SHIRLEY — A near record crowd — even in the absence of seniors on school trips — filled the Bull Run Inn’s main function room during the fourth annual Nashoba Publishing Sports Awards Night.
Master of ceremonies, Sports Editor Ken Blanchette, presented 31 awards to special contributors, outstanding student-athletes, and the top teams of the year.
“He is the number one fan of high school sports,” Managing Editor Kate Walsh said, introducing Blanchette. “He works all the time, Monday through Friday then does games, Saturdays, then does games, and Sunday he’s working on the paper for the next week. Vacation means a 75-hour week versus 80.
“Ken’s life goal is (producing) a scrapbook for families,” she said. “He believes in kids and youth sports.”
Blanchette said he’d rather be watching than speaking, calling himself the “weakest link” in the program to a standing ovation.
He thanked his wife who lives with his schedule, Walsh whom he described as the “heart of the paper,” colleagues and sponsors, Mount Wachusett Community College and Media News Group Inc. for allowing the event to take place.
“The pure talent of the award winners covers a wide range, but what they brought to their teams was a much narrower spread,” he said. “If you win an award, I liked what I saw. I talk a lot to coaches and athletic directors, and they liked what they saw, too. Being around my favorite student athletes, parents, teams, coaches and athletic directors makes this a fun night for me.”
Special contributor awards, honoring those “who make high school or town sports better because they are part of them,” Blanchette said, went to Ayer High School (AHS) social studies teacher Amy Allaire, Dr. Paul Harasimowicz, Groton Herald sports writer Robert Mingolelli and Townsend resident Robert Tumber.
Allaire, Blanchette said, is a fixture at the basketball scoring table, acting athletic director and always there when students need her.
Harasimowicz has not only “stocked” The Bromfield School with athletes for years, said Blanchette, but has “repaired and set back into motion” the careers of many athletes, coached the baseball team and has “been the first on the court at any game to aid fallen athletes.”
Pondering whether Mingolelli’s blood type may be “GD positive,” Blanchette said the sports writer’s passion for Groton-Dunstable Regional High School (GDRHS) sports programs is unwavering, and “the bottom line is, he cares.”
Tumber is the “right guy for the job” as treasurer of the North Middlesex Regional High School (NMRHS) Booster Club, said Blanchette, but also for his presence at basketball, football, night soccer and field hockey games as a “unique gentleman with a big heart” who “would do anything for the kids and the school.”
To be an unsung hero, the “wow factor had to kick in at some point” and “either a coach or an administrator raved about the attitude or performance of a student athlete,” said Blanchette. There must be contribution, respect, character, team play and performance.
Recipients of that award include Ayer High School quarterback and baseball player Jon Bollinger, Bromfield soccer and basketball player Bryan Molinaro, Groton-Dunstable soccer and hockey player Brian Flynn, and North Middlesex lacrosse and football player Ryan Zech.
Blanchette’s criteria for the Sports Editor’s Award is “simple and uncomplicated. First, I must like you. I must admire the way you play, and third, I must like what you have given your team.”
Recipients included D.J. Trinque of AHS, who starred in football and track, Bromfield School football and basketball player Reed Harasimowicz, Groton-Dunstable soccer player Ashley Alnwick, North Middlesex Regional High School soccer and basketball player Christine Kelleher, and Lawrence Academy soccer, basketball and softball player Erin Fleming.
Each year the athletic directors are given a choice of a student-athlete who is a great representative of their schools.
“I can’t say enough about the athletic directors and the job they do,” said Blanchette. “This year, as usual, they made some great choices.”
Allaire spoke for AHS Athletic Director Justin Lamoreaux, who nominated soccer, basketball and baseball athlete Will Comerford. A student, she said, who is wonderful to teach, hard-working and leads by example.
Bromfield Athletic Director Pam Alexander presented the award to cross country and track standout Eliza Ives.
“Eliza has always behaved to make the school proud, and the team has looked up to her for guidance,” said Alexander.
Groton-Dunstable Athletic Director Dan Twomey described cross country and track star Chris Funch as an “all around great kid” who is “defined by his leadership abilities” and “knows what to say, when and how to say it.”
North Middlesex Athletic Director Tim McCormick presented the award to cross-coutry and track all-star Allie Conner.
“Allie’s success has been earned by work ethic and leadership,” he said. “I admire her modesty, consistency and down-to-Earth attitude,” he said.
Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School Athletic Director Ben Benoit said his nominee, soccer, basketball and track standout Pearl Jurist-Schoen, is “the most impressive student to come to Parker,” and “in a world where it’s hard to be a three-sport athlete, she is a three-sport captain.”
The student-athlete awards were new this year and were presented to five students who have achieved both academically and athletically.
Student Athlete Awards went to AHS softball, track, basketball, and soccer player Erin Megan; Bromfield soccer, track and basketball player Lydia Maurer; Groton-Dunstable soccer player Elisabeth Wong; NMRHS field hockey player Beth Flatley; and Parker track star Chris Reeves.
A first-time special award, the Captain’s Award, was created to honor Groton-Dunstable baseball player Kelley Hutchinson at the urging of coach Mark Hennelly.
“Few kids have accomplished what she has. She was passionate and fully part of her team, playing 100 percent, always with class, and a prime reason why we won the statewide sportsmanship award,” Hennelly said.
A pair of teams were presented with Special Team Awards to honor outstanding seasons.
The North Middlesex field hockey team captured a MidWach A championship and finished with a 16-2-3 record. The Bromfield boys soccer team finished 18-1-2 overall, and earned a MidWach C title.
AHS volleyball, track and basketball standout Amanda Carlson received the Female Athlete of the Year Award.
There were two winners of the Male Athlete of the Year Award. Bromfield’s Ian Rothkopf was honored for overcoming a pair of injuries and putting together outstanding seasons in soccer and basketball. Ayer’s Will Comerford earned his second award of the night for his great play on the soccer, basketball and baseball teams.
Earning Female Team of the Year for the second consecutive year was the Bromfield cross country team, after they earned their second straight state championship.
“I only have one suggestion,” said Blanchette. “The Bromfield jersey should have a big “B” on the back just like they do on the front because that is the only side opponents are used to seeing.”
Receiving the Male Team of the Year Award was the Ayer football team, which shared a league championship and finished with a 10-1 record.
“This was our best team in 17 years,” said head coach Jamie Lamoreaux. “We play hard. It’s difficult for a (Class) D school to win a (Class) C division, but year in and year out we’re there. I couldn’t be prouder.
“Congratulations to all student athletes for seeing their sport through to the end,” he said. “It’s too easy to quit in today’s society. Congratulations to all the parents.”