EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 14, 2013

Male Athlete of the Year: Pelham junior Vaiknoras a three-sport all-star

Michael Muldoon
mmuldoon@eagletribune.com

---- — Pelham High star Jake Vaiknoras belongs to two clubs which may be more exclusive than Augusta National.

One is the three-sport Eagle-Tribune All-Star club. And that’s three very different sports (golf, basketball, baseball).

That club is a rarity.

But Vaiknoras is a member of an even more exclusive club. He’s a three-sport captain as a junior.

He’s likely the first athlete in area history to achieve both of those milestones simultaneously.

His father, Joe Vaiknoras, is the Pythons’ golf coach and speaks admiringly of his son, the male winner of the Max Bishop Award as the top three-sport athlete among the 23 schools in the Eagle-Tribune circulation area.

“I’ve seen him play in a summer basketball league and he’ll take 5-6 charges,” said Joe. “It’s that type of leadership by example. He was always the kid the other boys looked up to.”

Except when he looked up to the other boys. Like when he was 5 years old hanging around his oldest brother Joey (PHS ‘03) at baseball practice.

“He was taking ground balls with the high school baseball team,” said his father. “I knew he was something special when he was very young.”

Father knew best. This year Jake led the Pythons to a 22-0 regular season in golf and fired a 79-78—157 to finish second at Division 3 States. He averaged 16.1 points a game in basketball, which was eighth highest in the area. This spring he batted .365 and was 15 of 16 on steals and scored 17 runs.

“He competes and wins at everything he does,” said baseball coach Billy Beauchesne.

Competition and winning are the two elements of sports closest to Vaiknoras’ heart.

“It’s just my will to win,” said Jake. “If I’m going to make a two-hour trip to Keene, I might as well go all out. I can’t stand when people don’t give the effort.”

The 5-11, 175-pounder has the frame of a football star. Folks in Pelham always expected that’s what he’d be most well known for.

“There were many games he’d had 3-4-5 TDs,” said his father. “One game he had three TD runs over 60 yards.”

But in the eighth grade Pop Warner playoffs he suffered a scary concussion. Not as much was known about concussions then, but the family knew it was serious.

“He was throwing up, dizzy, his eyes were rolling around,” recalled his father.

“That killed me,” said Jake of having to sit out the title game. “But that helped me on the decision (not to play in high school). That and that my dad is the golf coach.”

Jake, who is the youngest of five, including athletic older brothers Joey, Jamison (PHS ‘08) and Jesse (PHS ‘11), all but has a second home at Campbell’s Scottish Highlands.

He’s been dominating on the links for a long time. As a 10-year-old, he won the Rogers Golf 10-12 year-old division championship. He beat out another future area golf/basketball standout, Bradford’s Tyler Nelson.

Like Nelson, Vaiknoras could have opted for a powerhouse Catholic school like Central Catholic.

But he’s always been a Python.

“Growing up it was awesome with (basketball greats) James Roman and the Hojlos, thinking one day I’d be there,” he said.

Mature for his age, Vaiknoras, who is ranked in the top 20 percent of his class, is working a paid internship this summer with DTB Tax in Pelham. He’d like to study accounting and play golf down south.

He’s accomplished much individually, but that’s not his focus for his senior year.

He wants that first state title.

At least.

“State championships are the goal,” he said. “I could care less what I do as long as we win three state championships.”

Follow Michael Muldoon on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.