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Natick - Local Town Pages

NHS Athletics: Solid Past & A Bright Outlook Ahead

Collins In 13th Year As Redhawks’ A.D. 


Staff Sports Writer

Sports teams at Natick High experienced plenty of success last year and Athletic Director Tim Collins is optimistic the school’s student-athletes will again register solid results in the year ahead.

Here’s how Collins summarized the Redhawks’ achievements during the 2021-22 school year:

“Another terrific year for NHS Athletics,’’ he said. “All of our varsity teams competed in and qualified for the MIAA State Tournaments. We captured State titles in girls soccer in the fall and ultimate frisbee in the spring. Individual State titles were won by Celia Lemieux in winter gymnastic (beam) and Jacob Reinach in winter track (shot put).

“A sportsmanship award — the MIAA/Special Olympics Unified Sports Award — was given to Natick High’s unified basketball team in the fall. The coaches are high school teachers Ben Maki, John Larkin, and Nick Colman. Special thanks to Christine Fleming and the entire special education staff.

“The MIAA Coach of the Year Award went to Nick DiAntonio (unified sports coach of the year). Nick is a Natick High math teacher, assistant football coach, and spring unified track coach.’’  

Collins is also proud to list eight student-athletes who’ll compete at the Division 1 level in college. He also says “there are dozens more who’ll be competing at Division 3 schools. The Division 1 athletes are: Jessica Brill (softball, Stonehill College); Zachary Bubonovich (swimming, Holy Cross); James Carr (lacrosse, Bryant University); Allison Jeter (soccer, Central Connecticut State University); Colby LeBlanc (lacrosse, Siena College); Emilia Morales (field hockey, Hofstra University); Emma Peck (field Hockey, UMass); Jacob Reinach (track, Duke University).

Athletic participation made a comeback and the numbers returned to pre-Covid levels. The fall season included 593 athletes; winter totaled 476; and the spring had 511.

“This is almost exactly what it was for the 2018-19 athletic year (last full year before Covid),’’ Collins noted. “We continually rank in the top 10 percent of all schools for student participation in athletics. The 2021-22 lists have not been released yet but I would predict us being in the top 10 again.’’    

So far, one new varsity coach has been hired. Lindsey Rooney will take the reins as varsity cheer coach. “Lindsey was a long time junior-varsity coach for us,’’ Collins offered and added that “she’ll do a fantastic job.’’

Collins also lauded Jason Hoye, who was the varsity baseball coach and Dean of Students. “We’re proud Jason was hired to be Natick High’s Principal,’’ Collins said. “He began his duties in July. He was one of the most respected members of the faculty and coaching staff (and respected around the state). We’re very fortunate Jason will continue in the Natick school system. We will miss Brian Harrigan dearly. He was Natick High’s Principal but he’s taken a new job as Superintendent of Schools at the Parker Charter School in Devens, Mass.’’ 

A new part-time position Collins will be eager to fill is assistant athletic director. “Hopefully that post will be filled by late August (after Local Town Pages deadline) and I’m really excited to get some additional support for the department,’’ he emphasized.  

Collins reminds students and parents that a full-time administrative assistant was hired to replace the recently retired Cathy Larkin. “We’ve hired Robin MacBlane, who’s done a wonderful job in her transition from working for the district’s special education department at the central office at Town Hall to the athletic department,’’ said Collins. “Robin began with us in December of 2021. Cathy demonstrated great loyalty and a great work ethic. Many people in the school district relied on her.’’ 

As for facility updates, a major upgrade was made by replacing the artificial turf at the high school’s Memorial Field. Collins is pleased the way the facelift went and he’s quick to laud Art Goodhind (DPW Director of Fields and Tree Warden) “for his outstanding leadership in supervising this project.’’ 

The field was first turned from natural grass to artificial turf in 2011.  “We just completed our 11th year on the field (with heavy usage by NHS, Natick youth sports and general community use) and it is only because of Art and his department’s care of our facilities that we had 11 great years on the field,’’ Collins said. “These fields usually last 7-8 years.’’  

The 52-year-old Collins, who’s been Natick High’s A.D. for 13 years, likes the way the Redhawks compete and the way they serve as ambassadors for the school. He’s also pleased the way families and fans support the athletes and he ranks the school’s administrative support highly.

“We have a healthy and competitive athletic department,’’ he said. “The support from the community, families, and school administration is among the best in the state. Our student-athletes represent the school and the community in an exemplary way. We’re fortunate to get strong commitment from our competitors and coaches. The kids want to earn the win and they set out to do it. It’s becoming the Natick way.

“We offer 36 sports and over 75 levels of sports. Seventy-five percent of our coaches also teach in the district, which makes for a strong connection with students. We have recently added Nordic ski and ultimate frisbee and continue to offer the best of athletic experiences.’’   

Collins is hoping that the pandemic, which still is part of the country’s vocabulary, will have a different setting for the 2022-23 school year — in our rear-view mirrors.

“Last year, with many Covid protocols and restrictions in place, was a difficult and challenging year,’’ he said. “We had to make many adjustments as state and local health protocols were added, then lifted. Our community did a tremendous job navigating both athletic and spectator policies that were ever changing and evolving.

“We’re hoping to have a much more standard year this year. As always, we will partner with the Mass. Department of Health and the Natick Department of Health to ensure the safety of our athletes and community.’’

Collins was the right person to maneuver and help Natick High athletes and coaches deal with the last two years. It was by no means easy but he’ll remain flexible and be ready to adjust to whatever the future has in store.