TOWNSEND -- On Tuesday afternoon inside the historic Bartlett gymnasium at North Middlesex Regional High School, nine seniors signed their national letters of intent. Among those who signed include golfer Jimmy Walmsley, who will be attending UMass Lowell in the fall on a golf scholarship.
Over February vacation Walmsley received a call from UMass Lowell golf head coach Jim Mahoney, and he was nervous about what the coach would say.
"It took a while for me to make my decision, but once I did it was very relaxing," Walmsley said. "Coach Mahoney told me that I was accepted to the school, and he said that they really wanted me and needed me on the team. It was a huge relief ? I could not be happier."
First-year North Middlesex athletic director James Bunnell is thrilled to see so many athletes move on to compete at the next level.
"It is fun to watch all of these kids play at a high level the way it should be played," Bunnell said. "It's not like watching some pro athletes, who do it and show off. These kids are working at it and smiling. It's that passion that you see pouring out on the field -- that's what you want in an athlete. I was very lucky for my first year to have nine kids go off and play at college. For them to be a part of the same program I am, it's just fun."
Walmsley is one-of-three Patriots who are headed to Division-1 institutions. Senior North Middlesex soccer and track star Jacob Fitzgerald will join Walmsley at UMass Lowell as a member of the Men's soccer program. UMass Lowell recently made the jump to the America East Conference last year. Fitzgerald is an athletic player, and an electrifying finisher.
"Jake is an all-around team player and captain," Bunnell said. "He is one of the guys who looks to pass first and create a lot of plays for his teammates. I had a lot of fun watching him excel on the soccer field this fall. It's a great feeling to see these kids step up to the next level, it shows that the coaches and players have worked really hard."
North Middlesex sprinter and hurdler Michael Niemi has not only broken records that have stood for decades, he even shattered his own. Niemi heads to UMass Amherst on a track and field scholarship, and to Bunnell, it is no surprise he is going Division-1.
"Niemi was a great soccer goalie and an even better track-and-field player," Bunnell said. "I can't believe he broke the school record twice this year. When I saw him do the hurdles twice, the record was already broken and it was like he was shot out of a cannon. It's really cool to see these kids go to Division 1 schools and thrive there."
North Middlesex/ Leominster cooperative swim team member Alexis Regopoulos, of Fitchburg, will attend Goucher College (Md.) in the fall. Regopoulous shined as a three-year competitor on the Patriot swim team.
"Alexis was the captain of the swim team this year," Bunnell said. "She took last year off, but she still exceled. She was far-and-away one of the best players on our cooperative team with Leominster. She did a great job in assisting the younger kids on the team. She is all-around one of the great kids we have here that we are going to miss."
North Middlesex football will be represented well at local Division-3 colleges. Two-way player Tyler MacDonald saw time at both wide receiver and defensive back in the Patriots quarterfinalist season.
"Fitchburg State is very lucky to be getting Tyler," Bunnell said. "He is a great leader and team player. He is a great all-around player. MacDonald got hurt this year, but he will do great there."
North Middlesex lineman Paul Naumann is a tall player with long reach. Naumann is bound for Framingham State. Naumann will likely meet MacDonald again, but this time from opposite sidelines.
"Naumann will do a great job at Framingham State with coach Tom Kelley," Bunnell said. " I remember one day walking into my office and Framingham State was in there talking to Paul, and he was very excited. It's where he wanted to go."
Outside linebacker Zak Davis is bound for Norwich university, and he was a two-sport captain in lacrosse and football. Davis is a hardworking diligent student of the game, who will fit in nicely with a Cadets' football program that finished 7-4 and was a finalist in the Division-3 North Atlantic Championship Bowl.
Six-foot-one, 210-pound running back Dylan Woods is a bruising rusher, who is not afraid to plow through defenders.
Woods also filled in as needed at wide receiver and found his niche defensively at linebacker.
Woods will continue his football career at Division-3 Nichols College, in Dudley. Woods earned Division 2 Central Mass, Midland Wachusett League and Lowell Sun All Star. Woods is a three-sport athlete with varsity letters in football, basketball and track and field.
Erin Melanson, who was unable to attend signing day, will play field hockey next fall at Simmons College in Boston. Melanson is a defender, who was a member of the 2012 Bay State Games gold medalist team.
"You really can't go wrong with any of these kids," Bunnell said.