SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

2009 Salem News Student-Athlete Award

2009 AWARDS DINNER COVERAGE

Nominees at a glance

HEIDI JOHNSON, Ipswich Back to top

Heidi JohnsonIt only makes sense that Heidi Johnson can really hit the high notes. As a distance runner and select chorus singer, Johnson’s lungs are as powerful as her brain.

A three-season runner and captain of the Tigers’ outdoor team this spring, Johnson has run at the Bay State Games and also participated in Ipswich’s orchestra, mock trial program, math league and drama club.

“Heidi’s passion and success in running has not limited her involvement in the ‘meat’ of school events. She provides leadership and commitment at each opportunity,” IHS math teacher Peg Webber wrote in a letter of recommendation.

Johnson’s academic credentials are rock solid. A GPA of 4.1259 places her in the top 10 percent of IHS’ senior class. She’s a National Honor Society member, won a Wellesley Book Award and earned two certificates of merit from the Concours National de Francais.

In addition to missionary work, Johnson volunteers foster care for pregnant cats and kittens.

“The endless hours of service in each area is never compromised by a possibility of over involvement. She is able to balance all her commitments and see each through to near perfection, all the while with one of the most amazing smiles on her face,” Webber wrote.

MIKE KONIARES, Masconomet Back to top

Michael KoniaresMasconomet guidance counselor Michael Novello summed up Mike Koniares best when he wrote, “In a school where competition to be ‘number one’ can sometimes cloud judgement, Michael has been steadfast in following his exceptionally strong moral compass.”

It comes as no surprise that a student like this would be elected captain of teams both academically and athletically — Koniares captains two track squads for the Chieftains, as well as the Masco math team.

Ranked fifth in a class of 365, Koniares has won numerous academic awards. Among them are outstanding achievements in A.P. psychology and biology, achievements in American history and math, and a Rochester Institute of Technology Computing Medal. “Koni leads by example. He’s the first to arrive to practice and one of the last to leave. He’s personable, courteous, respectful and always willing to help,” said Masco track coach Dana Picillo.

A three-year Model United Nations participant, Koniares sits on the Tri-Town Council Student Board, helped set a Cape Ann League record in the 4x800 meter relay, has qualified for Division 2 states in multiple events — and, for good measure, set a Brook Trout angling record for largest fish in his age group as a 14-year-old in 2005.

“Michael possesses amazing talents and skills ... and utilizes them in a humble manner and with a great deal of honor and self-respect,” Novello wrote.

GREG DOONAN, Peabody Back to top

Gregory DoonanThere may be some debate around Peabody High over which streak is longer: Greg Doonan’s consecutive sets won in tennis, or his consecutive tests aced.

Last year’s Northeastern Conference North tennis MVP, Doonan amassed a 16-1 record and won 31 straight sets — amazingly in the first season he’d ever played singles tennis. That feat is matched only by his prowess in the classroom, where he ranked 8th in Peabody High’s 480-member senior class.

“Greg is bright, energetic, compassionate and genuinely well-rounded,” said Tanner tennis coach Chris Vasseur. A National Honor Society member, Doonan has volunteered at Pilgrim Rehabilitation Center, helped at “Jolly Jaunt” and “Passion Plunge” fundraisers, is a four-year member of the math team, won the North Shore’s Fleet Reserve Association National Americanism Essay Contest, and finished second in a PHS spelling bee.

Athletically, Doonan’s skills translate beyond tennis. He captained the Tanner boys soccer team to an NEC title last fall and was a league all-star on defense.

“Greg has the ability, courage and fortitude to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to. His leadership on the field was shown by his intelligence, skill, speed and unrelenting hustle,” said Peabody soccer coach Stan McKeen.

Doonan is also a member of Peabody’s captain’s council and has challenged himself by taking five Advanced Placement courses. A four-year student council member, Doonan represented Peabody on the Northeast Regional Student Advisory Council.

EMILY LANOIS, Hamilton-Wenham Back to top

Emily LanoisIndividual accolades have a tendency to take over a track star’s resume. This has never been the case for Emily Lanois — and that shouldn’t be a surprise from a standout student-athlete who’s spent three summers performing mission work.

