March 17. 2013 10:17PM

In Nashua, a banner year for scholars, athletes

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA - As the winter sports and academic competition seasons wind down, Nashua has again found many of its students standing at the top.

Of all the success students in the district are having, Superintendent Mark Conrad said perhaps the best story is that of the South unified basketball team.

"This is the first year we have fielded a unified basketball team. It is a new program for us and a great addition. It pairs up students in regular and special education services into one team. It is the spirit of bringing diverse students together, and I found it very exciting that in our first year, we won the state championship," Conrad said.

For Athletic Director Tom Arria, his experience with the unified basketball team "was one of the most enjoyable, worthy experiences I have had in my 13-year career."

"It was such a tremendous experience for everyone involved," he said. "Coach Mike McQuilken did such a great job, and the kids worked so hard. Seeing their faces at the end of every game and when they won the state championship, everybody was pleased, excited and happy."

Arria said North also fielded a unified basketball team but did not qualify for the postseason despite performing well.

In academics, for the fifth year in a row the Nashua High School South math team finished first in its league, the Fairgrounds Middle School team won a Math Counts competition in Plymouth, and 125 high school students achieved Advanced Placement Scholar recognition along with a number of students being named Merit and/or Presidential Scholars.

"Overall, our sports programs have done very, very well this year, both our winter and fall teams competed at high levels, going to finals or semifinals for individuals and teams," Arria said.

The N.H. Athletics Directors Association (NHADA) and the N.H. Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) recognized more than 80 students at North and South as scholar-athletes, and both scholar-athlete scholarships were awarded to Nashua students in a ceremony last month.

Seniors Daniel Auger, who plays basketball and lacrosse for South, and Elizabeth Shuman, a three-sport athlete in field hockey, track and lacrosse from South, won the scholarships.

"It was a very proud moment for me and all of Nashua," Arria said.

Arria also said members of the swim and wrestling teams won individual championships.

Conrad and Arria didn't reserve their praise for individuals or teams that won, but also recognized teams that showed strength and commitment in their performance.

Conrad singled out the schools' robotics teams, which he said did very well despite not placing at the BAE Robotics Competition last month, and Arria said he was proud of the two high schools' spirit squads.

"In the preliminary round ... North placed seventh and South placed third, which is the highest either school ever placed. They went on to states, but injuries plagued us going into the last meet. But they had good seasons. The girls worked hard," he said.