Second-Largest Class Enters Southern Athletic Hall of Fame
Attendance at the 28th annual Southern Regional Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony on March 25 was a particularly moving experience for former three-sport standout Jenna Lombardo.
“It killed me when Chuck Donohue Jr. told me I was being into inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Lombardo said after she and eight other individuals, as well as five teams, were announced as the latest inductees. “The first thing I thought was that Kathy Snyder wouldn’t be here to present me as an inductee,” she continued, referring to the former Southern coach. “It’s been three years since Kathy passed, but I think it was at that moment that I truly realized she’s not with us anymore. It’s bittersweet.”
Still, it was a time to celebrate the excellence of some of Southern’s best athletes and teams to ever don the black and gold, and Donohue Jr. made it his primary point as he wrapped up the two-hour-long ceremony.
“Today is another great day for Southern Regional and our athletic program,” he said. “Southern athletics may not be perfect, but we are solid. Our standards are set because of the examples of leadership and success the inductees of the Athletic Hall of Fame have given to Southern Regional. You have, without a doubt, represented Southern Regional with excellence.”
Beside Lombardo, a 2006 graduate, other individuals inducted were 2011 graduate and former field hockey and track and field star Brooke Angellella, 2011 graduate and former wrestling standout Kyle Casaletto, 2002 graduate and former basketball star Nolan Hall, former volleyball stars Robert Kraft (2009), Jeff Jones (2010) and Ryan Logue (2011), 2008 graduate and former three-sport standout Eric Sharkey, and 1989 graduate and former star golfer Ryan Ronan.
The teams inducted included the 2010 NJSIAA overall state champion boys volleyball team, the 2011 NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV sectional champion boys volleyball squad, the 2010 South Jersey Group IV sectional champion boys cross country crew and the 2010-11 and 2011-12 wrestling teams, which both won South Jersey Group IV titles.
With this year’s induction, the Southern Athletic Hall of Fame has 154 individuals and 23 teams. This year’s individual class was the second-largest since the 1989 inaugural group of 10 athletes – Stacey Cranmer (1962), Robbie Hall (1974), Bill Hartley (1976), Bill Kapler (1969), A. Paul King (1967), Sunday Moczydlowski (1978), Jim Scelba (1964), Cheryl Simonsen (1982), Jill Spaschak (1984) and Brian Sprague (1970). Southern began the tradition of adding teams to the Hall of Fame in 2006 with the 1967 Central Jersey Group II champion baseball squad.
“This is like a cherry on top of the sundae,” said Casaletto, who wrestled for Southern for three years after transferring from Lacey as a sophomore and joined the likes of Frank Molinaro (2007), Luke Lanno (2007) and Rich Gildner (1998) as some of the wrestlers who have been inducted. “Southern has had a lot of great athletes and some great wrestlers, so it’s a very special thing to be a part of the Hall of Fame here.”
Saturday’s ceremony almost seemed to be a showcase of Maxwell’s volleyball program, which during the past 10 years has been one of the most successful with multiple state titles, and Jones, who was instrumental in helping the Rams win back-to-back crowns in 2009 and 2010, said all the credit should go to Maxwell and his coaching staff.
“The guys who were inducted, as part of the teams that were inducted, wouldn’t be getting inducted if it wasn’t for Coach Maxwell and the rest of the coaches,” Jones said. “Today absolutely validates the coaching and the talent that continues to make up the Southern volleyball program. It’s incredible to see that level of success year after year.”
Overall, of course, the induction ceremony was a tribute to decades of success throughout an athletic program known for its grit, commitment to high standards and good sportsmanship.
“I often wonder if I would have been as successful at another school,” said Lombardo, now the head coach of Southern’s field hockey program, which continues to excel. “From the administration, to the coaches, to the athletes and all the support staff, the standard of excellence and success here is unmatched.
“And I can’t wait for the day that I present the first one of my girls for induction into the Athletic Hall of Fame, and then, hopefully, it will be hundreds.”
— David Biggy