This & That: Local athletes, college stars

athletes

Springfield’s Chelsea McAllister

This Sunday, a former Springfield Cosmo standout basketball player will have her moment at center stage in one of New England’s largest basketball arenas. However, there will be no hooping it up. At least of the kind she is most comfortable with. Instead, Chelsea McAllister will conclude her days at Springfield College when she walks across a makeshift stage, set up over a basketball court at Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, Mass. I spoke to McAllister earlier this month and her words clearly showed me she grew in so many ways in her four years at the college.

Turning back the clock those four years, McAllister bled Green and White. She had just finished a stellar athletic career in her hometown and was looking forward to the next step in life. She remembered, “I was known in Vermont as being very athletic. You learn quickly in college that things are totally different and you are no longer that player that was well-known.”

The most current Cosmo girls’ basketball coach Joe Costello had told me recently about when he took over the program. “I inherited kids who had played with an alpha their entire lives. I had to shift a mindset that players were use to of deferring to someone, and they now had to change their roles to become playmakers, creative forces, and overall basketball players.” Upon arriving at the Springfield College basketball court the Cosmos’ alpha had to make the same adjustments.

Naomi Graves has coached basketball at Springfield College for 28 seasons, amassing 434 victories. She had the pleasure of guiding McAllister through her collegiate career. Graves told me, “When she came to us, she was typical of most freshmen. When I asked her what her goals were she said she wanted to get better. As they all find out, it wasn’t always easy, but she bought in and she certainly evolved. She made a strong commitment to us.”

As McAllister walks away from Springfield College, she is determined to return to her roots and make a difference. She attended Springfield High School after growing up in incredibly rural Baltimore, Vt. She has majored in recreation management.

“Coaching has come across my mind,” she told me. But “recreation is where I would like to start. I would like to help kids develop as they grow up as people, not just as athletes. During my time in college, I learned all about life situations. I have learned a lot about how real life works. I saw these things when I was growing up and now I understand them.”

The former Cosmo was beyond convincing that she is now on a mission. “I want to give back to the community. Being able to do that is so important to me,” she stated. Recreation jobs near home are sparse at the moment. McAllister plans for the moment to settle in back home and hope something opens up. She may have to be patient for a while or serve youth in another way until an opportunity presents itself.

Springfield Cosmos athletics has always meant a lot to the young lady who is about to graduate. “My brother is four years older than I am and I use to go to all his games,” she explained. “I have always tried to go to as many local games as I could. It was difficult not to be able to watch this year’s girls’ team play in person. I tried to find some online, Facebook live, but with the commitments we have at school, seeing any games the past few years has been difficult. It was great they did so well.”

McAllister started every game for the 18-10 Springfield Pride this past winter. Beginning with her sophomore season, she has received regular playing time. She averaged close to 10 points a game over the past three seasons for a program that won 55 games, while losing only 29 in that time. She shot a phenomenal 86% from the foul line this season. And like most of Graves’ players, “They need to learn to play on two sides of the ball. Most kids don’t get the defensive part until they get to college. She really started to develop when teams took away her strengths as a player. You then figure it out that you have to change your game to become a much better player and she reaped the benefits of her time here. She also evolved as a person. She is leaving us looking to make the world a much better place.”

McAllister’s high school coach Joe Brown may be coaching and teaching in Tennessee, but he tried to keep up with the growth of his former player from afar. “I watched some of her games online,” Brown told me. He added, “I am most proud of what she did in the classroom being able to balance her time and have the academic success she had. She has always been so competitive, and she was able to get it all done.”

Springfield softball coach Andy Bladyka remembers McAllister getting it all done on the diamond as his stellar third baseman and number three hitter. “She put us into extra innings when she delivered a game tying single in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs in a 1-0 game off the fastest pitcher in the state that year versus Randolph. Without that hit, we don’t win in extra innings and go on to the finals.” Bladyka is presently utilizing McAllister as a baseball and softball umpire as she awaits graduation day, and he is looking out for her as she pursues a regular job in a crowded field. The longtime coach and recreation director tells me, “Some people may not remember she was a heck of a softball player because of her basketball success. She did her internship with us last year and she will find a job that fits her in the future. There is no doubt in my mind.”

