Authors Posts by Dakota Antelman

Dakota Antelman

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Danica Johnston works at her desk. | by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

When Danica Johnston entered the University of Southern Maine (USM), she knew she wanted to do one thing — play varsity sports at the college level. Forced to pick a major, she chose business.

Fourteen years later, Johnston sits as Hudson High School’s new assistant principal, a position vastly different from any of business jobs she sought fresh out of college less than a decade ago.

Johnston was a star high school athlete growing up in Bridgton, Maine. Her play attracted the attention of college scouts, eventually earning her a spot on the Stonehill College soccer and softball teams. Though she was a talented athlete, Johnston struggled to decide on a major, and, by extension, a career to enter after college.

“Out of high school, all that I knew was that I wanted to play soccer or basketball in college,” she said. “That was really my motivation. I picked Stonehill first to play soccer there. My father is a businessman. He majored in business and engineering, so he got to travel a lot with his job. I thought that was interesting, so that’s what I majored in.”

After transferring from Stonehill to USM to avoid excessive student loan debt, Johnston graduated with a degree in business. That degree quickly helped her land a job in sales and trading. After starting work, however, she found herself feeling unfulfilled.

“I absolutely hated it,” she said. “It was a horrible world to be in. I shouldn’t say horrible, but nothing made me happy about going to work. I made a lot of money, but it wasn’t worth it.”

So, after her brief stint in the working world, Johnston went back to school. She obtained a masters degree in secondary education from Worcester State. Two years later, in 2016, she started work on a second masters degree, in educational leadership and administration, at Endicott College.

For Johnston, administration was a happy marriage of her business experience and her passion for education.

“I really always wanted to do the administrative piece because it’s kind of the business management piece where you have an impact on what goes on behind the scenes, but then you also get to work with kids and students,” she explained.

Johnston climbed quickly through the education world. She coached two junior varsity sports and taught math for a year in Lunenburg. She then secured a job as a math teacher in Littleton and rose to the rank of math curriculum director for grades five through 12 before she left the district this spring.

She left Littleton after Hudson announced in early June that longtime Assistant Principal Josh Otlin would be leaving the district. Otlin, a Milford native, became an assistant principal in his own town but only did so in late May, leaving Hudson with little time to find his successor.

Before hiring Johnston, the Hudson Public Schools impaneled committees of students, teachers and parents to interview finalists in the final weeks of the 2016-2017 school year.

Doing so was no easy task according to Principal Brian Reagan.

“For an assistant principal, I want to get as many professionals in the building to interact with the candidates as possible,” he said. “That’s why when the process is truncated like it was, you need to work hard to get it all to happen in that short period of time.”

The district announced they had chosen Johnston on June 23. She started work in Hudson eight days later, on July 1.

For Reagan, Johnston’s comfort with students in her conversations during the student panel discussion set her apart from other contenders for the position.

“When she was in the room with 25 or so students, there was a table that she could have sat at but she stood; she walked over [to the students]; she engaged with the students who were asking questions; she asked good questions back,” he said. “It seemed to be more of a dialogue than an interview, which I found to be a positive strength.”

He added that, since starting in Hudson, Johnston has continued to display this strength.

“She’s interacting very well with kids,” Reagan said. “She seems to have a nice rapport with them.”

Though she has not spent her entire career working with students, Johnston has spent it adapting.

As she works at her desk in Hudson, a plaque from her days on the USM soccer team hangs over her shoulder in her office. That plaque serves as a reminder of a different time in her career. Indeed, Johnston celebrates her ability to adapt as her career progresses.

She first adapted to work in the business world after years of success as an athlete. Then she adapted from business jobs to education jobs. Now, she’s adapting again — from her former jobs in Lunenburg and Littleton to her current one in Hudson.

“I learn several new things every single day; the most difficult piece is that things are run very differently at every different school,” she said. “At Littleton it was very different. At Hudson it’s very different. So every circumstance is a new experience for me.”

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Senior Alec Dalton solemnly watches as the clock winds down. The score remains 14-6. | by Siobhan Richards

by Dakota Antelman

A Hudson football player slapped his hands against his pads and screamed, “It’s over!” as quarterback Corey Clemons trotted to the sideline after throwing an interception late in Friday’s 14-6 loss to Nipmuc.

Moments later, it was over. The Warriors, who entered the game ranked ninth in Central Massachusetts by the Worcester Telegram, avoided an upset loss on the road that Hudson nearly executed.

“We played great,” Clemons said. “We fought [throughout] the whole game. But, just at the end, we made a few little mistakes. We’ve just got to get better next week.”

