By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The nine young men waited eagerly as the five judges deliberated.
Their fans in the audience sat in suspense, each hoping that his or her champion would claim the coveted prize. And then, the decision came.
Nick Pangakis, a high school senior who runs track in all three seasons and contemplates a career in public service, was the winner of the crown: Mr. North Andover 2013.
Many a local boy dreams of one day reigning over the community as Mr. North Andover. As the rowdy cheers erupted from the NAHS auditorium, Pangakis was awed and humbled as he contemplated the significance of the moment.
The new Mr. North Andover gained his triumph the evening of March 15. Indeed, Pangakis did not need to beware the Ides of March.
This was the 20th annual Mr. North Andover pageant, a tradition that has become highly honored in the hallowed halls of North Andover High School.
“It’s kind of like a play on Miss America,” Pangakis noted. Yes, there was even a swimwear competition, at which Pangakis reportedly did very well. All that running makes for strong and attractive legs, you see.
Contestants had to do more than just show off their handsome physiques. The young men had to demonstrate their aptitude for entertaining.
Pangakis excelled in that department. Doing a spoof on the movie “Anchorman,” he presented a newscast – aided by video clips – in which he played a basketball star, a track star and athletics director John Longley among other people.
He even portrayed Pope Francis, who had just been elected to his new position only two days before. Pangakis, however, identified himself as Pope Nicholas. Like all of the contestants, Pangakis expressed a heartfelt tribute to his sponsor, fellow NAHS senior Catie Wolstromer.
Each Mr. North Andover candidate was sponsored by a young woman. Wolstromer explained that the job of the sponsor is to support the candidate and make sure he commands the proper attention.
In his tribute, Pangakis thanked Wolstromer for being a good friend to him over the years and for her help in getting ready for the competition.
“It was a fun experience,” said Pangakis, the son of James and Tara Pangakis.
Winning the title was not an easy feat, as Pangakis faced talented competitors. Matt Emmons, the runner-up, animated a cartoon he created called “If I Were a Cat.” He was sponsored by Alyssa Doherty.
The judges were TV weatherman Barry Burbank, state Rep. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, who represents most of North Andover in the House, Town Manager Andrew Maylor, Kellee Twadell, the owner of Rose & Dove, a gift shop on Route 125, and Gareth Morgan, the runner-up in the 1998 Mr. North Andover contest. Morgan is now a scientist affiliated with Morgan Scientific.
Debbi Raffalli coordinated the contest along with Melissa Downey, an NAHS English teacher who served as faculty adviser. Connor Meehan, also an English teacher at the high school, served as master of ceremonies. Isaiah Nelson, an NAHS senior, was the co-master of ceremonies.
Pangakis and the other contestants were not the only ones who provided entertainment that night. The teachers wowed the audience with a choreographed dance routine, the A Capella group sang and the Pep Band played some selections.
All 800 tickets were sold, Raffalli said. While only one winner could be named, she told the contestants, “All of you deserve it.”
“They work so hard,” she said.
It didn’t take long for news of Pangakis’ victory to get around the town. When he went to breakfast at Perfecto’s the next morning, he received congratulations from several patrons.