It was another highly successful season on the track for Peabody High, which went unbeaten in Northeastern Conference competition, won the league's championship meet by a wide margin. Beyond that, the Tanners had as much success as any North Shore club at the state relay and championship meets.
Juggling that sort of busy schedule in a shortened season this past spring takes solid leadership, and that's where Braz's decades of experience shined through.
The program he and his coaches designed to keep Peabody's athletes fresh and healthy to compete in short windows worked wonders. For example, the girls won a dual meet 24 hours before taking several gold medals and setting a couple of sprint records at the state relays. Later, the NEC championship meet was only a few days before the start of the state's North sectional meets.
"It was a full team effort all the way," said Braz, who has been involved with the Peabody track program every year since 2001. "We had great sprinters, but it didn't end there by any means. Our throwers were incredible, sweeping the NEC meet and going 1-2 in the states, and the distance team was very good as well."
A 1980 graduate of Peabody High who is a member of the PVMHS, Boston College and Mass. State Track Coaches Association Halls of Fame, Braz is assisted by Jay Smith and Marcus Viera (throws) as well as Pat Mayo, Peter Cirafice, Dana Bonjorno, Dan Harris, Tommy Martinez, Sonny Headley and Phil Sheridan (jumps).
St. John's Prep
The St. John's Prep wrestling program has been utterly dominant for the better part of the last three decades — and head coach Manny Costa is a huge reason why.
In his 31 seasons, Costa has led the Eagles to a 778-148-6 overall record. That includes a perfect 17-0 mark this spring and a Division 1 state championship. None of his team's meets were particularly close, and a half dozen of his athletes went undefeated on an individual level.
The Eagles have now won 104 consecutive Catholic Conference meets and captured 23 straight league titles. Costa used two words to describe this year's group: resilient and dominant. It's hard to argue with either.
"Covid-19 brought many obstacles; remote and in-class schooling, wearing masks in practices and meets, uncertainty if there would be a season," he explained. "The season was accepted during April vacation and started that next week. All 13 starters wrestled well all season, culminating with a 63-9 state final (victory over New Bedford). We were grateful to have a season and be able to be with the team, practice and compete."
Costa, who has served as a Peabody Police Officer for the past 32 years, thanks the school administration for "allowing us to have a safe season" and the wrestlers for "working hard, they are the ones who win."
After five years of guiding the Chieftains in the Cape Ann League, Farnham and her squad moved over to the Northeastern Conference for the first time this spring. The results were outstanding, as Masconomet went unbeaten at 13-0 to win the league championship. As the No. 3 seed in the Division 2 North state tournament, they then recorded victories over Gloucester (5-0) and Melrose (3-2) before falling in the semifinals to eventual state champion Winchester.
"We had an outstanding team of talented and joyful young leaders who care for others," said Farnham. "Every player is special to me as an individual; I see her future ahead of her to do great things in the world. The tennis team is a vehicle to become a better person, laugh and have fun together with friends."
Having posted a 57-41 overall record during her tenure as the team's head coach, Farnham's team was led by All-Conference players and Salem News all-stars Kendall Skulley, Nina Klink and Shaylee Moreno in the first, second and third singles spots, respectively. Ella Gharabegian and Chloe Ahern excelled at first doubles for the Chieftains, as did the tandem of Taylor Mastrogiovanni and Lauren Calabrese at second doubles.
Having worked for the last 38 years as an Independent Shaklee Distributor, Volunteer Children and Youth Director for CBS preschool program, Farnham has been married to her husband, Ted, for 33 years. Their three children, Max (29), Mia (27) and Lucie (23) all played varsity tennis for Masconomet, and the family still enjoys playing the sport together as well as pickleball.
Farnham wishes to thank her husband Ted "for his unfailing support", their children, the team's players and their parents, as well as Melissa Scheirey, Bonny Hunziker, Craig Stone, John Dailenes, Jan Smallman. She also gave a special shout out to Bill, Caitlin and Danielle Dunn "for the excellent training they've provided for decades at Northeast Tennis."
The person that had the biggest influence on the 2021 Marblehead High baseball team was never in the dugout or on the diamond. He was watching from above.
The Magicians and their head coach, Mike Giardi, dedicated their season to late assistant coach Stephen Gridley, who passed away last summer. They turned in a season "Grids" (who was posthumously named Northeastern Conference Coach of the Year) would have been proud of.
