St. Mary’s athletes excel in classroom

At St. Mary’s, the “student” in student-athlete is not only alive and well, but thriving.There are approximately 115 student-athletes participating on six varsity teams at SMH in the winter season. Not only are they tallying more than their share of victories in the arena, but they are also producing outstanding results in the classroom, where it counts the most.Every winter team – boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, coed swimming and cheerleading – recorded an average grade of more than 81 percent in the second marking period, which ended in late January. The girls basketball team topped the list with an outstanding 91.8 collective average, while the girls hockey team was just under 90 (89.1).”This is great news for St. Mary’s,” said athletic director Jeff Newhall, who researched all the grades of winter athletes. “Our success in the athletic arena has been well-documented, but the performance of our winter student-athletes in the classroom is especially noteworthy.”Newhall took double pleasure in the academic success of the teams, as he also serves as girls basketball coach.”With a very young team, we have not had the results we have become accustomed to,” he said. “It is very gratifying, however, to see the terrific work our girls have done on the academic side. They clearly have their priorities straight.”The athletic director said all winter sports coaches can share in this good news.”Obviously, our coaches are continually reinforcing to their players the importance of academics,” Newhall said. “We have a very good group and everyone is on the same page.”Derek Vecchia, a junior boys hockey player from Revere, said he learned that “school always comes first” from his parents and is constantly reminded of it by coach Mark Lee and his staff.”The coaches do a good job letting us know that if we don’t pay attention to our schoolwork we won’t be able to play, and that will hurt the team,” Vecchia said. “They stay on top of us.”Girls hockey coach Frank Pagliuca, whose team is unbeaten and ranked first in the state, said he stays in contact with his players’ teachers so that he can address any issues before they become problems.”We try to stress that academics are their primary responsibility,” Pagliuca said. “That’s why they’re at St. Mary’s.”Senior cheerleader Emily McNeil of Lynn said the key to academic success lies in time-management ability. McNeil, who dances and teaches dance in addition to cheering for the football and boys basketball teams, should know. “If you don’t put aside enough time to do your schoolwork, you’re not going to be successful in the classroom,” she said.Junior girls basketball player Nicole Hanlon of Lynn followed both of her parents to St. Mary’s. One of the reasons she picked the school is its reputation for developing good student-athletes. “It’s a great environment here for learning and sports,” she said.Boys basketball coach Kevin Moran said he benefits by having assistant coach Doug Lowe teaching in the building and directing St. Mary’s community-service efforts. “Doug deals with the kids every day and he’s very connected with all the teachers,” Moran said. “He gets academic and discipline updates on a daily basis.”Moran said he stresses “basketball is secondary and academics come first. If a kid needs to miss a practice due to academics, we support that. We stay on them as much as possible.”

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