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The death of Jack Street at a Nipmuc Warrior Ski Team practice in January was a tragedy that helped draw the team closer together. This weekend the team will finish their season in an exhibition meet in his memory.


Nipmuc Ski Team Rebounds after Tragic Start
It would have been easy for the Nipmuc ski team to pack it in after the beginning of its season was marred by tragedy. Eighteen-year old senior Jack Street died last month after falling 25 feet from a chair lift at the Ski Ward ski area in Shrewsbury. It was an unspeakable tragedy that served to bring the team closer together, according to head coach Joe Pugleasa. "It was a tough thing. We were all there and we all knew Jack," he said. "I told our athletes, 'whatever you want to do moving forward, we will support you.'"
One athlete did take a brief break from the team before returning. The Central Mass ski league cancelled the first race out of respect for Street and his family. After that, the team came together and began the process of moving forward.
"It definitely drew them closer together, within the team and within the entire school," said Pugleasa. "Our principal (John Clements) and athletic director (Bill Leaver) came to our next practice and it was a genuine show of support from the entire school for our team."
The school has provided crisis counseling to help students cope with Street's death, and the rest of the Warriors took to the slopes to continue the program's second season.
Last year, Nipmuc had just four skiers in the program. The number more than doubled this year, and three athletes qualified for the state meet, senior Kelsey O'Hagan along with juniors Corey Lennox and Fernando Pugleasa. "Last year, only Kelsey made it to states, but this year all three made great strides as skiers," said Pugleasa.
Senior Danielle LaCroix and first year skiers Luke Rausch, Charlie Ciantra, and Jimmy LaCroix rounded out the deeper roster. "It was nice to see an increased turnout as well as the increased enthusiasm," said Pugleasa. "Our new athletes brought a different skill set and the older kids provided a good environment for the younger ones. To see three of our athletes make it to states and finish near the top, they were great role models for the rest of the team."
The veterans on the ski team have also been able to help lead the fledgling program and the entire school through a difficult time. They wore stickers on their helmets for Street, and came together to talk about what had happened and how best to move on. Perhaps the greatest tribute they could offer to the memory of their teammate was this season, a successful step forward in a program that continues to grow and enjoy increased success. This weekend, Nipmuc will finish the season with an exhibition meet in Street's memory. A fitting tribute to an athlete who, as his family said in the wake of his death, "died doing what he loved."
"It has been really difficult," said Pugleasa. "But it has allowed them all to get together and become closer, taking something positive from a tragic situation."




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