Torrington Varsity Alumni Club honors eight Raiders. $316,000 donated to date.
TORRINGTON: They are always different but in so many great ways, the same.
The Torrington Varsity Alumni Club welcomed eight new members to their ranks on Sunday evening at Chatterley’s Banquet Facility with a tradition that began long before most in the room were alive.
Cara Baker, Catherine Butrick, Anna Clinkscales, Billy Cook, Cassie Fedor, Ariana Santos, Dylan Myrie and Williams Weber were the latest to be honored by the strongest support group all Raider athletes can count on.
Each received a $1000 dollar check to go towards their higher education costs from a group whose mission it is to help kids who attend THS and are considered the “Best of the Best.”
To date, the VAC has given away $316,000 dollars since starting the scholarship in 1968 when one of the presenters, Tony Turina, received $300 dollars which at the time covered nearly twenty five percent of his college cost.
While the present donation may not rank near that, every bit counts, and these kids and their families understand that.
Each year, my friend Peter Wallace and myself have the privilege of sitting at the table with the honorees as they go through a ritual that started with the founding fathers of the group, Andy Pace and Frankie Russo.
Imagine you are a 17 or 18-year old and a rather intimidating guy like our friend Paul Denza, comes up to your table and tells you that he will, at random times, be asking a question that each of them will have to answer in front of the entire room.
Without copying the person before you, by the way.
The reason for the lead sentence is so true is because I see it each and every year.
These honorees were chosen for a reason, they have the character and poise to speak their own minds and have considered their futures for quite some time.
That’s why they were chosen in the first place.
These are the leaders of tomorrow for us and on Sunday, leadership skills came out as the questions got a little tougher.
Butrick (Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track), who will be attending Champlain College took the lead, along with Clinkscales (Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track, attending UConn) with a question about a divided country and their interest in politics as a way to change things.
While both stayed away from committing to being in politics, Butrick was not shy about talking about how she would be involved.
“To effect change,” Butrick said. “One must be educated and knowledgeable about the issues.”
Each of the seven on hand (Fedor could not make it) did a terrific job of expressing how they felt about the issues presented to them.
Each board member took turns presenting to the winners with Myrie drawing comparisons to another great Torrington athlete when it was his turn to receive the honor.
Turina presented the Lou Zanderigo award to the three-season athlete who was that once in a generation Raider who left his mark on the track and on the gridiron.
He’ll be long remembered for his prowess in both and being named the recipient of the Zanderigo scholarship was more than fitting.
“I think in the future that you will always be known as one of the best athletes of your era,” Turina said. “What you accomplished is something unbelievable in the athletic venue.”
Turina recalled his early recollections of another Raider star.
“I knew Lou Zanderigo when he was about 36-years old,” Turina said. “And I thought he was an old man because I was only 18 at the time. I don’t think we have had a recipient who matches the scholarship for whom it is named after.”
Zanderigo left his mark on Torrington athletics during his time, as Turina notes.
“Lou’s accomplishments are legendary in the history of Torrington High School sports,” Turina said. “He was team captain and All-NVL in both basketball and track. In the State Championships he lost by one tenth of one-hundredth of a second to a runner who two years later was the Gold Medal winner at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.”
The comparisons between the two show a pair of the best male athletes ever to call themselves Raiders.
“Dylan participated in both Indoor and Outdoor Track all four years,” Turina said. “In Indoor Track, he was selected team captain sophomore, junior and senior years. He was selected all NVL all four years in both and was selected to the All-State Team in both sports his junior and senior years.’
Turina went on to go through an amazing list of accomplishments that Myrie had accumulated over his career including a pair of Class M Long Jump titles and a 55-meter championship as well.
The Torrington 4 x 100 team set an NVL and school record this past spring with Myrie serving as the anchor.
One of the top honors Myrie would gain this year was being named the NVL’s Male Athlete of the Year for the 2017/2018 campaigns.
He also ran for over 1000-yards and scored 13 touchdowns in his senior year. The NVL is thankful they will not see him returning kicks this year.
Cook became one of the top all-around athletes as well in the High Jump and on the basketball court for head coach Eric Gamari. His tenacity on the boards helped the Raiders to a memorable season and his battles with DeAndre Wallace from Holy Cross in the High Jump were fun to witness.
Myrie and Cook will be roommates at Mount St Mary’s University, joining Cook’s older sister Ashlynn, who won a scholarship from the group as well.
Baker, who was also honored by the Boston Red Sox a week earlier after winning a scholarship from them, was a tough competitor on the soccer field for head coach Mario Longobucco and on the track for Dylan Krupa.
She will be attending West Virginia University.
Weber, a Cross Country, Swimming and Tennis standout, is looking forward to attending Seton Hall University later this month.
It certainly was a good night for the track teams with Santos, also a Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track star, part of the group.
Santos will be heading up to Storrs with Clinkscales as well.
Fedor will be attending Hartwick College after being an important part of the soccer and basketball teams and will be studying to be a nurse, something that seems to fit her giving personality to a “T”.
Torrington Athletic Director Mike McKenna spoke of Fedor.
“When I read her essay,” McKenna said. “All that jumped out at me was that she had a passion for helping others.”
Her father, Steve presented the award, named for his father, Edward Fedor award to Baker.
Edward Fedor was a constant supporter of anything Raider and was at nearly every event you could think of.
It never ceases to amaze me, these banquets and these kids. They never fail, and they always come through, just as they will in the future.