Falling in love with Romeo

By Brad Halasz

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

She’s here, at the University of Calgary, and there’s nothing tragic about her as she makes unprecedented waves across campus this fall.

The list of accomplishments for 15-year-old Carolina Romeo is long, but you can bet being the youngest athlete to don a Dinos uniform is at the top– that and receiving the highest paid scholarship (Chancellor’s Club) to pursue studies in the Schulich School of Engineering.

Gracing the cover of Calgary’s major newspapers, Romeo has given the sport of field hockey an unexpected boost and Dinos head coach Jenn Swagar is ecstatic she picked the U of C.

“I was glad when she chose the U of C because she shopped herself around for sure,” said Swagar. “No one gave her the same ability to play sports and [that scholarship]– I don’t know what family would turn that down.”

Romeo’s steadfast journey to post-secondary education is as unique as it is impressive. After her family moved to Calgary from Buenos Aries, Argentina in 2000, the gifted Romeo quickly made it known that she was in an elite class of her own.

By the time she entered high school, she was receiving grades in the high 90s and managed to balance an athletic and social life most people her age can’t find time for.

“When we found out she was as young as she is, in a high school setting, we worried about whether or not she was going to fit in with the rest of the group, but nobody had any clue that she was as young as she was,” said Centennial High School athletic director Ken Zelez, where Romeo graduated with honours and a 97 per cent average in 2007.

Learning to balance a full schedule in high school is commendable, but university life can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. Romeo, though, is ready to take on the post-secondary world with the same kind of tenacious vigor she displays on the field hockey pitch.

“I am a little nervous about how much the course load is actually going to be because a lot of people say it’s really heavy,” she said.

For now, Romeo is more overwhelmed with the publicity she has received, saying she didn’t expect the media to cover her so intensely.

“It was a little weird, I didn’t expect it to be that big, but it was pretty cool to be on the front page,” she said. “My family was very excited, too. My friends gave me a lot of, ‘Congratulations. Oh my god you’re famous, you’re on the front page!’ “

Romeo’s maturity is beyond many university students, let alone a 15-year-old’s. In fact, her teammates took some convincing to prove her age.

“Most of [my teammates], when they first met me, didn’t know I was younger,” she said. “The ones that I met this year didn’t believe it.”

Romeo proved age is just a number when she sat on Centennial’s athletic council with Zelez, which helped organize tournaments, special events and scorekeeping.

“Even when she couldn’t make it to a meeting she would follow up with an e-mail [asking,] ‘What did I miss?’ ” said Zelez. “She was so busy out of school and in school, but she would always find out what she missed.”

For some students, breezing through junior high and high school so quickly might leave them wanting more of a childhood, others might relish the fact that they are ahead of the game, but Romeo said that she is living the best of both worlds.

“I still hang out with friends that are my age and I still had the high school experience,” she said.

While high school is in the past, Romeo looks to the months ahead and what she needs to accomplish. The field hockey team struggled last year, but with the addition of Romeo and the return of key veterans, Swagar sees the potential for improving this fall.

“We’re young, but we are a ‘team’ this year,” said Swagar. “We weren’t that cohesive [last year], but we got there. We got better at the end of the year.”

She added Romeo’s presence on the team is welcomed with open arms.

“She’s perfect, the whole package, easy to get along with, she’s sociable, and she’s academic and athletically brilliant.”

For Romeo, her personal goals are simple: on the field, she hopes to make the Canadian Interuniversity Sport nationals while off the field she hopes to manage her year and make it as stress free` as possible– an attainable goal proven by her past record.

In the meantime, she will keep doing what 15-year-olds do– and a little more.

As Zelez said when first describing Romeo, “She’s an absolutely beautiful girl, inside and out.”

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