NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 11, 2014

Consistency and class

Derro keeps Pentucket girls track on winning path

High School Sports
Dave Dyer

---- — There’s a lot to like about the Pentucket girls indoor track team.

The Sachems have enjoyed plenty of success over the years, and they’ve had some terrific individual performers, but there is something that really stands out — their consistency.

And we’re not just talking about wins and losses, although that’s high on the list. At a school with no indoor facility, Pentucket consistently has high numbers and it always performs with class. While there are certainly others, its program challenges as the No. 1 overlooked gem in the region.

And you’ve got to give head coach Steve Derro a great deal of the credit.

Derro, a Pentucket grad, is the only coach the program has ever had. He founded it in 1997-98, guiding it to 3-5-1 his first year, and has not had a losing season since.

Under Derro’s direction, Pentucket has an overall record of 124-41-3 since the program began and has won six league titles. From 1998-99 through 2002-03, the Sachems had a 38-meet unbeaten streak.

Impressive stats for sure, but the Sachems are also noteworthy because they always have high numbers, starting with 33 girls that first year to over 60 in recent years, thanks partly to having veterans recruit promising youngsters.

Among the standout individuals Derro has helped develop are sprinters Kristin Monaco and Ashley Moulton, who went on to run at William and Mary and UMass Lowell respectively, and middle/distance runners Amanda Schweizer (UNH), Alanna Poretta (Boston College), April O’Brien (Dartmouth), Paige Sutherland (Holy Cross) and Rebecca Morse (Quinnipiac).

But, says Derro, it’s always about the team as a whole, not the individuals.

“Track is always considered an individual sport, but it’s not that way for me,” said Derro. “For me, it’s the largest team sport. Everyone has their role to play, just like any other team sport.

“I have had some outstanding individuals willing to sacrifice for the team. Alanna Poretta ran the 600 her entire junior year because we needed her there. Kristin Monaco made it to New England her junior year in the 55-meter dash and her senior year I needed her in the 600 for the team and she went on to make it to New England in that event.

“I can name someone from almost every season that did this. We have established a great culture among our teams — solid work ethic, sportsmanship, team camaraderie and wanting to get better not just for yourself but for your teammates.”

Plenty of coaches say similar things, but Derro seems to really mean it and he can back up his claims. During his tenure, Pentucket has won 15 Cape Ann League team sportsmanship awards, which is remarkable considering how successful the team has been, as well as three Joan Doherty MIAA/MSTCA team sportsmanship awards.

And it’s not by accident. At the beginning of the season, Derro stresses to his team, and the parents, the importance of sportsmanship. And, after each meet, he insists that no one gets on the bus until the entire area is cleaned up and the host team gets any help it needs.

For his part, while demanding hard work and sportsmanship, Derro strives to keep the track experience fun and he goes out of his way to promote his athletes. Over the years, for example, no one has been as reliable in submitting results to the newspapers, usually with comments and information about personal or team records.

Regarding the team’s success on the track and its reputation off it, Derro gives substantial credit to his assistant coaches and captains. That’s commendable, but long-time, consistent success — no matter how you measure it — always starts from the top.

There are other programs in the region that have experienced impressive consistency, of course, and their long-term successes should be noted. But one would be hard-pressed, given Pentucket’s limited resources, to match Derro.

Year after year Since the Pentucket girls' indoor track program began in 1997-98, Pentucket has: -- compiled a record of 124-41-3 and won six Cape Ann League titles. -- consistently had 50 or more girls out for the team -- captured 14 CAL team sportsmanship awards and three Joan Doherty MIAA/MSTCA team sportsmanship awards -- had numerous standout runners who have gone on to compete in college, including Kristin Monaco (William and Mary, Ashley Moulton (UMass Lowell), Amanda Schweizer (UNH), Alanna Poretta (Boston College), April O'Brien (Dartmouth), Paige Sutherland (Holy Cross) and Rebecca Morse (Quinnipiac)