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March 2, 2013

Memory Lane: McVeigh follows heart, leaves impression at Merrimack

15 years ago: McVeigh follows heart to Merrimack

John McVeigh had started a successful academic life at Holy Cross 15 years ago.

But after two semesters of straight-A work, the game was calling the 6-3 North Andover resident and son of Scarlet Knights head coach Mike McVeigh.

After a meeting with head coach Bert Hammel, McVeigh landed at Merrimack College.

“He sat down in my office, in a very respectful manner, and said, ‘Coach Hammel, all I want is a chance to play,’” said Hammel. “So many kids say they’re going to do this, or they’re going to come in and start. He just wanted a chance.”

He got his chance, becoming team captain in his senior year.

“How do you say goodbye to someone you look at as a son?” Hammel asked. “He is a special person. He’s from my world, in the ‘60s. He didn’t question authority. The team was always first for him. … I love him. That’s all I can say, I love him.”

“I got a lot out of Merrimack, too,” McVeigh said. “Bert taught me to strive for more. Nobody will confuse me with someone with a lot of talent, but coach always told me that hustling is a talent.”

In his best season, McVeigh averaged 8.5 points a game. He also graduated among the top 10 students in his class and moved on to graduate school at Duke.

15 years ago: New record for Andover relay quartet

At the Class B state meet 15 years ago, the Andover quartet of Kasie Dexter, Nikki Winters, Kristen Munson and Katherine Blais won the 4x800 relay in a meet record 9:59.88, shattering a record set by Andover two years earlier.

Barbara Contos also was triumphant for Andover, pulling away midway through the race to win the 55-meter hurdles in 8.77 seconds.

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