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High school notebook

Methuen golfer Grace McKinnon gets PGA scholarship

Methuen's Grace McKinnon earned a prestigious scholarship from the PGA to pursue a degree in professional golf management.
Methuen's Grace McKinnon earned a prestigious scholarship from the PGA to pursue a degree in professional golf management.McKinnon Family

Methuen’s Grace McKinnon was one of 10 students nationwide to be honored with an $8,000 scholarship from the Professional Golf Association’s charitable organization, PGA REACH.

Scholars must be pursuing a career in professional golf management at a PGA-accredited university and are selected based on academics, leadership, and participation in community activities, and work experience and playing ability are also considered.

McKinnon, who co-captained the all-boys golf team at Methuen last fall, will begin working toward a bachelor’s degree in professional golf management at Florida Gulf Coast University in September. The National Honor Society student played lacrosse, was in the band, and served as the co-president of DECA.

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“When I applied for [the scholarship], I did it the last day, at the deadline,” McKinnon said. “I was sobbing crying because I did not think I was going to finish it.

“One day I came home from school and there was a letter in the mail from PGA WORKS. [McKinnon and her mother, Maria] opened it and we started screaming. We were so happy that I actually got it.”

The 18-year-old grew her love for the game locally, taking lessons at Middleton Golf Course as young as 8 and entering herself in tournaments until she joined the Methuen golf team as a freshman.

When it came down to choosing a college and a career, McKinnon knew she didn’t want to play golf, but she wanted to keep the game in her life. She had joined DECA, a leadership and business organization, as a sophomore, and realized she could combine her interests in golf and business to make a career.

“I fell in love with [DECA],” she said. “I loved the business part, and going to conventions and stuff like that. When I thought about the [professional golf management program], I was like, that’s the perfect thing for me. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do.”

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In addition to Florida Gulf Coast, which she chose because of the location and financial assistance she was offered, she was accepted to Penn State and Coastal Carolina. All three are among the 18 universities with PGA-accredited programs.

Methuen coach Jason Symmes, who is also the advisor of the school’s DECA chapter, said McKinnon has been a strong influence on and off the links throughout her career at Methuen.

“Her love for the game is kind of unparalleled,” Symmes said. “She’s a great golfer, but she’s a better kid.”

Wilmington welcomes first female athletic director

Mia Muzio, who was named Wilmington’s first female athletic director in February, officially took over Wednesday. A Rockport native, Muzio played field hockey at Ithaca College before going on to earn master’s degrees in education (from Harvard) and sports leadership (from Northeastern). Now a Gloucester resident, she comes to Wilmington after serving as the interim athletic director in Weymouth.

Previously, she was an athletic assistant at Hamilton-Wenham and Triton, and coached varsity field hockey and softball at Rockport, North Reading, and Triton.

“It certainly is a privilege to be able to show young women in high school that they can put themselves in a leadership position,” Muzio said. “It might take a little time, but I think in the world of athletics, we’re slowly moving in that direction where women are starting to take over athletic departments, at the college level and at the high school level, and I’ve been lucky to be able to work with some great female ADs in Massachusetts.

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“It’s definitely not an easy job, and there are some challenges that come along with being the first female, but it’s a really good opportunity to show kids that you can put yourself in that position.”

MIAA associate director Sherry Bryant said there are currently 53 female athletic directors through the organization’s member schools.

Muzio, 30, said she is eager to use her background in education and coaching to change the perception of the athletic director role.

“As opposed to the idea that ADs just do schedules and they stand at games, I think it goes far beyond that, for working on teaching kids how to be better people,” Muzio said. “Sports is a great way to do that. That’s a big piece for me.”

Brooks’ Smith commits to Penn

George Smith, a 6-foot-4-inch junior point guard out of Brooks, committed to the University of Pennsylvania Tuesday. He earned All-ISL and first-team NEPSAC Class B honors after Brooks finished 24-3 with a loss in the NEPSAC Class B championship game and surpassed the 1,000-point mark in February.

Smith, a Salem, N.H. resident, transferred to Brooks this year after two seasons at Central Catholic.

“It was pretty quick that everyone realized just how valuable he was going to be, both as a person and a player,” said Brooks coach John McVeigh. “He was a terrific scorer for us, he was our best wing defender. He just did whatever we needed to do to have success.”

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Smith had several Division 1 offers heading into his junior year, including Northeastern, Fairfield, Dartmouth, Holy Cross, Brown, New Hampshire, and Merrimack, but chose ultimately chose Penn for the education and the campus.

“At some point in time, the ball is going to stop bouncing,” Smith said. “An Ivy League education, although challenging, will best prepare me for life. Moreover, I really connected with Coach [Steve] Donahue and the rest of the staff last year. I walked through campus last summer and fell in love.”

“He has earned this,” McVeigh said. “He has worked and he has been relentless in his pursuit of improvement. He’s so coachable. He’s so humble, and so easy to root for, and I think this is a terrific fit of school and program and player.”

Gatorade Massachusetts Track & Field Players of the Year selected

Tewksbury’s Makayla Paige and Phillips Andover’s Alex Fleury were announced as the Gatorade Massachusetts Track & Field Players of the Year last week.

Makayla Paige from Tewksbury is seen here winning the girls' 600 during February's MIAA Division 3 Track & Field Championships.
Makayla Paige from Tewksbury is seen here winning the girls' 600 during February's MIAA Division 3 Track & Field Championships.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

A repeat Gatorade selection, Paige continued to command the track as a junior. Her state record in the 600-meter (1:29.70) ranked first nationally during the 2020 winter season, and seventh all-time.

Fleury, who was named a Globe Foundation/Phelps scholar-athlete, finished first in the state in the mile, 800, 1,000, and 3,000 meters during the indoor season , finished first nationally in the 1,000, and set the state high school mile record. A three-season All-American, he will run at Harvard.

Shawsheen wrestling coach battling Stage 4 cancer

Shawsheen wrestling coach Mark Donovan was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, according to a statement issued by the team Wednesday night.

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“Coach Donovan is the most genuine and compassionate person we have ever met,” read the statement. “He cares deeply about the success of his wrestlers both on the mat and in their personal lives.

“For those that do not know ‘Dunny’ well, he has never backed down from any obstacle in his life – and this obstacle – is no difference than any other. Coach Donovan is going to fight and beat this.”


Former Boston Latin cheerleader, softball player injured in boating accident

Julia Gangemi, who was a cheerleader and played softball for Boston Latin and is the captain of the Northeastern cheerleading team, was injured in a boating accident last week, according to a GoFundMe shared by the Boston Latin athletic department.

Gangemi, 20, suffered multiple fractures in her back and completely severed her spinal cord, according to the fundraiser. She is being transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown this week.

Money raised through the GoFundMe page, which was created by the “Family and Friends of Julia Gangemi,” will be used to support her recovery and rehabilitation.

“Julia has met this unfathomably life-altering experience with grace, grit, and wit,” reads the GoFundMe page, which had already collected more than $45,000 within six hours of being posted Wednesday. “Her inner spirit is evident and gives those around her the strength to meet every day’s challenges.”