The Salem News
---- — Last spring, stepbrothers Keifer Heckman and Nick Ouellette captained the Peabody High lacrosse team. This fall, C.J. Alimonti will lead the boys’ soccer team while his stepsister, Jenna Ferullo, is a field hockey co-captain.
Because of the way their home fields line up, the pair could be playing at the same time on adjoining fields. To get to Donahue Field where the soccer team plays, fans go up a short hill at the back of the McVann-O’Keefe Skating Rink parking lot. The Tanners’ field hockey team is right behind the chain link fence on the outfield grass at the baseball field, so it’s easy to pick a spot to watch both games.
“Jenna and I have been together since we were 7 years old and we always played sports,” said C.J., who will most likely play center midfielder, but is willing to help out wherever the team needs him. “I think it’s awesome that we’re both captains. We can always give each other advice, and we’ll be friendly rivals. I’m sure there will be some talking back and forth if one team is doing better than the other; it will all be good-natured joking.”
Ferullo started playing field hockey as a freshman and is one of two captains for the Tanners this fall. She is a forward and feels her best position is right inner.
“I think it’s exciting and pretty interesting that we’re captains during the same season,” said Ferullo. “We both have a passion for sports, and achieving the honor of being named captain is special.
“C.J. and I get along well, and since we’ll be so close when we have home games I’m sure we will hear a lot of cheering when our teams score. I’ll know if the soccer team is winning, and he’ll be able to tell how we’re doing. I’ll follow soccer, and C.J. will pay more attention to field hockey this season. If things don’t go well we’ll always be there to cheer each other up.”
Ferullo said the hardest thing is going up against other cities and towns that have middle school or elementary school programs, where girls learn the skills at an early age. Because Peabody doesn’t introduce the sport until the high school level, the players have to learn the game quickly.
Alimonti is also predicting a good year for the soccer team. He is one of three captains along with Ben Britton and Connor Bombaci. He also plays center field for the Tanners’ baseball team, last year moving between the varsity and JVs.
“We’re all good friends and have been having captains’ practices twice a week,” said Alimonti. “We stress conditioning and have had around 40 kids. We’re small, but very fast. I think that speed will help us win games.
“I definitely want to play soccer in college and major in communications. I’d like to work as a sports analyst when I graduate.”
When the spring track season ended and Catarina Rocha was named the Moynihan Lumber North Shore Female Athlete of the Year for the second straight year, it appeared the next accolades would come from her college performances at Providence College.
But that was not the case; instead, it came as a complete surprise when the talented Peabody resident was notified she had been named Senior Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year by the National High School Coaches Federation.
“They sent an email around the first of July, but I didn’t check my school mail,” said Joe Rocha, Catarina’s father and her coach. “Two days later the trophy was delivered to the school. It is a unique trophy, a really impressive one. To be recognized by the national coaches is a great honor and completely unexpected.”
Rocha attracted a lot of attention nationally at the Foot Locker Eastern Regional last fall when she won the qualifier for the nationals in San Diego, becoming the first Massachusetts resident to ever win the event. She followed that up with a great race in California where she put on a late burst to pass three of the front runners and finished second.
“I didn’t know anything about this award,” said Cat Rocha, who will leave for college tomorrow. “It was totally unexpected and such a nice honor. I was completely surprised when I found out, and the trophy they sent me is very nice. The coaches put up pictures of all the winners in the Hall of Fame (in Pennsylvania), which is also pretty cool.”
Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.