It has been a very busy summer for Alana Richardson. The Pingree incoming junior is a member of the USA National U17 field hockey team and has been spending a lot of time at Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster, Pennsylvania training with the top coaches in the country.
“It’s field hockey year round for me,” said Richardson, who hopes to make her college decision by the end of the Highlanders’ season this fall. “Spooky Nook has been such a wonderful experience for me, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve received. The competition is so good working with the coaches and other girls just makes me play harder.”
Richardson’s mother Jen, who is the Pingree field hockey coach, is very supportive and accompanies her daughter. The coach was a star player at Hamilton-Wenham and later at Northeastern University where she is in the Hall of Fame.
At the end of next month the Highlanders will go to Pennsylvania after being invited to take part as one of the top 36 teams from across the country that in the MAX Field Hockey High School National Tournament at The Proving Grounds located outside of Philadelphia.
Pingree opens up on September 21 at 9 a.m. against St. John’s School from Texas and takes on Archbishop Spaulding High School from Maryland at 3 p.m. The following day the Highlanders play McDonogh School which is also from Maryland.at 10 a.m.. This marks the first year they have done a high school invitational.
“It’s going to be great because we’ll be going up against some pretty strong competition,” said Alana Richardson. “We’ll see what we can do because I think we’ve got a special team. Last year we won the EIL, but lost in the New England semifinals. It’s going to be a very exciting season because we have a lot back and some new girls who should help make the team stronger.
“My mom invests so much time to help me fulfill my field hockey dreams, and I really appreciate it. Right now I’ve got a little time to relax before our high school field hockey practice and school begins.”
Alana also plays for Seacoast United club team. MAX Field Hockey rated the top five players in the country for the 2021 class, and Richardson was right up there at the top..
Her next big test will come in January when she will go to Spooky Nook for the Rise Selection Camp. Richardson said the Olympic Team pipeline will be now known as Rise and takes a more involved path to the ultimate goal..
The pipeline for the top rung which is the US National U19 team has changed for 2019-20. It all starts with Futures Academies for around 5,000 high school athletes, advances to Regional Futures Tournaments, and then the select few are chosen for the Regional teams. After that the number is whittled down to the top 12 percent named to the National Futures Championship with the best going on to the Stars and Stripes Elite and Junior National Camp. After all those steps the top players are named to USA Rise with the final step being USA national teams.
“I suppose the new system is harder because of the larger pool,” said Jen Richardson. “Rise is now more like a high school level, and US developmental is like a college level. The idea was to align with national teams which have U16, U18, and U20.”
Richardson has been in the Futures Program, which was started by USA Field Hockey for talented young players, offering a chance to be considered for US national rosters. There are nine regional Futures teams across the country, and the top girls move on to the National Futures championship at Spooky Nook.
At the championship Richardson was selected to the Stars and Stripes elite team and also to Junior National Camp, and AAU Junior Olympic Games.. From there she was one of only two players from the Northeast Region chosen for the U17 National squad.
“I played in Futures Nationals down at the Nook,” said Richardson, who is a midfielder/forward.”I’ve been selected for Junior Nationals camp the past three years and trained to get ready for the tournament All-Star Game. It’s a four day camp with excellent training competition. It was really difficult having double or triple sessions in the heat at the end of June but all worth it. I realize how very lucky I am to have these opportunities.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to learn from the coaches at the Nook, which is home to Nicole Woods of Beverly and the rest of the US National team.”
Richardson’s skill and work ethic have helped her through the long process to reach the highest level in the country for her age.. She was one of 18 girls on the U17 squad chosen for a trip to play in Germany last April.
“Field hockey always comes first, and it’s a huge commitment, but I also love basketball,” she said..
Richardson’s tenacious defense helped the Highlanders win the Danvers Girls Summer Basketball League championship.
“Winning it all was so exciting,” she said. “We only lost one game. I love my basketball coach (Dave Latimer) and all my teammates. We have a great time together.”
Sean O’Keefe, Dylan Payne, Ray Cruddas and the many volunteers from the Salem Little League did another great job running the 36th annual Ray Gallant Memorial Baseball Tournament. Unlike last year when rain caused havoc and change of venue, this time everything went off without any delays.
On the final night the T-shirts had been sold out and at the end of the championship game players from winning Lynn and runner-up Peabody were invited to the snack bar for their choice of items. Everybody was delighted to be back at O’Grady Field where there was a nice breeze coming off the nearby ocean.
You can contact Jean DePlacido at JMDeplacido@aol.com.