Hudson started the game by marching down the field and scoring on an Andrew Di Battista touchdown on their first possession of the game. Though the Hawks failed to score on their two-point conversion attempt, they followed that drive up by shutting down the Nipmuc offense for the remainder of the first quarter.

The Warriors broke through in the second quarter when George Morrice ran in an 8-yard touchdown. They then took the lead on a successful extra point kick.

After trading punts with Hudson for most of the second half, Nipmuc got its next break when they pinned Hudson against their own goal line with less than four minutes left in the game. With Hudson trailing 7-6 at the time, the Warriors intercepted Clemons’ pass and sent their offense to work deep in Hudson territory.

Nipmuc coaches soon put the ball back in the hands of Morrice, who solidified the Warrior lead with a 24-yard touchdown run with 2:21 remaining in the game.

A week after the Hawks beat Clinton on the road to notch their first win of the season, head coach Dan McAnespie noted the successes and failures of his offense that ran through both games.

“I think our offense clicked better in the Clinton and in this game at times [than it did earlier in the season],” he said. “But, at times, it totally just couldn’t do it.”

Looking back on the game, both he and Clemons saw opportunities where Hudson could have changed the contest’s outcome.

Primarily, the Hawks got within at least 20 yards of the Nipmuc end zone twice after their first touchdown. Snapping issues marred both drives, however, as high snaps either left Clemons with little time to pass, or sent him scrambling to retrieve the ball as it bounced yards behind him.

Likewise, at least one major penalty stymied Hudson’s final attempt at a comeback after Nipmuc’s second touchdown. Officials assessed Di Battista a 15-yard penalty midway through the drive. The penalty pushed the Hawks back towards their goal line and quickly snuffed out Hudson’s hopes of the first down they needed to extend the drive.

“We both were able to move the ball, but then we stalled and we did dumb things like snaps over the head, the penalty [and a] third and three where we have it but then we don’t have it because we’re running backward,” McAnespie said.

The Hawks now head back on the road to face Maynard next week. Both McAnespie and Clemons noted that their team has work to do in practice this week to improve before that game. Shortly, before walking off the field, however, Clemons said he was proud of what his team put forth despite being one of many Hawks disappointed by the outcome of the game.

“We could run all over them,” he said. “We made good blocks. We ran hard. They thought they were coming to blow us out, but we gave them a fight. The end wasn’t what we wanted, but we came out, punched them in the mouth, and fought.”

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Freshman Ellie Calandra sprints to beat Gardner's Avery Kavanaugh to the ball as the rest of the Hudson defense rushes to stifle the Wildcat attack. | by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

A 3-0 lead at halftime was not comfortable enough for the girls soccer team in their game against Gardner on Wednesday. That’s because almost a year ago, against the same team, in a nearly identical situation, three goals were not enough to seal the victory.

Hudson let a 3-0 lead at halftime slip away against Gardner last year, settling for a 3-3 tie. With memories of that comeback fresh in their minds, the Hawks returned to the field in the second half and promptly beat the Wildcats 4-1.

“I think with last year, how we were ahead, we ended up tying, we were much more motivated to not let that happen again,” said senior Beverly Calandra. “Everyone was much more focused on the game, and we weren’t cocky thinking we already had it in the bag. It was nice to keep the lead while we had it.”

As they did last fall when Sophia DiPlacido notched a hat trick in the first half of her team’s eventual tie with Gardner, the Hawks got off to a good start.

Grace Starner scored early in the game off a corner kick by Calandra deep into the goalie box. After dominating possession of the ball for the first 20 minutes of the game, Gardner nearly tied the game. Hawk goalie Erin Campbell, however, recovered after charging at the Gardner striker and preserved the lead.

Brooke Bohn regained the momentum for Hudson later in the half when she headed Hudson’s second goal past Gardner goalie Courtney Richard. The goal was the second Hudson scored off a corner kick in the game.

“Since I have such a long kick, I like to aim it for the back post mostly on the six-yard line because the goalie is typically not that far out,” said Calandra, who took both corner kicks.”This team tonight wasn’t marking up our players well, so we were able to get the space to score some goals.”

The Hawks added another goal before the end of the half when Maggie Baker hammered home a rebound generated by Brooke Bohn. Though the flurry of first half scoring energized the Hudson crowd, Hudson coaches were wary of keeping their players engaged in the game as they entered the second half. For Fortwengler, the memory of last year’s 3-0 halftime lead that melted away remained fresh.

“[I was] trying to bring up the rumors of last year and how it ended and how I didn’t want it to happen again,” Fortwengler said. “I was really trying to keep their enthusiasm going and their energy high.”

