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Torrington Varsity Alumni Club adds six to prestigious organization.

POSTED August 08, 2013
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: What’s not to like about spending a Wednesday night with some of the best student/ athletes, their families and the Torrington Varsity Alumni Club?

The VAC held their annual dinner at P-Sams in Torrington and handed out scholarships to six of the best and brightest to emerge from the 2013 senior class.

Each graduate has brought their families and the fan base at THS their share of thrills and highlights during their four year run with the Raiders.

I would be remiss not to talk first about the outstanding gentleman who run this organization which has been going nearly 60 years.

The mainstays of the group, Andy Pace and Frank Russo have been there at the head table since the club hit the ground running, shooting, swimming, swinging or running people over as each did during their years on the field of play in Torrington.

Seeing Pace (ever the entertainer) and Russo brought me back to my early days of writing nearly 14 years ago.

One of my first assignments back then was to cover this event, which was held then at the Riverton Inn outside Winsted.

I’ll never forget sitting at the head table with this distinguished bunch which included Paul Denza, a gentleman I have gotten to know better over the years and who exudes class and dignity.

Denza, Mario Longobucco and Paul O’Heron are part of the next generation who have taken this club to new heights over the past few years.

The VAC held their second Torrington 5K Road Race in early June, proceeds from that race helped keep the scholarships rolling.

During that first dinner, the group asked me to get up and say a few words.

Being a little new at the game and a bit scared of the 100 plus eyes focused on my, I managed to get through with a message to the parents and students expressing my gratitude for being able to cover and follow their exploits in the sports arena.

It truly is a chance for all to stand up and cheer for the kids who do it the right way.

Catching people doing the right thing is not as hard as it looks, you just have to try.

The six students honored ranged from a pair of girls basketball standouts who took their team to a different level this year, to a basketball and track standout, to a duo of swim team stars to a young man who loves the feel of the cold ice under his skates.

Each showed the ability to maintain a high scholastic standard while performing at an advanced level in their particular sport.

As part of the ritual which is the VAC way, the winners have to answer a series of questions asked by Denza that put their communication skills to the test as they stood in front of the audience and stated their case on each question.

Megan Calabrese and Nicole Kozlak, who will both attend UConn this fall, had themselves a magnificent winter a part of the Torrington girls basketball team that found it in themselves to win the school’s first ever Naugatuck Valley League Tournament title after finishing second the previous three seasons.

“We had come so close each of the last three season.” Kozlak said. “To win like we did and have our fans storm the court afterwards was something I will never forget.”

Calabrese, who made the winning basket with but four ticks left on the clock, will be majoring in Bio-Medical Engineering at UConn this fall, an impressive major indeed.

On the question of who would each of them like to go to lunch with (could be a living or dead person), Calabrese chose Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees while Kozlak stayed on the hardwood with her choice of former UConn star, Maya Moore.

Austin Kelson (Bryant College) starred on the basketball court as well as on the track during his Raiders career took a different yet excellent approach to the question.

“I would like to get together with the kids who I have worked with over the past few years at camps to see how I influenced them and how they turned out.”

Kevin Finn (Holy Cross) excelled for the Raiders and head coach Andrew Marchand during his Raider run and pointed to Marchand as one of the most influential people who helped him become the person he is today while singling out a fellow swimmer as his lunch partner.

“I would like to sit down with Michael Phelps (US Olympian gold medal winner) and just talk about what it takes to get to that level.”

Finn had a razor focus on food all night, much to the delight of the crowd. Hey, a kid’s gotta eat right?

 “I’d also ask him how he eats almost 7000 calories per meal.”

Ben McKenna looked forward to his lunch with comedian/actor Adam Sandler while paying a touching tribute to his grandfather, the legendary “Doc” McKenna.

McKenna will be attending Northwestern Community College this fall while continuing to pursue his dream of playing hockey at the highest level after being part of the THS golf team during his career.

Matt Scoville (Franklin Pierce University) is looking to film as part of his future, studying Film and Media Production.

“I admired the works of Alfred Hitchcock.” Scoville said. “I like the fact that a camera can be used to get so many different angles of the same shot. Franklin Pierce has a great program.”

A diver during his Raider times, Scoville wanted to have lunch with former President Ronald Reagan while crediting his sister Stephanie for pushing him to higher levels in everything he does.

The night ran about three and a half hours long but when in the company of the future that these kids will help shape, time flew by.

Good food, great kids and an outstanding organization that continues to look out for the interests of their own.

What’s not to like?

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