An unparalleled runner, Lanois is one of only two girls in Massachusetts history to win four straight individual cross country titles. More importantly in her eyes, she led Hamilton-Wenham to a perfect 48-0 record and four team state titles during that time.

“To watch her run is to watch a girl with passion,” wrote H-W principal Robert Krol in a letter of recommendation. “Not interested in personal glory, her goal was to inspire her teammates to their fullest potential.”

Lanois carries a GPA of 4.32 on a course load filled with honors courses and five Advanced Placement classes. Her missionary work included a trip to New Orleans to help rebuild hurricane-damaged areas last summer.

Currently, Lanois holds five individual Hamilton-Wenham records. She has been Salem News Runner of the Year six times and owns the Cape Ann League 2-mile record. She was recently named an All-American at Nike Indoor Nationals in the 5,000 meter run — after not having run all winter.

An ace in the classroom as well, Lanois was the Moynihan Lumber Student Athlete of the Year for 2007-08 and is bound for Columbia University.

ANNE OSBORNE, Manchester Essex Back to top

Ann OsborneAnne Osborne has won so many academic awards at Manchester Essex and earned so many varsity letters that it’s hard to determine which is more impressive.

Since sophomore year Osborne has won the Spanish Excellence Award, Chemistry Excellence Award, Pre-Calculus Award, AP English Award, AP US History Award, Biology Award and the Harvard Book Prize. When it comes to athletics, Osborne is equally impressive, piling up varsity letters for two years of field hockey, three for basketball and four in lacrosse, the last of which she will captain this spring.

Osborne has spent so much time on the Manchester Essex fields and courts of its athletic program that it’s somewhat hard to believe that she is able to maintain such a flawless academic resume. She ranks second in her class and carries a 5.3054 GPA on a 4.2 weighted scale.

In addition, Osborne doesn’t fall short in her extracurricular activities. She is a four-year member of the debate team, two-year member of the Science League, three-year member of the Interact Club, and one-year participant in chorus and as a Peer Leader.

RYAN MAHAN, North Shore Tech Back to top

Ryan MahanRyan Mahan is the type of athlete who succeeds in his chosen sport no matter how long or how much work he has put into it.

An accomplished basketball and baseball player, Mahan gave up football after receiving the “Best Offensive Player” award for the junior varsity team in his sophomore year. The next fall, Mahan chose to run with the cross country team. He was named to the Commonwealth Athletic Conference’s All-League team in his junior and senior seasons.

In basketball, Mahan was a team MVP and All-League selection as a junior, then followed it with a league MVP this year. Mahan also was named a league all-star in baseball in his junior year and picked up the “Cy Young Award”, given to the team’s best pitcher.

Mahan, who is involved in North Shore Tech’s Culinary Arts program, ranks in the top five percent of his class, is an honor roll student, is a member of the National Vocational Technical Honor Society, and is a mentor to freshmen.

“Ryan has proven himself as a hard working, serious-minded student with aspiring goals he intends to achieve,” North Shore Tech ITS Instructor and boys basketball coach Jody Norton said. “As a result of his proven dedication, I have no doubt that Ryan will reach these goals. Ryan is a creative thinker who is highly organized and always eager and willing to learn.”

KELLY O'CONNOR, Beverly Back to top

Kelly O'ConnorBe it on the track, in the pool or inside a classroom, Kelly O’Connor always finds a way to challenge herself — and excel in doing so.

A three-sport captain in cross country, swimming and spring track, O’Connor’s athletic resume literally jumps off the page. In cross country she is the course record holder at Beverly High, the only female to ever break 19 minutes on that course. She also holds the course record at Swampscott High and was a two-time Freshman/Sophomore state champion in cross country. A four-year qualifier for states in cross country, Kelly also captured MVP honors for the Northeastern Conference three out of her four years..

The 2009 NEC Swimmer of the Year, O’Connor is a three-time conference all-star in the pool and won two NEC individual championships this past season. She was the Sectional champion in the 100 backstroke as well as the state champion in the 200. Last but not least, she is a three-time NEC all-star in spring track and holds various school records..

With a course load that includes Honors Precalculus, Honors Anatomy & Physiology and Honors English, O’Connor sports a 3.3 GPA and is ranked 81st out of 280 students in her senior class..

