HAVERHILL, Massachusetts — Dave McGillivray has run a lot of marathons, given a lot of inspiring speeches and been the race director for numerous world-class events.
He rarely disappoints.
Wednesday night at the second annual Eagle-Tribune Student-Athlete banquet he offered words of wisdom to the area’s 19 top student-athletes. They were the student-athletes of the year for their schools as picked by their school administrations.
With all he’s accomplished, this was still a special night.
“I’ve done 1,900 motivational speeches,” said the longtime North Andover resident, last night’s featured speaker. “Every one you can imagine. But this really, really hits home.”
Being the undersized kid always motivated him. He may be picked last, or not at all, but he’d show them.
And that he has as the promoter of the Boston Marathon among numerous other bigtime races including the Feaster Five in Andover every Thanksgiving.
“I wanted to be one thing and one thing only ... an athlete,” he said.
He found his niche as a distance runner and an estimated 150,000 miles later, he’s still going strong. Along the way showed the same drive in the classroom, earning valedictorian honors at Medford High and Merrimack College (Class of ‘76).
He praised the student-athletes saying, “You have to earn the right to do these things.”
He called speaking to them “an honor and a pleasure.” He added, “These awards, feel good about yourself. You’ve earned it.”
He wrapped up his speech with some simple words of advice: “Just keep going.”
Charlie Daher and Commonwealth Motors sponsored the second annual event.
There were 19 finalists, one from each area school, for the overall Student-Athlete of the Year honor.
As Daher pointed out, “You are all champions. You are the top 19 out of 7,000 (area high school athletes). Your parents should be proud.”
The winner was Haverhill three-sport captain Meredith Budds, who signed a field hockey scholarship to play at St. Anselm and pursue her goal of medical school.
Commonwealth presented her with a $2,000 scholarship.
The honorees were treated like celebrities. They were photographed walking down a real red carpet. They received plaques, impressive gift bags and received $25 gift certificates and shirts from Whirlaway Sports Center’s Dave Kazanjian.
Eagle-Tribune photographers Ryan Hutton and Amanda Sabga prepared a special 5-minute video which was played at the event.
Eagle-Tribune sports editor Bill Burt, one of the area’s most popular master of ceremonies, was the MC for the evening.
He complimented the 19 winners by saying, “They’ve figured it out.”
That’s a good way of describing the accomplished teens, who expertly balanced sports, academics and extra-curricular activities.
Burt praised Daher and his family for its philanthropic endeavors.
“Charlie is all about family,” Burt said. “You talk to committing to Merrimack Valley student-athletes. He’s right at the top.”