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Meet our 2021 Scholarship Recipients

Jim Laprel and Chad Pelletier  | Published on 6/27/2021

On May 27, 2020 the Merrimack Valley Striders running club awarded 10 scholarships to local high school seniors in May’s virtual monthly meeting.

The MVS Memorial Scholarship program honors the memory of six members: Mike Dowe, Greg Gumbinner, Dean Peterson, Sam Denopoulos, Ralph Rockwood and Lou Peters who have died and "exemplified the character and dedication to running and fitness that the MVS organization encourages".

The Memorial Scholarship Fund began in 1998 and has awarded over $170,000 in scholarships to date.  Money comes from individual club member donations, as well as an annual donation from the Andover Feaster Five race proceeds.

The scholarships are given to eligible seniors preparing for colleges who have participated in cross country, indoor track or outdoor track during their high school years. All high schools through-out the membership area are notified of this scholarship opportunity. The students must submit a profile form along with an essay on "What running means to me" demonstrating their character and dedication to running.

In addition to the $2,000 scholarship, recipients receive a five-year membership in the Merrimack Valley Striders and one entry into the Feaster Five race held on Thanksgiving morning in Andover.

Below are the photos and narratives of the 2021 recipients:

Top row (L-R): James Barrett (Chelmsford HS), Jack Benoit (Innovation Charter), Aidan Corcoran (Haverhill HS), Jason Demers (Central Catholic HS), Ariann LeCours (Haverhill HS), 
Bottom Row: 
Molly Nugent (North Andover HS), Eamon O'Cearuil (North Andover HS), Makayla Paige (Tewksbury Memorial HS), Casey Pedersen (Pentucket HS), Emily Pessina (Austin Preparatory HS)  (Photo collage by Alan St.Germain)

Here are brief narratives compiled by Jim Laprel, chair of the MVS Scholarship Committee.

Eamon O’Cearuil – North Andover High School


Eamon always felt that a “bad race is fuel to work harder” and there should be no complacency in a good one. He called himself “a kid who’s good in school” and learned to set long range goals from his running. The two-time class president and former VP will be attending Harvard College to study Environmental Science and Public Policy. The AP Scholar was co-founder of the History Club, a member of the National Honor Society and a Student Ambassador. He serves as a volunteer sailing instructor and plans to continue his running where he totaled 3,547.4 miles in his 3 ½ year high school career.


Jason Demers- Central Catholic High School


Jason spent four years as a member of Central’s cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams. He won the Coach O’Sullivan Award in recognition of his support for teammates. As a member of the National Honor Society, he was consistently on the Honor and High Honor Rolls as well as being a Student Ambassador. He enjoyed the physical and social aspects of running, especially the competition, practices and the team pasta parties. Jason will be attending Merrimack College where he will major in Computer Science.


Ariann LeCours – Haverhill High School


Ariann comes from a local running family. She said that running is “a journey that is embraced, just like life”. She spent four years on the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams where she was a captain on all three teams her senior year. As a member of the National Honor, Foreign Language and Business Societies, the Distinction student never had a grade less than A- on her report card. She volunteered at middle school cross country and track meets and will continue her track career at Westfield State where she will major in Movement Science.


Casey Pedersen – Pentucket Regional High School


Casey was a member of the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams during her four years. She said she was not the fastest runner, but was committed “100% to the effort of the team”. She was an AP Scholar with Distinction, National Merit Commended Scholar, in addition to being a member of the National Honor Society as well as for those for Science and Foreign language. Casey supported those with intellectual disabilities with her involvement in Unified Track Meets. Syracuse University is her next stop where she will major in Architecture.


Jack Benoit – Innovation Academy Charter School


Jack was a four year participant on the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams. One of his biggest joys was to break five minutes in the mile during his freshman year. The feeling he got stepping on the track was special to him, as well as the drama of the final stretch of the race. He was involved in student government during his four years and was the treasurer of the National Honor Society. Jack sees himself possibly coaching in the future. He will be attending Coastal Carolina where he will be running cross country and track.


Emily Pessina – Austin Prep


Emily began running 5K races at a young age with her mother. She was a four year member of the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams. She felt that a race brought relief, happiness and accomplishment. She also cited the tight bonds with her teammates and helped with the middle school runners who were part of the team. The Honor Roll student was vice-president of the National Honor Society, as well as a peer tutor for chemistry. She has been a volunteer at “Our Neighbor’s Table”

Emily will be attending Boston University where she will major in Computer Science, with a concentration in Cyber Security.


James Barrett – Chelmsford


James became an Eagle Scout and assumed an active troop leadership role. He was treasurer of the National Honor Society and president of the Spanish Honors Society. As a freshman, he won the “Emerging Leadership Award”. He was an AP Scholar with Distinction. He was a four year member of the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams. He enjoyed long runs with his teammates, always looking back with a sense of pride. He sees himself as a life-long runner and cited how track and field exposes oneself to different mindsets. James would like to assist high school runners in the future and will be heading to UMass Amherst where he will major in Physics and Computer Science.


Aidan Corcoran – Haverhill High School


Aidan comes from a family of runners and has run the Feaster Five with them. He also did cross country and track in middle school. He played soccer during the fall, but was a member of the indoor and outdoor track teams all four years. He valued the camaraderie of his teammates and enjoyed the role of leader his senior year. Aidan was a Distinction student all four years and had perfect attendance. He was a member of the National Honor Society, as well as the one for Foreign Language. He also served as a youth soccer referee. His next stop is UMass Lowell where he will major in Environmental Engineering.


Molly Nugent – North Andover High School


Molly has been doing track since the third grade. As a four year member of the indoor and outdoor track teams she focused on the 55M hurdles indoors and the 100m dash and 400m hurdles outdoors. She was a two year member of the cross country team after spending her first two seasons on the field hockey team. She served as a Student Ambassador and was a member of the Youth Council and National Honor Society. Molly cited injuries as a motivation to push harder. She recognized her role as a mentor to younger teammates and hopes to continue volunteering with youth track. Clemson University will be her next stop where she will major in Biological Sciences while on a pre-PA track.


Makayla Paige – Tewksbury High School


Makayla has a long list of athletic accomplishments as a four year member of the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams.

She was a member of the All-Scholastic team for the Boston Globe and Boston Herald in cross country and indoor track.

She won the All-State 600m title indoors as well as the 800m outdoors, in addition to setting state records in the 800M and 400M hurdles. Gatorade selected her as their Massachusetts Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year during her sophomore and junior years. Molly will continue her studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and pursue her track career.