Last Wednesday was National Letter of Intent Day as athletes all across the country signed their letters to continue to play athletics at the collegiate level.
Four local athletes – two from Tewksbury and two from Wilmington – actually signed their respective letters and pictures were sent across the social media world. Three additional Wilmington High School athletes have also signed their papers but the pictures and information for Kylie DuCharme, Shannon Murphy and Sean Riley won't be released until November 24th.
Of the four who did sign last Wednesday, three of them have Central Catholic High School ties including Tewksbury resident Owen Fowler, as well as Wilmington's Bobby Bakhtiari and Hannah Watson. The fourth athlete is Makayla Paige, a senior at Tewksbury Memorial High School.
Back in October of 2016, Fowler gave his verbal commitment to lace up the skates for UMass-Lowell and play in the greatest league in the country, Hockey East. He was 16 years old at the time and now two years later, he officially signed. He tweeted out that he was “proud and honored to announce his commitment to play Division 1 college hockey at UMass-Lowell. Thank you to my family, friends and coaches who got me to this place.”
Fowler attended Central Catholic and transferred to Governor's Academy before the start of the 2018 school year, At that time he was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the state of Massachusetts for his birth year of 2002, according to the highly respected New England Hockey Journal.
When he announced his verbal commitment, he spoke to the Crier's Mike Ippolito about that decision.
"When I was first being recruited, UMass Lowell really stood out. "Its facilities are top of the line and coach (Norm) Bazin is very professional. He holds his players to a very tough standard, which is something I was looking for. From the time I was young and found out about Hockey East, it has always been where I wanted to play. The entire atmosphere just got me really excited to play there. Also, I wanted my family to be able to come to my games and see me play, really for both home and even away games, rather than playing out west where they would only get to see me on TV."
Owen follows in the footsteps of a proud hockey family tradition. His father, Jack Fowler played hockey for Central Catholic (class of 1985) and Salem State University (class of 1992), while his uncle, Bob Fowler, was an All-American defenseman for Merrimack College in 1987. He was selected by the Winnipeg Jets 20th overall in the 1987 NHL Supplemental Draft and played three minor league seasons. Owen's brother Jonathan was also a terrific player for TMHS.
Currently Owen is in Des Moines, Iowa playing in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and currently all his classes are online for his senior year.
Last month, the Town Crier also told you about Bakhtiari, who at the time gave his verbal commitment to play soccer at Division-1 Merrimack College.
“At the beginning I was looking at many different schools, but I chose Merrimack because they were one of the schools that I was still able to communicate with during quarantine. I didn’t get to know very many schools, but I really liked what I saw at Merrimack,” Bakhtiari said to Ippolito. “I was able to tour the campus and I really liked the coaches and the captains. They had a lot of the majors I was interested in and I really liked their soccer program.
“When I went to their ID Camp, I really liked his style of coaching, and then I went to a couple of games and saw the way they played and I knew they couldn’t play that way without a great coach.”
One of his classmates, Hannah Watson, is a defender on the current Central Catholic girls' soccer team. Last month, she gave her verbal commitment to Division 2 Stonehill College. She also spoke to Ippolito and offered the reasons behind her decision.
“I had a visit from the coach (Alex Wilson) about a month ago and that just sealed it for me. I love her already, even though I have not played for her yet. She is just so positive and that is just what I am looking for,” Watson said. “Stonehill really has everything I want, between its location, its sports and academics. It is really just amazing.”
The last of the four athletes from last Wednesday is the reigning two-time Tewksbury Town Crier Female Athlete of the Year, Makayla Paige. The three-seasoned runner will leave Tewksbury for Chapel Hill to be a part of the University of North Carolina cross-country and track programs. Her verbal agreement came in early September.
"I chose UNC because over the past few months I was able to form great relationships with all the coaches that I spoke with," said Paige to the Crier. "They are all super motivating and they’re positive energy was very contagious which made me feel excited just talking to them.”
Upon signing, her bio was posted on the UNC Athletics website and she was asked was she chose the school.
“I chose UNC because of the people I will be surrounding myself with. The athletes and coaches were kind, encouraging and down to earth. They helped create a warm, family atmosphere that makes me feel completely welcome.”
Paige is the reigning two-time Massachusetts Gatorade Athlete of the Year and arguably the most elite member in the history of the TMHS cross-country and indoor and outdoor track programs.
She is among the best half-milers in the entire country, who is a two-time All-American, an eight-time Globe/Herald All-Scholastic and has broken numerous school, league, state and New England records.
This past winter she was the Division 3 Eastern Mass Champion in both the 300-meters (40.42) and the 600-meters (1:29.70). Her mark in the 600, broke the all-time mark at the Reggie Lewis Center, as well as in Massachusetts and New England.
The following week she was crowned the All-State Champion in the 600-meters with a time of 1:30.61, which was her third combined individual all-state championship title, the most out of anyone in school history, surpassing Bev Leuken, who won two back in the early 1980s.
At one time during the indoor season, Paige had the top time in the entire state in six different events including: 200 (25.46), 300 (40.13), 400 (57.42), 600 (1:30.72), 800 (2:08.01) and as part of the sprint medley relay team (4:09.69), which captured first place at the Division 3 state relay meet with Paige's incredible come from behind win as the anchor leg.
Besides the state competition, Paige was also the winner of the prestigious Millrose Games held in New York. Running against the top competition in the country, she came from behind to post a time of 1:30.28, which also ranked No. 1 in the country at the time.
Paige is one of 19 student-athletes to sign their NLI with the UNC Track-and-Field men and women’s programs and one of two from Massachusetts, joining Sydney Masciarelli of Northbridge.
As for the three Wilmington High athletes, DuCharme will be attending Bentley University to play basketball. Her story was also told earlier in the Crier, Riley will be running for D-1 UMass-Lowell and Murphy will be playing lacrosse at Colorado Mesa University, a D-2 program which competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.