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Vin Sylvia: Celebrating the best in New Hampshire sports

If you haven't seen it already, you'll want to check out the special section located elsewhere in these pages. In it, you'll find profiles of 80 of the state's best high school athletes, including the New Hampshire Union Leader's seven fall athletes of the year, and seven of its top coaches.

And come February, you'll have a chance to meet at least some of those athletes and coaches of the year in person, at the Union Leader's annual sports banquet, The Leaders: A Celebration of New Hampshire Sports Champions.

That's where we'll honor all of our 2012 Union Leader All-State high school athletes and coaches of the year, our 12 BASC/Apple Therapy Athletes of the Month, and some of the state's all-time best coaches and officials from various levels of athletics. The banquet culminates with the announcement of the Red Rolfe Male and Female Athletes of the Year, selected by the Union Leader Board of Judges from the group comprising the Athletes of the Month.

An annual highlight of the banquet, formerly known as the Parade of Champions, is the presentation of the Carl Lundholm Memorial Award, given to an outstanding volunteer in youth athletics. This year's winner is Tom Walton of Hopkinton, whose work as a coach and race director for years has benefited Granite State athletes of all ages.

Walton's nomination for the award came from his boss at NHTI in Concord, Paul Hogan, the community college's director of athletics. Recently granted a coaching stipend, Walton founded the men's and women's cross country programs as a volunteer in 2006, a year after he co-founded the Capital Area Race Series with Perry Seagroves. Before that, he was a physical education and health instructor in the Concord school district from 1971-2004.

In his letter to the Board of Judges nominating Walton, Hogan wrote, "Coach Walton is a very special and giving person to people and causes of every age. His compassion for young people is absolutely remarkable. For Tom Walton, 'no' is not in the vocabulary that he chooses to use on a daily basis. He has been helping educate, coach and mentor many an athlete and 'cause' for years."

The contributions of another longtime mentor to young people, the late Dan Duval, will be recognized with the posthumous presentation of a Union Leader Special Recognition Award. A multiple-sport star during his days at Trinity High School in Manchester,

Duval never fully realized his athletic potential, his playing career - and, for a time, his life - derailed by alcohol and drug abuse. But Duval made up for his shortcomings as an athlete by becoming an extraordinary person, overcoming his demons and dedicating his life to helping young people through his work as a public speaker, coach and advisor before he died of a heart attack in May.

Duval was a frequent attendee at Union Leader sports banquets over the years, initially as an honoree, later as a coach, friend and/or mentor to an athlete, coach or volunteer receiving an award. He would have loved the upcoming presentation of The Leaders, celebrating the achievements of New Hampshire's sports community with his huge circle of friends, applauding young athletes who almost certainly heard him speak in their schools at some point during the past few years of his too-short life.

The Leaders: A Celebration of New Hampshire Sports Champions is set for the afternoon of Sunday, February 10, at the Radisson-Manchester. Tickets are available through the Union Leader's Community Relations office.

Hope to see you there.

Vin Sylvia is Deputy Managing Editor-Sports, Photos and Features of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is vsylvia@unionleader.com.

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THE LEADERS 2013: A CELEBRATION OF NEW HAMPSHIRE SPORTS' CHAMPIONS

2012 Award Winners

Athlete of the Month

January: Drew Ledwith, Keene, swimming

February: Zach Bridson, Sandown, wresling

March: Curtis Arsenault, Berlin, basketball

April: Peter Williamson, Hanover, golf

May: Morgan Andrews, Milford, soccer

June: Hillary Holmes, Exeter, track and field

July: Lauren Thibodeau, Hampstead, golf

August: Sarah Groff, Hanover, triathlon

September: Victoria Arlen, Exeter, swimming

October: Chelso Barrett, Keene, golf

November: TBA Dec. 18

December: TBD

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Carl Lundholm Memorial (for dedication to youth in athletics)

Tom Walton, Hopkinton

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John R. Clark Officials

Roland Bourque, New Hampton

Fran Maineri, New Hampton

Rick Forge, Moultonborough

Harry Irwin, Somersworth

Mike Gould, Nashua

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Walter A. Smith Coaches

Charlie Beach, Keene

Deb Beach, Keene

Al Halpern, Goffstown

Tony Johnson, formerly of Manchester

Stan Lyford, North Hampton

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NHIAA Athletes and Coaches of the Year

WINTER

Boys' basketball

Player: Dimitri Floras, Merrimack

Coach: David Wheeler, Manchester Central

Girls' basketball

Player: Jane White, Souhegan

Coach: John Fagula, Londonderrry

Boys' ice hockey

Player: Zach Sanford, Pinkerton

Coach: Mark Putney, Manchester Memorial

Girls' ice hockey

Player: Maddie Dewhirst, Hanover

Coach: Stacy Boudrias, Concord

Boys' indoor track and field

Athlete: Jonathan Vinnenberg, Bow

Coach: Ian French, Pinkerton

Girls' indoor track and field

Athlete: Hillary Holmes, Exeter

Coach: Emily Blahnik, Bedford

Boys' swimming and diving

Athlete: David Pfeifer, Bishop Guertin

Coach: Karla Black, Bishop Guertin

Girls' swimming and diving

Athlete: Emily Wadlinger, Lebanon

Coach: Karla Black, Bishop Guertin

Wrestling

Athlete: Zach Bridson, Timberlane

Coach: Barry Chooljian, Timberlane

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SPRING

Baseball

Player: Graham McIntire, Concord

Coach: Marc Schoff, St. Thomas Aquinas

Boys' lacrosse

Player: Bob Fahey, Bishop Guertin

Coach: Brian O'Reilly, Pinkerton

Girls' lacrosse

Player: Jane Symmes, Concord

Coach: Beth Rogers, Merrimack

Softball

Player: Taylor Carbone, Alvirne

Coach: Dennis Bruce, Winnacunnet

Boys' tennis

Player: Mark Hosang, Bedford

Coach: Shawna Morley, Bedford

Girls' tennis

Player: Julia Keenan, St. Thomas Aquinas

Coach: Debbie Lloyd, Bishop Guertin

Boys' outdoor track and field

Athlete: Romario Bailey, Stevens

Coach: Walter Roberts, Pinkerton

Girls' outdoor track and field

Athlete: Betsy Garnick, Bishop Guertin

Coach: Jarod Mills, White Mountains

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FALL

Boys' cross country

Athlete: Jeremy Brassard, Coe-Brown

Coach: Jeff Wilson, Souhegan

Girls' cross country

Athlete: Elizabeth Conway, Manch. Central

Coach: Tim Cox, Coe-Brown

Field hockey

Player: Lindsey Nerbonne, Bow

Coach: Amanda Ward, Windham

Football

Player: Tyler Grant, Exeter

Coach: Chuck Lenahan, Plymouth

Boys' soccer

Player: Erik Martel, Bedford

Coach: Mike Hachey, Windham

Girls' soccer

Player: Morgan Andrews, Milford

Coach: Michelle Winning, Bedford

Volleyball

Player: Molly Wotton, Dover

Coach: John Roemer, Salem

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Special Recognition (for commitment to youth)

Dan Duval*, Manchester

*-Presented posthumously..

        

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