A final salute to the Golden Bears
THOMASTON – It is all quiet now, the high school fields and courts have given way to graduations and the sultry seduction of summer. It happens every year, the ending, a renewal and the beginning of the cycle again in late August.
But this time around it’s a little different at Thomaston High School and its field hockey, basketball and softball programs . The end of this school year shares time with the end of an era. A unique four-year odyssey unseen before in scope and probably never to be seen again.
The recent end of the spring season did not feature the Bears. The back pages and media attention belonged to the brilliance of the Naugatuck Valley League and its multitude of state champions – Wolcott and St. Paul ruling Class M and S respectively in baseball while Seymour (Class M) and Holy Cross (Class S) took top honors in softball.
Northwestern Regional, who lost a classic to Wolcott in baseball in the Class M championship game and Torrington softball who traveled to the Class L semifinals before losing to eventual Class L champion and the state’s No. 1 ranked team, Fitch, earned their accolades.
Thomaston’s softball season ended unfamiliarly early with a Class S quarterfinal loss to Stafford. Only the third time in four years involving three sports the Bears did not advance to the semifinals.
Yet a final acknowledgement, salute, reminder would seem to be in order. The back pages didn’t apply to the Bears at the end of this season, but the front pages have for four years.
The numbers are astounding and extensive, too long for here. But perspective demands some accounting. Try these on.
Out of 12 possible state championship games over the four years, the Bears were in seven in three different sports. They won four of them (two basketball, one softball, one field hockey). Four straight trips to high school basketball’s promised land – Mohegan Sun. Overall, Thomaston played for 28 titles and won 16. They went 180-18-2 in the Berkshire League and 230-34 (87 percent) overall. There is a 70-game, three-sport-five season Berkshire League unbeaten streak tucked in there covering 454 days.
Who does that? Thomaston did. The little school with 106 girls that graduated a whopping 47 kids last week.
What’s the secret? To a degree, hard to figure. Sure, talent played into it. Names like Abby Hurlbert, Maggie Eberhardt, Nina Barone and all those who were part of it.
Then there was the `Big 3’ – Morgan Sanson, Gabrielle Hurlbert and Nicole Schaefer who have been there every step of the way, every victory and title along the journey. They were starters in all three programs, best of friends, National Honor Society in brains.
Senior classmate Julia Romaniell is part of the `Core Four’, doing her thing in field hockey and softball.
They were the leaders. But to win at this clip and on this scope there has to be more. An unquenchable desire to win that never wavered from season to season. How do you go from season to season with no letdown, no wilting. ?
Maybe Charlotte Eberhardt provided the best answer after the Bears beat Nonnewaug for the Berkshire League basketball title in February – “We just look to tomorrow.”
Never lost in yesterday, never caught up in today. It was always what’s next. And when they lost, there was always the next season. After losing the Class S softball game in 2015 to Sarah Lawton and Holy Cross, the Bears came back to win the Class S field hockey title in the fall. After losing the Class S basketball game to Canton this March, a defeat that still rankles, the Bears came back and won the BL softball title.
The Bears never tired of the challenge, they always exalted in the winning. Sanson was the center piece, the soul of it all, a deep abiding passion for performance and victory. Hurlbert was `the Warrior’, rugged and ready, and Schaefer `the steady’, tell me what to do and I’ll do it.
Sanson understood it all after the loss to Stafford, “I feel like part of me has been ripped out.” It wasn’t just about the end of a season, it was about the closing of the most special of journeys. It only hurt so bad because it all has been so good.”
So you hope now that the group that always looked ahead, takes time to look back. The scope of the accomplishment actually demands it. One day this summer, some quiet afternoon somewhere they need to take their five or six scrapbooks out, and soak up the story of photo-shoots, CPTV appearances, a salute from UConn women’s basketball radio analyst Debbie Fiske, the parades in and out of their hometown and all the championships and understand what they did.
Tomorrow can wait. Now they need to take the most splendid of rides into yesterday.
I have been asked numerous times over the last couple of years what’s in the water in Thomaston. The best I could come up with is, Morgan Sanson is in the water and Gabrielle Hurlbert and Nicole Schaefer. Julia Romaniello is in the water and Danielle Genest and Sam Brostek.
They and their teammates over the years, and there are so many contributors, have found the most special of championship formulas that no one else has found to this extent. And love them of don’t love them it is an awesome story that probably won’t be duplicated.
It all deserves one last acknowledgement and salute.