Kennett Hall of Fame welcomes six new members
|THE KENNETT HIGH SCHOOL Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2010 includes (l to r), Jon Judge, Brendan Sullivan, Brittany Ames Banda, Laura Engler Fitzmaurice, Jody McDonald and Abe Wrobleski.
Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)|
October 25, 2010NORTH CONWAY — The Kennett athletic community celebrated the accomplishments of six individuals on Saturday night at the Red Jacket Resort.
Former Eagles Brendan Sullivan, Jody McDonald, Laura Engler Fitzmaurice, Abe Wrobleski and Brittany Ames Banda and retiring girls' tennis coach Jon Judge were all inducted in the Kennett High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Sullivan, a member of the Class of 1981, was introduced by Jackie Sparks, who stated she was his "first, first" ski coach.
"I've known Brendan since he was a newborn," she said. "It's been a long and lovely relationship."
Sparks got Sullivan on his first skis by about age five and she immediately could tell he was a natural.
"I told him to follow his dreams and the rest is history," she said.
Sullivan played four years of soccer, skied on the cross-country ski team for four years and ran track for three years. He was the state cross-country skiing champion in 1980 and 1981 and was the state champion in the 1,600 meters in 1981 as a member of the track team. He was also on the UNH Ski Team for four years following his Kennett career and was named to the United States Cross-Country Ski Team in 1988.
"It certainly takes a valley, the Mount Washington Valley, my birthplace, to raise students and student-athletes," he said. "My love of sports and pursuit of healthy living began at an early age and I've been blessed by being around some amazing teammates."
He singled out the late Jim Wellinghurst as the "most gifted athlete I've ever chased."
Former Kennett football assistant coach Phil Haynes inducted McDonald, a member of the class of 1990.
Haynes recalled that former coach George Davidson always looked for certain things in players. First was family, second was that the player was a gentleman, third was that he gave back to the community, fourth was that he was always prepared to give his best.
"Jody as a leader, he led by few words, but when he talked, we all listened," Haynes said.
McDonald starred on the football field for four years and ran track and field and cross country for two years each. He made the All-State football team in 1988 and 1989 and was a Shrine Bowl captain in 1990. His oldest son, Conor, is now a linebacker for the Kennett Eagles and his youngest son is coming through the junior high ranks.
McDonald thanked Hall of Famer Jeff Perry for the nomination, noting the two had known each other since they were in kindergarten and played football at Schouler Park.
"And we didn't stop until we were in our 30s in the Mud Bowl," he noted.
McDonald also thanked Haynes and the late Gary Millen for their impact on his life.
"Phil, he and I, we're a lot alike," he said. "We're both a little rough around the edges.
"And coach Millen, he left a great impact on me, I wish he was here."
McDonald said as a youngster growing up, he had to live up the McDonald name, thanks to his older brothers and he noted he was proud of his boys for carrying on the tradition.
"I'm very proud of them, hopefully someday I can be here inducting them," he said.
Fitzmaurice was a member of the Class of 1994 and starred for four years on the soccer field, softball field and basketball court. She traveled from California to be inducted by her former coach, John Allen.
Allen noted that his former goalie was the first female soccer player to be inducted into the Kennett Hall of Fame. She was on the first varsity girls' soccer teams at Kennett in the early 1990s.
Allen praised her leadership, scholarship, her endless list of awards and her versatility, but called out her sportsmanship above all.
"We got beat up," he said of the first years of girls' soccer at Kennett. "And never did Laura lose her cool."
Her abilities were recognized by other Class I coaches, who named her to the All-State team in 1993 despite the fact that her goals against average wasn't one of the best due to the team's struggles.
She continued her athletic career at Princeton, where she played on the rugby team and was an All-American selection for three years.
"His humor is what got us through those three years of giving up all those goals," Fitzmaurice said of her former coach.
She noted that all her successes in life have been because of the teaching she got while she was at Kennett.
