SALEM — Perhaps the only people more surprised than the humble Greg Doonan — the 47th annual Salem News Student-Athlete of the Year winner — when his name was called at last night's awards banquet at The Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites were his proud parents, Mary and George.
Doonan, a senior at Peabody High School, was selected by a panel of five judges from a pool of 14 applicants, which included the top student-athlete from each school in the Salem News coverage area.
"In all seriousness, looking around the room and seeing people going to Princeton and Harvard, I didn't think I stood a chance," said Doonan. "I never expected this; I'm very honored."
Deciding between Notre Dame and Boston College for his college plans, Doonan stood out among the best of the best of the North Shore's student-athletes.
Among a group of nominees that were all outstanding in both the classroom and on their respective playing fields, Doonan's genuinely caring demeanor and honest humility stood out.
"Greg honestly believes he isn't in the same group as these other kids, when in fact he is exactly the embodiment of what we want the winner of this award to be," said longtime Salem News sports editor Phil Stacey, a judge for the last decade.
"He keeps things in perspective, and you get the sense that he's very even-keeled and doesn't get rattled. He's poised and very much believes in the axiom that hard work gets you results in the long run."
The fifth Tanner to win this award and first since Caleb Pelger in 2001, Doonan is a two-sport captain at Peabody High. He helped the Tanners soccer team win the Northeastern Conference last fall, and enjoyed an 31-set winning streak last tennis season — a remarkable feat given that it was his first as a singles player.