Matt Whitcomb's Wahconah teammate Tom Keefe introduces him at Thursday's assembly.
DALTON, Mass. — One in a long line of successful Wahconah Regional High School athletes was back at the school Thursday to tell the student body to relish their failures.
"Surround yourself in strength," was the theme of Matt Whitcomb, a state high school champion, 1996 Wahconah grad and, more recently, coach on the U.S. Women's Cross Country Ski team that won the nation's first-ever Nordic gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Games.
Whitcomb told the students that no matter what they were doing — whether athletics, academics or some other pursuit — the secret to success is to surround yourself with successful people and feed on them.
"What is the best environment to improve?" Whitcomb asked the students. "Is it to be the person who is always winning everything on your soccer team or your cross country team? Is it to be the smartest classmate? Or is it to be someone who is able to challenge one another but is also willing to be pushed, willing to take a beating because to be surrounded by strength is to improve."
Whitcomb pointed to the person who introduced him at the assembly, Tom Keefe. Keefe was known to many of the kids in the room as a physical education teacher at Dalton's Craneville Elementary School.
But back in the early '90s, Keefe was a freshman on the Wahconah Nordic team that Whitcomb captained to a state title.
In his remarks, Keefe talked about a grueling preseason run through prickle bushes to the top of Windsor Mountain and back.
"Matt convinced me to do something that I thought was too hard, that I didn't think I could do," Keefe said. "But on that day, Matt showed me how to push the limits of the human body and the mind, to never give up and never surrender. Matt made me believe in myself and to believe that I could accomplish anything with the right work ethic and mindset.
"On that day, Matt challenged me to raise the bar. As a freshman, I could not have asked for a better role model than Matt."
Whitcomb remembered the same anecdote from a different perspective.
"[Keefe] fought and scratched and clawed to keep up with us," Whitcomb said. "And by halfway through that fall of dryland season, he was keeping up. And come state championships, while Tom wasn't one of the guys who was first or fourth or sixth, he scored the points that you look back and say, ‘That actually made the difference.'
"It was because Tom embraced the idea of being surrounded in strength. What could have defeated Tom his freshman year by never being able to win a single workout was instead what allowed his team to win.
"Surround yourself in strength."
Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins were the pictures of strength at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
On Thursday afternoon, the Wahconah students watched a video clip of the Americans' gold medal-winning finish in the team sprint.
After the cheers in the Wahconah auditorium subsided, the school's girls Nordic ski coach, Kiersten Touponce, talked about how she jumped up and down on her couch watching the event in February.
Touponce said as a coach, she had an appreciation for how much work went into Randall's and Diggins' gold medal moment. And as a Wahconah coach, she was thrilled to know a member of the school's family helped guide all that hard work.
"I hope you take anything he says today and apply it to your life," Touponce told the students.
"Matt only spends a few select days in the states," Wahconah Principal Aaron Robb said. "He wanted to spend one of them here with us."
Whitcomb told the students that he was honored to have the opportunity.
"I am unbelievably proud to be a Wahconah Warrior," he said. "And I'm taking off tomorrow. I start my journey in Boston and we go to Finland to live, literally on the Arctic circle where there are actual reindeer running around on the ski trail. And I'll come back on March 24 after hitting just about every country that there is. It is a cool job.
"But to get fired up for that trip, I can't think of a better motivating event than this for me, and I thank you for that. And to make sure I leave fired up, I'll be at the football game tomorrow night.
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Dalton Fire Dedicates New Engine, Honors Member's Heroic Effort
By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
Chief Cahalan honors Firefighter Dennis Tinker for recently saving a woman's life.
DALTON, Mass. — The vehicles, badges, and names may change but there remains a tradition in the Fire Department -- volunteers risk their lives to protect the town.
On Sunday, the department held a ceremony recognizing both its history and its future.
Firefighters dedicated their new Engine 1 to the only Dalton firefighter to die while on duty and presented a Medal of Valor to a current firefighter for his role in saving a woman's life last month.
Arthur "Pop" Krum died in 1949 while responding to a fire at 232 High St. It was before there was a mandatory retirement age and he was in his 70s when he had a heart attack on the scene. Krum had been a volunteer with the department for some three decades prior.
On Sunday, the department held a ceremony recognizing both the history and the future. The firefighters dedicated their new Engine 1 to the only Dalton firefighter to die while on duty and presented a Medal of Valor to a current firefighter for his role in saving a woman's life last month. click for more
The big news in the state's budget is $5.18 billion in Chapter 70 aid for schools, according to state Rep. Paul Mark.
"That is the most in the history of Massachusetts and it is also the biggest increase year over year in this account," Mark said. "I think that is a really positive step toward... click for more
Courtney McArdle was working three jobs trying to afford an apartment that was in poor condition, all while raising two children.
"The house that I lived in before, the apartment, we couldn't afford it and were sinking. It wasn't insulated well. Working three jobs, I was just sinking," McArdle... click for more
Christian Womble tossed a complete-game with 10 strikeouts and scored the first run, and Anton Lazits had a solo home run to lead Taconic to a 5-1 win over Wahconah in the Western Mass Division 3 championship at UMass on Saturday. click for more