"Everything I did at Kennett, I did in context of team sports," she said, praising coaches Bob Russell, Peter Ames, Jackie Smith and Allen for all their work.
"I learned more and grew more from my struggles as a Kennett athlete than in any other aspect of my life."
Wrobleski, a member of the Class of 1995, was inducted by teammate and friend Merle Sweeney, who knew by the end of the duo's freshmen year that his friend was going to have a great career on the football field.
"He was pretty laid back, but when he put the uniform on, he was a different person," Sweeney said. "He went from happy go lucky to real fiery."
Sweeney noted his friend was always the first to have a teammate's back.
"He always showed tremendous honor for the uniform and knew he was a role model for many youngsters.
Wrobleski starred in football, basketball and baseball in his four years at Kennett and was named to All-State in football in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and earned baseball All-State honors in 1995 in addition to being named the Class I Player of the Year.
"All I wanted to do as a kid was play Kennett football," Wrobleski said. "To play at Kennett was such an honor."
Brittany Ames Banda, a member of the Class of 2002, was inducted by her father, Hall of Famer Peter Ames, the longtime softball and basketball coach at Kennett.
Ames noted that as a coach, he often thought that he didn't give his daughter the credit she was due.
"When you coach your own kid, you tend not to want to say to much," he said. "Often the kid you leave out is your own and I think she understood that."
Ames noted that when other kids got to go home with their parents after a tough game, his daughter had to go home with the coach.
"When things didn't go well, I wasn't the best person to be around," the veteran coach said.
He also pointed out that he was glad Kennett didn't have an equestrian team, as he may have lost his daughter from the softball team.
"I think the horse probably would've won out," she said.
Banda played four years of field hockey, basketball and softball. She was named to the All-State field hockey team and Twin State team in 2001 and the All-State softball team in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and was part of three championship softball teams, in 1999, 2001 and 2002. She also continued her career at Wheaton College, where she played softball for four years and was part of the equestrian team as well.
"Really, the thing that stood out for me was that she was a great competitor on the mound," Ames said. "When she was on the mound it seemed like she was six feet tall because she was so dominating."
Banda noted that it was after leaving Kennett and playing at Wheaton that she really appreciated the Kennett community.
Her sophomore year, her team hosted the Regional Tournament, of which the winner would go to the college World Series.
"Nobody came to watch," she said. "It made me think of high school and those games in Concord, which isn't a short drive. It felt like everyone in town was there.
"It was that time that I realized how lucky I've been to represent Kennett," she said.
She also thanked her father and mother for different things.
"One of the best parts of playing sports at Kennett was playing for my dad," she said. "And I want to thank my mom for putting up with my dad and I through all that."
The final inductee was Judge, who ended his 28-year coaching career at Kennett this past spring. He was inducted by former player Allison Purnell.
"He never made us do anything that he wouldn't do," Purnell said. "Coach has been surrounded by females his whole life, but he treated each and every one of us like his own daughter."
Judge won four Class I championships, taking the title in 1994, 1997, 1998 and 2001 and made four other appearances in the title game. The team also won four Northern Division championships and he finished with a career record of 362-103 and never had a losing season in 28 years.
While Judge didn't attend Kennett, he noted he learned about Kennett pride early on when his Littleton High School baseball team lost to the Kennett boys in the 1974 state championship game.
Friends and colleagues actually encouraged a young Judge not to take the job as tennis coach at Kennett, as the program had struggled for years, but he made those same coaches eat their words by beating them.
"It wasn't because of the coaching, it was because of the athletes," Judge said. "I had some truly remarkable teams and I am proud of what we accomplished.
"We put tennis on the map," he said.
Judge coached 450 matches and oversaw about 1,400 practices and traveled more than 56,000 miles.
"I love being a coach, I love Kennett, I love my athletes and I'm very proud of all of them," he said. "It's rewarding to know you've made that kind of difference in kids' lives."