from all backgrounds to take on leadership roles in their schools and communities.

Yasi's leadership transcends onto the field and the hardwood, where Yasi was a captain of both the football and basketball teams this year. The most important piece to the Big Blue's defense in football, Yasi recorded 103 career tackles (11 for a loss), three fumbles, eight pass break ups and eight sacks (including seven his senior year).

More importantly, head coach Steve Dembowski built his 3-4 defensive packages around Yasi's ability. Also a versatile offensive weapon, Dembowski used his Northeastern Conference South all-star and team MVP as both a slot receiver and a tight end because of his ability to block as well as catch the ball and run with it. This summer, he will play in both of the state's prestigious all-star games for outgoing senior football players: The Shriner's Game and the Harry Agganis All-Star Football Classic.

Academically, Yasi scored a 1920 on his SAT's and carries a 92.47 (out of 100) grade point avearge to rank 34th out of 158 students.

"Peter is bright, energetic, compassionate and genuinely well rounded. He is one of the most reliable students I have come across at Swampscott High," explained Dean and Athletic Director Alison Argentieri. "I have witnessed his dedication to improving his individual skills, physical endurance and his commitment to his team."

JOE WIONCEK, BEVERLY

Beverly High Athletic Director James Coffey expected a different response when he suggested senior quarterback Joe Wioncek should come work for the New England Patriots some day. Coffey, Panthers coach Dan Bauer and Beverly's football captains were on a tour of Gillette Stadium two days before Wioncek helped lead his team to the school's first MIAA Super Bowl championship, but not even the bluster of the moment could derail Wioncek's long-term focus.

"I'll be doing bigger things," Wioncek told Coffey, "probably flying planes in the Air Force."

Wioncek is an unquestioned leader for his athletic teams, serving as a captain in football, wrestling and baseball. But his focus and determination to reach "bigger things" never seems to waver.

"I was truly amazed at his response," Coffey said, "and I believe it sums up perfectly the type of young man Joe is and where his priorities lie."

Wioncek, who ranks 14th in a class of 270 students, has a clear goal for the future: to attend a four-year college, preferably a military academy, and major in Engineering.

In addition to his many accomplishments on the fields and wrestling mat at Beverly High, Wioncek has maintained a 4.24 GPA and been a two-year member of the National Honor Society. He has also been a volunteer at Beverly Hospital, a religious education teacher, a volunteer Little League coach and a tutor, among other things.

"At all times, I have discovered Joe to be honest, courteous, and very considerate, especially to those less fortunate than he. Joe willingly performs community service, often without being asked," Beverly High Principal Sean Gallagher said. "Joe has a subtle wit and keen sense of humor, and for this and the above mentioned reasons, he is extremely well thought of and respected by both his teachers and classmates at Beverly High School and in the Beverly community."

REBECCA GRAVES, BISHOP FENWICK

Rebecca Graves is motivated by challenge. Whether it be stopping goals on the soccer pitch, grabbing rebounds on the basketball court or scoring goals on the lacrosse field, Graves has made a habit of overpowering all challenges that she meets.

Likewise in the classroom, Graves has little trouble meeting her goals.

Graves ranks in the top 10 percent of a class of 155 seniors with a 4.56 GPA. She has only once in her four years had a final average below an A-minus. Graves also plays a key role in the Fenwick community, acting as the president of the Student Activities Council, a Peer Leadership member, and as a School Ambassador. She was also the Junior Class Vice President.

"In every way, Rebecca is the consummate student-athlete: very consistent, highly efficient, extremely organized, unquestionably self-motivated, super conscientious and determined to 'win,'" Fenwick Guidance Counselor John Jaworski said. "As Rebecca wrote in an essay for me, 'I have never met a challenge I didn't like.' Hence, is it any surprise that Rebecca Graves is the top student-athlete in the senior class?"

Graves was a four-year member of the Crusaders varsity soccer team and lacrosse teams, as well as a three-year member of the varsity basketball team.

She concluded her soccer career as a goalie with a 0.833 goals against average and has been a dominant scoring force on the lacrosse field. As a junior, Graves led the state in scoring by accumulating 126 goals and 21 assists. She is now closing in the school scoring record and has already earned an athletic scholarship to continue her lacrosse career at Division 1 University of New Hampshire next year.

KATHARINE FOLEY JENNINGS, DANVERS

When analyzing Katharine Foley Jennings' academic and athletic achievements based on awards and accolades, it's extremely difficult to determine where she excels more: on the athletic fields or in the classroom.

Jennings is ranked seventh in her class with an unweighted GPA of 4.0. She is a member of the National Honor Society, the World Language National Honor Society, and received the Saint Anselm College Book Award as a junior. She's also a member of the Art National Honor Society, Student Council and Amnesty International.

When it comes to athletics, Jennings has been a three-year member of the Falcons field hockey team. This season she earned the team's MVP award and was named a Northeastern Conference all-star and a Salem News all-star.

Jennings has also been a four-year member of the lacrosse team and was named NEC all-star a year ago.

Jennings has also made her mark in the community, volunteering at St. Mary's Star of the Sea School in Beverly, the Danvers YMCA and as a coach for Danvers Youth Lacrosse, among others.