By Jean DePlacido
---- — PEABODY — The 22nd annual Moynihan Lumber North Shore Student-Athlete Of The Year awards ceremony was held at the Salem Country Club yesterday, where the past met the present.
Peabody High track superstar Catarina Rocha, a senior who won the Female Student-Athlete of the Year for the second straight year, was presented her award by Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt — the program’s first winner back in 1992.
Beverly High three-sport star Brendan Flaherty, who dominated on the football field, in indoor track and on the lacrosse field, took home the Male Student-Athlete Award. Both he and Rocha received scholarships for $1,000 as well.
Bettencourt was an 18-year-old basketball player from Peabody when he took home the first award (along with Lynnfield High’s Lauren Maney). He went on to have a great basketball career at Holy Cross — ironically, where Flaherty will play football next season.
Lifelong North Shore sports fanatic Gerard Moynihan, one of the owners at Moynihan Lumber, told the gathering how amazing it was for Bettencourt to return to make the presentation to one of the residents of his city.
“Too often you hear about the negative; I know I do all the time,” said Bettencourt. “It overshadows all the great work done in our schools, and I’m happy to see these student-athletes rewarded.
“I remember how proud my parents were when I received this award, and having the chance to thank my family for their love and support is something I’ll never forget. Catarina represents what a Peabody Tanner is all about.”
Bettencourt listed a few of Rocha’s many achievements, including being a seven-time state champion in the mile, two-mile and in cross country; a two-time Gatorade Runner of the Year; the school record holder in five different events; a volunteer in the Challenger Program, a Peer Advisor and a class officer.
The fourth winner of this award from Peabody, Rocha sports a 3.7 grade point average and will run at Providence College.
“It’s very exciting to receive this award from a former recipient who is now the mayor,” said Rocha. “I didn’t think I’d be more excited than I was last year, but I was wrong.
“Success is only meaningful if you share it. It’s cool because I represent my teams; it’s not just for me but for all the cross country and track student-athletes. We’re fortunate in Peabody to have great coaches who were great runners themselves (her father, Joe Rocha, and uncle Fernando Braz). Track is a big part of my family (her mother Gina Braz also starred at Peabody High), and both our boys and girls teams have been very successful.”
Rocha isn’t done yet running for the Tanners yet; she’ll be part of a large group of Peabody High athletes running at Nationals in North Carolina this weekend.
Beverly High lacrosse coach John Pynchon presented the Student-Athlete award to Flaherty. Pynchon was Flaherty’s U.S. history teacher two years ago and coached him on the lacrosse field for four years, and said he has always been impressed by his star player’s humble demeanor.
“I’m very proud to represent Beverly High and the entire city,” said Flaherty, who has a 4.1 GPA and led the Panthers to a 13-0 season and the Division 2A Super Bowl, their second in three years, last fall. He also helped the BHS lacrosse team reach the East Division 2 semifinals this spring.
“This award says a lot about what I’ve done personally, but I couldn’t have done it without my family, coaches, athletic director (James) Coffey, and Mr. (Red) Hutt (a former AD at Beverly High). This is a wonderful way to cap off all my memories, and I’m honored to get the award with Catarina.
“This was the Year of the Panther. We had a great senior class, and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Paul Halloran served as master of ceremonies for the event, which is also sponsored by The Salem News, Gloucester Times and The Daily Item in Lynn. Lifetime Commitment Awards went to Matthew Roy of the Peabody/Lynnfield Weekly News and highly successful Lynnfield High tennis and wrestling coach Craig Stone. The Fan Award was presented to William Dutch, who has been very active in supporting Lynn English sports for many years. The Post-Graduate Achievement Award was given to former St. John’s Prep star Matt Antonelli (a 2003 Student-Athlete recipient), who was unable to attend. The Participation Award was given to Coffey for Beverly High’s outstanding job nominating worthy student-athletes for the monthly Moynihan awards.