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Looking back at a School Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony, a night to remember and cherish

Shelter Islanders came out for a gala evening seven winters ago to honor great athletes of the past. Here’s the article from the Reporter on that special occasion.

Ten individuals and four teams were inducted into the Shelter Island School Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday evening, November 29.

On a night dedicated to sports for a capacity crowd of more than 250 people in the school’s auditorium, there were memories brought to life of great games in the past and championship teams. But the memories turned more to people, including the coaches, parents and brothers and sisters who helped young athletes find their way in life away from the field or court.

Master of Ceremonies Jim Colligan — who presided over an induction ceremony in June honoring two coaches, eight athletes and four teams — said the Hall of Fame is not only about celebrating great achievements, but more about “creating an athletic history here,” and remembering “one of the strengths of our school.”

There were moments of laughter and moments of emotion.

Janelle Kraus-Nadeau had to pause to gather herself at one point while introducing Cliff Clark, her high school coach. Ms. Kraus-Nadeau was inducted in June as one of the greatest athletes in school history for her track and field and cross-country career. She went on to become the most decorated athlete in Wake Forest’s history, and currently coaches cross-county in Connecticut.

She said that she would always find it hard to call Mr. Clark anything but “coach.”

Mr. Clark, who was a brilliant high school and college athlete, also wiped a tear away as Ms. Kraus-Nadeau finished her eloquent tribute.

“As a coach,” Mr. Clark said, “it’s more than just showing up with the stop watch,” noting that an important duty of any teacher is “carrying the baton and passing it on.”

Walter Richards, a three-time All-Conference basketball player and three –time All-League cross country runner, spoke for many when he described sports on Shelter Island as special, not just for winning teams and individual achievements.

He remembered coaches who “taught passion and hard work” and “assertiveness,” that overcoming obstacles during competition was an “85 percent mental” battle, “the same as in life.” These life skills were the ones that remained when athletic skills passed, Mr. Richards said.

Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. introduced Bob DeStefano, head golf professional at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club for 50 years. Mr. DeStefano was honored for his commitment to golf on the Island, and especially for teaching more than 1,000 Shelter Island youngsters the sport he loves.

“Be nice, Jay,” Mr. DeStefano, who is also the Reporter’s sports columnist said, standing next to Mr. Card at the podium.

“No such luck, Bob,” Mr. Card said, and mentioned that author and Island resident John Feinstein was scheduled to introduce Mr. DeStefano but was away on assignment. “In other words, Bob,” Mr. Card said, “he got a better offer.”

Bobby Brown was remembered by Town Councilman Ed Brown as one of the greatest Shelter Island athletes, a gifted basketball player and a superb pitcher and dangerous hitter in baseball.

Next it was Bobby Brown’s turn to honor and remember Bobby Miller, another two-sport athlete in baseball and basketball who was mentioned several times during the evening in nearly reverential tones. Mr. Brown said it was an emotional evening for many in the audience, thinking of teammates who had passed away.

Linda Springer introduced the 1968/69 boys basketball team, a championship club that scored over 100 points six times against five different opponents. “They are the eye of the tiger, and they roared,” Ms. Springer said.

Kathy O’Malley introduced another great basketball team, the 1991/92 girls squad, “who played basketball, not just girls basketball” and who were “successful at life.”

Sherri Surozenski was praised by her volleyball coach, Garth Griffin, as an athlete who had talent, but brought much more to her game.

“Tenacious,” “hard and fiery,” but also “dependable” were some of the accolades he gave his player. Mr. Griffin noted that Sherri also excelled at field hockey. “I can’t understand,” he said, “a sport that would give Sherri a stick.”

Beth Lenox, a two-time All-County basketball and field hockey player, who also played softball and volleyball at a high level, didn’t speak of accomplishments, but of her teammates “who made me stronger” and her parents who inspired her. She mentioned her brother Steve, who taught her that “practice doesn’t always make perfect, it makes permanent.”

School Athletic Director Rick Osmer, who coached the 1994/95 boys basketball team, praised his squad as a group that not only never quit “but knew how to finish”.

Mr. Osmer also introduced a member of that team, Cori Cass, a superb three-sport athlete. Mr. Cass has also helped bring organized baseball to the Island in the summer as general manager of the Bucks, the Island’s entry in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.

Being honored by his school was the fulfillment of “a dream,” Mr. Cass said.

Both Luiz Coelho, who built a youth soccer program on the Island, and a team he coached, the 1982 boys varsity soccer team, were named to the Hall of Fame. Jon Kilb described the team— the second smallest on Long Island — that gained a berth to the state Final Four. It was a team “of role models,” he said.

Darrin Binder spoke of Coach Coelho’s generosity of spirit, a man “who gave us every minute of every day.”

Mr. Binder took his turn to be included in the Hall of Fame as a holder of the record for goals scored in soccer, as well as being a standout on the baseball diamond and basketball court.

As a member of the soccer team, Bill Anderson, took the stage, his father, also named Bill, applauded. “Billy’s 47 years old,” he said, but his tone of voice and smile were saying that his son, along with his teammates, would be forever young.