In many ways, the team did just as their coach asked. Alex Sousa scored midway through the second half, expanding Hudson’s lead to 4-0. On the other end of the field, goalie Erin Campbell and the defense in front of her held onto the shutout until Gardner finally scored with less than six minutes left.

Things then heated up in the game’s final minutes. Officials awarded both teams free kicks as fouls piled up late in the game. Tensions between the teams reached a boiling point with just under three minutes left when a Gardner player earned a yellow card for punching Hudson’s Carley Devlin.

For Fortwengler, the physical conclusion to the game was a display of his team’s strengths.

“Good fouls are good fouls, and sometimes the fans and the people feed off of a good foul and it starts to get a little crazy,” he said. “I try not to let the referees dictate the game, but we play hard and sometimes schools can’t handle that.

Hudson now moves on to face Concord-Carlisle on Saturday. Before they left the field on Wednesday, however, Fortwengler relished his team’s ability to face an eerily similar situation to last year’s game and produce a different result.

“When you play a team before and it’s 3-0 and they come back and score goals, that haunts you,” he said. “But you just have to focus on what you want to do to get better. We did that tonight.”

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Danilo Ambrosio celebrates after accepting his diploma. | by Dakota Antelman

by Big Red Hawk Staff

HHS honored the more than 100 members of the senior class on June 4 at graduation. The ceremony featured student speeches, performances, and speeches by Principal Brian Reagan and Superintendent Jodi Fortuna.

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by Siobhan Richards

by Big Red Hawk Staff

This year dozens of seniors decorated their graduation caps. We posted our best pictures of their caps in this gallery.

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Seniors performing in the Baccalaureate ceremony stand on stage after walking in. | by Siobhan Richards

Members of the Hudson High School class of 2017 gathered in the HHS Auditorium on May 30 for the annual baccalaureate ceremony honoring their grade. More than 20 seniors read or performed music for their classmates, friends, and family while HHS staff members Reed Prior and Rebecca Appel also spoke at the ceremony.

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McKayla Shutt bats while a teammate looks on. | Submitted photo

by Dakota Antelman

Less than a week into her high school softball career, McKayla Shutt thanked her coaches for treating her just like the rest of her teammates.

Born without a full-sized left hand or fingers on that left hand, Shutt faces difficulties in softball that her teammates and opponents do not. But, after roughly her first year of high school play, she remains happy that her coaches don’t use her disability as a reason to go easy on her or keep her off the field.

“The coaches treat me like everyone else,” she said. “I do the same amount of catching, the same amount of throwing, the same skills that everyone else is taught.”

The backup first basemen and backup catcher on the eighth grade softball team, Shutt plays by first catching the ball with a glove on her right hand. She then drops the glove with the ball still inside of it, and finally picks the ball out of the glove to throw it also with her right hand.

Her coach, Catherine Brow, said she was impressed by Shutt’s ability.

“She does it so quickly especially when she’s behind the plate,” Brow said of Shutt’s fielding. “She catches it, and, by the time she’s standing up, she has the glove down, the ball in her hand and she’s ready to throw. It’s such a quick change. You don’t even notice it.”

While Shutt has played other sports, including field hockey, soccer and basketball, she has spent a considerable amount of time playing softball. She began playing t-ball in kindergarten and has progressed ever since.

Over the years, however, she has not found the kind of honest criticism from coaches she currently enjoys.

“[Before this year,] if I didn’t catch as well in one inning, my coaches would be like, ‘Oh it’s fine, shake it off,’” Shutt said, adding, however, that she loved all her coaches. “But here, the coach that I have will tell me, ‘You weren’t as good as you could have been.’ It’s nice to hear them say that.”

Catherine Brow sees this inclusivity as a core coaching value. In accepting Shutt with open arms, and treating her just as she does any other player, she also said she feels driven by her job as a paraprofessional and her ongoing education to become a special education teacher.

“Everybody should have the same opportunity,” she said. “Nobody should have anything held against them because of their disability. I’m not going to treat her any differently. I’m going to give her the same chance I give everybody else.”

Passivity by her own coaches was not Shutt’s only problem before high school. Indeed, opposing coaches, she said, would doubt her ability to play or question her when she dropped her glove and threw the ball with the same hand she caught it with.

“I’ve proven most of them wrong,” she said.

In dealing with naysayers, Shutt said her mother has been a crucial source of support.

“Obviously, she has two hands,” Shutt said. “But she has been there for me during everything with sports, especially when people are giving me a hard time about it.”

While some of her past coaches treated her differently or even questioned her ability, Shutt said her teammates have always supported her without question.

“They pick me up when I’m down,” she said. “They know how to cheer me up. They understand that it’s difficult, but they treat me like a normal person, which is really nice. They treat me like I have two hands.”

