Fantastic five enter Lowell High’s Hall: 2015 Induction Ceremony

Fantastic five enter Lowell High’s Hall

By Carmine Frongillo,

Inducted into the Lowell High Athletic Hall of Fame were, from left, Brian Gagnon (class of 2005), Casey Boyle (2005), Ellen Netishen (1988), David McNeil (1995) and the late David Mills (1967), who was represented by his son, Jason Mills. SUN/JULIA MALAKIE

DRACUT — The best of the best in Lowell High School’s storied athletic history gathered Thursday night to welcome their newest group of peers.

This year’s class of inductees into the Lowell High School Athletic Hall of Fame did plenty of legacy leaving while playing for the Red and Gray, earning the right to take their place alongside the Red Raiders’ legends of the game.

The addition of Ellen Netishen (Class of 1988), David Mills (Class of 1967), Casey Boyle (Class of 2005), David McNeil (Class of 1995) and Brian Gagnon (Class of 2005) at the 30th annual dinner at Lenzi’s brings the number of Hall inductees to 155 at a high school that has played sport for more than 100 years.

This year’s class spans several eras.

In the case of Gagnon, one of the most celebrated runners in Red Raider cross country/track history, making it into the Hall was the realization of dream that began while he was still running in Lowell.
“I came to this (Hall of Fame ceremony) when I was a junior in high school,” said Gagnon, 28. “That year a family friend, Arthur Ferris, who I didn’t really even know at that time got inducted. But he knew who I was and in his speech he said, ‘I know there’s this kid in the audience who’s trying to break my school record in the 600 yards.’ He challenged me to do it and wished me the best.

“I never got a chance to do it because we don’t run yards, we run meters. He also told me, hopefully one day you’ll be up here and I’ll be sitting in the audience.

He wished me luck and when I left that night I decided I’m going to do whatever I can to get in the Hall of Fame.”
There’s no telling how many miles Gagnon ran to reach his desired destination, but he crossed the finish line to Hall of Fame with an impressive resume. His senior year, in indoor track he won the 1,000 meters at the MVC, Massachusetts Division 1, All-State and New England meets. In outdoors he was a dominant middle distance runner, winning the MVC, Class A, All-State and New England crowns in the 800 during his Red Raider career. He then had an excellent career at the University of Connecticut. Gagnon still runs professionally. He participated in 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, advancing to the semifinals in both the 800 and 1500 meter events. He currently coaches high school cross country and track in New Jersey and is training for the 2016 Olympic Trials.

“This is definitely a dream come true,” said Gagnon. “It’s amazing. It’s awesome. It’s surreal. It’s the best honor an athlete from Lowell can ever have.”

Netishen, 45, was an incredible three-sport standout, starring in soccer, basketball and softball. She is a physical education teacher at the Moody School in Lowell and is the freshman girls basketball coach.

“I’m really excited about this,” said Netishen. “It’s always something I’ve looked forward to. I hoped I would get in. I was born and raised in Lowell. I still live in Lowell. What’s really nice is my mom (Jan) and dad (Mike) went to Lowell High and my dad was on the 1957 football team. Sports have always been part of my family and it was kind of nice to take that tradition from my dad and stay involved in athletics. This is just a great honor.”

McNeil was a standout in cross country, wrestling and baseball. He was a three-time sectional champion in wrestling and advanced to the finals on the New England Tournament as a senior. In baseball, he was an MVC All-Conference center fielder. He played college baseball at UMass Lowell.

McNeil, 38, is a Lowell firefighter. He lives in Lowell with his wife, Kathy, and three-year-old son, Jacob. McNeil still helps coach Lowell High’s wrestlers.

“I’m super excited to be here with all the great athletes who’ve come through Lowell High,” said McNeil. “To be included with them is just unbelievable. My family is happy for me. It’s a great honor. I have to get used to being in the same group as all these Lowell legends.”

For Boyle, 29, it was a night to savor the memories of an outstanding wrestling career. Boyle was a four-time state champion, two-time All-State champion and a New England champ. He attended the University of North Carolina-Greensboro on a scholarship.

Boyle is still involved in wrestling. He lives in Charlotte, N.C., where he runs Darkhorse Wrestling, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to developing young people through wrestling, and works as a personal trainer.

“I’m not used to anyone calling me a Hall of Famer yet,” said Boyle. “But it’s a pretty special feeling. “The reason I’m here is my coaches taught me to never give up. If you want to do something you have to make the sacrifices and do the right things. Life will throw you curveballs. There’s going to be obstacles and you can never quit. If you want something bad enough you can accomplish it. That’s why this means so much.”

Mills was a standout lineman for legendary Red Raider football coach Ray Riddick. In 1966, Mills was the only player from New England to be named to Parade Magazine’s High School All-American team. During his Red Raider career, Mills, who is deceased, blocked for several outstanding backs, including Hall of Famers Bill Capone and Rod Redman.

“This would mean everything in the world to him,” said Mills son, Jason, who gave his induction speech. “He showed us his scrapbooks. All I could think about was trying to be like him. I wanted to grow up and follow in his footsteps. All he talked about was how big his accomplishments were here. So it’s a real honor to be here. Lowell meant so much to him. And I know this honor is really near and dear to his heart.”

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter & Tout @cwfrongi

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