LORAIN — Dan Breen, one of the last individuals to give an acceptance speech Thursday, may have summed up the festivities and the class of the 45th Annual Lorain Sports Hall of Fame, best.
“When you were from Lorain, that meant something,” said Breen, who was inducted at the enshrinement banquet under a special category. “When we encountered kids from other towns, we were from Lorain. That meant something. When we played a game of any sport, we were from Lorain, and that meant something. And the big games became between those of us who lived in Lorain.
“One thing I took with me, especially in sports, was the confidence that came from being from Lorain. Whether we played teams that were bigger or smaller or were highly ranked, it didn’t matter to us. We were from Lorain. We’re not afraid of you.”
Breen, a former Lorain High basketball player who went on to become a decorated girls basketball coach in Iowa, was one of eight individuals and two teams enshrined Thursday night at DeLuca’s Place in the Park.
Others enshrined in the Class of 2014 were Lorain High running back Donald Church, Admiral King basketball player Eric Morrison, Lorain High girls basketball player Kyle Lathwell, Lorain High all-around athlete Dan Yurovich, Southview football player Jose Tirado, Lorain High basketball player Brad Frank, Lorain High two-way lineman Jim Turton, the 1979 Clearview boys track team and the 1996 United Polish Club men’s Fastpitch softball team.
Breen was an All-Buckeye Conference selection as a senior after playing varsity basketball from 1965-67. Following a two-year stint playing at Lorain County Community College, Breen accepted a scholarship from Parsons College, a Division II school located in Fairfield, Iowa.
Breen stayed in Iowa, starting up a girls basketball program at Fairfield High School in 1971. He retired in 1988 with a record of 336-60 with 13 consecutive conference titles and 20-win seasons, six state- tournament berths and five consecutive final four appearances. In 1983, his team won the Iowa state championship.
“I had the good fortune to grow up in Lorain, Ohio, during the 1950s and 60s,” Breen said. “This was at a time of the industrial peak of this country, and Lorain was the center of that. And people were particularly hard working. They were particularly competitive. They were particularly proud. And I took that with me (to Iowa).
“I became a conduit of what I learned and what I inherited from being here. My girls teams never had any fear on the court, and that’s because I never had any fear. I was from Lorain, and I passed that trait down to my teams.”
The 1979 Clearview track team won the state championship for the second straight year that season. At the state meet, Mark Walden won the 220-yard dash in 22.9 seconds and the 440-yard dash in 51.3 seconds. He also ran the anchor leg of the mile relay team, where he, Tito Flores, former Elyria basketball coach Mike Walsh and A.C. Witherspoon won the state title.
“This is the first track team ever inducted into the Lorain Sports Hall of Fame,” said Walden, speaking on behalf of his team, which was coached by Marv Hougland. “We were the 1979 team state champions, and the key word is team. It was a band of young men coming together to accomplish some major goals, being led by a great head coach in Marv Hougland and excellent coaches in Len Nickoloff and Dan Trent.”
The Lorain UPC softball team, led by player-manager Gary Lilly, Nandi Cruz, Mike Keron, John Millsap Sr. and Ken Shoup, among others, won the American Softball Association Class C National Championship in College Station, Texas, fighting their way out of the losers bracket with five consecutive wins, including back-to-back victories over the Memphis Auto Zone team that bounced them into the loser’s bracket.
UPC went 46-20 overall and Keron was named the MVP of the tournament.
“We were originally nominated four years ago,” Lilly said. “But, to get in now made it worth the wait. It almost seems sweeter to get in if you have to wait.”
Church, the first inductee of the night, was one of Lorain High’s all-time great running backs. Graduating in 1995, Church gained 2,489 yards on 406 career carries, averaging 6.1 yards and scoring 32 touchdowns for the Steelmen. He was a two-year starter who was named first-team All-Erie Shore Conference and All-Lorain County both years. He was the ESC Most Valuable Player as a senior.
