It is the time of year to try on the beach garb, get the deck furniture out there and cut that darn grass. It is also a suitable time to take a little summer drive through some headlines and happenings in the Methuen sports scene, so grab your beach chair and cooler, and come along for the ride.

The Methuen School Committee recently recognized Jason Smith as Methuen High School’s 2024 Teacher of the Year. The science educator and longtime softball and swim/dive coach has been improving the lives of students and student athletes at MHS for 26 years. Smith is one of the most successful coaches in New England. Moreover, he is just a really good person – always there when needed and a true life-changer on Ranger Road. On a personal note, there have been many times where I’ve contacted Jason up against a deadline and needing a quote about one of his athletes or even a fellow coach. He always delivers. Congratulations also to Jason Lapointe, a Volunteer Assistant Coach on Smith’s swim/dive team. Lapointe has been recognized with the Meritorious Service Award from the Eastern Massachusetts Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.

On Saturday, June 8, the 3rd annual Methuen High School Baseball Alumni Game will be held at MHS. Once again, the game will be played in support and memory of the Devin Melia Memorial Fund. Melia, who passed away in 2023, was an outstanding baseball player at Methuen High School. His memory of friendship and personality lingers in the hearts and minds of educators, coaches and teammates who loved him. Devin’s parents, Jerry and Donna, and his extended family are some of the best people in our community – always positive and ready to step forward when others are in need. The event will feature batting practice at noon with the first pitch for the Alumni Game at 1pm. Registration fee for players is $25. General donations to the event will go toward scholarships and to support the Methuen High School baseball program

On June 20 at Castleton Banquet and Conference Center in Windham, N.H., there will be a Coach James Strong fund-raiser to benefit the recuperation of Methuen High School wrestling coach extraordinaire Bill James. James was injured in an accident last year and continues to battle through injuries. This space has talked about Bill James a lot over the years. He has been a motivator, teacher and source of inspiration for hundreds of athletes. In addition, he has garnered the respect of his fellow coaches and teachers. The event on June 20 will be held from 6-10pm and the cost is $30 per person. There will be appetizers, a cash bar, raffles and a silent auction. Tickets may be purchased at the door. Raffle donations are encouraged, and various event sponsorship levels are available. You can also order a Coach James Strong T-shirt. Bill James has stepped to the forefront for so many young people in Methuen. This is our chance to do the same for him. For event information, visit billjamesfundraiser.com.

While Bill James was unable to coach his MHS wrestlers this past season, his impact, instruction and inspiration remained palpable in his athletes. The Merrimack Valley Conference (MVC) recently announced its Post Season Awards for Wrestling. MHS grapplers Joe Bolduc, Dom Gangi, Vinny DeMaio, Vivi Gonzalez and Anthony DeMaio were named to the MVC All-Conference Team. This amazing group is carrying on a tradition of wrestling excellence at Methuen High School. The postseason honors are fitting and much deserved in what has been a unique, tough and challenging season. There is a legacy to MHS Wrestling both in the athletes and coaches. Congratulations to these competitors for recognizing that legacy and adding to it.

Congratulations also go out to Paul Jensen, Veterans Services director in the City of Methuen. On May 10 at Merrimack Golf Course, Jensen shot a hole-in-one. This is the ultimate accomplishment for golfers of any level. Jensen has done so much for veterans in and around Methuen over the past few years. It’s good to see a dedicated guy like Jensen have a great moment on the golf course. Most recently, Jensen coordinated the Veterans Flag Replacement initiative at Elmwood Cemetery. He also worked with a dedicated group of people to present Methuen’s Memorial Day Parade. On June 23, Jensen is coordinating a Veteran’s Pig Roast and Family Cookout at Forest Lake. The event is free to all veterans and their families. There will be events for kids as well, so plan on bringing lawn chairs, beverages, and enjoy the day. The event is a joint venture with the Bedford VA, and there will be various booths with info on VA benefits. Visit methuen.gov to register for the event or call (978) 983-8585.

