Tonight in a ceremony in the Oates Theater, that singular honor was bestowed upon 10 athletes, four teams and three coaches. Later, they were recognized at halftime of Collegiate's 49-38 victory over St. Christopher's before a packed house in the athletic center.
The credentials of each honoree are magnificent.
There’s Jake McGee ’10, late of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who quarterbacked the Cougars to two state football titles and finished his basketball career as the leading scorer (1,656 points) in program history.
And Rachel Naurath ‘10 and Stuart Ferguson ‘09, oft-honored champion swimmers, high school and college All-Americans, and two-time Olympic Trials qualifiers.
And Max Schnur ’11, whose stellar tennis career took him from the courts on North Mooreland Road where he was a multi-time All-Prep League, All-State and All-Metro honoree to stardom at Columbia University to the professional tour with a stop at Wimbledon.
There’s Mikey Thompson ‘06, who led Collegiate to state championships in both football and lacrosse and, despite a severely injured knee, scored 12 goals in the VISAA tournament (including six in the finals) to lead the Cougars to victory his senior year.
And Blair Northen Williamson ‘04, who stumbled upon field hockey almost by accident as a 7th Grader and became one of the top players (55 career goals, multiple All-League of Independent Schools, All-State, All-Metro honors) in the program’s long history.
There’s Chuck McFall ‘98, a three-sport standout whose against-all-odds touchdown pass with no time remaining at Homecoming ’94 snatched victory from defeat and became a signature moment in the annals of Collegiate football.
And Greg Williams ‘69, whose gritty performances on the tennis and basketball courts in the ‘60s helped set the tone for future generations of Collegiate athletes.
And Bud Petit ‘03, who as a lacrosse goalie saved 844 shots in four years and was rewarded with multiple All-Prep, All-State and All-American citations.
And Carter Hamill Backus ‘01, who won five League of Independent Schools and five VISAA championship races in cross country and track in a two-year span, then 18 Division III All-American citations in 12 seasons at Amherst College.
There’re four teams – Field Hockey ’03, Girls' Swimming ’98, Football ’05 and Volleyball ’97 – league and state champions all.
And three coaches – Joel Nuckols, Larry Jarman and Mike Stott – whose impact is measured more so by the athletes they mentored than by victories or titles.
Satisfaction and pride in workmanship accompany stellar achievement. That’s a given.
Statistics, the measure of that achievement, fade eventually from consciousness, however. Records are nice but, in time, someone will surpass them. Newspaper clippings will yellow. Medals, plaques and ribbons will find their way to the trunk in the attic. Championship years marked by a number on a banner hanging on the gym wall will become, hopefully, part of an ever-growing list.
Truly memorable moments that stand the test of time don’t appear in box scores. They occur on road trips, at team dinners, at practice sessions, in the weight room and in the locker room, far from the cameras, far from the crowd.
So often they’re not even actual moments. They’re feelings and emotions – unquantifiable and inexpressible through the imperfect word – that make the high school athletic experience so meaningful.
They stick with you. If you’re really fortunate, they stick with you forever.
As a prelude to their special night, each inductee fielded this question: “What memories scroll through your head when you reflect upon your high school athletic career?”
Their answers varied. Many were sport-specific. There was, though, one common theme. What meant the most wasn’t so much the success, though success was wonderful. It was the sheer joy of team.
What follows are selected thoughts and insights.
Certainly the camaraderie and support of all the other girls as we practiced and played. They really were my sisters. We were so close-knit and really depended on each other.
- Blair Northen Williamson
They were definitely some of the funnest times I’ve ever had. We were just a bunch of knuckleheads playing lacrosse and trying to prove ourselves. Every day was an adventure. Whether it was the core guys trying to get better or the new kids learning how to throw and catch, it was a lot of fun and camaraderie.
- Bud Petit
Looking back on my career, I’ll always remember the people I swam with above anything else. Those relationships mean so much to me. At Collegiate, it was a lot of fun, so relaxed. I got to swim with Katie Wiltshire, Kate Byron, Britt Waddell who are to this day my best friends in the world and will always be. To share the experience with them is something I’ll cherish absolutely forever. It’s nothing but awesome memories.
- Rachel Naurath
Even more than winning, I remember the friendships we developed spending every afternoon together. There wasn’t a feeling of superiority from anyone. Everybody understood her role. Everybody felt like they contributed. Everyone felt valued, no matter what her role was. The time on the field was great for everybody to develop as a team, but the time off the field really helped us mesh as a team too. Teams at Collegiate have good bonding.
- Ginnie Friddell Kurtz, 2003 field hockey
It truly was a team and everybody bought-in from the beginning. It started in the summer. We knew how good we could be, and everybody just treated every practice and game as if we were on a mission. There was a belief within a team that we couldn’t lose, but we knew we had to work hard. It just went from there. We were confident. We knew that if we did what we were supposed to do during the week, the game would take care of itself.
- Toby Desch, 2005 football
The thing I love about tennis is the camaraderie. That might be partially why I’ve become a better doubles player than singles. When you get to share the high moments with your friends, it becomes so much better. I’ve always loved being on a team.
- Max Schnur
The guys you played with are still your closest friends. At the high school level, you’ve grown up with those guys forever. You have relationships that took a long time to build and are deeply rooted and make the experience even greater.
- Jake McGee