“In addition to being an honors student and taking the most challenging courses at Beverly High School, Kelly has some outstanding achievements athletically,” said Beverly High Athletic Director James Coffey. “In addition to her excellence in the classroom and on the field, Kelly is one of the nicest and well mannered students at Beverly High School.”

JOSH SHAIN, Pingree Back to top

Josh ShainJosh Shain isn’t about to let the world fly by without doing his part to improve it. In everything he does, the South Hamilton resident strives to make a difference.

A “natural leader and enthusiastic scholar” according to his college counselor at Pingree, Meg Farley, Shain carries a grade point average of 92.59 and is ranked in the top 10 percent of his senior class. He scored a perfect 800 on his math SATs while compiling an overall SAT score of 2,120. Shain also successfully petitioned for the right to take four Advanced Placement courses Calculus, Physics, Statistics and Spanish V, instead of the usual three.

A two-sport captain, Shain has played football and lacrosse for four years at Pingree — and has been dominant at both. He’s a two-time All-League representative on the gridiron, and has already earned All-League status in lacrosse once as he begins his senior year.

In addition, Shain is the co-President of his senior class, a member of the Environmental Club, Ski Club, Photography Club and is a four-year tour guide at Pingree.

Farley said she has seen Shain “blossom into a confident, skilled student who jumped into a rigorous course load, taking calculated risks and pushing himself to great depths. He is an impact player full of firepower and wit! ... He is a student who thinks before the here and now and looks into the future to see where he can make a difference in the world.”

ASHLEY FELTON, Salem Back to top

Ashley Felton Ashley Felton made a strong impression on her peers, teachers and coaches from the time she entered Salem High. More than three years later, her quest for excellence hasn’t stopped.

A four-year player and two-year captain in field hockey, Felton also ranks 15th academically with a 4.06 GPA and is in the National Honor Society, French Club and Yearbook Club.

Although she was the Northeastern Conference Player of the Year, a team MVP and a school Hall of Fame award winner in field hockey, Felton found time to excel in other sports. She was a sprinter and hurdler for the winter track team for four years and stood out in lacrosse in each season, being named a captain and a Northeastern Conference All-Star (2007).

“Four years ago, I was extremely impressed by her initiative, attitude and sense of responsibility to herself and others,” Salem High Spanish teacher and field hockey coach Courtney Gosselin said of Felton. “That impression has never changed. She continues to amaze me on and off the field.

“In my 10 years of teaching and coaching,” added Gosselin, “she ranks among my top 25 truly outstanding individuals in terms of her academic performance, extracurricular achievements and her personal character.”

ROBERT CHAPRUET, Danvers Back to top

Robert Chapruet As a middle school student, Robert Chapruet might not have planned everything he would do at Danvers High. But he’ll soon be able to look back on a four-year cycle of activities and accomplishments that others could only dream of.

Chapruet has been involved in five different sports for the Falcons. He played football for four seasons, was on baseball and basketball teams his freshman and sophomore years, then switched to track and field his junior and senior years. He also swam for the Falcons this year.

Meanwhile, his academic highlights include qualification for the National Honor Society, the National World Language Honor Society and the National Art Honor Society, as well as overall achievement in computer applications. He’s been a consistent ‘A’ or ‘A-plus’ student during his four years.

Outside of school, Chapruet did the walk for hospice and Mass. Special Olympics Jolly Jaunt. He also worked one of the water stations for the Boston Marathon. Filling out his activities plate, Chapruet has also worked two part-time jobs.

“Outside of the classroom, Robert’s accomplishments continue to impress me,” said Danvers guidance counselor Cheryl Mastrogiovanni. “This past track season ... he received the Most Improved Player award. For football he received the Senior Leadership award, which is more important in my eyes than MVP.

“He has overall integrity and class that I rarely see,” added Mastrogiovanni.

RYAN HEFFRIN, Marblehead Back to top

Ryan HeffrinRyan Heffrin made skiing her focus outside the classroom at Marblehead High. She reached the highest level in her sport — as did her team — but all the work she put into it didn’t prevent her from also becoming one of the top students in the school.

The Marblehead Magicians won the state skiing championship and Heffrin was a big part of it, finishing first in the giant slalom and sixth in the slalom. She also won several races during the Mass. Bay Ski League East season as her team captured the league title. In the spring, Heffrin plays No. 2 singles for Marblehead’s tennis team.

