Editor’s note: The Union Leader is bringing back some of the late Joe Sullivan’s Union Leader sports columns. This one was originally published on Feb. 1, 2005.

YESTERDAY, the New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Women needed the entire 1,300-seat Capitol Center for the Arts for its program.

Joe Sullivan

 

Back in 1987, the first year of the program, the commission could have held it in the Capitol Center’s box office cubicle.

Times have changed in women’s high school sports.

With family members, principals, coaches, athletics directors and friends looking on, 592 high school seniors, young women all, were honored at the 18th annual New Hampshire High School Women’s Athletic/Academic Awards.

In the first year of the awards, five seniors were honored for their outstanding accomplishments in sports and academics.

All award winners are active in at least two varsity sports, hold a minimum grade point average of 3.5, demonstrate strong leadership qualities and participate in community service.

With those qualifications, covering the event is a can’t-miss proposition for reporters. Every honoree is a major success story.

Kathleen Twomey of Trinity (Manchester) attracted attention — what with her black eye and all.

“I caught an elbow from a teammate,” Twomey, a basketball, cross country and softball Pioneer, explained. “It’s rough out there.”

For Twomey, it will get rougher next year when she shifts winter sports from high school hoop to college hockey.

“The Trinity hockey coach (Dave Ryan) asked me to come out for hockey this year,” Twomey said, “but I love the girls on the basketball team and I didn’t want to leave. I’m playing hockey for the Lady Monarchs, though. I think hockey is my best sport.”

From her Trinity athletic history, it appears she can play any sport. She started out as an excellent soccer player, then switched to cross country, where she became the team’s top runner as a junior. Then there’s the hoop-hockey conundrum.

Twomey will play women’s hockey for St. Anselm next year. She plans to major in business. As funny as she is talented, she explained her choice of majors this way: “I like the outfits they wear.”

Union Leader sports reporters have typed the name Cally Cole, of Merrimack, in line score after box score after line score for four years. She is another three-sport athlete (soccer-basketball-softball), but she has no favorite.

“I switch with the seasons,” she said.

Although Cole’s teams have not yet won a Class L title (“We have two shots left”), she knows what it is to win the big one. She has served as class president her sophomore-junior-senior years.

“You lost as a freshman?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t run as a freshman,” she answered.

She is waiting to hear from several colleges before making a final decision. Wherever she continues her education, however, sports will be in the rear-view mirror. “I’m all done with sports after this year,” she said. “I’m going to college to go to school.”

Gov. John Lynch congratulated the honorees, and Dartmouth grad and cross-country skier Nina Kemppel delivered the keynote address. Kemppel, a four-time Olympian who has earned 19 national Nordic ski championships, told the the gathering that to accomplish something great, they had to “dream it, share it and enjoy it.”

She related a story of a two-lap Olympic race she skied in Norway. On her first lap, Norwegian fans along the route threw hot dogs at her. She smiled at her tormentors and kept skiing. On her second lap, when those same fans saw her, they started singing “Born in the USA.”

“If you love what you’re doing, you can overcome just about any obstacle,” she said.

Members of the Commission on the Status of Women know that. And there’s no question they love what they’re doing.

In 18 years, they’ve taken their program from five women to 592 women.

And wait ’til next year.