July 15. 2013 9:18PM

Athlete of Month

Athlete of the Month: Portsmouth's Rick Holt a man for two seasons

Staff report


There was a time when Dick Holt would kid around with his son about winning championships.

"Dad would always say he played for Division I Portsmouth and won a football title in 1981," said son Rick. "Well let's just say the shoe is on the other foot."

The younger Holt's trophy case got a little bigger and fuller last month.

After throwing a complete game victory to lead Portsmouth past Goffstown for the NHIAA Division II state baseball championship and being called the best player on the football field by the opposing head coach who won the annual ChaD New Hampshire East-West High School All-Star Game, Holt was selected as the Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center New Hampshire Union Leader Athlete of the Month for June.

With eight of the nine members of the Union Leader Board of Judges voting, Holt received six first-place votes and 37 of a possible 40 points.

There was a three-way tie for second place between track and field athletes Emma Checovich of Winnacunnet of Hampton and Betsy Garnick of Bishop Guertin of Nashua, and golfer Lauren Thibodeau of Hampstead. Each of the three collected 12 points.

A senior pitcher for Portsmouth, Holt started the NHIAA Division II championship game two days after throwing two innings of relief in the semifinals. In the title game against top-ranked Goffstown, he held the Grizzlies to two unearned runs en route to a 5-2 win at Manchester's Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, scattering four hits, striking out five and walking two.

He finished his season at 8-0 and ran his career mark to 22-2.

"That was probably one of my best high school games on the mound," said Holt. "Once we won the title, I made the decision to call it quits in baseball and concentrate on football. I figured there was no better way to go out in baseball than to win the state title."

Three weeks later, Holt put on a show on the same field where he'll be playing college football. Despite playing on the losing end of a 13-7 overtime decision to the West All-Stars, Holt registered a team-high 8.5 tackles, including a fourth-quarter sack, at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium. After the game, West coach Jim Schubert, whose own resume includes six Division I titles with Manchester High Central, called Holt the best player on the field.

"It was an honor to hear that from someone like Coach Schubert," said Holt, adding that the presence of UNH coach Sean McDonnell and Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly provided additional motivation.

"I knew Coach McDonnell and Coach Kelly were going to the game, and I wanted to show them how I could play," he said.

His performance helped him earn Athlete of the Month honors for the second time, the first having come after he pitched Portsmouth Little League to a state championship in 2007.

"I've got the honor and the write-up in the newspaper here at the house," he said. "It was an honor then, and to be named Athlete of the Month a second time is something I'm proud of and will cherish."

Athletes of the Month receive their awards in winter at the Union Leader's sports banquet, The Leaders: a Celebration of Sports Champions.

"My family and I enjoyed the banquet the first time, and I'm looking forward to going back," Holt said.

Holt played for two Division III football championship teams at Portsmouth High, in 2011 and 2012. In baseball, he helped lead the Clippers to Division II state titles this season and in 2011. Along the way, he helped Portsmouth win 89 straight baseball games, setting a national record that has since been broken.

Holt said football is his first love, but "baseball is very close. Something just clicks in me when I put the pads on and run on the (football) field."

He said he hasn't discussed his role at UNH with McDonnell and doesn't know if he'll play right away or redshirt his freshman season.

"My faith is in Coach McDonnell and the coaching staff," said Holt who, at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, can play tackle or linebacker.

He plans to major in business administration, possibly with a minor in communications.

Given the quality of the other nominees' June achievements, it took a two-sport performance to separate Holt from the pack.

Garnick, a senior, broke her own state record at the NHIAA Outdoor Track and Field Meet of Champions on June 1. She set the record of 14.24 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles and broke that record a week later in 14.20 seconds in the New England Interscholastic Championships at New Britain, Conn. She owned the previous mark of 14.27, set in 2012. She also won the state long jump championship, with a leap of 17 feet, 10.75 inches.

Checovich, a junior, won the 37th New Hampshire Heptathlon on June 16, finishing with 3,850 points. She tied for first in the high jump and placed fourth or better in three other events.

In golf, 13-year-old Thibodeau birdied five straight holes en route to a tourney-record score of 2-under-par 71 at Manchester's Intervale Country Club. That made her to became the first golfer to win three straight New Hampshire Women's Golf Association Junior Championships.

Placing fifth in the balloting with 10 points was lacrosse player Emily Whitney of Portsmouth. A senior, Whitney led the Clippers to the NHIAA girls' Division II state title with four goals and three assists in the championship game, a 14-8 win over Hanover.

Other outstanding athletes on the ballot included Melissa Cino of Windham, lacrosse; Ben DeForest of Souhegan of Amherst, track and field; Tom Hixon of Rye, golf; Kate Hoadley of Timberlane of Plaistow, softball; John Lindonen of Merrimack Valley of Penacook, track and field; Hannah Parker of Coe-Brown Academy of Northwood, track and field; Kris Perkins of Pittsfield, baseball; and Colette Schmidt of Lebanon, golf.

To submit a nomination for Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader sports department at sports@unionleader.com and enter "Athlete of the Month" in the subject line.

Previous 2013 winners: January — Sean Dohert, Conway, biathlon; February — Drew Ledwith, Keene, swimming; March — Kaleb Tarczewski, Claremont, basketball; April — Mariah Crisp, Greenland, softball, and Eric Jensen, Gorham, baseball; May — Carson Cross, Brentwood, baseball.