By Tom O'Brien
The Haverhill High School gym received a fresh look in 2011-2012, including all new banners.
But there was quite a bit more to this banner year for the Hillie athletic program.
Here are some of the highlights and accomplishments of the last 12 months:
Including individual sports, 17 of the 25 Hillie programs participated in MIAA post-season competition in 2011-2012.
Hillie sports teams combined for 164 wins in 2011-2012, up from 129 wins in the previous year.
Hillie teams won three Merrimack Valley Conference (MVC) regular season titles in the last year.
Two MVC Coaches of the Year last year
Six MVC Players of the Year
Two teams — girls cross country and boys volleyball — had undefeated regular seasons and were ranked No. 1 in the state during the year.
Swimmer Sarah Broderick took the MIAA state title in the 50-yard free style event.
The boys volleyball team had the No. 1 seed in MIAA Division 1 North Tournament.
The boys lacrosse team set a school record for wins.
The cheerleading team advanced to the state finals.
Four members of the boys track program qualified for and competed in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, NC. Patrick Garvey qualified for both the indoor and outdoor nationals.
The football team snapped its 32-game losing streak, winning four games, and contended for the MVC crown.
The baseball team had a major turnaround, going from 2-18 to 11-10, including its first playoff berth since 2009.
The 35th annual Ottaviani Track Invitational successfully transitioned to a co-ed event for the first time in its history. More than 900 student-athletes participated.
Wrestling returned to Haverhill High. The Hillies tallied seven wins in their first season back as a varsity program.
Here's a look at improvements to facilities and equipment:
An impressive new entrance to the high school athletic fields was installed in the spring, thanks to a contribution from Ernie DiBurro. Extensive work was done on the playing fields at the high school, as well.
The gym floor was resurfaced, after a generous donation from Converse, Inc. Banners were replaced in the gym and a paint job gave the Mansfield Gymnasium a brand new look.
The stadium and its field received new names. The field was named in honor of the late Harry McNamara, longtime Haverhill High football coach. The stadium was named for Trinity EMS, which donated $75,000 over a three-year period for upkeep of the complex.
Another phase of renovations was completed at the stadium, as two sections of bleachers were repaired. The Hillie teams played their first full year on the artificial playing surface. Trinity Stadium is now one of the premier sports venues in the area.
The athletic department made a commitment to equipment and uniforms upgrades. Eleven programs received new uniforms in 2011-2012.
Sports fees for students are down, participation is up:
The fees were reduced to $125 per student/per sport. This represented a significant reduction from the previous fee of $275 and is the lowest an athletic user fee has been at Haverhill High since 2002. The fees will be reduced again for the next school year, dropping to $100 per sport.
The school's sports programs had 100 more participants this year. The total rose from 868 in 2010-2011 to 968 in 2011-2012.
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Tom O'Brien is the athletic director at Haverhill High School. He contributes this regular column.