Superior in America East

Two springs ago, DJ Snide was competing in track and field for Tim Eno and the Bellows Falls Terriers. Now he is the reigning champion in the Decathlon for the America East Conference. Snide wasn’t just the best performer in the gruesome event for the University of Vermont; he was the best in the entire conference.

Snide served notice this winter when he finished second in the Conference Indoor Championship Meet in the Heptathlon. Following that meet UVM track and field coach Matt Belfield told me, “He is a nice addition to our program, who has come a little further and faster than I expected and should be even more of a performer for us in the future.”

Belfield was right on. That future came about two months later as Snide captured one of the Conference Outdoor Meet’s most coveted titles, winning the decathlon. Coach Eno was very confident Snide would find success at UVM because “of the coaches that he would have and especially because of his work ethic.”

Snide himself wasn’t so sure. He related to me, “I started training for the decathlon my sophomore year in high school and I remember my friends telling me that the decathlon was just for fun and nobody from Bellows Falls ever did good at it.” He finished sixth in an attempt in high school and thought maybe that isn’t his thing. At first, Snide accepted what he had been told, but after awhile those words sunk deep and he said, “It never settled well” that BF people never had success in the event. So he set out to prove that statement was only a myth.

Snide continued, “When I entered college, I had all the intentions to be just a hurdler because I thought I was done with decathlon, and I stuck to just doing hurdles and not training for the decathlon. Every meet I would see decathletes and think, man I can do better than that. Finally after months of just training for hurdles, I decided it was time to get back to it. After the indoor conference meet where I just ran hurdles, I told my coach that I wanted to train as a multi athlete from now on. After that, I have always had the goal of winning the America East title in my mind.”

When he was questioned about his lofty goal, he responded, “At the time, it did seem like a little bit of a reach to actually win America East, but I have a philosophy that if you tell yourself something enough times you will start to believe it. So I always told myself that I am going to win America East. When I got second at the America East Indoor Heptathlon, I knew with a few small adjustments I could seal the win in the decathlon.”

This spring he did just that, which was an incredible accomplishment. However, that is not all he did for this event for his team.

Snide became the decathlon ace, but he also recruited a teammate. First, Alex Parasky had just asked Snide questions about what he was doing and how it was going. Later, he kind of challenged Snide about how that stuff may not be that difficult. Snide challenged Parasky back and the duel was on. Snide won this year’s America East decathlon and junior Parasky was third.

“It came down to the fact we were always challenging each other. His specialties were the Long Jump and the Triple Jump, and he has even become better in those events since we started back and forth at each other,” Snide mentioned. The Bellows Falls graduate, who is a mechanical engineering major and a math minor, went on to mention, “The challenges never stop.”

My guess is Snide had the competition between the two Catamounts in mind when he said, “I am happy with my win, but I know that it is not a given that I will keep on winning. I have my sights set to keep winning, but I also want to go for the UVM school record. I scored 6,495 points this year and the school record is 6,731.”

Barring injury or some other type of interruption, Snide should have two more chances to reach that goal.

  Snide not alone

Bellows Falls track and field and UVM have had a strong connection for years. During the time since Snide’s success, discussion has been brought before me for a host of former Terriers who went on to have some success in the Catamount track and field uniform. I just thought it would be nice to pass on those names people have shared with me.

The group has to start with UVM Hall of Fame distance runner Joe Barry and America East Indoor Shot Put Champion Sara Lovell. Others who have been mentioned include Reagan and Jenna Coffey. Strong tracksters, same college, quite a list. Lovell preceeded Snide as an America East champion. She won first place in the shot put in the conference outdoor title event in 2000 and then captured the indoor conference title in the same event in 2001. Bellows Falls track is ever-glorious, a word borrowed from the school song.

Just a couple of more notes for readers of this column. When writing a column of this type, names can be left off one of these special lists. If you have a name to add to one of these lists, please let me know. In addition, if you are aware of a local athlete who went on to compete at the college level during the recent school year, please let me know, and I will make sure they receive a mention.

Anyone who would like to comment on this column should email bmurphy@vermontjournal.com.

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