The fall sports season is over and has been for a week now for local teams with all the soccer and field hockey teams throughout the area competing in at least one New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) post-season tournament game.
As most of you know the Berlin and Gorham soccer teams had an abbreviated schedule of regular-season games and competed in and were eliminated in tournament play prior to the finals. Berlin's field hockey team had a nice regular season and tournament run and qualified for the Division III finals only to be forced to forfeit the game to Bishop Brady due to a rise in COVID-19 virus cases in our area.
Berlin High School's cross-country running team had a much different situation with five regular-season meets, mostly local with very little stiff competition in any of those meets since there was only one real legitimate team (a compliment of at least five runners). Coach Bob Lord and his strong team worked throughout the summer and into the fall season, did the best they could with those five local races and prepped hard for the Division III and IV meet to be held in Manchester on Nov. 1.
With a number of cases of the virus in the area, the school administration made the decision to cancel all remaining games and meets, namely the BHS field hockey finals and the cross-country divisional championships. Coach Lord found out after the team's last official workout on a rainy Thursday afternoon (Oct. 28) that they would not be attending and competing in the meet.
Coach Lord did tell me that "The state cross-country committee had planned and worked for two months to make the three divisional races as safe as humanly possible with numerous mandates in place. Those included separate ‘holding areas’ for each team, running the races in waves to keep the kids as separated as possible, absolutely no spectators, only coaches and race officials present and all were masked. After the race the kids would head right back to the bus, coaches would get the results and awards and return home. In addition, the kids would be running on a 3.1 mile out-of-doors, through woods and roads course. There would be very little chance of compromising anyone."
He added, "We understand the situation and we all obviously accepted it. Based on how the season went and the hardworking, dedicated kids we had, a chance to race against some very talented and fully complimented teams at the divisional meet was what we were focused on. After seeing the results of that race, we had a solid chance of advancing to the Meet of Champions (held Saturday at Derryfield Park in Manchester). We addressed it together, understood the situation and obviously accepted it but nevertheless were bitterly disappointed. It was tough for all, especially, the seniors but it is what it is and we move on."
I had asked one of the other coaches whose team lost in the preliminaries if they would have rather lost that game or won it and then be forced to forfeit and they agreed won and forfeited. At least they would have ended the season with a win in the playoffs even if it wasn't in the finals. Berlin's cross-country team didn't even have that preliminary game. There were other teams such as Pinkerton's cross-country team and all their other fall sports' teams seasons were shut down a week or two before any playoffs ever began, so it could always be worse.
Nicole Arguin's field hockey team had advanced to the finals in NHIAA Division III tournament action with two wins, 3-0 over White Mountain Regional, a 2-1 over Newfound and after a 6-4 record in regular-season action. She responded to the forfeit decision by the school department with this:
Thoughts on what would have been the finals.
“Let me preface this situation: When the BHS field hockey team entered the NHIAA tournament, we knew the rules. And one of the rules stated, if we could not make a tournament game due to the pandemic we would forfeit the game — unfortunately, that rule had to be used. I know we hoped we would see that rule come into play; however, the safety of our athletes and community is really the most important; and even though I am devastated, I support the decision on this situation our community leaders made. As a community, truly the most important team, we all need to be working together to stop the spread.
“Wow, I can't even explain the emotion that the team feels about this situation. I am not sad, not angry — an emotion that just cannot be explained.
“As a coach, you set goals each year. This year our main goal was to get the athletes to be back to themselves in this ‘new normal’ (because 2020 has taken a toll on everyone and our athletes have been hit hard this year with disappointments) and over the last two weeks we could see and feel this team reach that goal — they were normal in this ‘new normal.’ The team was peaking just as the tournament was starting and anyone who has watched this team over the season could see the difference —this team was ready and going to be a force to reckon with. I know had we had a chance to play in the finals they would have made this community, school and themselves proud. I know I could not be more proud of this team.
One of the hardest things I have had to do in my 20 years of coaching high school field hockey is to sit in front of a Zoom (chat via the internet) to talk to my team about not being able to play in the finals. The hurt and tears in their eyes were unbearable and not being able to be all together to deal with this was even harder — the need to support each other was evident.
“As their coach, I had to try to be strong and explain that this is uncontrollable and how we react to this will define who they are as athletes and we are strong enough to overcome it. Tough for anyone to handle — adults and young adults. The way this team has come together and has improved so much as a group, not to mention how they have had handled this new normal, they will always be champions in my heart.
“As I reflect on this situation, the lesson is to heed the warnings of our professionals so our athletes and coaches do not need to deal with this again. I know people are angry with the situation and really the only people we need to be angry with are those who are not following the advice of our professionals — wear your mask and social distance. As Coach Valliere asked and stated, “Why do you wear your mask? — I wear my mask so our athletes can finish their seasons."
Wednesday is Veterans Day and in the past, I have done some research and profiled a number of local former student/athletes who went on to stellar military careers and it was my pleasure to have been able to connect with them and share their stories.
One story I hope to one day write is about my cousin and Godson, SSGT Matthew Hawkins, his wife Jolinda and his two sons, Elijah Hawkins and Nick Erickson (all three boys were student/athletes in the Milan, Berlin and Gorham schools) who dedicated a great portion of their lives to serving our country militarily. Being a humble, private, low profile guy, Matt has not agreed to it yet.
I have been thinking about the extensive military history of our families, including Hawkins, Holts, Enman's, Stiles and everyone in between. It was then I decided to research it extensively and mention, by name, those who are directly related to us by blood and/or marriage who have served in the military since the Civil War to the present.
Here they are in alphabetical order. I am sure I must have missed someone and if so, I am sorry, please let me know so I can update the list. On this Veteran's Day, my thanks go out to all who served in any capacity in the various branches of the United States military, during our storied history.
Military veterans related to (biological and by marriage) Steve and Melinda Holt Enman, from the Civil War to the present. Compiled in November of 2020, by Steve Enman. Much of this information was obtained in the Hawkins Military History book and the Milan and Dummer History Books: Rex Bennett; Ellsworth Blake; Marcel Campbell; Armand Caron Jr.; Ernest Casey; Douglas Dunham, Steve and Michael Enman; Albert Frechette; Alden, Wayne, Keith and Bruce Gile; Larry, Roland, Donald, Elton and Robert Glover; George and Prescott Gould; Joey Goyette; Alpheus, John, Stephen, Thomas, William, Rudell, Earl ,Everett, Wayne, Norace, Matthew, Jolinda, Nicholas (Erickson), Elijah, Dana, Ronald, Phillip, Randall and Curtis Hawkins; Larry Haynes; Clyde, Ray, Wayne, Ira, Arthur, Maurice and Mari Holt; Jeff and Jessica Jewett; Donald Johnson; Travis Laflamme; Alfred and Harley Lindsey; Allan sr., Allan jr. and John MacDougall; Lonny Madeux; Leon McCall; Robert Morse; Fred Peters; Paul St. Onge; Roland Sias; Ronald Smith; Dean, Alger, Ben, Merwin, Steve and Forrest Stiles; Clifford Tankard; Jim, Jesse and Jeff Tennis; Richard Testa; Clyde Wakefield; Carlyle, Allen, Mark, Thomas and Timothy Wenworth; Carroll, Greg, Bernard, Ainsley, Shannon, Arnold and Dave Woodward; and Harris, Shannon, Ken and Henry Young.