Litchfield, Wamogo – the final go-around

Mother Nature forgot school starts this time of year. Okay for the calendar folks it is still summer but once that school bus starts rolling and the bells start ringing it’s time to take it down a notch and not rev it up to bake mode.

That being said it’s a great time of year as we transition from the beach chair to the high school ball game and the front porch to the practice field.  Friday Night Lights on the football field, soccer balls flying into the back of the net, field hockey sticks clattering and all the sports that fire up the adrenalin. As Northwestern Regional Principal Gary Franklin likes to say, “Let’s gooooooo…..”.  It’s time to Pump up the Jam.

But I have to admit I’m a little wistful this fall when it comes to this school year and high school sports because the clock is ticking almost before it started ticking. You can’t escape the gnawing realization that when the end of the year rolls around in June a very big deal ends with it – the existence of Litchfield and Wamogo High Schools.

In case you left the country or just plain fell asleep with Rip Van Winkle the good folks of Warren, Morris and Goshen (Wamogo) and Litchfield voted to merge the two schools into a new entity with a new name, new school colors and a new nickname.  In so many ways the move makes practical sense. Yet it still grabs you that soon both schools will just be a very strong memory.

From a sports perspective it is jarring. No more red and white (Wamogo) or the blue and white of Litchfield. One of the great classic rivalries anywhere gone. If you’ve been to a Wamogo-Litchfield basketball party you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve never been, do yourself a favor and get to the last go-around this winter.

No more Warriors. No more Cowboys and Cowgirls. No more varsity games in the Litchfield High gym, home of the busted ear drum.  In some cases personnel will be gone. In a broader scope no more nine-team Berkshire League, maybe no more Berkshire League. Both schools were charter members of the BL which was formed for the 1960-61 school year.

Who knows?  In short, no more.

More than a century of sporting memories  and experiences combined does not go easily into the new Region 20 horizon. Nor should it. A new identity will be forged as it must when two become one but Litchfield and Wamogo and all that has been will stand on its own and always occupy space.

There are vibrant sporting histories here. In the wider scope of time how about Litchfield with back-to-back state boys hoop crowns in 1925 and 1926. A magnificent five straight Class S girls cross country crowns 1992-1996 for the Cowgirls with the likes of the amazing Kara Kerr, Kim Landry and Tara Schettler.

Let Wamogo’s 1995 Class S state girls basketball championship led by the brilliant Tracy Stolle float through your memory banks. One of only three Berkshire League girls teams to win a state hoop title. How about Litchfield’s run to the 1996 Class S field hockey crown led by talented young lady, Maggie Tieman.

So many memorable athletes and coaches. Wamogo’s Morris Mountain and future NBA player 6-foot-10 Chuck Aleksinas who averaged 40 points a game his senior year. Rugged Tom and Ed Kirchberger and Chuck Sherwood from the 1960s. More recently the generational talent, Garrett Sattazahn. The outstanding hoopster Trish Neary and field hockey’s Kellie Stolle.

On the Litchfield side nobody filled up the basket more than the shooting savant Dave Vigeant who scored more than 2,100 points.  Chris Korn of the great 1960s teams and Guy Minetti still resonate. Soccer greats Timmy Donovan and Christina Orsini always knew where the back of the net was. Kerr and Brian Shafer were just many of a surplus of great Litchfield runners.

You want coaches? Wamogo has offered up the likes of Mary Duran (field hockey) and guided an outstanding field hockey program, Gregg Hunt who has made his mark in basketball and baseball. How about Bob Hazen and Kevin Crowley on the girls basketball beat and Kerrie Stolle the present  girls coach who is rebuilding a program. Ken Gladding was at the helm that championship season.

Rob Andrulis has built Litchfield soccer into a perennial power while Jason Harlow grabbed a number of BL boys basketball titles for the boys not that long ago. A running town, Gerry Geci coached so many powerful teams. Don Jacobs was there with Dave Vigeant and that era.

That’s just a small handful of some of the athletes who created indelible memories with their contributions to the two programs. Please, no notes about all those not mentioned. We are cognizant of the idea that so many are not mentioned here. This was just a small taste of what Litchfield and Wamogo have offered up over the decades and we haven’t even touched on the volumes of games that have left us breathless.

For this year’s players who don’t recognize most if any of those mentioned, go out and make your own Litchfield and Wamogo memories. Pack them away tightly in this final year. Soak it in and savor it all.

Mostly what will be missed is putting on those uniforms of Litchfield and Wamogo. Of being Cowboys, Cowgirls and Warriors. Of being part of the Wamogo and Litchfield sports communities. You have one final go-around. Enjoy it and bathe in it. Be proud of it all.

For those who watch, check out Wamogo and Litchfield this year. Go to the games cheer, take it in. Be Wamogo and Litchfield fans. Come next June it will be over and what is and what has been for so long will be what was.

Experience it one more time.  I have to admit the beginning of the school year and high school sports always brings tingle and jolt of adrenalin with it. But there is a wistful cloud hanging over it. Enjoy the Wamogo and Litchfield experience one more and one last time. I will.

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