Inaugural class to be inducted into Easthampton High School athletic hall of fame


Staff Writer

Published: 04-12-2022 6:52 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Seven student-athletes and one team will be recognized at the inaugural induction ceremony for Easthampton’s first high school athletic hall of fame this June.

The ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 11, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Easthampton High School, and include a meet-and-greet in the courtyard beforehand.

Established in 2019, the Easthampton High School Athletic Foundation and Hall of Fame was founded to honor those who have made significant contributions to the Easthampton High School interscholastic program, according to Jeff Sealander, president of the foundation’s board of directors.

The hall of fame has been several years in the making as discussions began when Sealander, a 1970 graduate and retired high school teacher, coach, athletic director and principal, and John Opatkiewicz, a 1966 graduate and retired teacher, coach and athletic director, were still working together in the Easthampton Public School District.

“When I was athletic director and he was still principal, he (Jeff) always had a dream of doing this,” Opatkiewicz said. “Jeff is very dedicated to the community and the high school.”

Years ago, Sealander read an article from an athletic administrator’s magazine that resonated with him. Though the article was about hiring coaches, he said that it touched upon establishing the “four H’s” and defining a program’s history, highlights, heroes and hopes. The article, combined with a quote from Stephen King’s 2008 psychological horror novel, “Duma Key,” are what he says propelled him to wanting to have a high school athletic hall of fame in Easthampton.

“The quote says, ‘A person’s memory is everything, really. Memory is identity. It’s you,’” Sealander said. “And if we’re looking to form an identity for the community of Easthampton High School, we need to have that memory. We need to have that history. We need to have those highlights. We need to have those heroes,” he said.

“And that, over time, so much of that is forgotten, therefore it doesn’t become part of our identity. … So I thought, let’s bring in the people that can help us do that and understand what’s involved with high school athletics, the history, the highlights, the heroes and the hopes.”

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In more recent years, Sealander and Opatkiewicz worked with Brian Miller, a high school teacher, coach and athletic director; Gail Cannon, a high school librarian and 1969 graduate; and Bonnie Ledoux, a counseling office staff member and school records liaison, to get the foundation up and running.

Though the group is still waiting on their official nonprofit accreditation, they have established a board of directors made up of Sealander, Opatkiewicz, Miller, Cannon and Ledoux, Bob Canon, a former coach and 1971 graduate; Angelena Delaney, a 2013 graduate and website liaison; Homar Gomez, a former varsity softball coach and City Council liaison; Amanda Zedonis-Kemp, a former coach and legal adviser; Nancy Lapointe, a 1976 graduate and financial adviser; Samantha Pliska, a 1998 graduate and Parks and Recreation Department liaison; and Kara Sheridan, a 1999 graduate and Northampton High School assistant principal.

The 2022 inductees

Following an 18-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group came back together in 2021.

Opatkiewicz served as chairman of selection committee and took a deep dive into yearbooks, newspaper articles and familial scrapbooks dating back to the 1950s to look for those who’ve made significant contributions to the Easthampton High School interscholastic program as an athlete, team, coach or contributor. The first year’s class was selected internally, but the foundation hopes to be able to determine inductees through virtual nominations.

“We talked about people behind their backs to get information … we’d come up with a person and talk to their family, friends and sometimes even their wife,” said Opatkiewicz, laughing. “We took their history and matched it up to our criteria.”

To be considered as an athlete, nominees must have graduated from EHS a minimum of seven years before being eligible for consideration and have participated in a minimum of two varsity seasons while attending EHS and any combination of the following: been a member of a league, sectional or state championship team; been recognized for individual honors at the league, sectional, state or national level; or been recognized at the collegiate or professional level following participation as an EHS athlete.

Teams are eligible seven years after the achievement as sectional champion, state finalist or state champion.

A coach is eligible three years after leaving the EHS coaching staff and must have a minimum of three years of coaching at EHS; and led a team to a league, sectional or state title; or introduced and developed a particular athletic program at EHS.

Any individual or organization may also be recognized for an outstanding contribution to the EHS interscholastic athletic program.

For the inaugural induction, Opatkiewicz said the committee ended up with 15 candidates who met the criteria they’d set and ended up devising a ranking system to establish the top eight inductees.

The inductees are: Jim Babyak, who played soccer, basketball and baseball and is a 1963 graduate; Sheila Dembak Cotman, a swimmer and 1980 graduate; Mike Lapan, who played soccer, basketball and baseball and is a 1973 graduate; Chris Parent, who was a swimmer and played soccer and baseball and is a 1991 graduate; Nicole Sealander, who played basketball and soccerhg and is a 1999 graduate; Jim Stone, who played basketball and baseball and is a 1956 graduate; and Jim Sturges, who played hockey and soccer and is a 2000 graduate.

The 1981 golf team, who were the undefeated champions that year, also will be inducted. The team was composed of Jim Allan, Howie Booth, Bob Dembek, Scott Dyer, Jeff Lachowetz, Andy Langlois, Joe LeBeau, Jon Lizotte, Jay Parsons and coach Angelo Minicucci.

Virtual hall

While the inaugural class will be officially celebrated and recognized at a ceremony on Saturday, June 11, the Easthampton High School Athletic Foundation and Hall of Fame will also have a virtual component. The high school’s Media Club will be livestreaming the ceremony and that will be available for future generations to watch via the foundation’s hall of fame website.

Tickets for the ceremony are available through for $25 plus a service fee.

Cider House Media was hired to create the website, which is still under construction, and the foundation’s logos, which were put together with input from the high school’s graphic arts II class. The site features all of the inductees and their accomplishments and features ways people that are interested can get involved.

“I was really honored when Jeff came and asked me to be a part of it. It felt special,” said Delaney, who is the art director for Cider House Media. “I started my education in arts and here I am, ended my education and it’s come full circle.”