AYER -- Holly Caires, a June graduate of Ayer Shirley Regional High School, is a coaches' and teachers' dream.
The Shirley native was a multi-year captain for both the girls' soccer team, which made its first trip to the postseason in eight years, and the track and field team.
When the fall semester draws near, Caires will be off to sunshiney Tampa, Fla., where she will attend the University of Tampa with classmate Hannah Levensailor. Caires plans to major in marine biology, and to try out for the University of Tampa track and field team.
"For the four years I was on the soccer team, we never really had a strong team until this year," Caires said. "We came into the start of practice more disciplined and focused. Our team was closer than ever this year because we went through the summer workouts together."
In the classroom, Caires consistently found her name on the honor roll, and was a member of the National Honor Society and student council.
"My four years at Ayer were unbelievable," Caires said. "I spent a lot of time doing track and playing soccer. I was happy that I had the opportunity to captain both of those teams for the last two years. Being involved with student council and honor society was a great learning experience."
Caires, along with her classmates, would visit local nursing homes around Christmas to sing carols to the residents. For Caires, the smile on the people's faces were something she will never forget.
"That was my favorite thing to do," Caires said. "The elderly people really truly enjoyed us singing Christmas carols. They enjoyed them so much that they would hold up signs that read 'sing again.' We danced and sang all over the nursing home -- they really loved it."
On the track, the Panthers showed their youth, but Caires was up for the challenge of mentoring her teammates and preparing them for next season.
"We are definitely going to miss her leadership," Ayer Shirley girls track and field head coach Mike Seguin said. "For those last two years, she has really matured into a trustworthy captain that we as coaches could count on. She was a great person to have on the team. The biggest part of her was that she understood what it meant to be part of the team and be a captain. Maybe she didn't get the best type of guidance as a freshman, and she wants to show the younger girls the right way to be an athlete."
Caires does not have just one event where she is very successful in, she has multiple. Seguin has used Caires as anything from a distance runner to sprint -- and she did it without hesitation.
"Holly was really willing to do whatever she needed to do to help out our team," Seguin said. "Holly understood everything about track from earning points. She understood why we needed her to compete in whatever event I told her to. She knew I didn't put her in an event to waste her time. All of the younger girls look up to her. Holly is the perfect athlete. If you want to try and emulate anybody, it would be her."
Seguin had one final challenge for his senior captain at the team's district meet earlier this month. Run the pentathlon, an event that was added to the District meet for the first time. Caires accepted her coach's challenge and not only did she do it, she placed fifth.
"She never ran an 800-meter before or hurdles," Seguin said. "She never did those events before, but in the weeks leading up to it, she learned them. Holly will be missed by me and the rest of the girls. She's a great athlete, but above all of that, she is a great person."