DRACUT -- Two days after they learned Dracut High had won the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's 2012 Sportsmanship Award, Athletic Director Tim Woods and Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone received a poignant email from the parent of a Woburn High cheerleader who also wanted to talk about sportsmanship.
The Woburn school parent, Sharon Murphy, sent her email long after the MIAA's awards committee had already decided -- based largely on a glowing recommendation by Billerica's Athletic Director David Lezenski -- to recognize the Middies' on-field sportsmanship and off-field community service work ahead of 60 high schools that comprise District A.
But Murphy's account of how Dracut High's cheerleaders came to the aid of her injured daughter at a recent competition only further underscored the case that the school was deserving of the MIAA's sportsmanship award and banner that will soon hang in the school's gym, the superintendent said.
"Just a quick note to let you know how proud your school should be of your football cheerleaders. My daughter is a cheerleader at Woburn Memorial High School and this past Sunday fell from a stunt and dislocated her elbow at the Regional North Competition," she wrote.
"I have heard from everyone on our team how incredibly supportive your cheerleaders were to our girls after this happened," Murphy continued. "They stepped up and gave our girls the compassion and confidence they needed to go back on
Stone was grateful, but took the letter in stride.
"It's wonderful news, but really I'm not surprised," said Stone. "It's deserved recognition of how hard our student athletes work year round to display sportsmanship while giving back to their community. It's a great reflection too on the district's coaches and parents."
Besides the most obvious element of good sportsmanship, conducting themselves admirably during the heat of competition on the field, court or ice in relation to opponents and game officials, Woods emphasized the biggest reason Dracut High won the MIAA award was for multiple charitable fundraising and community-service efforts which the student-athletes engaged in during 2011, including:
* The varsity golf team coordinated "Pink Links for a Cure," a women's golf tournament that raised over $3,500 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness fund.
* The ice hockey team hosted a Christmas tournament, as it does annually to support the A.L.S. Foundation in support of a local ice hockey player-alumnus battling Lou Gehrig's disease.
* The football team and cheerleaders spearheaded the Merrimack Valley Conference's "Breast Cancer Awareness Month," conducting several related fundraisers.
* Also yearly, Middies volleyball team members participate in the Lowell General Hospital Cancer Center Walk
* The girls gymnastics team conducts monthly clinics to encourage younger girls to achieve and develop positive self-esteem. ("Funds raised by these clinics provide much-needed relief to other school-aged children in securing sneakers, outerwear and other supplies for school," Lezenski noted in his recommendation letter to the MIAA.)
* The cross country and track teams volunteer at charity road-race events and routinely collect canned goods for community food banks.
* Recently, the DHS field hockey team coordinated a large-scale park clean-up project that vastly improved the appearance and safety conditions of dozens of acres of recreational space.
"In their demonstrations of community spirit is where the Dracut kids exceeded all expectations," said Woods. "Over the last two years we've strongly encouraged all our teams to become active in some type of community service, and the kids went far above and beyond the call."
"They've done a super job on and off the field, even while dealing with all the many pressures they're under as student-athletes," Woods added. "It's nice to see them get that kind of recognition."
Dracut High will send a nine-person group of school representatives to accept the sportsmanship award at Friday morning's "19th Annual MIAA/MSSADA Sportsmanship Summit" at Gillette Stadium, including student-athletes Kaylee DiCamillo, Kyle Litteral, Zach Bassett, Matt Cole, Rhiannon Dutton, Lauren Ramirez, Andrew Curtis, and baseball coach Mike Saucier and Woods.
Sports-celebrity award and speech presenters at the summit will include New England Patriots Hall-of-Famer Andre Tippett, TV-4 sports anchor Steve Burton, and U.S. Olympic and National Team Women's Soccer legend Kristine Lilly.
Follow John Collins on Twitter@johncolowellsun.