ESSEX — A diverse group of former Kenwood High School student athletes were formally inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame at a ceremony on Oct. 8, and received a plaque commemorating their induction, along with a lifetime pass to any social and athletic event at the school. Parents, school staff and community members attended to acknowledge their achievements, as the inductees thanked them for their support and discussed the memories and experiences they had playing high school sports.
Four alumni from different graduating classes, all with various sports experience, were enshrined into the hall of fame that night, and those include 1967 graduate Alan McCoy, 1968 graduate Donna Marie (Passauer) Billings, 1976 graduate Howard Hammen, and 2004 graduate Amy Svrjcek (Waggoner).
Kenwood High School’s 2003 boys soccer team, who were, in a shocking turn of events, the 4A state champions that year, were also inducted.
McCoy, who played soccer, wrestling, lacrosse and track in high school, attended Western Maryland College (now McDaniel), where he was the soccer captain for his junior and senior years, and was given major conference postseason honors for soccer his senior year. He said that sports taught him humility and the importance of hard work, and provided safety and security in a messy, unpredictable world.
“For some, like me, athletic venues are primary to forming their character,” McCoy said in a speech. “I have so much to thank the mentors and friends from my Kenwood days for helping me set my course.”
Sports have also played an important part in shaping Billings, who played field hockey, basketball and softball in high school.
Billings was recognized in newspaper articles and received various intra-team awards, and from her sports participation, she learned the value of teamwork and commitment to a common goal, all while she continued to excel in school.
“The talent of multitasking was applied successfully to most things in my life since then,” she said. “My time as a Kenwood athlete is dear and valuable to me.”
Hammen, who wrestled and played football, said that sports were not only important to him but were his life and the reason he came to school every day. He was a two-time wrestling regional champion and was state champion his senior year with a 24-0 record, and he was named football captain on the team that won the county.
“I have been a hard case forever,” Hammen said, referencing his experiences with drug and alcohol use, and other problems, which sports have helped him through. “It is only by the grace of God that I can stand up here today.”
In addition to teaching life skills and giving purpose to students, sports also helped them connect with one another.
Svrjcek, who was a 4-year varsity starter in soccer and captain her junior and senior years, was awarded an athletic scholarship to Wilmington University, where she played soccer and lacrosse. She said that the induction forced her to stop and look at everything she had accomplished, and that she feels like she has done fairly well in life. She quoted former U.S. Women’s National Team Jill Ellis in her remarks: “When all is said and done, I don’t remember one goal I scored. I don’t remember one result. I just remember the people that touched my life and that connected with me.”
Perhaps the biggest takeaways, however, are the memories the students made, as shown by the 2003 boys soccer team.
To cap off the ceremony, the team approached the front of the room to receive plaudits, and captain Andy Gallagher spoke on behalf of his teammates. In 2003, after losing seven straight games earlier in the season, the team held a losing record and were underdogs going into postseason. But against all odds, the team defeated Old Mill in overtime at the state finals to capture the title.
“Everyone was going insane, and you would have thought we had won the World Cup,” Gallagher said. “It is by far my favorite memory of high school, and that and this moment are something that we will get to share with our kids and grandkids.”