Marblehead's 14-5 record was one of the best in modern Magician baseball history: The wins were the second most since 1992, the losses the fewest since the 1980s and its winning percentage was the program's best in 30 years. Marblehead won the Northeastern Conference South title for the second time in the last 25 years and enjoyed a 9-game win streak in the middle of the season that was the town's longest on the diamond since '92.
With tremendous pitching (a 2.42 team ERA), timely hitting (.284 team average) and a great knack for stealing bases (49 SBs while being nabbed only seven times), Marblehead won a playoff game at historic Seaside Park and advanced to the Division 2 North quarterfinals.
A Hall of Fame athlete at Salem High who graduated from Harvard, Giardi is a math teacher at Marblehead High. He's been the Magicians head baseball coach for six years, with an overall record of 48-37. He is also Marblehead's boys varsity basketball coach and the offensive coordinator of the football team. Giardi is grateful to his parents as well as all his players and assistant coaches.
The Beverly boys tennis team may not have had the most talented squad, but the players were certainly one of the most dedicated and driven groups. The Panthers went 8-2 in Chris Lauranzano's fourth season as head coach, finishing one win away from a league crown and earning a No. 3 seed in Division 2 North playoffs, where they went on to beat rival Masconomet in the opening round. They eventually ran into powerhouse state champion Concord-Carlisle in the quarterfinals, but that didn't take away from another successful season on the courts.
"We had a small but very cohesive team that really liked and respected each other," said Lauranzano. "When there were lineup changes, everyone got behind the change and wished the best for all performing at the varsity level. Everyone on this team except one (due to injury) won at least one varsity match. I really couldn't have been prouder of the non-varsity boys who stepped in and won matches when it counted. This year was truly a team effort with contributions coming from all."
Lauranzano had the luxury of working all four years with this year's senior captains: Patrick Johnson, Matthew Mitchell and Anthony Coletti. He says that watching them "mature as tennis players and as individuals has been a wonderful experience."
A retired Quality Manager for GE Aircraft Engines in Lynn, Lauranzano and his wife Katherine have three children: Regina (38), Gregory (36) and Andrew (33), and five grandchildren with another on the way in December. Prior to becoming a tennis coach at Beverly, he coached basketball for 16 years at various programs. He thanked athletic director Dan Keefe for his continued support and former track coach Fred Hammond for instilling confidence in him throughout the years.
"Coaching high school isn't always about the sport, it's about getting kids to believe in themselves," he added. "I try to always show confidence in the boys and hopefully help them be confident in themselves."
In her sixth year with the Falcons, Newbury led them to the Division 2 North championship title and on to the state semifinals. Danvers finished the season at 14-5 and has gone a combined 74-33 during Newbury's tenure.
A math teacher at St. Mary's in Lynn, Newbury has been coaching the sport she excelled at for Bishop Fenwick for the past 21 years, taking over at Danvers after a very successful coaching career with St. Mary's (including a pair of Division 3 state titles).
"They worked hard based on the short amount of time there was to get them ready after missing a whole year (due to Covid-19)," said Newbury, whose family includes husband John, stepsons Michael and Ryan, and daughter Catherine. "This group was also flexible as coaches decided who worked best at what positions defensively, and patient with how demanding the head coach really is.
This was a TEAM -- they won and lost together, laughed and cried together; were silly and goofy together; and best of all they encouraged one another both on and off the field," she added. "The parents cheered for everyone, not just their own kid to succeed, and look what happened -- North champs!
Newbury, who announced her retirement from the team after the season to spend more time with her daughter, wishes to thank her assistants-- Don Harp, Danielle Larocque, Dom Gasdia, and Courtney Brennan. "And a special nod to our two assistant coaches in heaven, Barb Damon and Charlie Rollins, who continue to have a spiritual presence in all of us after leaving their mark on the sport of softball," she said.
St. John's Prep
It was a dream season for the Eagles, who punctuated a superb 17-1 season by capturing the Division 1 state championship on their home turf, 11-7, over rival BC High in a game that began in one month (June), and, because of a lightning delay and eventual postponement, started up again the following morning on July 1.
In capturing the program's second state crown (and first since 2010), St. John's Prep — led by a focused, dedicated and committed group of 13 seniors —outscored its foes 238-90 over the course of the season, including a whopping 51-22 in four postseason contests. With their only defeat of the season coming in overtime, Pynchon's squad left no doubt as to who was the top dog in Massachusetts schoolboy lacrosse.
