Longtime basketball official Mike Kinne, center, was the recipient of the John Codey Official's Award, presented by the Berkshire County Athletic Directors Association.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The cream of the county's high school athletes were feted on Wednesday night at the 51st annual Sports Caravan banquet at the Crowne Plaza.
The event, sponsored by WBEC 1420-AM and, this year, by Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, recognizes the most valuable players in both girls and boys sports in Berkshire County, as well as coaches of the year.
But for Mike Kinne, winning this year's John Codey Official's Award was both humbling and bittersweet.
Kinne, who's made his mark as a referee for 47 years in basketball, is the second recipient of the honor — the first being his longtime friend and football referee John D. Codey Jr., who died this past fall.
"John Codey was a very close friend of mine," said Kinne. "John and I passed the basketball exams it seems like a 100 years ago together, we officiated basketball together for awhile. ...
"He passed away way too soon but his legacy will live on in this award."
Kinne was selected by the Berkshire County Athletic Directors Association, which created the award to recognize those who have significantly contributed to high school sports and to the field of officiating.
Pittsfield Public Schools Athletic Director Jim Abel introduced Kinne as "the ultimate class act, an absolute gentleman." In addition to basketball, including officiating at NCAA games, Kinne has worked for decades in soccer and baseball, more than 30 years as officials coordinator for soccer and basketball and as a mentor to new officials.
Kinne said that even with all the experiences he'd had, it was the relationships he'd made that had counted the most.
Ron Wojcik, who took the Hurricanes to a WMass championship, with his award for Coach of the Year in a Female Sport.
"The friends I've made, the wonderful people I've met and those friendships go way beyond sports, way beyond officiating and to me that's really what it's all about," he said, adding that his "simple philosophy is respect the game your doing respect the coaches, respect the players and somehow that respect will come back to you."
The Male Athlete of the Year was Mount Greylock Regional High School's Eric Leitch for baseball. Leitch will be attending Plymouth State University in the fall, as he keeps reminding himself, "for an education, not to play baseball.
It wasn't enough to sit on your laurels, he said he'd learned, "even if you're on the best team you have to go out and prove it every single day."
Female Athlete of the Year was Danielle Racette of Drury High School for basketball. Racette, who will attend Springfield College, said her coaches had taught her never to be satisifed with a win, "because you'll never get better."
Athletics can teach the discipline for success, she said, because great athletes "learn how to control themselves and their teammates in any situation, they become successful not only in sports but in the the game of life."
Coaches of the Year were Jesse Carpenter for Mount Everett baseball and Ron Wojcik for Hoosac Valley girls' basketball. The top four awards were renamed in honor of the late Robert "Boog" Powell, Wahconah High's longtime soccer coach, in 2010. The recipients also receive scholarships — to college for the students and to their respective high schools for the coaches.
Twenty-seven Athletes of Year were presented by William Farrell of WBEC with Jay Anderson, president of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, introducing the athletes.
The banquet was a return for Anderson, who'd been involved for a time while at TD Bank, which with its predecessors had been the main sponsor for many years.
But changes at the bank led it to discontinue its support last fall.
"It was a worrisome for a time because the support of the bank has been crucial to this program," said WBEC's General Manager Peter Barry. Barry contacted Anderson, whose response was immediate. "'Just count us in.' It was that quick and that simple."
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