Hennessy ready to soar for BC
Published 6:25 pm, Monday, August 30, 2010
Jack Hennessy is arguably the best male athlete at Staples in the last 10 years. A three-sport captain who won the Block S award in two sports before graduating in June, was the Westport News' Male Athlete of the Year in what his coaches and peers felt was an easy selection.
"I was very surprised and it was a great honor," Hennessy said. "There are so many deserving kids at Staples and everyone of them deserved it. Getting two Block S awards was a real honor and I owe a debt of gratitude to my coaches and teammates. I couldn't have done it without them."
Most of all, Hennessy credits his upbringing for his success.
"It comes down from the people around me," he said. "Most of it comes from "Most of it comes from my parents. They are great role models. My father always expects the best from me and my mother [Tracey] is there to support me no matter what happens."
Hennessy was a top player for the Staples boys soccer, indoor track and baseball teams and he especially excelled in soccer and baseball, earning the Block S MVP in soccer and the Block S (two Block S awards were given to two top seniors in baseball, neither specifying whether it was MVP or Coach's award). Track appeared to be his third sport at Staples as he ran it for the Wreckers to get in shape for baseball and soccer, but ironically, it is now becoming his top sport and focus as he will be running track for Division I Boston College.
"I had the opportunity to play soccer and baseball at some schools and it was a matter of what school I'm the happiest at," Hennessy said. "I chose BC because it's my father's and grandfathers alma mater and the fact I could run track there sealed the deal."
His father Mark graduated BC in 1980 and his grandfather, whom he's named after, John Leonard Hennessy graduated in 1939.
Although he didn't achieve as many accolades as he did in baseball and soccer, Hennessy was no slouch in track at Staples and earned Second Team All-FCIAC as a sprinter. In fact, some people, such as BC track personnel among others, felt that track really wasn't his third best sport and was even better than that.
"You are going to see a lot of good things from Jack Hennessy in track and with him concentrating only on track, you will see it's his best sport," Wreckers track Coach Laddie Lawrence said. "He works hard at it and is very dedicated. He's very dependable and he's an extremely gifted competitor, which is his best quality. Whenever he's on the track, diamond or soccer field, he thinks he's going to win."
He scored points in the 4x200-meter relay, 300-meter dash and 50-meter dash. Similar to his overall success, he remains modest and deflects acclaim for his track success to others.
`I give a lot of credit to Laddie," Hennessy said. "I had terrible form when I came in and my arms were all over the place. It takes a lot of expertise to run the right way and Laddie helped me along the way."
When Hennessy begins competing in Boston, he'll be running the 200-meter dash and 400 meters for the Eagles. This summer, he ran in three races in the Westport Summer Road Runners series, including 4.1-miles, which is longer than the typical cross-country race, to get in shape for track.
Eagles Coach Matt Kerr gave Hennessy a training program which requires him to do cardio and distance training by running five miles in workouts.
"I was absolutely dying during the race," he said. "It's not my distance. The first sprint takes a toll on me."
Despite running a distance that's not the norm for him, he still excels in them. Hennessy finished third in the 2.3-mile with a time of 12:35, 10th in the 3.1-mile (19:24) and 17th in the 4.1-mile (28:48).
"It's a nice way to have competition since I'm not playing baseball this summer," Hennessy said. "Whenever I set my mind to it, I don't settle for second best and I leave it all on the track."
And this drive fueled him on the baseball and soccer fields as well. Unlike track, which he began in high school, he started playing baseball and soccer since he was able to walk.
"I just loved them and I always had great coaches," Hennessy said. "My dad helped me out and my sister [Molly, a junior on the Northwestern University swimming team] showed me around the diamond."
Baseball appeared to be his top sport. It all started for him at Staples when Wreckers baseball Coach Jack McFarland moved him up to varsity in the middle of his freshman year and started him at third base.
"It was tough and a real challenge," Hennessy recalled. "I was shocked when McFarland told me I'd be playing varsity. I hit the ground running and everyone helped me out."
Especially the last two years, Hennessy looked like a Division I baseball player. He hit .526 this year with 40 hits, four home runs, five doubles, two triples and 23 stolen bases in 25 attempts, earning 2010 FCIAC Player of the Year. Junior year, he was 8-9 in the FCIAC tournament with a home run and six stolen bases, leading Staples to its second straight FCIAC title and earning FCIAC tournament MVP in the process.
