DALTON, Mass. -- In the mid-1980s, Title IX was on the books for more than 10 years, but girls and women’s sports were light years away from having an equal footing … in a lot of places.
Not so at Wahconah Regional High School.
“I can’t say there wasn’t struggle, but Dalton never allowed that,” former Wahconah girls soccer coach Nancy Barry said on Sunday afternoon. “We were given equal practice time. We were given equal banquets. We were given equal ceremonies.
“I really have no complaints. The girls -- there are always pioneers. There are always people who push through. And they’re pioneers. … Dalton’s a sports town.”
Never was that more in evidence than Sunday at Wahconah Country Club.
Barry, now a Connecticut resident, was back in town to join members of her 1986 girls soccer team as it was inducted as part of the first class of the Dalton CRA Athletic Hall of Fame.
It was an emotional afternoon for her as she reconnected with women she has not seen in decades -- several of whom have stayed in the county and continue to make an impact on the local high school scene.
Barry’s squad was recognized as the first Wahconah team to win a state championship in a team sport, beating the ‘87 boys basketball team by a few months.
Bookended by Sunday’s third team inductee, the undefeated 1983 football squad and those state champion cagers, the girls soccer team was as celebrated in its day as any other, Barry said.
“Soccer was very important in this town,” she said. “The boys were very supportive of the girls. They were all peers. They all went to school together. They always supported what we did. We supported their teams, too.
“And I think that’s what Dalton taught us: Your sport is just as important as mine. Because what the girls and I had was special.”
At Sunday’s two-hour ceremony, where 15 individuals, five coaches and three contributors also were inducted, community was as prevalent as championships.
Keynote speaker Michael Caulfield set the tone.
“My suspicion is that while all of you inductees have received a special, special award here, you’ve had help,” Caulfield said. “So my challenge to you is: After celebrating for the weekend, how about taking a couple of quiet hours and jotting down some names and challenging yourself to see, of those people who have helped you, have you told them that?
“Tell them that either face-to-face, which is an extraordinary opportunity for both of you, or by a letter or, perhaps, by telephone call.”
Several of those “helpers” are a big part of the Class of 2019.
Hall of Fame Executive Committee member Gary Campbell Jr., whose father went into the hall Sunday as a coach, had the task of introducing the first three contributors to make the cut.
“Every athlete has a story, and every team has a story, but somebody had to set up that story,” Campbell Jr. said. “There are so many things that go on behind the scene that allows people to be successful.
“Our community is strong, and our community is strong because people behind the scenes, without any accolades at all usually, do what needs to be done to make the teams and athletes successful.”
The three recognized contributors Sunday were: Jim and Bunny Whitman, who co-chaired the Wahconah Warrior Booster Club for 25 years; Edward and Arlene Cormier, who served on that booster club for 30 years and supported the installation of lights on the high school football and soccer fields; and the Dalton Benefit Association, which has supported the Central Berkshire community for 45 years.
“They support many diverse programs,” Campbell said of the Dalton Benefit Association. “Music programs, adaptive programs and Unified Sports programs. They serve as sponsors for all of the sports programs at the youth and high school level.”
More than 50 individuals and businesses provided financial support to the Dalton CRA Hall of Fame, which has a dual mission: preserving the stories of Dalton’s past and paving the way for Dalton’s future.
“We wanted a dedicated space, a physical Hall of Fame room that people could visit and learn the stories,” CRA Director of Recreation and Sunday’s master of ceremonies Dustin Belcher said. “And we want to make sure that we raised enough funds to make all of this happen and have money left to make sure we could continue to support youth sports programs and make sure that every child, regardless of their financial situation, has a chance to write their story and sit where you are sitting today.”
Going into its induction weekend, the Dalton CRA Athletic Hall of Fame was close to its lofty goal of raising $100,000 in its first year.
On Sunday, David Lombard threw down the gauntlet to get started on a new fund-raising push.
“This past Friday the 13th, Susan and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary,” Lombard said in an unscheduled appearance at the podium. “We have decided … to send our challenge to everyone in this community. There are two pieces to it. We will write a check for $50,000 -- on the basis of our 50 years of marriage -- to come in two parts. We want the community and the inductees to step up and give [$25,000], and we will give another 25. And when that is accomplished, another 25 will bring in another 25, so the goal will be to raise $100,000.
“This is simply to encourage camperships and scholarships in the community. This community has been wonderful to our two children, and this is our opportunity to pay back.”
The inaugural class of the Dalton CRA Athletic Hall of Fame includes:
TEAMS -- 1983 Wahconah football team, 1986 Wahconah girls soccer team, 1987 Wahconah boys basketball team.
CONTRIBUTORS -- Ed and Arlene Cormier; Dalton Benefit Association; and Jim and Bunny Whitman.
COACHES -- Gary Campbell Sr., John Donovan, Ed Ladley, Robert “Boog” Powell and James Rivers.
ATHLETES -- Patrick Bramer, Edward Culverwell, Dan Duquette, Jim Duquette, Patrick Duquette, Kevin Hunt, Rick Kovacs, John Kovacs, Derek Lombard, Keith Poopor, Jeff Reardon, Abbie West, Meghan Vaughan, Turk Wendell and Matt Whitcomb.
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