EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 6, 2012

Sports in a Minute: Merrimack men's soccer earns first-ever NCAA berth

Chuck Frye
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Warrior men get first-ever NCAA berth

The Warriors (14-3-2), who had gone nearly two full months without suffering a defeat before dropping the Northeast-10 championship game to Southern New Hampshire on Sunday, will face NE-10 rival Franklin Pierce in the tournament’s first round on Friday night at 6 p.m. in Manchester, N.H.

Merrimack earned the No. 3 seed in the six-team East Super Region. Should the Warriors advance, they will have the opportunity to avenge their most recent loss against the No. 2 seed and site host Southern New Hampshire in the tournament’s second round on Sunday.

On the other side of the bracket, the top seed in the region belonged to LIU Post, who enters the tournament with an 18-1 overall record. They will face either fourth-seeded UMass-Lowell or fifth-seeded Post on Sunday as well.

The regional finalists will face off on either Nov. 15 or 16 in the third round before taking on the winner of the Atlantic Region two days later in the NCAA quarterfinals.

The Final Four will be held from Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga.

Foxboro becomes Faulksboro

Kevin Faulk, who announced his retirement on Oct. 10 after spending his entire 13-year career as a member of the New England Patriots, will be honored in a special halftime ceremony at this Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills to allow fans an opportunity to celebrate his career.

Faulk, who filled various roles for the Patriots during his years with the team, joined the club in 1999 as a second-round pick (46th overall) out of LSU. He is the Patriots all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349) and kickoff return yards (4,098) and is the Patriots’ all-time leading return specialist, totaling 5,041 combined return yards (4,098 kick return yards and 943 punt return yards).

In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Faulk has also been an integral part of the community since becoming a Patriot. Even in retirement, Faulk remains active with the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and still hosts an annual celebrity softball game in Brockton to benefit the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the United Way of Acadiana in his home state of Louisiana.

Matt Light, who retired from the Patriots this spring following an 11-year career with the Patriots, will be honored at halftime of a game later this season.

Weekend running stars

The longest race of the weekend, the Jack London 10K Trail Race in Nashua, had the best local performances as well.

Cambridge’s Daniel Kramer won with an impressive time of 33:01. Coming in third was Atkinson’s Aidan Kimball (35:11) followed by Pelham’s Tim Mallard in seventh place (36:37) and Andover’s Peter Brown in ninth (37:39). Plaistow’s Nick Novaris and Atkinson teens Dana Aylward and Liam Kimball turned in top 20 efforts.

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Methuen’s Chris Hamel traveled to Springfield and placed fourth in the Sheriff’s Shuffle 5K, 58 seconds behind winner Jose Rivera.

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North Andover’s Brett Budzinski took part in Wakefield’s Run for the Ages 5K and came in fourth in 16:43, just 39 seconds after victor Gregory Putnam of Stoneham.

Running for a cause in NYC

Even though their race was called off, marathoners were still on the move in New York on Sunday.

Hundreds of runners wearing marathon shirts and backpacks full of supplies took the ferry to hard-hit Staten Island and ran to stricken neighborhoods to help. Thousands of others poured into Central Park to put in 26.2 miles after the official cancellation of the world’s largest marathon because of Superstorm Sandy.

“A lot of people just wanted to finish what they started,” said Lance Svendsen, who organized an alternative marathon called Run Anyway. By 8:45 a.m., his group had sent off five waves of runners from the marathon’s official finish line, which had not yet been taken down. “It is amazing. My guess is about 600 people have left so far.”

It was a throwback to the original New York City Marathon in 1970, which was run with 127 people completely within Central Park.

This year’s runners all are guaranteed entry into next year’s race.

Teen makes Masters field

Guan Tianglang, a 14-year-old middle school student from China, will become the youngest player in Masters history next April after he won an Asian amateur event devised to help grow the game of golf in that region of the world.

Guan won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand, shooting a final-round 71 to hold off @text5:Pan Cheng-tsung of Chinese Taipei by a single stroke.

He holed a 5-footer for par on the last hole at Amata Spring Country Club to clinch his spot in the Masters.

The youngest player in the field, Guan led wire to wire with the knowledge that a victory would get him to the Masters in 2013. This tournament, which began three years ago with the backing of Augusta National Golf Club and the R&A, exempts the winner into the year’s first major and into the finals of International Final Qualifying for the Open Championship.

At 14 years, five months and 17 days, he will be the youngest player to compete in the Masters by more than two years. Italy’s Matteo Manassero was 16 when he played in 2010 by virtue of winning the 2009 British Amateur.

Payton extension rejected

The preseason contract extension signed by Sean Payton was voided by the NFL according to league sources, potentially making the suspended Saints head coach a free agent after this season.

After joining with quarterback Drew Brees to resuscitate the Saints, Payton will be a popular option to take over a struggling franchise. Speculation exists that Dallas is a possible destination, where he worked as the assistant head coach from 2003 to 2005. Also, quarterback Tony Romo and Payton attended the same college, Eastern Illinois.

The clause in Payton’s extension that made it invalid involved language that would allow him to leave if Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended, fired or left the team. Citing that the clause would set a bad precedent for other contracts, the NFL rejected the deal before Loomis’ suspension as part of Bountygate.