By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Algonquin Regional High School has seen an abundance of talented, multi-sport athletes compete for school honors over the years. Typically, the progression is football / soccer or cross country in the fall surrendering to basketball / hockey or track in the winter then onto baseball / softball or lacrosse in the spring. Such is a sampling of the many cyclical combinations that exist in high school sports.
But golf into ice hockey? Not so much, say area high school sports administrators including ARHS Athletic Director Karrah Ellis, who refers to this as a “unique transition.” Not in anyone’s recent memory. It’s a combination you just don’t see.
Until now, that is.
ARHS two-sport athlete Kevin Reale is set to enter his senior year with high expectations for both golf and ice hockey seasons. Reale, from Northborough, certainly has all the right things going for him. On the links, he carries a microscopic .8 handicap and has been named a co-captain by head coach Bob Cullen. On the ice, he returns to follow up on a dream season that saw the Tomahawks capture the school’s first-ever Central Mass. Division 3 championship.
The 2016 golf campaign will be absent a pair of area standouts. Connor Henderson and Andrew Warfield have moved on to Division 1 Bryant University leaving big shoes to fill. Reale knows this but he and others are more than up for the challenge.
“There’s a little extra pressure replacing players like Connor and Andrew,” he admitted. “But this team has a lot more depth and there’ll be more than just a few trying to fill their shoes.
“Golf is largely an individual sport but it’s a team sport too, really. The game can really affect you mentally so it’s important to stay grounded and focus on the mental part of the game. I tell myself and remind others on the team to worry about the shot ahead and not just what’s already happened.”
“Kevin is a pleasure to coach for many reasons,” Cullen explained. “His sportsmanship is terrific. He really cares about the team and his teammates, and he works very hard to improve. Also, his competitiveness is off the charts but he’s gracious in defeat. Away from the course he’s a very good student. He’s a pretty quiet kid who likes to just enjoy life.”
If there is any proof positive that Reale is set and ready to go, consider his recent performance in a summer American Junior Golf Association tournament where he hit for eight birdies and carded a stunning 67.
“My short-game saves me for the most part. I’m ok off the tee but my chipping and putting have gotten a lot better and that helps,” said Reale with extreme modesty.
“Maybe the most impressive thing about his golf game is the fact that he’s only been playing for 2 1/2 years and he’s consistently shooting around par,” added Cullen. “It takes most kids six to eight years to get that good. Last year he was a league all-star for us. This is his first year as captain and I can already tell how serious he is taking the role.
“He’s already scheduled multiple captains’ practices by contacting the whole team including incoming freshmen. His positivity is really showing on and off the course with his teammates. He’s always encouraging them and helping them out by answering any questions they may have.”
When the leaves fall and the calendar flips into winter months, Reale will be ready to answer the bell to join his ice hockey teammates for what hopefully will be a successful encore season.
Still fresh in memory is a playoff win-streak that will not soon be forgotten where the team rattled off successive post-season victories over Hudson (2-1), Shrewsbury (3-2), Groton-Dunstable (2-1) and Westfield (6-2), the middle two of which were OT shootouts, to earn a Division 3 Central MA championship.
Next was the most memorable experience of any athlete’s dreams, when the team took to Boston’s TD Garden ice to challenge Eastern Mass. champion Hanover with a state championship on the line. Hopes for a state title were dashed with a loss to a powerful Indian team, but Reale is ever-optimistic of another productive performance in 2016-2017.
“The season we had in hockey was just so incredible,” said Reale. “We came together as a team like no one ever thought we could. We actually didn’t know we were that good. It was amazing. What we did last year will be hard to top but I think we have the players to make it happen. I’m looking forward to another great season.”