WYE MILLS – Sustained excellence was one of the main themes that ran through Thursday night’s Chesapeake College Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
The college’s last four women’s basketball teams – with four straight NJCAA Division II Region XX championships and a combined 95-18 record – entered the Hall of Fame together in the team category. Frank Szymanski (baseball) and Durrie Hayes (women’s softball) were inducted for Chesapeake coaching careers that include a combined 626 victories (and counting), and were joined by Canadian import Janean Lowenberger, who was both an all-Region softball player and an Academic All-American.
While the Hall of Fame ceremonies recognized the inductees’ contributions to the college, those being inducted noted Chesapeake’s contributions to their lives.
“Not a day goes by where I do not think of Chesapeake College,” said Lowenberger, who now works in the International Student Abroad Office at the University of Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. “Without Chesapeake, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
Lowenberger, who was co-winner of the 2011 John T. Harrison Award given annually to the college’s top graduate, selected two of her professors – John Haas and Linda Earls – to serve as her presenters. Haas noted Lowenberger’s commitment to expanding her horizons beyond the softball field.
“She made the most of every experience here at Chesapeake – in the classroom, on stage [with the Peake Players theater group], and in student government,” said Haas. “We hope she comes back here to teach some day.”
Lowenberger, meanwhile, took time to laud her coach on a night they shared the spotlight.
“I learned more about softball from Durrie in my time at Chesapeake than in the previous 18 years combined,” said Lowenberger.
Rich Midcap, Chesapeake’s interim vice president for academic affairs, noted that Hayes went from “arguably the best high school softball coach in the state” to “arguably the best JuCo softball coach in the region” with multiple state titles at both Easton High and Chesapeake. Hayes, however, chose to reflect first on his own teen-age academic challenges to illustrate how “Chesapeake changes lives.”
Hayes noted he originally went to Harford Junior College to play baseball, only to leave after academic difficulties. He came to Chesapeake, where a strong support network helped him turn around his academic career, allowed him to play college baseball, and led eventually to his graduation from Salisbury University.
“If it hadn’t been for the people here who helped me when I needed it, I doubt I would be here speaking to you tonight,” said Hayes, whose next coaching victory will be his 200th at the collegiate level. “Chesapeake is a place where everyone takes care of everyone else.”
Midcap said Szymanski, in his 17th year serving in the dual roles of baseball coach and athletics director, “is a Hall of Famer in both categories.” Szymanski has a school-record 427 victories as baseball coach, and has been athletics director for seven of the eight region championships won by the college.
Szymanski thanked the players, coaches and college administrators who he said were instrumental in his success while emphasizing the role his family has played in his work.
“Thank you to my family,” said Szymanski, whose four children have all grown up around Chesapeake athletics, “and especially my wife, Colleen, who has made so many sacrifices so that I could chase my dreams.”
A total of 31 student athletes comprised the four women’s basketball region title teams that were honored. Those teams also combined to win two state tournament titles, a state regular-season crown and a combined six victories at the national tournament level.
Gwen Barnes, head coach of the women’s basketball team, said this year’s squad is “ready to go after a fifth championship” when the Skipjacks host the 2016 NJCAA Division II Region XX tournament next February as part of the college’s 50th anniversary celebration.