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Swampscott parents, students show support for track program

SWAMPSCOTT – More than two dozen parents, student athletes and alumni filled the large instructional room where the School Committee met on Wednesday evening.The supporters of the track program were on hand to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. Before allowing attendees to talk, School Committee Chairman Jacqueline Kinney said residents could sign up to speak but she explained School Committee members do not respond to comments made during the public comment period.Paul Gorman, who is a member of the Track Boosters Club, said the attendees were there to show their support for the high school track and cross-country programs.Gorman explained Coach Dom Finelli resigned after his ninth season with the team and supporters of the track program want the School Committee and administrators to understand how important the program is to student athletes.Nathan King pointed out there are 130 students in the program and only one coach.Mike Walsh, who has a daughter on the team, said he believes inadequate compensation could have been a factor in Finelli’s resignation.Finelli wasn’t at the meeting but, in a telephone interview, he said his decision to resign wasn’t really about the money, but more the principle. He said his runners are paying a $250 user fee, much of which he believes is being used to fund other sports while he and his assistant(s) are paid half of what coaches in sports like soccer and lacrosse are being paid.”I told them, you reduce my kids’ user fees to zero and I’ll work for nothing,” Finelli said.Although some schools have separate boys and girls cross country coaches, with separate assistants, Finelli coaches both teams. This past fall, he said he had 66 boys and 64 girls in the program, which brought in approximately $32,000 or so in user fees.Finelli, who has his own law practice, said his salary was $2,600 for the season, about half of what soccer and lacrosse coaches are being paid. His assistants earn about half that amount, which is half of what other assistants earn.”I don’t understand why, in 2010, there is any disparity,” he said. “I’ve been trying to rectify this.”Gorman added that, 10 years ago, the boys and girls teams had a dozen members and currently 130 students at Swampscott High School compete in the sport.”It is an inclusionary sport and 17 percent of the student body participates,” he said.Gorman went on to say students are not cut from the team and every student is treated with respect from the fastest runner to the last one across the finish line.Lindsay Walsh, who graduated from Swampscott High School last year and is on a college track team now, said the program teaches teamwork, builds self-esteem and has had a positive impact on her life.Her younger sister Emma Walsh, who is currently on the team, said Finelli is fair and cares deeply about the athletes.”Every kid is treated the same,” she said. “No one is cut.”Tim Keeter also spoke in support of Finelli and the program.”My children had positive experience with the cross country team,” Keeter said.”There are some very, very, very good people involved in this program.”Even though the School Committee did not respond to their comments, Gorman said he hopes this is the beginning of a constructive dialogue about the importance of the program and there is some type of resolution before the season starts in the spring.Both the boys and girls cross country teams have enjoyed considerable success since Finelli’s been there. The boys won the Division 4 Eastern Mass. title in 2006 and the Division 2 All-State title that same year. He was the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Coach of the Year that year.Swampscott girls and boys have won several Northeastern Conference South titles during his tenure. Over the last four years, the girls program has gone 34-5.”I’ve enjoyed my stay,” Finelli said. “I have an incredible group of kids.”

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