Holy Rosary track team to receive Robinson Award
Photo | HOLY ROSARY HIGH SCHOOL
The Holy Rosary track and field team and coaches proudly display the Class C boys’ runner-up trophy they won on May 4 at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Track and Field meet. For their effort, the Allstate Sugar Bowl will present its annual Eddie Robinson Award to the school at its Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Aug. 4. The team consists of, back row, from left, James Nethery and Stephen Landry; middle row, from left, Reid DiMaggio, Christopher Hammond and Qaadhee Carter, and front row, assistant coach Shawn Gray, Michael Alphonse, Dathennile Parker, head coach Nick Accardo and coordinator Candice Schott.
Story and Photos by Ron Brocato | CLARION HERALD
Doing the most with the least is the mandate upon which the Allstate Sugar Bowl awards its annual plaque to honor the late Grambling football coaching legend Eddie Robinson.
For 57 years, Robinson coached the small, North Louisiana college to 408 victories, making do with limited resources. It was appropriate that the Sugar Bowl awards and Hall of Fame selection committee present a symbol of that achievement to a person or entity that achieves similar success.
And the committee chose the boys’ track and field team at Holy Rosary High School, a small Class C school on the banks of Bayou St. John, to receive the Eddie Robinson Memorial Award at its Aug. 4 Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
With just six athletes and one alternate, the Holy Rosary boys scored 66 points, finishing ahead of 22 other schools from all corners of the state.
Holy Rosary had no track district. Head coach Nick Accardo scheduled them in two local and a few junior varsity meets in the Baton Rouge area. He took the team to the state regional meet and qualified six individuals for the state championships.
There was little doubt that Hackberry, located near Lake Charles, had the numbers to win the team championship, which it did by scoring 83 points. But when Accardo crunched his own numbers he felt that his squad would be in the thick of the competition for the silver trophy with regional winner Maurepas and Family Christian of Baton Rouge.
Stephen Landry’s 122-foot javelin throw and fifth-place finish gave Holy Rosary its first two points. The runners did the rest.
Dathennile Parker won the 400- and 200-meter dashes and finished second in the 100-meter dash. Michael Alphonse placed second in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Then the two joined teammates James Nethery and Qaadhee Carter to win the final event, the 3,200-meter relay. Those final 10 points gave Holy Rosary a two-point edge over Family Christian for the silver trophy, which is proudly displayed in the school’s showcase.
Heeding the call
Holy Rosary’s story started four years ago when Accardo, a former track and cross country runner at LSU, moved to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina with his wife, Chelsea, who was attending dental college.
“We were at Mass at Holy Rosary Church when I saw an ad in the bulletin that the school needed a coach to start its athletic program,” Accardo said. “I thought this would be fun.”
The fun turned into a learning and growing experience for the new coach and the students who aspired to become athletes.
The school is small and located in an antiquated, but charming building and has few resources other than a gymnasium upon which to build a sports program.
Accardo began with powdered chalk and a rolling marker.
“We set up running lanes in the front of City Park, marking off a 200-meter track. And we set up a javelin and shot-put throwing area,” he said.
He was pleased to discover that the boys who tried out for the team were blessed with speed, if not technique, and that first team in 2009 scored enough points to finish fourth in the Class C state meet.
Taking his subsequent teams to Tad Gormley to work out and scheduling them in a few junior varsity meets enabled the athletes to improve their skills. In 2010 Holy Rosary finished second in the Class C state meet.
It was fourth again in 2011 with juniors Parker and Alphonse leading the way.
After competing in the Chalmette and Rummel Relays and Sugar Bowl meet and a few smaller junior varsity meets outside of New Orleans, Accardo felt his small squad might be a factor at the regional and state levels.
“We were second to Maurepas in the regional meet,” Accardo said. “On paper, I knew Hackberry would be tough to beat but that we would be in the thick of competition with Family Christian, Maurepas and Jehovah-Jireh.”
Parker, who is also the school’s best basketball player, twisted an ankle at the end of that season and was able to compete in just a few sprint events. It wasn’t until the regional meet that the senior ran in all three sprint races. He won them all and earned the award as the Outstanding Track Performer at that meet.
At the end of the state meet’s field events, Holy Rosary was far behind Hackberry, which scored 40 points, and Family Christian, which posted 24 field points. The Bulldogs scored just two points on Landry’s fifth-place finish in the javelin throw.
They stormed back with a strong showing on the track.
The key race was perhaps the 3,200-meter run in which Alphonse finished second and Reid DiMaggio placed fifth. The two points DiMaggio scored put Holy Rosary in a tie with Family Christian for second place with one event remaining – the 1,600-meter relay, a long race that favored the Bulldogs.
Accardo had them in the position he wanted.
Parker ran first, opening a sizeable lead for sophomores Nethery and Carter to hold until the final exchange. When the baton reached the hands of Alphonse cleanly, the issue was no longer in doubt. He darted far ahead to win in the time of 3:47.16. Family Christian settled for second place in the event and third in the meet.
Holy Rosary principal Len Enger was thrilled when told his school would receive the Eddie Robinson Award. It is a special honor to assistant coach Shawn Gray as well. Gray was a member of Robinson’s football team at Grambling.
Holy Rosary, whose mission is to give students with special needs a quality Catholic education, is in the process of moving its campus. To accommodate the needs of the student body and to allow for Our Lady of the Rosary Parish to expand its parish-based ministries, Holy Rosary Academy and Holy Rosary High School will relocate to the site of the former Our Lady of Lourdes school on the corner of Napoleon Avenue and Freret Street in New Orleans.