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Portsmouth High hosts virtual signing day for 5 student-athletes

Members of Class of 2020 commit to play at 4 different schools


PORTSMOUTH — Stephen Trezvant peered into his laptop’s camera last week to welcome five student-athletes from Portsmouth High School who joined him for a virtual meeting — along with their parents and some others — to celebrate their intentions to play competitive sports for a college or university.

“This is our new norm,” said Mr. Trezvant, the school’s athletic director, commenting on the need for a virtual meeting in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s amazing how quickly these events become our new norm.”

The National Letter of Intent signing ceremony was held for the following athletes, along with their sport and respective college or university: 

• Gabby Bryan — Florida International, track and field (Division I)

• Justin Parsons, Bridgewater State University (Massachusetts), basketball

• Connor Perry, Plymouth State University (New Hampshire), football

• Emily Ledo, Plymouth State University, lacrosse.

• Ben Gesmondi, Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.), baseball

“This group of seniors has served our school with distinction and it’s been an honor to watch you compete on the athletic field. This gives me great joy, because I miss seeing you all on on the field,” said Mr. Trezvant, noting that spring sports were canceled due to the pandemic.

Justin and his teammates on the PHS varsity boys’ basketball team will never know what could have been. After winning the Division II crown, they beat Shea in the opening round of the state open tournament on March 12 inside the PHS field house, which was nearly empty due to social distancing precautions. Then, the rest of the tournament was canceled.

Initially, that was tough to take, said Justin. 

“We were on a hot streak,” he said, adding that the team had closed out the regular season and playoffs with win after win. “It kind of frustrated me at first … but I’m happy with how our season ended.”

Emily and Gabby never got to compete at all this spring, as the entire season was canceled.

“Obviously I was crushed,” said Emily. “What I’m doing to get by is getting on the field every day. It’s a sport that clears my head. I’m excited to gain the season that I lost this year.” 

“It was really devastating, because I was going to go to the Nationals for the first time. But, I learned to live with it,” added Gabby.

Gabby was originally interested in playing volleyball at the collegiate level, “but my height was a factor so I started throwing,” she said. She chose Florida International because it was the only one of her top selections that offered the hammer throw. 

Gabby plans to study biological sciences at the school, and is looking forward to the warm weather and diverse culture that Miami offers.

Justin said he looked at several others schools but chose Bridgewater because he felt he’d have a better chance of competing right away there. He’s looking forward to going to school so close to Boston, and there’s a T stop right on campus. Justin, who’s got a brother who plays football for nearby Bentley University, plans on studying sports and recreation management. 

“Maybe you’ll be an AD one day, my friend,” responded Mr. Trezvant.

Emily said she chose Plymouth State because it’s “the perfect distance from home” and will give her an opportunity to compete right away. She’s also looking forward to the mountains, snowboarding and a skate park in the area. She plans on studying exercise science and hopefully go into physical therapy.

Ben plans on studying business or finance at Catholic University. “I chose Catholic because it’s in a great location and they had the most supportive staff,” he said.

Connor, who may study business at Plymouth State, said the school “seemed like the right fit,” and that he’s excited to see his new teammates and go skiing in New Hampshire.

Lessons learned

The athletes said they took many lessons away from their time at PHS. 

“The success on the field doesn’t happen overnight; you have to keep working on it every day and take in the grind,” said Connor.

Ben added that he learned to “take advantage of every opportunity you’ve been given,” while Gabby said losing is often necessary in order to get better.

Mr. Trezvant told the students they’ll always have a home at PHS.

“You have an open invitation from the athletic director to come back and teach some of those lessons to other students,” he said.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.