April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria Sports Hall of Fame: Inductees focus on strong family ties

ELYRIA — It was a family affair at the 42nd annual Elyria Sports Hall of Fame banquet Saturday night.
If the 2013 inductees weren’t following a family member into the Hall, they were making sure to give them credit for helping them make the journey.
The newest class was Elyria volleyball standout Brooke Bader, Elyria softball coach Ken Fenik, Elyria basketball star Adam Larrick, Elyria Catholic championship quarterback Briant McLaughlin, do-everything sports figure Jan Sito and the 1973 boys basketball teams from Elyria and Elyria Catholic.
Cooper Hudnutt, The Chronicle-Telegram’s late publisher, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award.
“My parents helped me set my sports goals when I was young,” said Bader, whose great uncle Tony Curcillo was a 1973 inductee. “They took me down to Ohio State football games and made sure sports were a part of my life very early.”
Bader played multiple sports, but said it was volleyball that became her passion. She was part of the Pioneers’ state runner-up team in 1996, and went on to star at Bucknell University.
“I want to finish by saying a special thank you to my father … I miss him so much,” Bader said. “Thank you, Dad, for believing so much in me.”
Larrick joked about how he’s gotten used to following big brother Brett, who was inducted in 2001.
“I may have had to sit behind a certain someone for two years at Elyria High, and I may have had to sit behind a certain someone for two years in college,” Larrick said. “It wasn’t always easy being known as Brett’s little brother … but he was always there for me and he’s a big part of the success I was able to achieve.”
Adam averaged more than 20 points during his last two years at Elyria High — finishing ninth on the school’s all-time scoring list – and with Brett led Charleston Southern to its only NCAA Tournament appearance in 1997.
“My mom probably wouldn’t have wanted to watch some of our college practices … it wasn’t pretty,” Adam said. “But (Brett) was an inspiration — anything he did I always wanted to do better.”
Fenik opened his speech by thanking, “my best friend and my wife, Allison, and my two beautiful girls, Molly and Calli.”
Fenik has had a ton of pseudo daughters over the years, leading the Pioneers to a pair of softball state championships and three other finals appearances. Coming into this season, he had compiled a record of 428-75 — tied for 13th in Ohio.
“No one ever accomplished anything by themselves, and I’d like to have every kid that ever played for me up here with me,” Fenik said. “I also want to thank my mom and dad for helping me become the person I am today. Mom, thank you for tucking us into bed every night — that means a lot to me. Dad, thank you for coming to all our games and cheering us on — at least there was one person in the stands who doesn’t think I’m an idiot.”
McLaughlin kept the theme of the night rolling, starting his speech with thank-yous to his wife of 30 years, Susan, his two children, his parents and his brothers.
McLaughlin was the quarterback and star defensive back on the first of Elyria Catholic’s three state championship football teams. He went on to star at Ashland University, where he is still fourth on the school’s career interception list.
“Coach Jim Rattay gave me the call to let me know I had gotten into the Hall,” McLaughlin said. “He said two things to me on that call. First he said, ‘Briant, Coach Rattay, Hall of Fame.’ Then he told me, ‘I’ve been coaching for 41 years and of all the quarterbacks I’ve ever coached, you had to be the worst.’”
After the laughter died, McLaughlin shared a letter he had received that praised him not for his sports accomplishments, but for the character he showed.
“Athletics are just practice for life,” McLaughlin said. “We take what we can from them and then we try to pass down those values to our children.”
When the mixture of sports and family came together during Saturday night’s banquet, it was obvious that Sito fit in perfectly. The Sitos have become synonymous with Elyria sports … especially softball.
Jan Sito was lauded as an athlete, coach and official in a sports career that’s spanned 50 years and is still going strong. She praised her parents — she got a laugh for saying, “without them I wouldn’t be here,” — her five brothers and her numerous nieces and nephews.
The family bond is so strong with Jan, she refused to shut down a niece’s slumber party — that included 29 girls — at her house after breaking her foot early in the evening. She made sundaes, tucked them into bed, made them cinnamon roles for breakfast … and finally went to the hospital to have a cast put on after the girls had departed the next morning.
“Most of the family is down in Georgia to watch my niece Tess play in her final home (softball) game, and if it weren’t for this honor I’d be there, too,” Jan said. “A lot of people have come up to me recently and said it’s about time I got in, but I’ll tell you what, anytime is a good time.”
The head coaches from the 1973 teams wrapped up the night, with Elyria’s Mike Riley talking about his journey to the school and touching upon some of the preparation for the season and Elyria Catholic’s Bob Guinta keeping the crowd laughing, even serenading them at one point with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
The Pioneers and Panthers advanced to the Final Four during the 1972-73 season, each falling short in the state semifinals. Elyria Catholic went 24-2 and won the North Central Conference title, while the Pioneers finished at 21-4 and were the Buckeye Conference runner-up.
Riley recalled Elyria’s big win over rival Admiral King, 58-57, in the district semifinals.
“I’ve never been in a locker room that was so emotional,” Riley said. “Kids were jumping in the air, there were hugs and screaming … the guys in that locker room knew they had turned Elyria into a winning program.”
Guinta introduced each Panthers player in attendance and gave a few positive — and often comedic — comments about them. He also mixed in jokes when talking about the days leading up to him coaching the Panthers.
“El-ry-a? Where the hell is that?” Guinta said of first seeing the city’s name on paper.
The family theme flowed into the crowd, where more than 60 seats were taken for each of the 1973 teams and the Spitzer Center at Lorain County Community College had sold out weeks in advance.
“Family is so important and sometimes it goes even further,” Bader said. “Coaches, teachers, they all play such an important role in young athletes’ lives.”
Notes
Four athletes were awarded Elyria Sports Hall of Fame scholarships during the ceremony — Elyria Catholic’s Jacob Amato and Michaela Foisy, and Elyria High’s Marie Masters and Kala Young.
** Athletes from the Elyria schools who received all-Ohio recognition over the past year were recognized. They were: Elyria Catholic’s Lucas Ball for pole vault; EC’s Justin Rankin for football; the EC girls 400-meter relay team — Brandy Daniels, Kalynn Daniels, Danielle Dziak and Karissa McGrath; Elyria’s Tracy Sprinkle and Conner Kamczyc for football; Elyria’s Armando Torres for wrestling; and the Elyria softball team — Caitlyn Minney, Sybil Roseboro, Anna Daly, Madison Fullmer, Holly Howser, Alexis Roseboro, Patricia Davis, Stephanie Yonkings, Alexandra Dick, Marie Masters, Melanie Woodard, Haley Looney, Alanna Williams, Darien Ward, MacKenzie Phares and Alyssa Barker.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.