Lawlor guides Haverhill back to the top

When Tim Lawlor took the head Haverhill High wrestling position, he said he wanted the Hillies to move up from the MVC small division to the large division “to wrestle with the big boys.”

Well, Lawlor did just that and Haverhill showed that it can wrestle with anyone. This winter the Hillies were a sparkling 19-4 record, its only MVC setbacks to state powerhouses Chelmsford, Methuen and Central Catholic.

Haverhill finished fourth in the Division 1 North sectional and, among its dual wins was a 43-30 victory over North Andover — only the second time the Hillies had ever beaten the Knights. Clearly, Haverhill is back with the big boys.

In high school, Lawlor had a fine 90-12 career record for the Hillies and placed third at All-States in 2003. He had a good career Bridgewater State and then in four years built up Malden Catholic, including a school-record 19 wins.

A special education teacher at the high school, Lawlor is a huge promoter of the sport and has done a lot to make the sport more popular and to retain those wrestlers who come out for the team. Haverhill’s third-year head coach is a master at building team spirit and encouraging his wrestlers to keep training during the offseason.

Lawlor, who also coaches baseball and has coached football, stays involved on the mat in the offseason with the Wildcat program.

With older brother Mike also a former wrestler and his father, Mickey, the head of the youth program, there is always plenty of wrestling talk to go around.

Boys Track

French loss: Can’t beat the Astros

Pinkerton churns out state champions like few others in the Granite State. Arguably the Astros’ premier program is boys track under eighth-year head coach Ian French.

This winter Pinkerton won its sixth Division 1 state title in the last seven years. The other year (2017) the Astros were second.

“We’ve had some really talented and really nice kids,” said French, an economics teacher at Pinkerton. “The turning point was we all figured out what we are good at.”

We would be assistant coaches Carol Quarles, the head coach of the powerhouse boys spring team, and Sherri Nourse.

French assists Quarles in the spring and is a boys cross country assistant coach at Londonderry.

A 2000 Pinkerton grad, French was a two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star, both times for indoor track (1,000 meters). But he likely wasn’t the star of the family. His sister Darci was the homecoming queen.

Ian lives in Londonderry with his wife, Katie, a Nashua North grad, and their 5-month old, Elizabeth.

“After practice, it’s a half hour on the stationary bike then hang out with Katie and the baby,” said French, a Hampstead native who ran at SUNY-Albany and St. Rose.

Girls Track

Derro calls this Pentucket team ‘special’

Pentucket girls track swept some major awards with winter with Saige Tudisco our MVP and now Steve Derro the winner of our Coach of the Year.

“This team was special,” said the 49-year-old Pentucket grad, who has worked as a paraprofessional at his alma mater for 23 years. “Yes, we have some high-end talent but we have a team full of unsung heroes who work so well together. Everyone puts the team first, which is why we’ve been successful.”

The Sachems again cleaned up, winning the Cape Ann League Kinney Division title, sharing the Division 4 state title with North Reading and winning the All-State pentathlon team title.

For a school of 371 girls, the numbers are impressive with almost 80 on the girls’ team.

Derro, a standout sprinter for the Sachems, gives plenty of credit to assistants.

“I have a great group of assistants,” said Derro.

JC Honer, who started the middle school program, and Joe Kulis are veterans. Matt Mezzetti, who ran for Derro, is a first-year assistant.

Sachem pride runs deep with Derro.

“I can’t imagine coaching anywhere else,” he said.


One simple fact ... Marchegiani’s the best

It’s not ideal to select the same Coach of the Year for two straight years, but in the case of North Andover’s Jerry Marchegiani, it’s unavoidable.

In his 46th consecutive season at North Andover, Marchegiani isn’t slowing down. His record and his enthusiasm for the sport attest to that.

He guided the Scarlet Knight girls to a perfect regular season in the North Shore League for the fourth straight year as well as their fourth straight Interscholastic crown. They placed fourth at the state meet, a finish that surely would have been higher if his No. 2 skier hadn’t crashed and been carried off the mountain on a toboggan.

Marchegiani likes to win as much as anyone, but he takes a keen interest in the lives of his skiers and is generous in his praise of opposing skiers. While he is gung-ho for North Andover, he is nearly as passionate about the sport in general.

During the season he stated that he will probably keep coaching until he reaches 50 years on the slopes.

“Why not?” he said. “I still love it and I have the time and the energy to do it.”

This is the fifth time that the affable Marchegiani has received the award named after him. The others were 2002 (the first year of the award), 2006, 2007 and 2017.

His sons, four-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star Ross, Alex, Justin and Matt, all were standouts for the Knights.


Haverhill’s Tarbox building model of success

Building a program from scratch is a lot of work, but you don’t need to tell Melanie (Veltsos) Tarbox that.

Now, that isn’t entirely the case with the second-year Haverhill gymnastics coach, who took over the position a year into the program’s existence. But in her two seasons at the helm, Tarbox has the Hillies leaping in the right direction.

This season, Haverhill (5-4) enjoyed its first winning season.

That’s no small feat for a young program competing against the likes of Andover and Central Catholic in the talented MVC.

The Hillies broke their school meet record with a 132.75, and placed fourth overall at the MVC championship for their highest finish ever. Junior Alex Auguste and sophomore Jenna Dutton qualified for the individual state championship, and Auguste then qualified for New Englands.

