A remarkable night with the Torrington Varsity Alumni Club.
TORRINGTON: The microphone hung down by the side of Frank Russo Jr for what seemed like an eternity as he gathered himself to talk about his late father, Frank Russo Sr. during this year’s Torrington Varsity Alumni Club dinner.
Russo Jr was getting ready to present one of ten $1000-dollar scholarships to Raider Ben Richardson when the gravity of the moment overcame him, as it did everyone who was present at Chatterley’s Banquet Facility on August 11.
Most of us wanted to either get up and give him a hug or give he and his dad a standing ovation, that’s how important Frank Russo Sr. was to this tremendous organization that has now contributed $326,000 dollars-worth of scholarships to THS student/athletes.
Russo Jr did collect himself though and gave a stirring account of his memories of a man who embodied what all of us should be striving for. Leaving an unbreakable, undeniable and remarkable legacy.
Both of his parents passed over the past year; his mom in September and his dad in February and both loses weighed heavy not only on their son but the entire room.
They were both forces of nature who helped this organization put down permanent roots in this community.
This years VAC dinner was a bittersweet one for many on hand who have been either attending or covering this event for more than a decade.
Most of the men who we started covering years ago have left us, the legends that started this amazing organization that celebrates the greatness of THS sports and academic stars, and it stings.
I’ve told the story many a time but the first dinner I ever attended, at the Riverton Inn, was a night I will never forget.
I was doing freelance work for the Register Citizen at the time and my good friend Peter Wallace could not cover the event that night so I was sent instead.
At the dinner, I was seated at the head table in between Frank Russo Sr and Andy Pace, the second half of the dynamic duo that represented the heart and soul of this group which has their fair share of legendary athletic accomplishments of their own.
Two seats to my left was Paul Denza, who I didn’t know well yet but to say his presence was intimidating, well, just ask and lineman who faced off against the former football star and see how they felt.
Needless to say, it’s a night I’ll always remember and look forward to attending each and every year.
The club had a tremendous year in 2018/2019 with a 19-team Track Invitational in May and another successful Raider 5K run in June.
That allowed them to tie a mark met only one other time (2002) as they handed out the ten scholarships to one amazing group of Torrington High School graduates who are certain to go on and do great things in their futures.
The VAC first started handing out financial awards in 1968 when current Board member Tony Turina received the first check in the amount of $300 dollars.
This year’s class of honorees was beyond impressive with some mind-blowing grade point averages and accomplishments.
Brett Stater, who received the Edward Fedor Scholarship from his son Steve, posted a ridiculous 102.4 GPA this past year and will be attending the University of Connecticut this fall.
Stater played soccer and was a top tennis player for the Raiders during his career.
Alyssa Maraia, who will attend Hiram College and play basketball, posted a 98.289 mark, a trend amongst this tremendous class who made it real tough to not take them all.
Maraia led the Raiders girls’ basketball team and helped teach the next generation of THS standouts during her tenure.
The Torrington boys’ basketball team had a memorable season this past season and one of the reasons was the play of their big man, Kevin Dixon who put up impressive numbers in the classroom as well with a 98.24 mark.
Dixon was also a star on the tennis courts during his career and will attend Endicott College this fall.
On the diamond and in the community, Raider Ben Richardson stood out in every way.
His 97.7895 (yes, the numbers had to be stretched out to that length) number was impressive and as he heads out to play baseball at Cairn University, he will apply what he learned as a leader on so many levels.
Receiving the award from Russo Jr is certainly something that will resonate with Richardson.
Alyssa Kreuzer (we had three Alyssa’s at the table this year) will be attending Southern Connecticut State University this fall after being a key member of the Raiders soccer team and one of the creative forces behind the THS Dance Team.
Victor Nemesvari dominated in the pool for the Raiders and will look to continue making waves in club competition as he attends Northwestern Connecticut Community College in September before moving on to UConn.
The third Alyssa, Alyssa Dowd, left a mark on Torrington in so many ways.
Her play for the Raiders softball team, behind the plate was a lesson in toughness as Dowd displayed the type of courage through injuries that inspired all.
She will be attending Monmouth University this fall and is working towards a career in Homeland Security, a pretty natural fit for one of the most disciplined kids you will ever meet.
Dowd will also continue with her Dance career, one that was so strong while on the hardwood at THS or at a recital that she would ace hours after catching a softball game.
Michael Ivain will be attending UConn as well after a stellar career at THS that ended with a 92.8 GPA and was a force in soccer and swimming for the Raiders.
Two honorees could not attend the event but certainly left their mark on the high school in so many ways.
Ashiepal Bharara was a force in three sports during his time at THS. He excelled at Cross Country, Indoor Track and baseball and will attend UConn (lots of Raiders will be in Storrs this fall) as well.
Alexa Reginatto was already at work at Coastal Carolina where she is attending and participating with the Division I Cheer Team.
Her stellar career as a Raider included Cheer and Track and Field where she excelled in three different field events.
Drew Pace, son of the late Andy Pace, the guy who teamed with Frankie Russo to make this group so dominant, closed out the evening by challenging the winners to pay it forward through their actions and efforts at supporting the club that just honored them.
It was a remarkable night indeed. Even more fun for me because nine of the ten student/athletes were honored at the Fifth Annual Litchfield County Sports Banquet in early June.
Thanks for keeping me a part of it.