Methuen Recreation Director Steve Angelo may not have Jensen’s golf acumen, but he is atop the leader board with some great programs this summer including Soccer Shots, Sports Zone, Nerf/Laser Tag, and more. Visit the Methuen Recreation Department on social media and the web for details.

The Methuen Field Hockey Summer Kickoff Clinic will be held June 17-20 from 8-11am. Cost is $75 and includes Grades 2 through 10. The clinic encourages participants to kick off summer and have fun playing field hockey. Athletes will need a field hockey stick, goggles, mouth guard, shin guards, sneakers and water/snacks. MHS varsity field hockey Coach Kristen Swales runs the program. This is a fantastic clinic year in and year out for people who want to learn and enjoy this terrific sport. For more information, e-mail methuenfh@gmail.com.

MHS multi-sport star Drew Eason has been selected to represent Methuen High School on the Aleppo Shriners All-Star Football Classic North team and will play June 14 at Bentley University. In addition to his prowess on the football field, Eason recently played a huge role in the annual Methuen High School Mock Crash event, dramatizing the dangers of drinking and driving during prom and graduation season. It has been a stellar season for Eason. Beyond the Shriners’ selection, he was named to Super 26 All-State Team, and raised over $1,000 for A Shot for Life (ASFL), a sports-based non-profit organization that funds health and cancer research initiatives through sports-based initiatives, community in-person events and online activities. ASFL meaningfully engages and unites communities, inspires hope and teaches community leadershipEason has proven to be a man for all seasons at MHS for sure.

Both the Methuen High School girls’ and boys’ 4 x 200 sprint teams recently set school records at the State Relays. The girls’ team of Alysha Santana Sosa, Rebecca Christie, Bella Fiore and Lauren Quarm timed out at 1:47.61 while the boys’ quartet of Joshua Kwakye, Ibrahima Ba, Mekhi Lumsden, and Juan Polanco ran at 1:29.78. Santana and Fiore along with teammate Quinn Plunkett also broke the school record in the Girls’ Long Jump Relay at States.

Ranger head coaches Bill Blackwell (hockey), Ryan Middlemiss (girls’ basketball) and John Sughrue (wrestling) were recently named MVC Coaches of the Year in their respective sports. Sughrue posted a 20-plus-win season in his first year as head coach, stepping in for the sidelined Bill James. Blackwell continued to build his Hall of Fame legacy at Methuen High School winning MVC3 championships the past three seasons. Middlemiss has rejuvenated the Ranger girls’ basketball program bringing them to an MVC2 championship this past season. In addition to being great coaches, these three leaders are tremendous men – fully dedicated to changing the lives of young people in a positive manner.

 

Blitz Bits

The Methuen High School End of the Year Athletic Awards ceremony will take place Wednesday June 12 at 6pm at the Tenney School Auditorium … Heartfelt praise goes out to the MHS girls’ lacrosse team for dedicating their recent win over Dracut to the Fluet family. The game was played for the Alyssa Fluet Memorial Scholarship Fund and in memory of Alyssa Fluet, an MHS grad who passed away last summer … The MVC recently announced its Boys’ Basketball All-Conference team with Methuen’s Isaiah Andino, Lennon Abreu De La Cruz and Earl Pemberton Jr., gaining recognition … MHS lacrosse standout Jared Cripps recently scored his 100th career goal, just an outstanding accomplishment … Ranger hockey hero Patrick Morris was recently awarded the MIAA District 4 Boys Hockey Sportsmanship Award and was honored before a Bruins’ game at TD Garden … Kudos to MHS lax star Joey Casarano who recently scored his 100th career point joining girls’ lacrosse standout Kiera Fitzpatrick who also reached that magic mark earlier this season.

 John Molori is an author, columnist, and a 2011 inductee into the Methuen Athletic Hall of Fame. Facebook: John Molori, Twitter @MoloriMedia. Email molorimedia@gmail.com