Sunapee Teams Savoring Success

Sunapee — There’s something special going on in town.

The Sunapee High boys basketball team’s upset of Epping Thursday might have surprised some people. But Sunapee teams have been surprising people for a long time.

The enrollment at Sunapee is about 145, and 80 percent of the student body takes part in at least one sport. There were 31 graduates last year, and every one of them participated in some sort of co-curricular activity.

And it’s a lot more than just participation.

In the last three years, the baseball and girls soccer teams won two state championships apiece. In 2011 and 2013, the boys soccer team lost in the finals. Last year, the girls basketball team reached the final four, as did the volleyball team last fall.

Athletic success at Sunapee is not a new phenomenon. Over the years, the baseball team reached eight finals — earning six championships. And the volleyball team had four titles in 11 trips to the championship round.

“We’ve long been among the top testing schools in the state, as well,” Principal Sean Moynihan added.

So what’s going on in this town, nestled nicely around a picturesque lake where on a summer night you can drive around and hear ... nothing?

“This is not a perfect place, but it’s pretty special,” said Myles Cooney, a Sunapee High graduate who later joined the faculty, married a Sunapee girl and coached the girls to a pair of soccer titles.

On Thursday night, the Laker boys were facing an Epping team that had beaten them four straight times — including a 56-51 loss at Epping in December. Epping came to town at 10-2 and left at 10-3.

This victory came on the heels of an even bigger upset victory a week earlier, when the Lakers knocked off previously undefeated Newport, at the time the top-ranked team in NHIAA Division III, a division higher than Sunapee’s league.

Sunapee Athletic Director Tom Frederick, who has coached the baseball team to a pair of championships, says one of the reasons for the Lakers’ success are the coaches. Boys basketball coach Ed Tenney previously led the Kearsarge girls to multiple hoop championships, and now coaches his son, Matt, on the Sunapee varsity.

“We’re as good on the fast break as you will ever see,” said Tenney, who survived a life-threatening illness last year to return to the Sunapee bench. “We take a lot of shots, score a lot of points, usually more than the other team. Isn’t that what you are supposed to do?”

What is going on in Sunapee would seem to be the prototype for other school districts.

“The parents want to see their kids succeed here,” Frederick said. “We get great crowd support, athletes that care, good coaches, great facilities, large crowds and a school board and administration that supports us.”

The faculty and administration support is evident at almost every Sunapee athletic event. Moynihan and school board member Paul Skarin are always around. In fact, Moynihan ran the clock during the win over Epping.

“We’re like one big family,” Skarin said. “We know each other and we care about each other.”

Frederick, who was the baseball coach and athletic director at Mascoma before he moved down I-89 to smaller Sunapee, has had no second thoughts. In addition to coaching the baseball team in the spring, he coaches Babe Ruth baseball in the summer and is a pitcher for the Old Sunapee Lakers in a men’s summer league.

“I love this place,” Frederick said. “The mountain, the lake. It’s the best of both worlds.”

The scene and atmosphere in Sherburne Gym is both exciting and inviting. There’s music playing between games and between halves, while the cheerleaders run through their routines with imaginative grace.

Sunapee embraces its place as the little school that could. And for those teams coming into town this winter, they would be advised to take notice or else leave town like so many others — with defeat hung on their record.

It’s an atmosphere that promotes high standards on the court and in the classroom. And it’s a place Principal Moynihan is proud to be part of.

“It’s a nice environment,” he said looking out over the full house on Thursday night. “A nice environment.”