(Our Shore Ortho Senior of the Month, sponsored by Shore Orthopaedic University Associates, highlights a senior student-athlete who exemplifies excellence both on and off the field. We consider things like athletic ability, academic achievement, leadership qualities and the athlete’s impact on the sports teams they play for and their school as a whole. Hammonton 2023 graduate Emma Peretti is our choice for the month of July.)

By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

Emma Peretti said what she’s most excited about when she gets to the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., later this month is meeting new people from all walks of life and from places she’s never been to. Most of them will probably have a hard time believing her when she talks about her high school athletic exploits at Hammonton High School. They’ll think she’s embellishing to try to impress them.

The 2023 graduate, and our selection for the Shore Ortho Senior of the Month for July, had a memorable career in three sports while at Hammonton and will go down in Blue Devils lore as one of the best athletes to every walk the hallways on Old Forks Road.

As a goalie in soccer she racked up 117 saves as a senior and finished with an incredible 445 for her four-year career. And that was her third-best sport. In basketball, she scored more than 1,000 points and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds, and in track she won a state championship in the shot put. On top of all that, she was named the Female Athlete of the Year by the Press of Atlantic City and also won the Old Grad Award, a prestigious title that recognizes the best male and female athletes in Atlantic County.

Her success is probably no surprise to the folks in Hammonton, as her father and one of her older sisters were 1,000-point scorers at Hammonton, and another older sister graduated first in her class.

When asked if she felt any pressure to live up to the family name while wearing royal blue and black, Peretti said, “that’s a good question. I would say yes, in basketball. Because they were both in the 1,000-point club and I wanted to also join that club and score 1,000 points. But once I started playing basketball and got used to the girls on the team and started doing really well, it kind of took the pressure off because I knew that it was a goal that I could reach and I knew it was only a matter of time before I did reach 1,000 points. So, I would say that probably after my freshman year the pressure was off.”

Emma Peretti had a tremendous basketball career at Hammonton High, finishing with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

Despite heading to Yale for track and field, on the basketball court is where Peretti really shined. She was one of South Jersey’s best, and a double-double machine. There were only two games her senior year — a loss against Wildwood Catholic and a blowout win over Atlantic Tech — when she didn’t register at least 10 points and 10 rebounds. Eight times she had a double-double that featured more than 20 points, and in perhaps the best performance of her career she racked up 29 points and 24 rebounds in a win over Holy Spirit.

“Looking back, I’m extremely happy with everything that I did at Hammonton and I’m really proud when I think of the legacy I left,” she said. “I actually didn’t know I was close to 1,000 rebounds. Junior year my coach brought it to my attention and I was like, ‘oh, my gosh, I can get 1,000 rebounds.’ That was just something that I never really thought of. (Getting rebounds) just came naturally to me.”

Having athletic and academic success is something that has come naturally to Peretti, but the recognition that comes along with being one of the best athletes in South Jersey still makes her blush.

“I never would have imagined that I would get as much recognition as I did,” she said. “Obviously, a goal for basketball was to score 1,000 points. In soccer, not that I didn’t have any goals, but soccer was kind of new to me. My freshman year was the first year I actually had real goalie training. So my goal was to just stop as many shots as I could. I never would have thought that I’d have over 100 saves for three straight seasons. For track, I think everyone dreams of winning a championship or winning a title. To think that (winning a state championship) really happened, I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

Being a star athlete in a small town like Hammonton is an experience like no other, and Peretti said she cherished every moment of it.

“The community is great. I work at Nino’s Pizzarama in town on the weekends as a waitress and I’ve had people be like, ‘oh my, God, you’re Emma Peretti! I read about you in the paper.’ Stuff like that,” Peretti said. “I’ll talk to them, tell them about my career. It’s little things like that, everybody’s rooting for everybody in this town because we are a small town. When people of the town read that we’re doing well, everybody’s rooting for us.”

The key to Peretti’s success in athletics while also carrying a heavy academic workload and finishing in the top 10 in her graduating class, she said, was trying to stay ahead of the game anytime she could.

“I’m the kind of person that if I get stressed about a test or something, the only way I’m going to feel better about it is if I study and I make sure that I know the material,” she said. “A lot of it is pre-planning. If you know you have a game Wednesday night in Lower Cape May and then you have a test on Thursday, well, hey, you better start studying for that on Monday night or over the weekend prior so you’re not setting yourself up for cramming everything the last minute.

“I was always trying to do things ahead, and also getting work done during the day. You have to be proactive and not push everything off.”

Peretti’s ability to stay ahead of the game, both in and out of sports, helped her become a leader during her career at Hammonton. Her teammates and coaches in basketball thought so highly of her that they made her a team captain as a sophomore.

“I was put in a captain position my sophomore year for basketball. As a freshman on varsity I was used to playing with the older girls and learning from them, so I think they did a very good job of preparing me for when I took on that leadership role,” Peretti said. “It is tough being an underclassman and being a captain because who’s going to listen to a sophomore? But in my junior and senior years, because all these younger girls knew who I was and what I was capable of doing, there was a lot of respect there.

“I just wanted to try to teach the girls everything that my upperclassmen taught me,” she continued. “The importance of doing the right thing. In school, keeping up with your grades, keeping up with your work. The importance of putting in work — putting in extra work — whether it’s after practice or before practice. Little things, like in basketball, if I noticed that freshmen were struggling with shooting I’d suggest to them, ‘hey, you want to stay after practice with me? We’ll put some shots up.’ Just stuff like that to expose them to doing all this extra stuff so that it comes second nature to them when I’m gone.”

Peretti certainly lived up to her billing as a captain and leaves behind a legacy that will be tough for anyone at Hammonton to match. Now, however, it’s on to the next chapter of her life, at Yale.

“I am super excited to just meet new people. When I had my official visit there, the people I met were some of the coolest people with the coolest backgrounds ever,” she said. “And now I have a whole school of people yet to meet. So I’m really excited to make connections there and meet new people.”

Some of the people she meets might be skeptical when she says she had 400-plus saves as a soccer goalie, 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds as a basketball player and won a state championship as a track athlete, but they should never doubt Emma Peretti. When she sets her mind on something, she gets it done.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sullyglorydays@gmail.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays