There was a hurricane, a nor’easter, and even a historic playoff vote. The fall season had its share of headline events. But if the fall is the start of a year-long marathon, then we’re off to a great start. As the winter season begins, schools such as Andover, Barnstable, and Bishop Feehan have an early lead thanks to teams that brought home state championships in swimming, volleyball, and cross-country. Now it’s time to hand off the baton. Coaches understand there’s work to be done. They teach and encourage, prod and push, trying to turn teenagers into champions. For some, such as the Needham boys’ soccer team and the Watertown field hockey team, the payoff is huge. Nothing can match the celebration enjoyed by a handful of teams and individuals this fall. Selecting 10 worthy success stories from a season filled with candidates isn’t easy. Here, in no particular order, are 10 we thought stood out.
1: Picture this, Rocha on historic run
Most family photo albums are private. But the Rocha photo album is there for all to see on page 13. Catarina Rocha, one of the most accomplished runners in state history, is joined by her father and coach Joe, a combo that’s been pretty much unbeatable. We can’t tell you how the Peabody star did in San Diego Saturday at the national championships. Blame it on pesky newspaper deadlines. But on courses this fall there was Catarina . . . and the battle for second place. An EMass title was followed by a state title, followed by a Foot Locker Northeast Regional title, followed by a trip to the nationals in sunny California. Can’t wait to see the pictures.
2: For Calabria, a goal to remember
First and foremost, if you’ve seen Nico Calabria on the soccer field for Concord-Carlisle, one thing is clear: the kid can play. Calabria was born with one leg but this fall he proved to the world the cards he was dealt at birth were no reason to settle for second-best. On Sept. 19 he displayed his amazing athletic skills to score a goal against Newton South. Caught on video and posted on YouTube he became an instant rock star. “What’s really remarkable about it, from a technical standpoint,’’ said coach Ray Pavlik in a Globe story, “is the combination of core strength and athleticism involved . . . I don’t care who you are, that’s a goal you remember the rest of your life.’’
3: Hey, where’s everyone else?
In the biggest swim meet of the year, the Division 1 state championship at Harvard, Billerica’s C.J. Khoshabjian won the 100 breaststroke. He also finished last. The rare double was accomplished because Khoshabjian was the only swimmer in the pool. Last fall a storm erupted when boys competed in the girls’ sectionals and state finals. The solution was to allow the few boys who competed in the fall to swim their own mini state meet. And when Khoshabjian was the only boy to qualify for states, he was set up to win . . . and lose. “I’m sure everyone was like, “Wait, there’s only one kid swimming?’ It was weird, for sure.”
4: But meet belonged to Andover . . . again
A Billerica boy may have been the buzz, but the headline on the Division 1 girls meet belonged to Andover, which won its 13th state title in 14 years and fourth straight for a talented group of seniors. Maggie D’Innocenzo was one of the 14 seniors on the roster and the Southern Cal-bound swimmer led the way for coach Marilyn Fitzgerald’s talented group, winning two events. “Today is very emotional, especially with 14 seniors,’’ said Fitzgerald after jumping into the Harvard pool in celebration. “In four years time you get really close to these kids. I’m overwhelmed.”
5: Results are in . . . a change for football
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