WYE MILLS – The college’s first sports dynasty, an Academic All-American who was also a softball superstar, and a pair of coaches who have each won a record number of games for the Skipjacks comprise the Chesapeake College Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.
The last four Skipjack women’s basketball teams – which have combined to win half of the college’s eight Region XX championships and earned two-thirds of Chesapeake’s national tournament berths – will all join the Hall of Fame during the 12th annual induction dinner on Thursday, October 8th. They will be joined by Athletic Director Frank Szymanski, who has won a school-record 427 baseball games in 16 seasons as head coach, and Durrie Hayes, with a school-record 203 women’s softball coaching wins in eight years.
The only individual athlete selected for induction was Janean Lowenberger, who was an all-state and all-region softball shortstop who played on Chesapeake’s 2010 state co-championship team. At least as good a student as she was an athlete, Lowenberger was a 2011 NJCAA Academic All-American and co-winner of that year’s John T. Harrison Award, given at commencement to the top student in that year’s graduating class.
The induction dinner will take place in the college’s new Health Professions and Athletics Center, which will have its official ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, August 19th. Tickets – which include a social starting at 6 p.m., the dinner and induction ceremony, and unveiling of the Hall of Fame wall with the 2015 inductee plaques mounted – are $75 each and may be purchased by contacting Becky Fauver at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hayes seemed as excited over the induction of Lowenberger as he is over his own.
“Janean embodies everything, and I mean absolutely everything, that a college could want of its student-athletes,” said Hayes. “From an educational perspective, Janean was selected as an Academic All-American and a co-recipient of the college's Harrison Award. You simply can't do better than that.
“On a personal level she was the nicest, most polite young lady I have ever coached,” added Hayes. “She was blessed with talent and skills and worked extremely hard to be the best player she could be. She knew a lot about the game, yet never turned down advice or instruction. I believe that had a great deal to do with her being such a very good player.”
“Yes, Janean was an athlete, but she embraced the full meaning of a student athlete,” said John Haas, associate professor of history and one of two Chesapeake College faculty members Lowenberger selected as her Hall of Fame co-presenters. “While playing softball for the college, she acted in Peake Players theatrical productions, participated in student activities, and showed a scholarly acumen in classes that is rare for someone of her age.
“Without question, Janean is one of the best students to pass through my classroom in my now 25-year career in higher education,” added Haas.
“Janean Lowenberger is a standout among our graduates who approached every class with vigor and enthusiasm,” said Linda Earls, an associate professor of English who is Lowenberger’s other Hall of Fame presenter. “Initially, she appears quiet and reserved, very respectful of everyone in her company; however, whether the competition is on the field or in the classroom, she is not afraid to speak her mind and lead by example.”
A total of 31 student athletes comprise the four women’s basketball teams being inducted, including eight individuals who each played on two region title squads. Players from the first two squads – the 2011-12 and 2012-13 teams – also won state tournament titles while the 2013-14 team won the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference regular-season crown and earned the program’s highest national tournament finish (sixth).
While the 2014-15 squad didn’t win either the state regular- or post-season crown, it became the first of the four title teams to reach the national quarterfinals with a dramatic, 75-74 win over Lake Michigan College in the first round of the national tourney.
Gwen Barnes, head coach of the 2014-15 squad and an assistant coach on the 2013-14 team, said it is fitting the four championship teams are going into the Hall of Fame together.
“The four teams are all connected by their championship tradition,” said Barnes. “I know the last two years I’ve seen how the returning sophomores helped the incoming freshmen learn what it takes to win at this level.”
Szymanski, who took over the baseball program in 2000 after it had posted a combined 1-37 mark in the previous two seasons, is 427-318-6 at Chesapeake with a school-record 40 wins in 2005. His overall collegiate coaching record is 445-387-6 including three seasons at Baltimore City Community College.
Hayes has seven straight seasons of more than 20 victories, including 33- and 34-win campaigns in 2013 and 2014, respectively. He has an overall collegiate coaching record of 203-101 after posting a 232-45 record with three state titles at Easton High School and another three state crowns while coaching men’s modified fast-pitch softball.
Szymanski and Hayes are also linked by their championship traditions, with each having won a region title and taken a Skipjack squad to an NJCAA Division II World Series. Szymanski’s 2005 baseball team won region and district championships on the way to a fifth-place World Series finish that remains the highest finish by a Chesapeake College team in a national tournament. Hayes took his 2009 club to the World Series and has been to five more region finals in the last six years in his bid to take another squad to the World Series.
Each coach has also coached both All-Americans and Academic All-Americans, which Chesapeake President Dr. Barbara Viniar said explains their impending Hall of Fame inductions.
“Frank and Durrie are committed to the athletic and academic development of their players,” said Dr. Viniar. “Their desire to play positive roles in their student athletes’ overall development and maturation are more important than their impressive won-loss records.”