"Jack will go down as one of the greatest players in Staples history," McFarland said. "Jacks performance in the 2009 FCIAC Tournament was one of the best performances I have ever seen in high school athletics. Being named 2010 FCIAC Player of the Year is a huge honor for Jack and the program, especially since this is voted on by the coaches in the FCIAC."
Moreover, he set the Staples record for career hits with 110, reaching the 100-hit milestone on May 15 at St. Joseph High School.
"It was a great accomplishment," Hennessy said. "I didn't know I reached it until McFarland told me. You can attribute it to McFarland because he brought me up freshman year and I had a long career. McFarland told me to use all fields. I was bunting and slapping and I did what I could to get on base. I waited for the pitch longer than most batters and because of it, I got easy pitches to hit. My personal coach, Vinnie Carlucci, helped me in the offseason and he told me to hit to all fields and use every inch of the field. I owe it all to him."
Hennessy led off for the Wreckers and usually figured out a way to get on base. In addition to the 110 hits, he frequently walked because of his patience at the plate.
"Jack used the whole field, the right field and left field lines," McFarland said. "He was a great bunter and was hard to defend. I wouldn't trade Jack for anyone. He was a sparkplug for us as the leadoff hitter for the past three years."
Once he got on base, he'd use his speed and frequently stole the next base, which led to many Staples runs.
"That comes from taking risks and I trust my speed," Hennessy said. "A lot of guys don't go because they are afraid of being thrown out. A lot has to go right for the defense in order to throw out a base-stealer, so I risked it a lot and it worked out."
Defensively, he thrived at third base, shortstop and second base for the Wreckers. He also did well at first base for Westport's Senior American Legion team. Hennessy excelled defensively at all four positions.
"It all comes back to Vinnie," he said. "We worked every winter to make sure my form was perfect and that I'd have soft hands."
For the two-time FCIAC champion and defending Class LL champion soccer team, Hennessy was its Secretary of Defense. Staples goalies didn't face many shots because he won and cleared many balls and kept it out of the Wreckers' zone.
"It had a lot to do with having great defenders back there, Frankie Bergonzi, Mikey Fitzgerald, Sean Gallagher and Mike McCarthy," he said. "Without them, I'm nothing."
Many people from Staples would disagree with Hennessy's self-assessment.
"Jack is absolutely the real deal," Wreckers soccer Coach Dan Woog said. "As a three-year starter, as a true leader, as a passionate athlete and as a young man with family values, Jack is a role model for all Staples athletes."
The Secretary of Defense won many one-on-one battles on the ground and many balls in the air.
"I learned a lot from Dan and [assistant Coach] Kurt [Dasbach] when it came to defending," Hennessy said. "I was jumpy and anxious when I got there and they stressed contain, contain."
Leadership is a strength of his as well, serving as captain in all three sports. He led by example through his work ethic and verbally by encouraging his teammates.
"I liked it a lot, I liked the role and I had a great time with the other players," Hennessy said. "Hopefully, we set a good example for the future players."
The Connecticut Association of Schools and The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference selected him as their Staples male scholar-athlete (they pick one female as well) as part of their annual Connecticut Scholar-Athlete program.
"That was really a great honor and I was grateful for [Staples Athletic Director] Marty Lisevick for nominating me for it. My sister won it two years ago which makes it even more exciting," Hennessy said.
Taking mostly AP courses and excelling in them played a role in his winning the award. History is his favorite subject.
"Playing a sport made it easier to get my academics done because I had a shorter time to get my work done and I just sat down and did it," Hennessy said.
Not playing soccer and baseball will take time to get used to and he'll miss them both.
"It hasn't hit me yet but it will be a shock when the season comes but I will be playing a Division I sport and that will be fulfilling in itself," Hennessy said.
His former soccer and baseball coaches believe he could have played their respective sports in college.
"Jack could certainly play soccer at the college level but he loves running as well," Woog said.
McFarland said, "He had all kinds of choices and was highly recruited for baseball. Jack works hard at all sports and he'll do well at anything he does."
At BC, he's undecided about his major but knows he'll have to raise his performance a few levels because the competition is tougher.
"I will go in and everyone will be as fast or faster than I am and it's a matter of who works the hardest," Hennessy said. "I'll put some time in the weight room and I'll work as hard, if not harder than everyone else."
Lawrence said, "The potential he has at the college level in track may show it's his best sport."