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The Leaders: A timeout to honor greatness as players, officials, coaches take center stage

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 12. 2018 6:30AM
The new James Desmarais Award was given to James Desmarais, shown here with his family. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — Growing up in Lebanon, Keith Boucher said he had two residences: his home and the local recreation center.

“That’s where I grew up,” Boucher said. “If I wasn’t at home, my parents knew where to find me.”

Boucher is currently in his 29th season as head coach of the Keene State College women’s basketball team. He was among the five coaches honored with the Walter A. Smith Coaches Award at the New Hampshire Union Leader’s “The Leaders: A Celebration of New Hampshire Sports Champions” banquet Sunday at the Radisson Hotel.

The annual event, which is sponsored by Apple Therapy Services, Express MED and Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center, celebrates the previous year’s Union Leader Athlete of the Month winners as well as coaches and officials.

“My boyhood experiences made me acutely aware of one thing: no one gets there alone,” Boucher said. “This prestigious award is not mine. It is an honor bestowed on all the mentors I had growing up that helped shape who I am today.”

The other recipients of the Walter A. Smith Coaches award were Winnacunnet of Hampton football coach Ron Auffant, Bishop Brady of Concord field hockey coach Kelly Monahan Owen, former Manchester West girls’ basketball and Trinity of Manchester baseball coach Ed Poisson and Charles Hunnewell, who coached basketball, baseball and football in Michigan, Hanover and Lebanon.

Maria Soraghan of East Hampstead, left, was Athlete of the month of December and Natalie Giraldi of Bedford was Athlete of the month for January. They are both swimmers at Simmons College. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)

“I was fortunate in my life to have a passion for sports and coaching,” said Auffant, who led Winnacunnet to the NHIAA Division I title last fall. “I just want to leave a little message here for a lot of the young people: Find a passion for what you want to do. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do anything.”

May Athlete of the Month award recipient Brennen Oxford was named the Robert “Red” Rolfe Male Athlete of the Year. November winner Jackie Gaughan was chosen as the Jenny Thompson Female Athlete of the Year.

The Athlete of the Month and Athlete of the Year awards are chosen by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.

Oxford threw four straight no-hitters for the Oyster River of Durham baseball team last year, three of which came in May. The Wake Forest commit was named the New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year last season.

Gaughan, a senior at Exeter High School, won the cross-country NHIAA Meet of Champions for a second straight year in record-setting time, took sixth at the New England Championships and placed third at the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals in November. The Notre Dame commit placed fifth at the Foot Locker National Championships in December, earning All-America status. Gaughan also won the NHIAA Division I championship for a third straight season and won the Manchester Invitational for a second straight season earlier in the fall.

Nashua resident Steve Dichard was honored as the 48th recipient of the Carl Lundholm Memorial Award.

Dichard was recognized for his 39-year coaching tenure in the Nashua Biddy Basketball League, which is run through the Nashua Parks and Recreation Department. He also served as an assistant coach to Duane Erickson in the Nashua Babe Ruth league for 29 years. Erickson was an assistant coach to Dichard in basketball for most of the latter’s career.

2/11/18 Photo by Allegra Boverman/Union Leader. Dallas Kastens, left, is the William Loeb Scholar-Athlete Award winner. He is with Brendan McQuaid, President of the Union Leader.

The Carl Lundholm Memorial Award is named for the first chairman of the Union Leader Board of Judges. It is presented annually to a New Hampshire citizen who exemplifies the qualities of the University of New Hampshire’s first athletic director.

“The goal is in our programs ... to get our kids ready for the next step: middle school, freshman basketball, freshman baseball and so on right through the line,” Dichard said. “And I’ll tell you, our kids were successful as heck and we’ve got some playing there today at Nashua North and Nashua South and it’s exciting now. I’m retired from coaching and I get to see them play now on Friday nights.”

Nashua North senior Dallas Kastens received the William Loeb Scholar-Athlete Award, which honors athletic and academic performance. Kastens serves as captain of the Titans ski and cross-country teams and is a member of the North boys’ soccer and baseball teams.

The 2017 recipients of the John R. Clark Officials Award were Sally Buchanan of Kensington, Stu Dedopoulos of Durham, John Donovan of Belmont, Michael Henderson of Belmont and Brian Troupe of Bedford.

The Union Leader Board of Judges bestowed its special recognition award to former NHIAA Executive Director Jim Desmarais. He also served as the Union Leader Board of Judges chairman for 15 years and as a member for 20 years.

When presenting Desmarais with the award, current Union Leader Board of Judges chairman Pete Cofran announced that the group’s special recognition award will be renamed the James W. Desmarais Special Recognition Award going forward.