In just two years, Tarbox has drastically increased turnout for the program. This year’s team had 20 gymnasts, up nine from last year. Captain Sarah Cowley — the lone senior on the team — believes that holding practice at the Haverhill YMCA has helped draw the interest of younger gymnasts.

Whatever the reason may be, Tarbox, a 2003 Haverhill High grad, has certainly done the job leading the charge.

Tarbox, a Grade 5 special education teacher at Haverhill’s J.G. Whittier Middle School, also coaches track and cross country.

She’s married to Haverhill girls soccer coach Fred Tarbox.


Fox guides Phillips boys to NE record

Breaking a school record is special, no doubt.

Breaking a New England Prep record is far more extraordinary.

That is what seventh-year Phillips boys coach David Fox got to watch his 200-yard medley relay team do at the Division 1 New England Prep Championship. The team of Jack Warden (from Bradford), Neil Simpson, Lance Freiman and Arnold Su swam the event in 1:31.15, breaking the two-year New England Prep D1 record (1:31.71).

According to Fox, his team’s time is currently the 10th-fastest in the country among all schools.

But besides breaking a record, Fox also guided Phillips to its third consecutive New England title and eighth since 2007.

And just two weeks prior, Phillips placed second out of 28 scoring teams at the Eastern Interscholastic Championship — a meet the Phillips website refers to as “the most prestigious high school meet in the nation.” The Big Blue finished with 537 points, finishing just behind Pennsylvania’s Haverford School (550.5).

Fox is no stranger to breaking records. He once held the school record in nine of the 18 individual swimming events at Bates, where he earned his undergraduate degree before completing his Master’s at Harvard.

Fox is an English teacher at Phillips.

Boys Basketball

A three-peat for Brooks and McVeigh

Brooks head coach John McVeigh is in the midst of what could be the greatest run by a boys basketball coach in Eagle-Tribune area history.

This winter, Brooks took home its third straight New England Prep Class B championship, rolling over Rivers 65-40 in the title game to finish the winter 26-0.

The Green and White have won a whopping 66 straight games. The last time Brooks lost was on Jan. 17, 2016 to Beaver Country Day.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for the past three years playing and managing for coach (McVeigh),” Tweeted Penn State football recruit Pat Freiermuth of Merrimac, a former Brooks hoops standout who spent this winter as team manager. “He has done so much for me and the Brooks community, both on and off the court.”

Now in his 15th season leading Brooks, McVeigh owns a 262-95 record. He also took home Eagle-Tribune Coach of the Year in 2007.

McVeigh is, of course, the son of 31-year North Andover High head coach Mike McVeigh, who set the area record with 497 career wins before retiring in 2013. Dad, a member of the Mass. Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, now assists his son.

John starred for his father before playing at Merrimack College (class of 1998). He earned his master’s degree from Duke, where he volunteered for the legendary men’s basketball program. He currently teaches English and is dean of faculty at Brooks.

He and his wife, Andover High teacher Candice, have two children.


Andover’s Kuchar makes history after suspension

Andover could have fallen apart.

Off to a hot start, the Golden Warriors were suddenly forced to play without their head coach, taken away due to highly controversial accusations that resulted in an indefinite suspension.

But while Chris Kuchar fought to keep his job, Andover held together by playing hockey the Kuchar way.

“We just stuck to what Coach Kuchar has been teaching us since he arrived here,” said All-Scholastic goalie Cole Chingris. “We knew we had no control over the situation so we just played the brand of hockey coach Kuchar taught us.”

Kuchar beat those accusations, cleared an investigation by the Department of Children and Families, and Andover delivered a historic season on the ice.

The Golden Warriors earned their first trip to the elite Super 8 tournament since it was founded in 1991, becoming the only local team other than Central Catholic to qualify. Andover finished the winter 13-7-2.

Now in his fourth season as Golden Warrior coach, Kuchar has a 52-24-13 record. That includes a trip to the Division 1 North title game in 2017 and two other tournament appearances.

A former Haverhill hockey star, Kuchar, 47, works for MountainOne Bank in Danvers. Previous coaching stops were as head coach for Amesbury/Whittier (2010-14) and as an assistant for Haverhill (2000-07) and North Andover (2008-09).

Girls Basketball

Pinkerton’s Buskey with another memorable season

The talent is plentiful at Pinkerton, but Lani Buskey has proven that she knows how to coach it.

Just take junior Brooke Kane.

Under Buskey’s guidance, the 6-foot junior transformed into the N.H. Division 1 MVP this year, averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star has improved dramatically during her three years in the program.

This year, the fifth-year coach led Pinkerton (20-4 including Christmas tournaments) to the Division 1 title game for the first time in her tenure. During the season, the Astros were a model of consistency, beating teams by an average of 27.8 points per game. That included a dominant 3-0 run through the Salem Lady Blue Devil Holiday Classic where they beat a talented Division 2 team in Pelham, 63-38.

In the state finals, Pinkerton was beat by three-time defending champion Bishop Guertin — a team that accounted for half of the Astros’ losses this season.

In her five years at the helm, Buskey has led the Astros to three state semifinal appearances and one state championship game.

Buskey, a graduate of UNH, assisted her predecessor, John Barry, for 10 years at Pinkerton. She was his first captain in the 1997-98 season.

Buskey is an English teacher at Pinkerton.

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