A-K Valley Hall of Fame honors 10 inductees

Saturday, May 21, 2022 | 10:38 PM

Bob White was a three-year football standout at Freeport who went on to star at Penn State and captain the 1986 Nittany Lions to the national championship.

Through his on-field successes, he said he always understood there were so many people who helped guide him.

“When I find myself in these rare moments and positions like the one I’m in tonight, in the natural, I am standing up here alone,” said White, one of 10 greats celebrated as part of the Class of 2021 at the 51st Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame banquet Saturday evening at the Quality Inn in New Kensington.

“But spiritually speaking, this is more than just about me. As I think about receiving the call about being inducted into this hall of fame tonight and thinking about this award, it goes beyond all the wins and losses and all the ups and downs of competing. Even as I find myself here around the room and talking to various people, I am greatly reminded that this has been about relationships.”

Relationships, those with family members, teachers, coaches, teammates and other mentors, was a common theme that permeated through the thoughts and memories of each inductee in this year’s class.

Sharing the dais with White were fellow inductees Chris Como, Jeff Cortileso, Harry Crytzer, Robert Foster, Dianne Henry, Frank Phelps, Rich Kriston (posthumously), Terry Preece and Lizzie Suwala Sheaffer.

The group had its genesis in December 2019 when the Class of 2020 was announced for enshrinement.

Covid forced hall of fame officials to cancel the past two induction ceremonies, but the event returned this year, much to the excitement of many, including hall of fame chairman Larry Lutz.

“We’re so ecstatic to be able to host this wonderful event again,” Lutz said. “We have 10 terrific inductees this year, and we are looking to continue it for many years to come.”

This year’s group brings the total number of those enshrined to 390 since the first class in 1970.

For Phelps, a track and field head coach or assistant at Burrell for 42 years, he remembered the many athletes he coached and who have made his passion for coaching so fulfilling.

“When (the hall of fame) honors me, it is also honoring the hard work of all those athletes I had the pleasure of working with over the years. I didn’t run anything,” said Phelps, who has guided his girls relay teams to 12 WPIAL titles, including five in a row from 2015-19.

“I am so humble by this and to be a part of an amazing group of athletes that have come from right here in the Alle-Kiski Valley.”

Phelps shared the opportunity to represent Burrell with former Bucs head wrestling coach and current assistant Chris Como, who started the wrestling program on the road to 15 consecutive team wrestling titles.

Como, an NCAA Division II All-American at Pitt Johnstown, honored the memory of the late Shawn and Edward DesLauriers, former Burrell coaches who helped foster both his abilities on the wrestling mat and also his abilities as a coach.

Doug Kriston spoke on behalf of Rich, a football and wrestling standout at Fox Chapel in the early 1970s who passed away in 2013. Rich Kriston played football at Penn State and played in the 1973 Orange Bowl, the 1974 Cotton Bowl and the 1975 Sugar Bowl.

“I think Rich would definitely be humbled by this honor and appreciate it,” Doug said of his brother, who became a football and wrestling assistant coach and also served as an athletic director at Pine-Richland.

“But he would never be one who would want the limelight. It was all about everybody else. I just want to make sure I tell everyone what a great person he was outside of what a great athlete he was.”

At 94, Crytzer, a World War II veteran who was a three-sport athlete at Freeport in baseball, football and basketball, now is the second oldest A-K Valley Hall of Fame member at the time of his induction.

Dan Hawkins was 95 when he was enshrined in 2019.

In addition to the inductees, a group of current student-athletes were recognized for their accomplishments in athletics and also in the classroom. Members of the 2022 A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame High School Student Athete Honor Roll is Leechburg’s Thomas Burke, Freeport’s Garrett King, Plum’s Kaitlyn KIllinger, Knoch’s Madilyn Boyer, Butler’s Raine Gratzmiller, Hampton’s Kayla Hoehler, Kiski Area’s Brayden Dunmire, Plum’s Luke Kolankowski, Fox Chapel’s Eli Yofan, Mars’ Ava Black, and Deer Lakes’ Armend Karpuzi.

There now is a physical hall-of-fame location which houses all of the photos, plaques and memorabilia from each of the 51 classes.

Located in the GC Murphy Building on Corbet Street in Tarentum, the permament home for the hall of fame is open to visitors on the third Thursday of each month, from 5-8 p.m. until November.

“There is such a rich athletic history in the A-K Valley,” said Haney, who coached softball at Kiski Area for 22 years, leading the program to 248 wins, 13 section titles, 15 WPIAL playoff appearances and four undefeated regular seasons.”

“I am thinking tonight of all the people who made this possible for me. I can’t name them all. There is so much in sports you just can’t teach in the classroom. It’s those lessons in life that each one of us (inductees) got to experience.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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