Peabody now not only has had a female student-athlete recognized for the first time as the best in the state in her sport, but two at the same time.
Peabody High juniors and star athletes Hayley Dowd and Catarina Rocha have both been awarded Gatorade Player of the Year honors for soccer and cross-country, respectively, joining just two other Tanners to receive Gatorade honors.
Peabody grads Jeff Allison and Ryan Moorer, both baseball stars, won the awards in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
The annual awards handed out by the Gatorade Company seek to honor elite student-athletes who perform at the top of their game both on an off the field.
Dowd and Rocha are both “A” students, members of the school captains' council and volunteer with Challenger Sports to work with special needs children.
School administrators and coaches lauded Dowd and Rocha for their achievements and being selfless role models among their peers as well during a press conference at on Wednesday.
“You both have something that drives you that doesn’t drive others,” said Superintendent Dr. Herb Levine.
Rocha was the first to receive news of her award back in January and Dowd got the nod in February.
“This is a huge honor,” said Dowd after being presented with her award by Mayor Ted Bettencourt. She added that it’s “pretty awesome” for two of Peabody’s female athletes to get the awards in the same year.
Bettencourt, a former three-sport high school all-star in his own right, said they had both accumulated a “mind-blowing” list of achievements in just one season.
Bettencourt said Peabody Pride is all about celebrating these types of positive accomplishments and he was glad to have the opportunity to do so. As an elected official, he often hears the negative issues affecting the city’s youth and the schools.
“The amazing thing is that these are two outstanding athletes and two outstanding students,” he said.
In addition to being key to , Dowd also broke the school records for and . She has verbally committed to play soccer on an athletic scholarship at Boston College in the fall of 2013.
2011 season statistics
- 60 total points, leading the state in scoring for the third year in a row
- 41 goals
- 19 assists (leading the Tanners)
- Led the state tournament in scoring with 10 points
- Northeastern Conference MVP for second straight year
- Eastern Mass. All-Star and Player of the Year
- Boston Globe Player of the Year
- Boston Herald All-Scholastic
- Salem News and Lynn Item All-Star
- National Soccer Coaches Association All-American
- Named Moynihan Lumber Student-Athlete of the Month for October
Girls’ soccer coach Dennis Desroches praised Dowd for being a selfless team player all the time. “She’s one of the top playmakers in the league,” he added, pointing to her career record for assists.
Dowd also congratulated Rocha – the two have played soccer together for years and Rocha was on the girls’ team her freshman year. “Seeing Cat run is pretty amazing,” Dowd said.
Rocha likewise said she was excited to share the limelight with Dowd.
“It is truly humbling to be among so many talented student-athletes across the country,” she said. “The most important things in life are not the wins and losses, but the people you touch along the way.”
Rocha blew through a number of records this past fall, , her second state title (she won the 2-mile in outdoor track the year before), and went on to compete again at the .
2011 season statistics
- Division I Eastern Mass. Champion
- Mass. Division I State Cross-Country Champion
- Set PVMHS course record twice in 2011
- Northeastern Conference Champion
- Boston Globe Runner of the Year
- Boston Herald All-Scholastic
- Salem News Runner of the Year
- Lynn Item All-Star
- Foot Locker All-American
- All-State Academic Team
- Named Moynihan Lumber Student-Athlete of the Month for November
Cross-country coach Jose Rocha, his voice filled with emotion at times, admitted it was difficult for him to speak both as a father and coach about his daughter’s achievements this past year – in both roles he was immensely proud.
He said the proudest moment for him was early in the season when Catarina finished her race, took two minutes to catch her breath and then ran the course again to guide a special needs student from another team to the finish line.
“You’re humble, no matter what success you have,” he said, and adding that her self-discipline and hard work have translated into great success.
Both young ladies graciously accepted the praise heaped on them during the press conference, but said their success is mostly due to support from their families, teammates and coaches.
“I don’t set my goal to win Gatorade Player of the Year, I set my goal to win a state championship,” said Dowd, but earning both in the same year makes it all the more special, she added. “Your dream when you come to high school is to win a state championship” – and that of course, is only accomplished with solid teamwork.
Rocha gave especial thanks to her father and coach for being a great role model for her and her teammates.
“Peabody High School has a long and proud tradition in athletics, and this year is no different,” said Athletics Director Phil Sheridan, noting the Tanners captured several league titles and playoff births in addition to Dowd and Rocha’s accolades. He noted that Gina Casey and Zack Grube also received nods as Student-Athletes of the Month this past year.
PVMHS Principal Edward Sapienza said he always tells students to be proud to be Tanners, and only more so in light of what the likes of Dowd and Rocha have accomplished.
He and Levine praised both Dowd and Rocha for being highly determined and disciplined to excel academically and on the field, particularly so when it comes to long-distance running, which is oftentimes a solo test of endurance and spirit.
“When it comes down to it, it’s you and the elements… It takes great commitment to become a great distance runner,” said Levine.
He said the first Peabody girls’ soccer game he attended last year was the championship game in Worcester. He had never met Dowd before and didn’t know what she looked like, but within five minutes of watching the game unfold, it was easy to pick her out even among a field of very talented athletes.
“You were obviously a cut above anyone else on that field,” he said.