Honore Collins and Heather Dennis
In all likelihood, the name Honore Collins does not ring a bell for you. Let’s try another name. Heather Dennis.
Many readers will remember Dennis, who was a strong performer for Russ Pickering in cross country at Bellows Falls Union High School, almost 30 years ago, right in the middle of their glory days. By now, some of you have put a couple of pieces together and think that Honore Collins is Dennis’ daughter. Such a hypothesis would be correct.
Collins is the NCAA Division III National Women’s Swimmer of the Year. Collins, a junior at New York University, captured top national honors in the 200-yard Individual Medley, the 400-yard Individual Medley, and in the 200-yard butterfly in the recent Division III National Championship Meet. That means three national championship titles for Collins. She had an NCAA record breaking performance in the 200 IM. Collins actually set that same NCAA record when she was a freshman, but someone stole top honors a year ago. A determined Collins stole the mark right back this winter.
I spoke to Trevor Miele, head coach of Women’s Swimming at NYU, and he was overboard in his praise for Collins. “Honore is a tremendously hard worker who goes about her business real hard. She not only does what she’s told, she goes above and beyond. It was phenomenal to see all her hard work pay off at the end of the day. She totally killed it at NCAAs. She is just a tremendous competitor, who I don’t think won because of her training. I think she just won because she wanted to win and she hates to lose. She is a competitor. She’s phenomenal and I think she should be able to take that outside of the pool when she graduates and succeed in whatever she does. She is a great kid to have on the team. I am really happy for her and proud of her and she deserves all the accolades that she got this year with all the fantastic times she posted,” was the salute he gave to his tremendous athlete.
Dennis may have competed at Bellows Falls three decades ago, but Pickering tells me something that reminds me that some apples don’t fall far from the tree. Pickering’s comments on his former runner Dennis were, “She was very dedicated. She always found a way to get the best out of herself in order to compete with some athletes who may have had more talent. She was one of our hardest workers. Her gift was her ability to do her best by pushing herself to her limits.” Two relative athletes personified, who both had an internal drive to succeed.
Another Springfield salute
There have been oh so many positive Springfield sports stories over the past few months and March 9 became the almost perfect evening. The showcase night for the inaugural Springfield Hall of Fame Induction drew tremendous raves. Twelve inductees were honored with a banquet that sold out and then some as expected. Bill Bibens, Bo Birsky, Greg Birsky, Mary Beth Birsky, Curt Dressel, Brad Dunbar, Tracy Guilford, Albert Gutterson, Mary Rose Jasinski, Jimmy Schwartz, Bob Schweitzer, and Richie Wyman were the first ones the hall doors were opened for and the deserving honored were one and all glorified for their achievements.
Springfield Athletic Director Rich Saypack was the organizer of the event and he felt “this was a great start. The evening met and exceeded any expectations.”
Everyone I spoke to echoed Saypack’s words with the only criticism whispered anywhere being that the evening was too long. It appears it was, but how else do you get an early representative number in the hall and honor them without cutting that praise down below what these athletes of the past have earned and deserve? Saypack likely said it right when he told me, “There were a lot of good stories. Nobody was shy in honoring these athletes. And there were no bad stories.”
Seven of the 12 inducted athletes were present, including seven of the eight living members. The eighth was scheduled to attend but had a last minute work conflict.
One of the highlights of the evening was the appearance of the University of Vermont Track & Field Coach Matt Belfield. Albert Gutterson went on to fame at UVM, where Gutterson Field House is named in his honor. If readers missed it in an earlier column, I mentioned that Gutterson, five years following his graduation from Springfield, competed in the Stockholm Olympics and defeated Jim Thorpe in the Long Jump. Belfield spoke at the induction and he brought along Gutterson’s Gold Medal and his track shoes.
Area UVM trackster
One of Belfield’s current athletes from Bellows Falls had a stellar athletic weekend recently. DJ Snide, a Bellows Falls graduate and presently a sophomore for the Catamounts, placed second in the America East Indoor 2019 Heptathlon Championships at Boston University. Snide put on an incredible two-day performance, garnering a personal best in all seven events, leading to his high overall standing. Snide had four second place finishes to go along with a third, fourth, and sixth. A truly outstanding showing!
Belfield told me, “DJ is a wonderful young man who is learning to be a strong performer in the heptathlon. He is a nice addition to our program who has come along a little further and faster than I expected and should be even more of a performer for us in the future.”
Fans should certainly be very proud about what the UVM basketball program has accomplished in recent seasons, but it is likely the biggest accomplishment is the fact that John Becker’s Catamounts are presently on a streak, along with eight other basketball schools, of recording 11 straight 20-win seasons. The other seven schools to win a minimum of 20 games, 11 straight seasons are Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, and St. Mary’s. That is a list of who’s who in college basketball and Vermont is on it. Vermont has played all except two of those schools in that time period as well. The Catamounts are clearly big time.
Vermont also collected the most wins of any team in New England this year with 27. Since the 2002-2003 season, UVM is second in New England in total wins behind UConn, who collected two NCAA championships in that time. The top six for that stretch were UConn 393, UVM 387, Providence 304, Rhode Island 304, and BU and Northeastern at 297. Isn’t that something? UVM plays close to home at Dartmouth next winter. Be ready to get your tickets when the schedule is announced.