History was on the line when Stephanie Faiella lined up for her final attempt in the long jump at the Boston City League City Championships in February at the Reggie Lewis Center.
Faiella was seeking to become a four-time City Champion, an exclusive club in East Boston High School girls track history.
EBHS indoor track coach Garcia Dalzon picks up the story from there.
“Stephanie had won this event every year since she was a freshman,” said Dalzon. “At the City Championships this year, each competitor had three jumps. She was losing to a competitor from New Mission after the first two jumps. Now comes Stephanie’s third jump, and if she doesn’t hit this jump, then she would not be a four-time champion.
“We talked about it and I told her, ‘you have to go all out, put it all on the line.’ And on her very last jump, she overtook the New Mission competitor and boom, she was a four-time city champion. It showed her resiliency and how she’s able to battle,” said Dalzon.
Looking back on Stephanie’s track career that also included two appearances in the 300 and long jump at the State Meet, Dalzon paid the four-year performer the highest compliment he could, stating, “Stephanie is the best overall female athlete that I ever coached. She was very talented from the beginning. You can see she has natural ability. She can run like the wind and jump phenomenally. And she was always willing to put in the work to be great. She was a pleasure to coach.”
As it turned out, Stephanie’s historic first-place finish at the City Championships was the Eastie senior’s final chapter in a storybook career. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the EBHS outdoor track season where Stephanie was going to be a captain and a near-certainty to continue her reign as one of the best all-around track performers in the city.
A Boston City League All-Star soccer player as well at East Boston High School, the multi-talented scholar-athlete and three-sport captain will be continuing her soccer career at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.
Soccer finale was also magical
As sensational as her track career was, Stephanie Faiella also provided exceptional leadership and offensive firepower for the Lady Jets soccer team in 2019.
She ended her career in spectacular fashion, scoring two goals to lead her team to a 3-2 victory in the Boston City League All-Star Game. It was a fitting conclusion for the prolific scorer who had netted 22 goals and distributed 23 assists for the Jets during the regular season.
EBHS girls soccer coach Rich LaCara oversaw Faiella’s development from a tenacious, roving defender as a freshman into a speedy, quick-striking, offensive force as a senior.
“She was tenacious – I didn’t know what I had with her but she was an all-effort player right off the bat as a freshman, so I started her on the back line of our defense,” recalled LaCara. “When the other team had a dominating player, Stephanie had the ability to shadow that player and contain her. She reminded me of Brad Marchand in the way she could get under an opponent’s skin and take them out of their game. That’s a great quality to have as a freshman – she wasn’t afraid to go up against girls three or four years older than she was. Opposing forwards were often frustrated by her tenacious defense.”
When LaCara later moved Faiella to an offensive position in the Jets’ attack, the skilled, 5-foot-3-inch soccer captain delivered goals and assists at a frenetic pace.
“She had 22 goals and 23 assists as a senior. She did what she had to do even when other teams were focused on stopping her and disrupting our offense,” said LaCara.
Faiella earned the respect of her teammates with her competitiveness and year-round dedication to soccer and the program. She was selected a multi-year captain.
“She’s just a great kid – she got along with everyone and the team gravitated to her,” said LaCara. “We qualified for the State Tournament every year. Stephanie’s leadership was instrumental in our success as a team. She showed great leadership and maturity.”
LaCara, who is in 21st year as a coach and history teacher at the school, considers Faiella one of the best players in the program’s history. He expects Faiella to make a big impact in the Plymouth State program.
“I think she can definitely play at the next level,” said LaCara. “She’s super-fast and super-competitive and she has all the intangibles to face the challenges of collegiate soccer and just work harder to achieve her goals.”
A proud product of Eastie schools
Stephanie is the daughter of Milena Gil. Her stepfather is former Eastie and Yawkey Baseball League standout Steven Walsh. Both were constant sources of support and encouragement through their attendance at Stephanie’s soccer games and track meets.
Stephanie attended the Donald McKay School and played middle school soccer, basketball and volleyball. She competed in the East Boston Little League and East Boston Girls Softball League.
Upon entering East Boston High School, she earned a spot on the varsity soccer team. After briefly considering the swim team, she made her way to the track program and became one of the school’s most highly decorated track athletes. She dominated in the BCL long jump event in her four seasons.
“Long jump was not an event that I thought I would be doing,” said Faiella. “Our coach (Garcia Dalzon) needed spots to be filled in for the field events. He tested our jumping skills from the floor to the staircase and I jumped to the fifth stair.”
Her track career took off from there. All told, Faiella earned 12 medals (seven gold) and numerous ribbons in recognition of her consistently high finishes.
She was disappointed that she did not get the opportunity to compete in spring track due to the global pandemic.
“I was hoping for a big season for the team and myself,” said Faiella. “As a junior I got first place for the long jump for the first time in outdoor track, and I was ready to bring that to outdoor again. We were all upset by the cancellation of our spring season.”
A member of the National Honor Society
Stephanie Faiella was among the highest ranked students academically in the EBHS Class of 2020, attaining a 4.3 grade point average and earning membership in the National Honor Society.
She credits EBHS Principal Phil Brangiforte for creating an enriching school environment that inspires each student to advance toward their post-graduate destination such as college, military service, or the workforce.
“Mr. Brangiforte was always accessible to his students,” lauded Stephanie. “You would see him regularly stopping in at your classes. He would be at games, at meets, and be rooting for all the teams. He tried to be there for all of us. Whether you were a student or a student-athlete, he was there to support and help everybody.”
Stephanie commended her tenth grade English Language Arts teacher Patrick Morris and eleventh grade AP English Language Arts Elizabeth Novak for being superb in their profession and being excellent motivators during her academic journey.
“And I had never been a fan of mathematics, but the two teachers who really helped me through it were Mr. (Jeff) Arinella for Algebra II and Mr. (Matthew) Glavin for Geometry,” said Stephanie.
Accepted to many colleges, Stephanie chose Plymouth State over Curry College and Franklin Pierce. She will be pursuing a degree in Sports Management.
Looking ahead to entering Plymouth State, Stephanie is confident about her future in the women’s soccer program.
“I feel I’ll be capable of having a role on the team and being around players that will have skills like mine and better so I can learn from them and become a better player as well,” said Stephanie.
Praise for her coaches
Stephanie said she wouldn’t have achieved the success she did without the instruction and guidance of her coaches, Rich LaCara (soccer), Garcia Dalzon (indoor track), and John Parziale (outdoor track).
“They helped me so much,” said Stephanie. “They inspired me to be better. They told me to keep pushing toward my goals. Coach Dalzon was a mentor to me. He was there for not just track or school, but for everything. He was always finding opportunities for me. Mr. LaCara and Mr. Parziale were great coaches whose leadership and support went beyond the practices, games, and meets. All my coaches made sure you were keeping up on your grades.”
The Ultimate Honors
The MIAA honored Stephanie Faiella at its Celebration of National Women and Girls in Sports Day as “an outstanding female athlete who exemplifies the qualities of commitment, perseverance, and achievement who serves as a role model for girls and women striving for excellence through participation in sports.
Among the most prestigious awards in East Boston for graduating seniors are the high school Athlete of the Year Awards presented by the East Boston Athletic Board.
The annual star-studded banquet and major awards ceremony is held in June, but it was canceled this year due to COVID-19. According to David Arinella of the EBAB, Stephanie Faiella was the leading candidate for Female Athlete of the Year recognition.
“She is an outstanding student athlete, great in the classroom and great on the athletic field,” said Arinella. “She would have absolutely been a prime candidate for Athlete of the Year.”