By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – It’s a surname that has become iconic in the rich tradition of Shrewsbury High School (SHS) sports. There have been generations of athletes past, present and future that have left and will leave their mark as true-blue Colonials in a wide variety of sports all the while competing with distinction, class and honor. Anyone even remotely tied to SHS is well familiar with the Laramee family and all that they have accomplished over time.
Taking center stage in their senior year are twins Joanie and A.J. Laramee, who are having success in seemingly unimaginable ways. Joanie is a captain in three sports (soccer, basketball, track), an incredible and almost unprecedented honor, while A.J. was a captain on the football team that advanced to the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. He also co-captains the varsity basketball team that is competitive night in and night out.
But besides the twins, the family tree of sports success has an abundant crop of Laramee family members. There is older brother, Tim, also a past Super Bowl participant in his senior year – he is now offensive line coordinator for the Colonial varsity team. Uncles Jimmy, Franny and Tommy were standout athletes as well. Tommy is currently football head coach at St. Peter-Marian High School in Worcester. Cousins Mike, Matt and Joe were stellar football players. Mike is currently strength and conditioning coach for the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars. But possibly the best of them all has yet to be heard from.
Youngest sibling, Caroline, a Shrewsbury fifth-grader, is also an emerging athlete. She is currently involved in dance, softball, soccer and basketball. Look for her ascension in the SHS sports scene in the years to come.
For Joanie, her earliest memories in sports were baseball and softball, which she acknowledges were not for her. It was then soccer in the fourth grade, basketball in the fifth and track in high school and all the while support at home made her success all come together.
“Family has been so supportive of us,” she said. “Our parents encourage both of us and our older brother and my little sister. They really encourage me to get involved and work hard. I credit a lot of my success to them. All of my siblings are so close and they push me in different ways.
“There’s never been pressure to win. It was always work hard and be a good teammate. It was more that when you walk out of here you have to be proud of what you did and be proud of the person you are becoming on and off the field.”
“I’ve had two seasons now to watch Joanie grow as a player and now in her senior season as a team leader,” said SHS girls’ varsity soccer head coach Jim McKinley. “Always mentally prepared to train and play every time she steps on the training field or game field, she has a hunger to get better as an athlete and player and this passion bleeds over into her teammates. Never a complainer, she has always been unselfish and has always put team in front of herself.”
Both Joanie and A.J. share a competiveness that is essential for success but never wane from their respect and admiration for one another as both athletes and siblings.
“Growing up with him by my side and watching him progress as an athlete was amazing to me,” Joanie said. “The success he’s had will always be something I’ll be proud of. He was so driven and to get to where he and the team got this year was incredible. I’m so proud to call him my brother and watch him succeed.”
“I’m a captain for one sport – football – and it’s not easy,” said A.J. “It’s a task. You have to be on top of things, responsible, respectful and deal with situations that aren’t always easy to deal with. She handles being captain for three sports so well and I’m very proud of her. And I’m proud that being a Laramee, people know means hard work and a good reputation around school.”
Joanie’s post-grad plans include college and an aspiration to become a speech pathologist. She spends what little free time she has doing a multitude of community service work. She is a member of the National Honor Society and this year was awarded the Dennis Flynn Dedication and Excellence Award in soccer.
For A.J, it was basketball and football from the early-goings although he played baseball in his freshman year and ran track as a sophomore. He, like his sister, never felt family pressure, rather uncompromised support at all times.
“I didn’t feel much pressure because it’s what we love to do,” he said. “We feel like we have to live up to the name a little bit, but it’s all fun. They’re just games and you can’t get too worked up about it.”
At 3-3 in the mid-point of the football season, a trip to Gillette Stadium seemed like the longest of longshots but that was before the team ran off a streak of six consecutive victories. A.J.’s physical and mental toughness at running back were catalysts in that drive that eventually took a Super Bowl appearance from dream to reality, a fact not lost to head coach John Aloisi.
“A.J. adjusted nicely early on to the speed and physicality of the sport,” he said. “He has great mental and physical toughness. He understands the game and loves it and is one of the most unselfish players I’ve coached. He puts the team ahead of himself all the time. Off the field, he’s just a great kid who is respected and gets along with everybody.”
“It’s been a dream of not only me, but my whole senior class that plays football,” said A.J. of the Super Bowl experience. “We’ve been talking about going to Gillette Stadium since we were freshmen. We always knew we could do it but it was a matter of were we going to put the time in in the weight room and film room and we did and it paid off.
“The Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium was hands down the most amazing experience I’ve ever been a part of. I can’t even put it into words. Stepping on the field felt like I was in a video game. The entire town was sitting right there supporting us. I felt like I was giving back to the community because we live in such a great town and we go to such a great school. It felt like we were paying them back for all they have done for us.”
A.J. plans to major in business management and marketing in college and play football but has yet to decide on a school. He is also active in community service and offers high praise for all that SHS has provided.
“This school athletic- and academic-wise is a terrific program. I couldn’t have imagined it any other way,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be part of another school. This school has really helped me be the man I am today.”