In the classroom, Heffrin has consistently earned ‘A’s’ since her freshman year and her grade point average is 4.37. She had a total SAT score of 2,130.

Heffrin gets high praise from her teachers for her diligence and work ethic.

“Her work in my honors physics classes was truly remarkable,” wrote teacher Mark D. Greenman in a letter of recommendation. “Ryan received a grade of A in each term and this is highly unusual for any student in my honors physics class.

“Ryan has a non-pretentious intellectual presence and she works cooperatively and helpfully with her peers,” continued Greenman. “With all of Ryan’s intensity as a student, she still seems always to have a smile on her face.”

TARA NIMKAR, Swampscott Back to top

Tara NimkarPlaying on the biggest stage of all, Tara Nimkar never called attention to herself after leading the Big Blue girls basketball team to its first-ever state championship against Quaboag Regional at the DCU Center in Worcester last month. Nimkar deflected all the credit to her teammates after scoring 24 points.

It wasn’t false modesty. Her coach, Jack Hughes, and her teammates would tell you that Nimkar has been the same way for four years: unassuming but eager to help carry her teams as far as they could possibly go. This year it was a 23-2 record in basketball, and in the process Nimkar became the leading scorer in the history of the girls basketball program with 1,377 points.

A multiple-time Northeastern Conference all-star and team MVP in basketball, Nimkar also played varsity soccer for three years and lacrosse for two years.

The athletic component is just the most publicized aspect of her achievements at Swampscott. Nimkar ranks No. 4 academically out of 191 students in the senior class and has been active in school organizations such as the Spanish Club and Peer Leaders. She’s also involved as the yearbook editor as a senior. Meanwhile, her community service resume includes volunteering at the Boston Food Bank and the senior center.

“She truly epitomizes what it means to be a great scholar and a top athlete,” said Swampscott athletic director Frank Kowalski.

ABIGAIL POESKE, Bishop Fenwick Back to top

Abigail PoeskeAthletic records and accomplishments are well documented at the high school level. Academic records, on the other hand, aren’t kept with the same vigor. If they were, there’s little doubt that Abigail Poeske would forever be thought of as one of Bishop Fenwick’s best all-time students.

According to Fenwick guidance counselor John Jaworski, only one other valedictorian at the school in the last 25 years had a 5.1 GPA or piled up 12 A-plus grades during their four years. Poeske, Fenwick’s valedictorian for the Class of 2009, has done both. Poeske, a member of the varsity basketball and field hockey teams, carries a 5.1 GPA and has won virtually every academic award possible at the school. She is also the president of the National Honor Society.

“Abby is truly the most motivated student I have ever had, one who has incredibly disciplined work habits,” Fenwick science teacher Mary Bova wrote in a recommendation for Poeske. “She is a leader outside of the classroom as well; I was not surprised when I heard that in addition to being inducted into the National Honor Society, she was also elected president.”

Outside of her outstanding record in both academics and athletics, Poeske has also shown a willingness to improve the Fenwick community. As a freshman, Poeske started a recycling team at the school.

BRIAN WETTACH, St. John's Prep Back to top

Brian WettachBrian Wettach’s goal of reaching the 2016 Olympics in rowing is not something he has kept to himself. Such high aspirations are often buried inside a student-athlete due to the embarrassment caused by the inevitable criticism that will follow. Wettach had no problem discussing it with St. John’s Prep school counselor Nancy Sacco, however, and Sacco looked at the statement with anything but a critical eye.<> “Not only did I believe him 100 percent, I could picture in my mind Brian’s ascent to this elite athletic event,” Sacco said. “Brian outlined his route to the Olympics with pragmatism and candor. And I thought, ‘This is a young man poised for greatness and success not only in rowing, but in all areas of his life.’”

Wettach holds a 4.06 GPA and has decided to attend Princeton University after being recruited for rowing by both Princeton and Harvard. Wettach also has participated in cross country, spring track and basketball at the sub-varsity level during his time at St. John’s Prep, and he made the state championship swim team this winter.

In addition to his impeccable academic and athletic resume, Wettach has volunteered with the North Shore ARC, Danvers to Duran Overnight Poverty Fight, My Brother’s Table, and My Brother’s Keeper Christmas Program, among others.