By Mark E. Vogler
About once every several years, a talented Saugus High School student athlete signs up to play sports for a Division 1 College, according to Saugus High School Principal Michael Hashem.
But the individual accomplishment that he calls “rare” happened twice this week as Saugus High’s girls’ soccer star Allison LeBlanc signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Massachusetts Lowell while Todd Tringale – the pitching ace of the Sachems boys’ baseball team – signed a paper to play for the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“I think it’s been at least three years since a Division 1 School signed one of our students, and that’s pretty rare when it happens,” Hashem told The Saugus Advocate following a signing ceremony in the auditorium on Wednesday (Nov. 14).
“We get a lot of players that go on to play in college. But it’s a long time since we had a Division 1 signing in baseball and soccer. To get two athletic signings at that level says something about the programs. These students are playing on good teams so they are getting showcased,” Hashem said.
Division 1 is considered the highest level of intercollegiate sports competition under the supervision of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“If your dream is to play pro, then this is the next step – Division 1. It’s certainly a goal for a lot of high school athletes,” Hashem said.
Athletic Director Terri Pillsbury hailed the event as special. “We’re incredibly proud of both athletes and wish them well in their future,” Pillsbury said.
“It’s definitely a proud moment for Saugus High School and Saugus High School athletics,” she said.
LeBlanc and Tringale reenacted the signings during a special ceremony that was played out on the stage of the Saugus High auditorium on Wednesday morning. Joined by their parents, they took turns signing at a table draped with the Saugus High School banner with another banner as a backdrop behind them. After the signings, they sat together for a photo session for local media.
A family soccer legacy
LeBlanc, 17, the daughter of Pamela and Mark LeBlanc, has followed in the footsteps of several family members who have been standout soccer players at Saugus High. “My mother (Pamela, a 1988 Saugus High graduate) played at Salem State all four years. And my brother Matthew, who graduated last year, played all four years at Saugus High School,” LeBlanc said.
Her Uncle – Saugus High School Principal Hashem – is also a part of that family soccer legacy. He played three years on the Saugus High boys’ soccer team before graduating in 1985. Later, he went on to be the head coach of the Saugus High boys’ soccer team from 1994 to 2001.
“I’ve been playing since I was four, on town league and travel teams,” said LeBlanc, who led the team with 18 goals and 14 assists this past season. The team finished with a 16-3-1 record overall.
“We made it to the second round of the state tournament. The previous three years, we’d go out in the first round,” she said.
LeBlanc, who received a partial athletic scholarship, signed the letter for UMass Lowell Wednesday morning at her home before coming to school.
“Playing in college is something I always wanted to do … It means a lot, and my hard work over the years has really paid off,” LeBlanc said.
The center midfielder said she was under consideration from other schools, but UMass Lowell was her top choice.
An honor roll student at Saugus High, she said she plans to pursue a major in Biotechnology. She’s considering a career working in a laboratory.
“Education comes first”
Tringale, 17, who is also an honor roll student at Saugus High, said getting a good college education is his priority.
He still aspires to a pro baseball career. “But I’m going to take my education very seriously, in case the next level [Major League or Minor League Baseball] doesn’t come,” Tringale told The Saugus Advocate.
“My education comes first, because I want to be prepared for the rest of my life,” he said.
Tringale, the son of Karen and Joel Tringale, plans to study sports management at UMass Amherst. “I want to do something with baseball – either manage a Minor League team or be in the front office [of a baseball franchise],” Tringale said.
“I’m the only kid in my family who has been this active in baseball. I’ve played since I was five. I’ve been pitching since Little League,” he said.
And the Sachems’ right hander has been spectacular during his High School career, with one more year left to play. He will be one of the co-captains on the baseball team next spring.
He was 7-2 as a starter primarily during his junior year, with a 2.45 earned run average and 88 strikeouts in 57 innings. He was 1-2 with one save during his sophomore year.
Tringale finds himself in an enviable positions as he closes out his high school days. “It’s nice to know that I have done the hardest part of the recruitment and don’t have to worry about it now. And as I look upon my last season here, I have a lot more confidence in myself,” he said.
He’s pitched four years for the Saugus Wings.