She added that this was the first year that she and all of her softball friends have played on the same team. Before this year, they were scattered among teams playing in a town league.

As the year progressed, Shutt said the new competitive atmosphere helped her improve. During the season, she made a major batting adjustment, switching from a conventional batting stance to a “slapper” stance. Before high school, Shutt hit using her one right hand. With Brow as her coach, she learned to bat from the other side of the plate while running towards the ball.

“I think that’s helped her a lot,” Brow said the day after one of the team’s practice. “She was hitting very well yesterday, and that’s definitely an improvement for her.”

Shutt hopes to one day become the starting varsity catcher. After her eighth-grade season, one in which she said she saw no special treatment, she said she now sees a clear way to make that happen.

“Since I came to the high school, I’ve talked to the coaches about it, and they’ve told me what I needed to correct,” she said. “They’ve been working with me on it. I think I’ll get there.”

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Maddie Haufe swings on a pitch during the game. Haufe would later tie the game with a two run double in the seventh inning. | by Siobhan Richards.

by Dakota Antelman

After forcing extra innings with a six-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Hawk softball team lost one of its longest games in recent memory on Saturday, May 20 by a score of 10-6 in the tenth inning. The late season loss now amplifies the pressure on the Hawks to secure a spot in next month’s playoff tournament.

“That’s a stinger,” said head coach Laura Bowen after the game. “That’s a stinger of a loss.”

The Hawks fell behind early thanks to a three-run Tantasqua first inning. Lindsey Zac started the scoring for the Warriors with a sacrifice fly with no outs in that inning. Kelsey Emrish and Marie Stewart tacked on RBIs of their own as the Warriors sent all nine of their batters to the plate before Hudson could get off the field.

“I think that we put ourselves in a hole,” Bowen said. “When we came out in the first inning and let up three runs, we put pressure on ourselves before we even got a bat in our hand which stinks.”

The score held until the fifth inning when Zac and Emrish knocked in two more runs for Tantasqua, giving them a 5-0 lead. Abby LaFountain batted in Tantasqua’s sixth run in the top of the sixth inning.

As the Warrior offense thrived, the Hawks had just two hits and a walk as they entered the seventh inning trailing 6-0. Two walks and two singles to lead off that inning, however, seemed to turn things around.

“A lot of teams down 6-0 in the seventh inning are going to go up and give up,” said Bowen. “But we brought the next batter up and had quality at bats.”

As Tantasqua batted around in the first inning, the Hawks did the same in the seventh inning, scoring six times during ten individual at bats. Amanda Doucette managed to break the Tansatqua shutout with an RBI single with no outs. Jordyn Safranski then scored from third base on a wild pitch, and Megan Miller chipped away at the lead with a two-run single with two outs. Maddie Haufe finally tied the game with a base clearing two-run double.

“It’s just the momentum that’s going through you [that keeps you going],” Haufe said of her team’s ability to come back. “We were getting pumped up, thinking we can win when we came back with all those runs.”

The game remained deadlocked after the seventh inning, however, dragging into the tenth inning before the Warriors revived their offense. They scored four times in the top of the tenth inning and stifled Hudson’s attempt at a second comeback in the bottom of that inning, winning the game.

While she celebrated Hudson’s ability to force extra innings, Bowen said she wished her team scored earlier in the game.

“We kept saying, ‘Make an adjustment from your at-bats; learn what the umpire is calling; learn what [the pitcher] is throwing,'” she said. “I think that definitely helps. She was a good pitcher, I’m not taking any credit away from her, but, like I said, we have to make adjustments earlier than that.”

The Hawks now sit in third place in the MidWach B league. They need at least two wins out of their last four regular season games if they are to return to the playoffs. Though she said that path will be difficult, Bowen vowed after the Tantasqua loss to “go down fighting.”

“We’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves for sure, but it’s absolutely doable,” she said. “These girls have it in them. It’s just a matter of if they want it or not.”

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Winners of this year's Big Red prom pictures contest.

by Big Red Staff

Juniors attended prom on Friday, May 12. More than 100 of those juniors submitted their prom pictures to the Big Red’s prom pictures contest using the hashtag #HHSPromPics2017. Members of the Big Red staff met Monday and selected winners in seven categories.

The winner of “best picture” wins a $10 Dunkin Donuts gift card.

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Students thank their teachers during teacher appreciation week. | Photos by Dakota Antelman and Jordan Cullen

by Big Red Staff

Last week was teacher appreciation week across the country. Hudson High School students were happy to participate, thanking and praising their teachers in interviews with the Big Red.