SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 27, 2013

Jean DePlacido column: Former Prep standouts enjoying the rugby life at Vermont

By Jean DePlacido
Staff writer

---- — Two former St. John’s Prep athletes, Pat Smerczynski and Faxon Michaud, played a big role in helping the University of Vermont win the Granite Rugby Cup at Dartmouth College earlier this month.

The Catamounts beat Keene State in the last minute of the first round, then bested St. Michael’s in the final round. Other teams playing were Middlebury, New England College, New Hampshire and Dartmouth. The annual event had two divisions and used three fields at the beautiful facility set on a hill with a big clubhouse.

“Only the Dartmouth lower sides played,” said Smerczynski, a senior captain for UVM. “Their top side is one of the best in the country.

“This year we have a solid starting lineup, beefed up by a few study-abroad students and some returning starters. We have our largest rookie class since I’ve been here and they show a lot of potential.

“At UVM we try to play ‘ball in hand’ rugby, which means we work on moving the ball with speed and try to off load more often than taking the ball into contact,” added Smerczynski. “Our goal is always to fine tune our handling, even if that means running drills with bricks instead of rugby balls at practice.”

Smerczynski, who is from Topsfield, is an inside center while Marblehead’s Michaud is a flanker. Smerczynski played flanker at the Prep, but after suffering a couple of concussions he switched positions to lessen his chances of getting any more.

In college rugby there is a split season between the fall and spring. The main season is fall, when the Catamounts play everybody else in the league. Playoffs are held in late October, and the winner of the bracket gets an invitation to go to Nationals in the spring. That’s something Smerczynski hopes will happen before he graduates.

“Rugby is a game of discipline, and only consistent hard work is going to set a team apart,” said Smerczynski, who played both football and rugby at St. John’s. “We have a lot of fun, but we also work hard.”

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Kathryn Perrone, daughter-in-law of former Salem High football coach and Salem State baseball coach Ken Perrone, is an author who has written two romance novels with a paranormal twist.

Her latest, “Gull Harbor,” was released in Kindle format by Wildrose Press and has done well after making its debut on Kindle select free days back in February. The book shot up to the No. 1 spot in the fantasy romance category on Day 4 and was on the bestseller list for 19 consecutive weeks. The reviews have been very good, and the book is also available in paperback at Amazon.com.

Perrone, who writes under the name Kathryn Knight, wants to create stories that people can enjoy and lose themselves in for a few hours.

She is married to Chris Perrone, who threw the winning touchdown pass to Dave Bean for Danvers High in the last minute of a Thanksgiving Day victory over Gloucester in 1984. The couple met in graduate school at the University of Maryland, and now make their home on Cape Cod.

“I’ve had a passion for reading novels as long as I can remember,” said the author, who is currently working on a book for young adults. “That love of reading combined with my imagination led to making up stories. Romance novels are the most popular in terms of sales, and while I always enjoy a happy ending I like to create some conflict and suspense.

“I’ve always been fascinated by ghost stories, so that’s how I came up with my ideas. I have a background in marketing, which also helps because digital formats are changing overnight.

The couple have two sons, Chris Jr. and Nick, who are involved in sports.

Perrone does book signings and recently made a television appearance on a Cape Cod show called Books in the World, talking about Gull Harbor and her first book, ‘Silver Lake’.

“It’s stressful, but each time I’m on TV or the radio it’s a little easier,” she said. “My father-in-law is one of my biggest supporters. He’s always been in my corner.”

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Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at jmdeplacido@aol.com and follow her on Twitter @JeanDePlacido_SN.