"We had an outstanding group of young men," said Pynchon, who has won back-to-back Salem News Coach of the Year honors and three in his career. "Their lacrosse skill and athletic ability were only surpassed by their character and work ethic ... how hard they worked each day (was amazing). We never had a bad practice all year. It was a fun group to work with."
A teacher at St. John's, Pynchon and his wife Liz have two children: son John, 6; and daughter Lillian, 4. He has a 53-25 record in his four years coaching at his alma mater and, counting his 10 years prior to that at Beverly High, has a 132-60 overall coaching mark. He also coached for two years as an assistant at Providence College, where he was a four-year standout defenseman from 2002-05.
Pynchon's list of people to thank is lengthy, speaking to the work that goes into making a championship program, starting with the school's headmaster, principal and athletic department. "Dr. (Ed) Hardiman, Dr. (Keith) Crowley, Mr. (Jameson) Pelkey, Mrs. (Tara) Sartori and Mrs. (Colleen) Flynn for all their help in a crazy year," he said. "Strength and Conditioning coach (Billy) McSheffrey for his work in the weight room. (Assistant coaches) Marty (Bulhoes), Jeff (Dube) and Tom (Eighmey) for their tireless work this year in practice, game prep, scouting and everything else they do for the program. Finally, Mr. Brian Corbett, our athletic trainer, who was with us every single day of the season ... even as it continued into July."
Nolan Raimo has been the school's boys track coach for the past year-and-a-half, but because of Covid-19 this spring was his first outdoor season. The Magicians were coming off a 4-0 indoor season, but only had two meets this spring (1-1) due to scheduling conflict cancellations. Still, they came up with some outstanding performances at the end of the season, finishing second to a loaded Peabody squad at the NEC Championship Meet, 10th at the Division 2 North states, and 21st at All-States.
Raimo, a former track star at Marblehead High, has posted a 12-4 mark for indoor and outdoor seasons. The Williams College graduate had an outstanding college track career and is now a financial advisor for Apella Capital, working in his hometown.
His favorite thing about this team was the healthy environment guided by captains Cam Heafitz, Nate May, Loeden Rodrigues, Richard Wade, and Oliver Hersey along with the rest of the team. "They focused on the inputs rather than the outputs," said Raimo. "The student-athletes focused on what they could control, and they found great success in doing so. Covid presented numerous obstacles throughout the season, yet the struggles and difficulties were embraced rather that dwelled on."
Raimo liked how the Magicians looked beyond their own individual performances to celebrate achievements of teammates. He thanked former MHS track coach Brian Crowley, who has been a role model after Raimo's father passed away when he was in high school.
"He invested an extraordinary amount of time in me, showing me a depth of care that I have in turn been able to share with the athletes I now coach. Brian had a profound impact on Marblehead track and field," said Raimo.
For years, Masconomet girls lacrosse dominated the Cape Ann League en route to numerous regular season titles and deep postseason runs. When they officially switched over to the Northeastern Conference this past spring — along with a first-year head coach in Paige Rogers — expectations were admittedly tempered.
By season's end, however, it was clear that the new-look squad in a new conference would not miss a beat. Rogers proceeded to lead the Chieftains to an unbeaten regular season (13-0) and the top-seed in Division 1 North. The squad would go on to earn three more impressive wins in tournament play (including one goal triumphs over Billerica and Central Catholic) before bowing out to Chelmsford in the sectional championship. It was the deepest tourney run out of any local girls lacrosse teams.
"Gritty," Rogers said when asked how she would describe her team. "This team was willing to put their bodies on the line to get the job done. They fought to the last minute and had the mentality to play until they physically got pulled off the field."
While the 2021 campaign was Rogers' first at the helm in Masco, she certainly doesn't lack experience in the leadership department. Rogers manages the select club program 3d Lacrosse with 10 teams underneath her. She also oversees all the recruiting and runs local camps, clinics and leagues. Rogers thanks her assistant coach, Hanna Haven, for bringing her knowledge and passion to the team every day. She's certainly eager for Year 2 in Boxford next spring, but Rogers can always look back at her first year in a special and memorable light.
"We knew we were going to be short on numbers, so we knew we had to be in the best shape we possibly could," said Rogers. "We wanted everyone on the team to be a threat and instilled that from Day 1. Everyone on the team did what they had to do to win, put their head down and did it with positive attitudes."