Dave Utterback of Brewer High School is pictured in this 2020 photo. He was among several athletic administrators to receive awards from the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association. Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Forrest

Rich Buzzell, the athletic director at Marshwood High School of South Berwick since 2004, was chosen as the best in his profession in the state by his peers this week.

Buzzell was named the 2021 recipient of the Robert Lahey Athletic Administrator of the Year Award by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association during its annual spring conference, which was held virtually over four days.

The award is named for Lahey, a longtime former coach and athletic administrator at Old Town High School who was the MIAAA’s first executive director.

Buzzell, who last year was the MIAAA’s recipient of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s Award of Merit, previously served as an athletic administrator at Traip Academy in Kittery and Kennebunk High School before taking his current post.

Also announced during the awards ceremony was that Gary Stevens, director of athletics and student activities at Thornton Academy in Saco, is being recognized with the NIAAA’s top honor, the Thomas E. Frederick Award of Excellence.

The Frederick Award is presented to an NIAAA member who has provided strong leadership to education-based athletics, loyalty to the association and contributions to the profession of athletic administration.

The award is named for Thomas E. Frederick, who served as assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations until 1989. Frederick was largely responsible for facilitating the start of the NIAAA in 1977.

Stevens, a Lincoln native, has served as athletic director at Thornton Academy since 2007 after nearly 11 years in similar capacities at Bonny Eagle High School in Standish.

Among his professional accomplishments, Stevens was instrumental last year in creating what became known as the Pandemic Project Task Force, an online organization with connections around the country that collaborated to share ideas concerning best practices regarding the resumption of high school sports amid the coronavirus.

Stevens is the second Maine athletic administrator selected to receive the Frederick Award. Susan Robbins of Yarmouth High School received the honor in 2016.

Other 2021 MIAAA award recipients included Bunky Dow of Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor, Martin E. Ryan, CMAA, Award of Excellence; David Utterback of the Brewer School Department, NIAAA State Award of Merit; and Rick Sinclair of the Hermon School Department, MIAAA Excellence in Middle-Level Administration Award.

Others honored were Tim Spear of Gorham High School, MIAAA Leadership Award; Joel Stoneton of Winthrop, MIAAA 7th Player Distinguished Service Award; Kelsy Ross of North Yarmouth Academy, Past Presidents’ Rising Star Award; Don King of Poland High School, Keith Lancaster Professional Development Award; Scott Morrison, Edward Little of Auburn swimming coach, and John Weston, Fryeburg Academy Nordic skiing coach, Lawrence LaBrie Distinguished Service Awards; Jim Churchill of SportsNet Maine and 92.9 The Ticket radio, Electronic Media Award; and Steve Craig of the Portland Press Herald, Print Media Award.

Several athletic directors were nominated for national recognition by the MIAAA: Todd Livingston of South Portland for the Frank Kovaleski Professional Development Award; Jeff Benson, currently the state’s commissioner of officials, for the NIAAA Hall of Fame; Anthony Amero of Forest Hills School in Jackman for the Bruce Whitehead Distinguished Service Award; and Gordon Salls of Sanford for the NFHS Citation.

The MIAAA also recognized athletic administrators from conferences around the state with special achievement awards. They include Dan O’Connell of John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor from the Penobscot Valley Conference; Cliff Urquhart of Southern Aroostook Community School in Dyer Brook, Aroostook League; Dan Campbell of Jonesport-Beals, Downeast Athletic Conference; K.J. Anastasio of Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference; Jonathan Spear of Richmond, East-West Conference; Joel Stoneton of Winthrop, Mountain Valley Conference; and Kari Sawyer of Sacopee Valley High School in South Hiram, Western Maine Conference.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...