Church went on to play football for Ashland University, setting school records with 35 career touchdowns and 3,039 yards rushing. His 264 yards against Findlay is the second-highest one-game total in school history.
“I remember being at Longfellow (Junior High) and Coach (Terry) King came up to me and said, ‘I want you to come to Lorain High,’” Church said. “‘If you come to Lorain High, you will do great things as a running back.’ Even though I moved with my mom to the corner of 20th Street and Utica Avenue, which is Admiral King territory and I knew it was going to be a long walk to school, I told her I wanted to play for Coach King at Lorain High. That walk was worth it. Thank you, Coach King.”
Morrison was a key player on the 1979-80 Admiral King boys hoops team that played in the Class AAA state championship game. He was the leading scorer of all four teams in that 1980 state tournament with 33 total points and was named to the all-tournament team.
He averaged a double-double – 16 points and 10.8 rebounds – his senior year. Morrison scored a game-high 19 points in a 53-51 overtime win over Columbus Linden McKinley in the semifinals before the Admirals lost, 53-48, to 28-0 Akron Central-Hower in the championship.
Lathwell was a three-sport standout at Lorain High in tennis, softball and basketball, but she earned a full athletic scholarship to Kent State based off of her feats on the hardwood.
She earned four varsity letters and was a four-year starter in basketball. As a senior, her 1990-91 team won the ESC championship with a 20-0 regular-season record and was ranked fifth in Division I. She averaged 22.6 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 steals per game, and was Lorain County’s all-time leading scorer with 1,636 points when she graduated.
“To my teammates from every team in every sport in which I participated, I say thank you,” Lathwell said. “Each of you stands with me as I speak.”
Yurovich earned two letters in football, three in baseball and one in basketball during his time at Lorain High. He was the starting quarterback both his junior and senior years, and he was given the Danny Award in 1980 as Lorain High’s most outstanding athletic scholar. He was also the runner-up for Lorain County’s Golden Helmet Award.
He went on to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he excelled in boxing. He went 20-0 in his four years in the Navy and was the runner-up for the Brigade of Midshipmen Intramural Athlete of the Year.
Tirado earned three varsity letters in football and four in track from 1970-74 at Southview. He was a UPI All-Ohio second-team selection at wide receiver his senior year.
He parlayed his successful career into a scholarship to Penn State, but he transferred to Division III Baldwin-Wallace following his freshman year. Under the legendary Lee Tressel, Tirado helped the Yellow Jackets win the 1978 Division III national championship at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, catching four touchdown passes during their playoff run.
Frank starred in basketball for the Steelmen from 1968-72. His junior year, he averaged 18.5 points and 11 rebounds per game and had a single-game high of 41 points. As a senior, he averaged 20.7 points and 10.7 rebounds and had a single-game high of 43. He was LHS’s all-time leading scorer with 998 points upon his graduation.
After playing in college in Minnesota, Frank returned to Lorain where he taught and coached basketball in the Lorain City School system for 30 years.
“My dad started me on my Yellow Brick Road when he took me to Lorain High games when they played on the stage in the old auditorium,” Frank said. “Later, I found my ruby shelf tops when I coached my children, Marcie and Brian, while going home to finish my career back on the Yellow Brick Road. To everyone in attendance tonight, long may you run down your Yellow Brick Road.”
Turton was a two-way varsity starter at guard and defensive end/linebacker for the Steelmen from 1957-60. He was also a three-year sprinter for the track team and was a first-team Buckeye Conference selection as a senior. His junior year, the Steelmen beat Paul Warfield and Warren Harding, 20-14, at George Daniel Field.
“While the athletes of today are bigger and faster than we were, they may not be necessarily tougher,” Turton said. “We used to practice from 8-11 a.m., with a break for lunch, and then from noon-2:30 p.m., and the only time we were allowed to have water was during lunch. Back then, they thought water gave you cramps. I think I’d rather have the cramps.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.