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The 2015 Torrington Hall of Fame Dinner. Bronson, Lefkowski, Arum, Pratt and Ponte join the fold.

POSTED April 27, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

The 2015 Torrington Hall of Fame Inductees. (F) Erika Fritch Pratt, Daniela Ponte, Ali Bronson. (B) Ed Arum, Joe Lefkowksi. A tremendous addition to a great organization.

TORRINGTON: It has always and will always be my favorite night of the year to do what I do for a living, covering the Torrington Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Sunday night was no exception as the prestigious organization welcomed five new members into the fold and we had the privilege of interviewing each of them before the festivities started.

You can see the five interview segments on the video portion of the site, just scroll down a bit and find the on the right side.

Ali Bronson, Daniela Ponte, Erika Fritch Pratt, Joe Lefkowski and Ed Arum represent the 19th Class inducted and each of the brings a wonderfully varied accomplishment stat sheet with them.

As has been the case for all but one of these Torrington family reunions, Mike Conway was the definition of a Master of Ceremonies and got help from a good friend of all Torrington Raider athletes, Mike McKenna in running the night from the podium.

You see, we see these guys like McKenna in the trenches every day, taking care of whatever the day may bring which can sometimes be challenging from the early morning to the late night.

When you look around the room at these dinners, you see, as Conway told us during his interview with us, a “Who’s-Who” of Torrington. Sports and otherwise.

You look around and see the THS royalty. Gerry Carbone, Mario Longobucco, Mike Fritch Sr, Mike Fritch Jr, Janet Giampaolo, Newell Porch, Rose Ponte, Steve Denza, R.J. Poniatoski, Biff Pond, Brook Colangelo or Tina Shanahan O’Marra, just to mention a few.

It is a large family get together with smiles and hugs all around.

Talking to each of the inductees before an outstanding Prime Rib dinner (yes, I ate my carrots but not the asparagus) gave us a peak at what they were going to say during their speeches along with some tidbits the crowd did not know about.

The three women are all trail blazers it turns out, each breaking into what used to traditionally be sports only for men or just not available to women until they came along to break the glass ceiling in their own way.

Pratt, the assistant girls’ basketball coach with her dad, Mike Sr, spoke of what was not then but is now.

“There was no athletic hall of fame when I was a young girl,” Pratt said, “There was no list of names in the gymnasium hallway, there was no banquet to go to. But if there was, I’m sure I would have added it to the list I had secretly set for myself as an athlete.”

A 1000-point scorer during her time playing for her father, Pratt went on to play ball in college and then returned to her home town to teach and to coach.

She battled against her two older brothers, fellow inductee Mike Jr. and Chris as she grew up and never shied away from playing against the boys in anything.

It’s pretty easy to see that she may be the next Raiders girls’ basketball head coach when her Hall of Fame father decides he’s had enough and wants to spend more time in Temacula, California, near San Diego (sorry inside joke).

Bronson always brings back a flood of memories from my early days freelancing when we would see her with her mom Suzy, a fantastic photographer, around the sports department of the Register Citizen or dominating in the field events for the Raiders track team.

Sports stuck in her blood and mindset and after college, Bronson got an internship at ESPN in Bristol and she hasn’t left since.

Just recently, the first nationwide network show, run by women with two women as the hosts, launched on Saturday’s with Bronson elevated all the way to producer.

No ceiling could keep an athlete who loved soaring to competitive heights in both the high jump and pole vault from reaching the highest level of something she loved to do.

Her hopes and dreams played out in her mind at a very early age.

“I think before we even reached high school,” Bronson said, “Our childhood influences have already instilled our work ethic and helped us shape our dreams. At least that was the case for me. What little kid doesn’t want to dream of becoming a professional athlete or what sports fan doesn’t dream about working for ESPN?”

Bronson watched her mother work her way into becoming the photographer she is today, even though there were bumps along the way.

“My mother’s drive to work at what she loved every day was something that I noticed and processed at a very early age,” Bronson said, “And all of her successes and some of her failures in photography, she has creative drive that I learned to use in my athletic career. I was not the most skilled gymnast but I used my most creative skills to make it look like I was.”

That creative drive is in full overdrive at this point as she looks to continue to break down barriers at anything she attempts.

Her show took on the controversial side of the upcoming mega-bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao that will put nearly 160 million dollars in the pocket of a fighter (Mayweather) who has served time for assaulting a women and has another case pending in an additional domestic violence case.

Ponte, a tremendous pole vault star in her days at THS, went to college in Rhode Island and has used the skills and discipline she learned during her time as a Raider to help further her career.

“My athletic accomplishments allowed me to get into a great college,” Ponte said, “But it was the character traits developed at Torrington High School athletics that I know will have a positive impact on my life forever.”

The high flying Raider once soared to a height of 11’2” in the pole vault arena and is aiming even higher in her professional career but in a way you might not think.

“I opened up a little business,” Ponte said, “It’s called the Pet City Dog Walking Company. I quit my corporate job and am going the entrepreneur route. I own an investment property and am looking to get another.”

Another Raider who has found success after leaving the halls of THS by taking the skills she learned while a student/athlete and putting them to good use while refusing to dream small.

Lefkowksi is that coach every player should have at some point during their lives.

Strong but understanding. Competitive but compassionate. The big guy with the bigger heart.

Now a volunteer coach with Pratt and Fritch Sr. with the Raiders girls’ basketball squad, Lefkowski could not love what he does more and it shows.

“I have done what I have done because I love Torrington,” Lefkowski said, “I love the kids of Torrington, I love to coach and I love to teach. To be recognized for that effort is, like they say, the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.”

Arum, who has become a Torrington staple since coming here some 36 years ago, has worn many, many hats, most recently as the co-chair with Longobucco on the Torrington Turf Committee where he helped complete the brand new Robert H. Frost complex this past October.

To Arum, it was all about giving back.

“It’s for the kids,” Arum has said on many occasions.

“All the kids coming up also need to realize that it’s important to give back,” Arum said, “You have to give something back to the community.”

Give back he has and then some. When the people of Torrington have wanted to get something done, they call Arum, a guy who knows how to stay on task and accomplish goals that sometimes seem far out of reach.

Maybe that’s the best thing to take out of the Class of 2015. Most set goals that were taught to them throughout their careers as Raiders, walking the halls of the high school and competing on their particular field of play.

None let anything stand in their way in getting to their stated goals.

It’s what true Hall of Fame members all seem to have in common.

Until next year friends, see you then.

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here