By Mike Grenier
SALEM — Marblehead High's Courtney Colantuno has a annual schedule that seems overwhelming. She plays three sports for the Magicians, stretches herself academically and is very involved in her community.
But there's a calmness to Colantuno's demeanor that enables her to not only get through every day, but to excel in everything she does.
It's a rare skill and one of the many qualities that put Colantuno over the top in the competition for the 46th Salem News Student-Athlete Award last night, which was presented in a dinner ceremony at The Hawthorne Hotel.
Colantuno had the edge over 13 other top-notch student-athletes from North Shore high schools, all of whom were interviewed by a panel of five judges yesterday at The Salem News office in Beverly. She became the fourth winner from Marblehead High and the school's first since 1991, when Brant Firestone captured the award.
"There was a lot of competition," said Colantuno, who also earned a $2,000 scholarship as part of the Student-Athlete Award. "I got the letter (notifying her that she was Marblehead's nominee) two weeks ago and thought, 'What is this?' I'm just really shocked right now."
Colantuno has set a superb example at Marblehead. She's been a captain in field hockey, ice hockey and softball and been instrumental in each teams' success, including a 16-4 mark in softball last year when she was named Northeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year.
Academically, she's in the top 15 percent of her class and has embraced community service projects throughout her high school career.
So does she ever feel overwhelmed?
"There are times when you definitely need a break," said Colantuno, who is headed to Bowdoin College and will play softball. "But you get over it. Whatever is next for me, I try to have fun with it.
"When I went in for the (Salem News Student-Athlete) interview, that's what I did — had fun with it. I talked to the judges the way I talk to people every day."
Colantuno's older sister Cailey, a former Marblehead High athlete who endured four knee operations and is now a sophomore at Cornell University, has been an enormous influence on her.
"She's been my role model," said Colantuno. "We competed in everything and I always wanted to be like her. When I needed help with schoolwork or anything, she was always there for me. She never said no."
Colantuno's willingness to take charge on and off the field made a strong impression on the panel of judges.
"Courtney showed a lot of leadership potential," Nelson Benton, editorial page editor of The Salem News, said. "The other players on the Marblehead teams look up to her and respect her. She seems like a natural leader."
Colantuno's interview skills also won over the judges, yet the quality of the field made it hard to select the winner, said Benton.
"Courtney was very poised and articulate," said Benton. "She exuded personality and seems really well-rounded. Still, it was a difficult decision for the judges. All of the candidates were standout athletes and students. It's always tough to pick the winner, but Courtney eventually rose to the top."
Colantuno won't be toning things down this spring. Her grades have consistently gone up the last two years and her intensity for softball appears to be at an all-time high.
"We had a scrimmage yesterday and the girls were ripping the ball," said Colantuno. "We have a lot of players back and everyone has improved. Our coaches are pumped and we're pumped. We just want to stay focused and competitive."
That won't be problem for Colantuno. She's accustomed to turning the hard stuff into fun.