TEWKSBURY – Ever since he has been named the Athletic Director, Ron Drouin has hired a lot of different coaches at the varsity level. He stresses the best candidate, but also like most other AD's, he's not afraid to hire from within, and takes great pride in hiring those who bleed Tewksbury colors.
So when the Boys Indoor Track coaching position became available once again, he didn't hesitate for a second to take a younger female candidate because high character people — who also have pages upon pages in their resumes — like Lauren Polimeno, certainly don't come around too often.
“I have always been a big fan of Lauren. I think she is mature beyond her age. She handled herself beautifully when she was here as a student-athlete. The way she interacted with her teachers, with her peers, the way she interacted with her teammates, she was always a high end athlete here and had every reason to not be a great teammate, but she always was a great teammate,” said Drouin. “I have never seen her big-time anybody, she was always there to help her teammates and I'm sure that continued in college with the success that she had.”
Polimeno, 22, who recently finished up her four years on an athletic scholarship at D1 Jacksonville University, becomes what's believed to be the third varsity coach, who was a former Division-1 collegiate athlete, following Brian Aylward (football/wrestling at Brown) and Peter Fortunato (track at UMass-Amherst).
She becomes the program's eighth coach in the past ten years, following Steve Levine, who retired after the 2011 season, and then Bill Meuse, Fortunato, Scott Vandermolen, Peter Molloy, Jake Cofer and Nick Parsons. Polimeno also becomes the first female to coach a boys varsity team, at least under Drouin's tenure.
“(Assistant track coach) Jill Paige has interacted a lot with our boys and has done a fantastic job, but as a head coach no we haven't had that in my time,” said Drouin. “I'm excited for Lauren and I think this is a great opportunity. When I initially spoke to her about it, I loved the look on her face and her eyes, it was 'OK, let's go'. She knows it's a great challenge and she's all about going after that and I love that.”
Polimeno indeed was an incredible three-sport athlete here at TMHS, more so in indoor and outdoor track, than cross-country. She broke numerous school and league records in a number of events, was the state pentathlon champion, and helped lead the Redmen track teams to many league and Eastern Mass Championship titles, as well as the program's first and only All-State Title.
“She's one of the more decorated female athletes that we've had here in a long time. You look at her resume and it's outstanding,” said Drouin. “I see a highly qualified former student here, who is mature and who I think can handle the position at a young age. She's very knowledgeable. I love the fact that she can relate to those kids somewhat on their level from an age perspective, but I know that her maturity will never cloud her judgement. I'm excited for Lauren and I think this is a great opportunity for her. We are putting an elite qualified coach in a good position to move up and forward. I'm excited about having Lauren Polimeno here with us (on our coaching staff).”
Just like she did at Tewksbury, Polimeno made a big impact at Jacksonville. She had a number of big performances competing again in pentathlons, but if you ask her, the accomplishments are — and always have been — on the backburner.
“Honestly, the main thing that I took out of it is my teammates. I couldn't have made it through without them and I'm just very grateful for the teammates that I had,” she said. “(The competition in college) was ten times more competitive than high school. In high school you have the athletes that you were dealing with but for me, it's more about the kind of people that I'm dealing with. I really remember people by how I interacted with them and not how they performed. The people that I remember from the university are people that I was able to talk to throughout the competitions and had interactions with on social media and not the people that I necessarily competed with (or against). The same goes with high school. I could tell you the people that I talked to, but honestly for the most part, I couldn't tell you who was my prime competition unless I communicated with them as well.”
Since graduating from JU with a degree in Marine Science and a concentration in Biology, Polimeno currently holds two jobs, a personal trainer at Tewksbury Sports Club and now a head track coach.
“The coaching and personal training has become my second passion and I'm very grateful that I am able to give back to the program that I had such a good experience with and that made such a huge difference in my life, so that's why I'm helping with the head coaching position,” she said. “The group of boys that I have all seem to be such wonderful people so I'm super excited to get to know them better and I want to help them compete and help them to hopefully get personal records.”
Polimeno was asked about coaching boys, and if that was ever a concern for her?
“Of course not. I'm honestly having a lot of fun. It doesn't matter to me who I work with just as long as they have a good attitude and are willing to put in the work. So far it seems like they do, so I'm very excited and fortunate that's the case because I know of some people who can't say the same about their teams so I'm very, very grateful for the attitudes that everyone has shown so far for the first few days of practice,” she said.
Among the members of the team happens to be her only brother, Nick.
“We have a very good relationship and I'm just so proud of where he has gotten himself and I'm excited to be the one who tries to help him get better in practice. We're very close and I also know that he will be a very good leader to help out the team. I'm just very grateful to be able to work with him,” she said.
Polimeno will be assisted by Paige and former Tewksbury High athletes Cassie Froio and Maria Da Silva, while girls coach Fran Cusick and Fortunato, an assistant on both teams, will also be there to help.
In terms of coaching styles, Polimeno said that she is going to take a piece from all who taught her.
“Since I've had such an opportunity to work and compete for so many great coaches between the university and high school, I'm very grateful to have gone through a bunch if different coaching styles,” she said. “The coaches at Tewksbury, the coaches that I had at Jacksonville have all made the biggest impact on me and I'm just most grateful to have had that opportunity to work with each one of them. I'm happy now that I have the Tewksbury coaches now as my colleagues. I know their advice to me when I was in high school and their advice to me now, has meant the world to me and I'm mainly basing my coaching style around theirs because it's the one that worked the best for me.”
While Polimeno has the passion for starting her coaching career, she is not done with her academic career. During her sophomore year while at JU, she studied abroad for one semester in Italy.
“I was working with an Eco-Tourism Company and they give dolphin tours to fund their research, but they mainly do research on conservation, identification of the dolphins and the environment and the tourists with everything going on in the environment,” said Polimeno. “A lot of people are just very unaware and I'm just very grateful to have worked with them. The supervisors are just some of the most whole-hearted people that I have ever worked with. There's not a lot of funding that comes in for them and most of it goes to the research and we're all really dedicated to that, but they are so enthusiastic about helping the environment between improving the conditions and more importantly educating others on the situation because so many people just aren't aware.”
Her plan is to go back there in the fall for two years and achieve her Master's Degree.
“I'm leaning towards doing something in the Environmental Consulting (Field) because I yell at people for messing up the environment anyways, so I might as well be paid for it,” she said with a laugh. “I would like to work with animals and do biological research, but mainly my goal, as much as I love to work with dolphins and animals, is to help the environment and that's going to be through education and research, and not necessarily playing with dolphins all of the time.”
Until she goes back to Italy, Polimeno will have her hands full here in Tewksbury. She wakes up at 4 am every day to start job number one, before dealing with the track team in the afternoons.
“Honestly, (the long days) will be worth it. I'll give anything to give back to the Tewksbury program. I'm so grateful for what it did for me and the fact that everyone on the team has a good attitude, I'm just super excited to be able to work with them,” she said.