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Athlete of the Month: Exeter's Gaughan stays the course

By ALEX HALL
New Hampshire Union Leader

December 30. 2017 11:47PM




Jackie Gaughan won many cross-country races this fall but one of her biggest achievements last season cannot be measured by a medal or finish time.

The Exeter High School senior bounced back from what she considered a disappointing showing at the New England Cross Country Championships by qualifying for the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.

Gaughan's resilience did not go unnoticed, as she was chosen as the November Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center/Express MED Athlete of the Month by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.

After winning her second straight NHIAA Meet of Champions title the week before, Gaughan placed sixth with a time of 18 minutes, 6.5 seconds at the New England meet.

The Exeter resident left the New England race feeling both disappointed and frustrated. Gaughan did a number of hard workouts to help herself get over the sixth-place finish and prepare for the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals.

"I get all that anger out in workouts and just run," Gaughan said. "I think having a disappointing race like that can almost break you but you just kind of have to have faith that if you put in the right training, it should work out."

Gaughan used that mindset en route to placing third with a time of 17:54.7 at the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals, which qualified her for the national meet.

Marlee Starliper, of Wellsville, Pa., who won the Northeast Regionals, pulled away from the front pack around the one-mile mark, Gaughan said. At that point, Gaughan said she knew she had to fight for one of the other remaining top-10 spots to qualify for the national meet.

Gaughan said she felt like herself again during the Northeast Regionals and just tried to race the way she always has. The Notre Dame commit was determined to compete in the national Foot Locker meet for a second straight year.

"I was going to run as hard as I could until I couldn't run anymore in order to qualify," Gaughan said.

Exeter coach Joe Scascitelli said one of Gaughan's strengths as a runner is her ability to regroup after a subpar race.

"One thing about her is she rebounds real well from setbacks," Scascitelli said. "She recovers really well in a short (period) of time, more so than I've seen in the past from anyone I've coached."

If there was any doubt Gaughan had put the New England meet behind her, she snuffed that out by earning All-America status with her fifth-place finish (17:44.6) at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego on Dec. 9.

"I think this season was a special one," Gaughan said. "I ran some of my fastest times. And to place fifth at nationals, (in) my freshman year I never thought I'd do anything like that. It was a tough season. I really had to be gritty and have faith in myself when it was really hard to do that."

Other athletes considered for the honor were Manchester West cross-country runner Julia Robitaille, Plymouth State University men's basketball player Mike Osgood, St. Anselm College men's basketball player Cody Ball, University of New Hampshire football player Jared Kuehl, Lehigh University football player Troy Pelletier, Plymouth Regional High School football player Garrett Macomber, Manchester Central girls' soccer player Jessica Lewis, Bow High School girls' soccer player Kayleigh Marshall, Bucknell University women's soccer player Kendall Ham and Syracuse University women's hockey player Brooke Avery.

Robitaille, a junior, won both the Nike Cross Northeast Regional Championship and New England Championship and finished runner-up to Gaughan at the NHIAA Meet of Champions last month.

Osgood, a junior from Nashua, averaged 21 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and two blocks per game over a 2-2 start to the season for Plymouth State. Ball, a junior from Londonderry, averaged 18 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game over a 5-2 start to the season for St. Anselm.

Kuehl, a junior linebacker from Plymouth, registered 32 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 14 solo tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and an interception last month for UNH. Pelletier, a senior wide receiver from Deerfield, recorded 398 yards and three touchdowns on 39 receptions last month for Lehigh. Macomber, a senior, ran for a combined 414 yards and five touchdowns over three playoff games on Plymouth's way to a second consecutive NHIAA Division II championship.

Lewis, a sophomore goalkeeper, recorded two of her three postseason shutouts last month on Manchester Central's road to winning the NHIAA Division I title. Marshall, a junior, scored a goal in the semifinals and assisted on the game-winning goal in the NHIAA Division II championship game to help Bow win the title. Ham, a senior forward from Stratham, scored three goals over the opening 21 minutes of the Patriot League championship game to help the Bison to a 3-2 victory over Navy, capturing their second straight league title.

Avery, a redshirt junior from Concord, logged five points (four goals, one assists) over a 3-1-1 November campaign for Syracuse.

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Previous 2017 winners: January, Natalie Giraldi, Bedford (swimming); February, Devin Gilligan, Amherst (basketball); March, Joey Glynn, Portsmouth (basketball); April, Rob Hart, Londonderry (lacrosse); May, Brennen Oxford, Durham (baseball); June, Cody Morissette, Exeter (baseball); July, Mike Martel, New Ipswich (golf); August, Chelsea Sedlar, Merrimack (golf); September, Jacob Szulc, Concord (football); October, Hayleigh LeTourneau, Bristol (field hockey).

To submit a nomination for future Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader Sports Department at sports@unionleader.com and enter "Athlete of the Month" in the subject line.

Athlete of the Month recipients are honored at the annual Leaders: A Celebration of Sports Champions event held in February.


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