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WEST CHESTER – The voters have spoken and a dozen new members will officially be welcomed into the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame at its annual banquet on Nov. 10th at Coatesville Country Club.
The Class of 2012 features eight inductees selected by CCSHOF members, including a pair of internationally renowned figures from the Unionville area: thoroughbred trainer Michael Matz and wheelchair racer Amanda McGrory. A total of 26 nominees were on the ballot. And for the first time, class number five also includes four members that were chosen as part of the veteran’s category: longtime Daily Local News Sports Editor George Heaslip; pioneering women’s basketball coach Carol Eckman; All-American swimmer William Clinton and all-around star athlete Jack Helm, Sr.
“I think there are some pretty impressive people in the 2012 group,” said Hall of Fame President Jerry Schneider. “It may be a relatively quiet class compared to some of the others that had some nationally renowned figures, but they are all very, very deserving.
“Michael Matz and Amanda McGrory fit the description (of national significance) and Carol Eckman is called the “mother of women’s basketball.”
Downingtown East High School girls’ basketball icon Bob Schnure headlines an impressive group of local legends along with Phoenixville’s Neal Olkewicz, who played in three Super Bowls. And with Jack Byrne and Diane Horsey, West Chester East High is well represented.
“As for the locals, Bob Owens was Jon Matlack’s catcher through high school,” Schneider pointed out. “He signed with the Chicago Cubs and was the captain of three sports at West Chester Henderson High School. And Bob Schnure’s won over 700 games and certainly belongs in there.”
The 2011 class was the only one smaller than this year’s group, but Schneider says that there is some momentum to cut down future classes that are voted in by expanding the veteran’s selections.
“We have a list of about 50-60 people who deserve to be in,” he said. “We may do something different next year. We have 12 going in at this year’s banquet and we’d like to try to cut that down.
“This is the first we’ve done the veterans category, and it’s a good idea but we need to refine it. Next year we may be looking into installing some old timers separately in mid-year.
“We are growing, we learn something every year and we will alter the way we do things if we think it will be an improvement.”
Here is a closer look at the inductees:
MICHAEL MATZ: As a show-jump rider, Matz participated in three Olympics, won a silver medal in 1992 and earned $1.7 million during his 20 year career. But he is best known as the trainer of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. So far his horses have won 514 races and have earned more than $23 million.
AMANDA McGRORY: One of the premier wheelchair racers in the world, McGrory won the gold medal in the 2008 Paralympic Games and is a member of the 2012 team in London. In all, McGrory has won and established course records all across the globe with wins in the New York, Chicago and London marathons.
NEAL OLKEWICZ: A star athlete at Phoenixville High and the University of Maryland. Olkewicz started 137 games during an 11-year stint as middle linebacker for the Washington Redskins, and was defensive MVP in 1988.
KIM SADDIC MAKKE: A multi-sport star at West Chester Henderson, Saddic Makke captured a state title in cross country in 1987 and the 1,600-meter run in 1988. She later earned All-American honors at George Mason University and twice earned a spot on the U.S. National Track and Field Team.
BOB OWENS: A captain and standout in football, basketball and baseball, Owens is one of Henderson’s most outstanding athletes. Inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Owens passed away in 1987.
JACK BYRNE: An All-Conference performer for the West Chester University football squad, Byrne was a coach and administrator in West Chester for over 40 years. He was West Chester East’s first football coach and later athletic director.
DIANE HORSEY: A three-sport star at Downingtown High and WCU, Horsey amassed 334 wins in more than a quarter century as the lacrosse and field hockey coach at West Chester East. In that span, she won a state title, nine Ches-Mont crowns and was coach of the year nine times.
BOB SCHNURE: Still going strong after 32 seasons, Schnure is among the most respected girls high school basketball coaches in the country. His teams at Downingtown and Downingtown East have won 733 games, five state titles, 11 district crowns and 19 conference championships.
WILLIAM CLINTON: A three-time state title holder (1947-49) in the 100 backstroke, the Coatesville native went on to become an All-American swimmer at Yale over a three year span and in five events.
CAROL ECKMAN: The head coach at WCU, Eckman was the dominant force in establishing the first national invitational women’s intercollegiate basketball tournament in 1969. She guided the Rams to an undefeated season and a national title that season.
GEORGE HEASLIP: The longtime sports editor at the Daily Local News, Heaslip went on to become the Sports Information Director at Cheyney. He died in 1992, but every year since 1989, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference has been handing out the Heaslip Award to a member of the media in his honor.
JACK HELM, SR.: A two-time All-County pick from Downingtown High School in both football and baseball. Helm went on to Villanova and was a four-year letter-winner as a fullback and three-year letter-winner as a first baseman.