By Darrell Halen
MethuenLife Writer

Like the other former Methuen High School athletes recently inducted into its Hall of Fame, Kristen Belair Swales had plenty of people to thank.

Swales, an outstanding three-sport athlete who graduated in 2003, credited the coaches who pushed her “along the way,” her three older brothers who let her participate in their sporting activities, and her parents who instilled in them the importance of being dedicated to the commitments they made.
“Being part of a team, being part of something bigger than you, is truly what makes playing sports so special,” said Swales, who also thanked her former field hockey, basketball and softball teammates. “I could see that hard work truly does pay off.”

The March 24 event, held at Salvatore’s Event and Conference Center in Lawrence, honored several other athletes, three distinguished alumni, and several other special people for their contributions to the school. It was a night of hugs, handshakes, fond memories and laughter.

Other athletes included Phillip “Rocky” Bamford (1953), Caitlin McCarthy Duffy (2000), Josh Valerio (2004), Nancy MacLeod Eckert (1979), the 2012 varsity wrestling team coached by Bill James, and three outstanding team members: CJ Doherty (2012), Paul Sughrue (2013) and Christian Monserrat (2014).
Through wrestling, Monserrat said, he learned dedication, discipline, toughness, sacrifice, strength and attitude. He thanked the school for preparing him well in life.

“I want to thank everyone who has been behind me, beside me and in front of me,” he said, and to Coach James he added: “You pushed me day in and day out to be the best.”
Eckert, another three-sport athlete, relayed her thoughts, written down, through her brother, Jack MacLeod – the longtime go-to emcee for the Methuen Exchange Club.
“I’m speaking on her behalf because, as we all know, she’s a better athlete than a public speaker,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Eckert expressed that it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to be inducted: “It is even more special because my teammates nominated me.”
She’s grateful to those teammates, with whom she developed lifelong bonds, and to her family.
“The best part of playing sports in high school was the camaraderie that developed among my teammates,” she expressed. “Those lifetime friendships mean more to me than any individual accomplishment.”
Honored as distinguished alumni were Frank Cann (1983), a successful business owner credited with being a model leader and mentor through his generosity, sincerity, patience and caring spirit; State Auditor Diana DiZoglio (2001) who advocates for accountability and transparency; and Michael Gorman (2011) who is known for being a goodwill ambassador.

Gorman, who founded The Movement Family, a program designed for anyone looking for a “second family in life” – such as those who are homeless, using drugs or in need of support and guidance – told the audience he was grateful to be honored.

While thanking people who are special to him, he singled out several coaches, including MHS Principal Richard Barden who was a math teacher and basketball coach.
“I look back – the man really cared about me, more than a basketball player, as a person,” Gorman said.
Joe Forseze, known for always being at the scorer’s table during wrestling matches and basketball games, is this year’s recipient of The Arthur Nicholson III True Blue Award, named after the late MHS principal.
Two people were separately honored as special contributors: Dan Dodson and Margaret “Peggy” Szostak.
Dodson, who spent his career teaching in Methuen schools, was a city selectman, an avid runner, served as the “Voice of the Rangers” at football games for more than 20 seasons, and was a driving force behind the naming of Nicholson Stadium.

Szostak, represented by several family members, was the first female MHS custodian. She worked in the girls’ PE area for nearly 25 years, was known for her kindness, humor and support, cheered on her kids at sporting events, and served as the president of the Methuen Rangers Athletic Association.