AYER – Track and field was a sport that Ayer Shirley Regional High School senior Arthur Ribeiro wanted nothing to do with after transferring into the district. A lifelong soccer player, Ribeiro had a change of heart in his sophomore year, and couldn’t have imagined the heights the sport would take him.
On Tuesday Ribeiro will hold a ceremony to honor the signing of his national letter of intent to compete at the Division 1 level of collegiate track and field, as he will be attending the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester next fall to compete in the sprints, mid-distance, and jumps.
“(Ribeiro) had been a year-round soccer player,” Ayer Shirley Regional High School boys track and field head coach Chris Donovan said. “(Soccer coach) Mark Giusto is fantastic about getting kids out to run track. He understands that speed is going to help them in soccer. When (Ribeiro) first joined us it was kind of reluctant. We saw the talent right away, but it took a little time to figure out where he would best be suited.”
“Couple that with the raw talent, and really winter last year is where it really started to shine,” Donovan continued. “Then we were off to the races… Track is a technical sport… and to get him at this late of a date and have him propel to this, I think that’s why there was so much interest from so many schools, because they know he’s just going to keep getting better.”
Ribeiro was choosing between three Division 1 schools to take his next step in his track and field career. The two that came up on the short end include Stonehill College (Easton, MA) and Bryant University (Smithfield, RI).
With a strong faith in the Catholic religion, two of his schools, both Holy Cross and Stonehill, aligned with his faith as religious institutions. But ultimately the decision came down to the best financial package combined with the all-important right fit for him, where Holy Cross came out ahead of the others.
“I was talking to my parents, and obviously the financial part with Holy Cross was very helpful,” Ribeiro said. “Holy Cross is a psychology-based school, and my dream is to become a psychiatrist. Having a school like that with my major is a very good thing, and also, it’s a very religious school, and it worked out. Stonehill was religious but not psychology-based, Bryant was really business-based, and not psychology at all.”
The academics at Holy Cross will be intense, Ribeiro said, but with the school’s success rate of promoting students to medical school, and his passion to work hard for anything he desires, he feels that he’s up to meet the difficult challenges ahead in the classroom.
“We want to put kids on a path to college athletics, and basically every year we get a few kids to that next level, whether it be Division 1, 2, or 3,” Donovan said. “At the same time the academic part is so important… (We want our kids) to be at a school where at the end of the day (after athletics) they’re going to have options. Holy Cross is second to none, and I know he’s going to be challenged in the classroom, but I also know having had him in an honors class last year, that he is rising to those (academic) challenges. He thrives on it.”
There was a level of hesitation to join the track team, as Ribeiro focused all of his athletic efforts on soccer. But on the urging of his soccer coach, he joined the track team for the outdoor season his sophomore year. Last year as a junior he started taking his performances to a new level, and with that heightened performance came a shift in dedication to the sport.
“I moved from Woburn, and Woburn High School is a Division 2 school, to a small school in Ayer,” Ribeiro said. “One of the first people that I met was our soccer coach (Mark Giusto) and he’d just bug me every day to do track. And I was like ‘I’m a soccer guy I don’t want to do track I just want to do soccer’. He kept bugging me and even emailed my pop, and I just did it in my sophomore year and I wasn’t anything crazy, but I started liking it, I liked the team. Then junior year (indoor) my friends and I made national’s and I knew we had something special here. Then outdoor I told my coach ‘please make me throw up every day because I really want to get better’. From there it was a grind and I got way better.”
The typical events in the outdoor season for Ribeiro would be the 400-meter dash, the 200, and the long jump. His personal best in the long jump is 20 feet 3 inches, while registering a 50.28 second personal record in the 400, and a 23.10 in the 200. Ribeiro has a knack for saving his best performances for the biggest meets of the year. For his indoor national’s trip, Ribeiro made it with three other teammates in the sprint medley relay.
Ribeiro is excited about the opportunity to attend college in Worcester, a city he classified as not too big like Boston, but also not too small. He also likes the fact that it’s a city of colleges in a sense, with Clark, WPI, Worcester State, Assumption, and Quinsigamond Community College as the undergraduate institutions in the city.
Sending students off to top level athletic and academic opportunities after graduating from Ayer Shirley is a major goal of the high school, and Ribeiro’s signing is yet another success story for the Washington Street campus.
“It’s fantastic for our school,” Donovan said. “We’re doing some things right, and I know the classes here are challenging him. He’ll be 100 percent ready, I’m completely confident in that, based on what we’re doing academically.”