Jaywalking: Prep reps

The 22nd Winter Olympics begins next Friday in Sochi, Russia, and although no local athletes will take part, Franklin County does have some connections to three Sochi Games competitors.

All three of those athletes come out of the local prep schools. United States women’s hockey coach Katey Stone and U.S. bobsledder Chris Langton both have connections to Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, while U.S. women’s hockey goalie Molly Schaus has a connection to Deerfield Academy.

Stone is a native of Watertown, Conn., and played hockey at the Taft School, where she graduated. She went on to play collegiate hockey at the University of New Hampshire, where she graduated in 1989. She wound up in Gill/Northfield after graduation and coached the girls’ hockey team at NMH from 1989 through 1992. She went on to coach at Tabor and Phillips Exeter academies before getting Harvard University’s head-coaching gig beginning in the 1994-95 season. Stone has remained at Harvard ever since, coaching for 19 seasons to become the winningest coach in Division I women’s hockey history. With 402 career collegiate wins, this season she took a leave of absence to coach the U.S. team.

One of Stone’s players is goalie Schaus, who had a nice Deerfield career. A 2006 DA grad, she moved on to play hockey at Boston College, where she won a number of awards, including first-team All American as a senior in 2010-11. While at Deerfield Academy, Schaus won a pair of MVP awards and was a team captain. She also played softball and soccer, and ran cross country. She is one of three Team USA goalies.

The final athlete with ties to our area is Langton, originally from Melrose; he made a one-year postgrad stop at NMH in 2008 before moving on to play lacrosse at Cornell University. His coach at NMH was Greenfield native Jeffrey Neill, who graduated from NMH in 1997 and returned in 2005 to serve as a college counselor, English teacher and boys’ lacrosse coach. Neill coached lacrosse at NMH from 2005 through 2012. He was offered a job at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, in 2012, where he now serves as the prep school’s director of college counseling.

Neill returned my call Sunday night to fill me in on Langton, and even though he is not a resident of our area, he did leave a lasting impression on the NMH campus.

According to Neill, Langton will actually go over to Sochi as a reserve on the bobsled team. His brother, Steve Langton, is a world-champion bobsledder and, according to Neill, considered one of the best “push-men” in the sport. If Steve gets injured, Chris would fill in.

Chris came to NMH after graduating from St. John’s Prep in Danvers, where he was a lacrosse and track star. He played football that fall and was not scheduled for a winter sport. But as fate would have it, toward the end of the wrestling season, the Hoggers had two wrestlers injured at the top two weights and they needed replacements. Neill said that Langton was one of the players whose job was to basically to not get pinned. If they could do that, it would help NMH gain points in the big picture. Though he had never wrestled, Chris was such a good athlete that legendary wrestling coach Frank Millard felt like he could fill the spot at 215 pounds. The other stand-in wrestler, brought in to compete at heavyweight, did his job and did not get pinned as far as Neill could remember. Chris, however, did a little better. Neill can remember going to Chris’ first wrestling match to watch the Hoggers face Loomis Chaffee School. The gym was packed with people curious to see how Langton fared. When he ran out onto the mat and took off his robe prior to the match, Neill remembers a parent in the crowd hollering, “Get that kid a cape.” Neill recalled that toward the beginning of the match, he joked that it looked like Langton was looking to “throw a kid into a turnbuckle.” Neill said he remembered the final score being something along the lines of 23-22 in Langton’s favor, but the odd thing was that he doesn’t remember Langton’s opponent scoring any points.

“I think all of his opponents’ points came due to penalties, because Chris had no idea what the rules were,” Neill joked.

Chris quickly picked up the sport and, despite wrestling only a handful of matches that season, went on to earn All-New England honors and qualify for the Nationals.

“Chris is probably the most gifted athlete I’ve ever been around,” Neill said.

During lacrosse season, Langton, a midfielder, led the team in scoring before moving on to Cornell, where he had a solid career. He was drafted 42nd overall in the 2012 Major League Lacrosse draft by Ohio, but wound up following in his brother’s footsteps and moved on to bobsled.

“Chris got into it because his brother was on the team and he wanted to be part of it,” Neill said. “He’s a pretty dedicated kid. He was such a straight-edge kid, you never had to worry about him putting his work in. He’s very focused.”

And now he is going to Sochi, perhaps to compete on the team, but at the very least to be there and cheer on his brother and the rest of the team in person.

On Sunday, two local ballplayers were named WMass Most Valuable Players of their respective divisions during the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association brunch at the Doubletree Hilton in Westborough.

Greenfield High School pitcher/third baseman Garrett Hudson won the MVP for Division II, while Frontier Regional School infielder/catcher Niko Ames was named MVP for Division III.

According to the press release, Ames was 16-of-18 in stolen-base attempts and scored 24 runs for the WMass Division III-champion Red Hawks. He also hit .380 and drove in 16 runs. Hudson was 7-0 pitching in the regular season with a .37 earned run average. In 56 innings pitched, Hudson struck out 80 and walked 11. He also led the Green Wave with a .434 batting average. He then pitched a pair of complete-game postseason shutouts to help Greenfield win the WMass Division II title.

Both players are seniors this spring and should be primed for another big season.

I finally caught up with the one other mother who had contacted me following the deer season.

Her son, Ben Pearson, a 14-year-old from Montague, shot an 8-point, 128-pound buck on the final weekend of shotgun season and checked it at Grrr Gear in Orange. It was the first career deer shot by the second-year hunter.

His father, Keith Pearson, also killed a deer that day, a 2-point, 122-pound buck. A third member of the hunting party was Vernon, Vt.’s Rodger Ellis, who bagged a beauty, checking in an 11-point, 154-pound buck. All three deer were harvested in Northfield.

Finally, a question to Patriots’ fans (feel free to e-mail responses): Who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl? Are you bitter over the loss to Denver? Do you just hate Peyton Manning or the Broncos? Are you rooting for Wes Welker because, let’s face it, the Patriots ran him out of town?

I would have liked to see the Pats go up against Seattle, but given their injury situation, it’s no surprise the Pats lost. I’ll be rooting for whoever I have a bet on, but I’ll be secretly leaning toward Seattle, for no other reason than the fact that Russell Wilson helped guide my fantasy football team to a championship this past season.

And a quick prediction: Seahawks plow through the snow and cold, 27-24.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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