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Varsity Blues
Daniel G. Habib
February 23, 2004
Eliminated
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February 23, 2004

Varsity Blues

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Eliminated

The athletics department at Winthrop (Mass.) High, as a result of voter-mandated budget cuts. Winthrop is the alma mater of Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and 1980 U.S. hockey Olympian Mike Eruzione, whose son Paul is a sophomore center on Winthrop's 16-1-1 hockey team. Winthrop, a community of 20,000 just outside Boston, has had state champions in football and hockey. "This town has always had great pride in its teams," Mike Eruzione says. "We've seen ourselves as the little town that could. That support seems to be eroding."

Voters in Winthrop, which for several years has battled budget shortfalls, rejected an override that would have provided $6 million to the school district and to other public services (the town's library and senior center will also close) but would have increased annual property taxes by an average of $1,200 per home. "I'm sympathetic to schools," says Alex Mavrakos, a retiree who organized opposition to the override. "But also to our seniors and young married couples struggling to maintain their property."

The vote means the shutdown, as of next fall, of Winthrop's 13 varsity teams, which had already been forced to rely on fund-raising and to charge students $325 in user fees for each sport they played. While there is still the outside possibility of another override vote before September, most in Winthrop expect the worst. Hockey players (and hundreds of other students) walked out of classes on Feb. 10 in protest, and last Thursday, Thomas Giancristino, the school superintendent, resigned. Paul Eruzione plans to transfer to another high school next year, and his father has spoken to a real estate agent about selling his home in Winthrop. In the meantime the Massachusetts state tournament begins next week, and senior goalie Adam Sullivan is hoping Winthrop can pull off its own Miracle on Ice: "There's nothing we can do now but win the state championship," he says, "to let people know that sports belong here."

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