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A Decade of Stars

Our All-Decade Team (2001-2011) shines the spotlight on standout Schuyler County athletes

By Charlie Haeffner

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Aug. 16 -- Following the Odessa-Montour girls varsity basketball team's run to a state championship in 2001, I published a book about the feat called "The Glory Girls."

Not long after that, I started The Odessa File. It could be argued that the one publication led directly to the other. In any event, my effort to cover high school sports in Schuyler County began with that book, in 2001.

Now, in 2011, we mark 10 years of coverage of the Odessa-Montour and Watkins Glen high schools, and at that milestone are taking a breath to honor the creme de la creme of the athletes at those schools who have impacted the county sports scene.

An ad hoc committee compiled a list of 33 athletes worthy of inclusion on a team designated A Decade of Stars, dividing them into three divisions: Solar, Lunar and Comet, each with distinguishing characteristics.

The Solar Division is reserved for those who achieved maximum effect on the high school and college level -- generally considered athletes of Hall of Fame stature, whether elected to one yet or not. They were champions, or record setters, or both -- who saw success after high school, as well.

The Lunar Division is comprised of those who also have carried their talents to the collegiate level, and who are known as habitual winners -- with a high school record of victory after victory in sport after sport, year after year. On any given night, it could be argued, the Lunar athletes could eclipse the Solar, much as the moon can eclipse the sun.

The Comet Division is for athletes who are remembered primarily for a shining year in which they led their teams to significant glory, who had shining careers cut short or seriously limited by injury, or who have recently completed (or, in one case, is still in the midst of) high school.

In the works:

A suitable-for-framing lithograph featuring caricatures of the Decade of Stars team members will soon be available. Ordering instructions will be made public when it is ready. Individual caricatures will also be available for purchase. Ordering information on those will be released soon, too.

The honorees are as follows:

Solar Division

Courtney Warren
Stefanie Collins
Olivia Coffey
Todd Lincoln
Julie Miller
Phil Brown
Cathy Brown
Alicia Learn
Molly Schamel

Lunar Division

Sally Wilcox
Katie Taber
Megan Matthews
Matt Shutter
Michelle Thorpe
Sophie Peters
Katey Cheplick
Jonathon Fazzary
Molly Murphy
Jennifer & Jaclyn Conklin
Rebecca & Whitney Ayers

Comet Division

Lukas Buckman
Taylor Chaffee
Michele Kenney
Haleigh Wixson
Dan Stephens
Shelby Olafson
Brad Hrynko
Bobby Potter
Sherry Benedict
Sparky Gardner
Michelle Melanson

Coach: Burton Brewster, Odessa-Montour girls soccer and girls track

Boys Team: The 2005-06 Watkins Glen basketball team that went 18-0 in the regular season, and became known as The Wild Bunch.

Girls Team: The 2000-01 Odessa-Montour basketball team that won the State Class D championship and became known as The Glory Girls.


Solar Division

From left: Courtney Warren, Stefanie Collins, Olivia Coffey and Todd Lincoln

From left: Julie Miller, Phil Brown and Cathy Brown

From left: Alicia Learn and Molly Schamel

Solar Division honorees:

Courtney Warren: A record setting, state-level swimmer at Watkins Glen High School and an Odessa File Athlete of the Year, she overcame an ACL injury (sustained in high school basketball) to become a powerhouse, league MVP swimmer at Bucknell University.

Stefanie Collins: She led the O-M girls basketball team to a state title in 2001, and went on to a collegiate career at St. Bonaventure and a pro career in England and Europe that is still ongoing. A native of Great Britain, she plans to try out for the British Olympic basketball team.

Olivia Coffey: After helping the WGHS girls basketball team to the Section IV final as a freshman, she went on to a hockey and rowing career in prep school and All-American status in rowing at Harvard. She plans to try out for the U.S. Olympic rowing team.

Todd Lincoln: An outstanding basketball player at Watkins Glen High School, he went on to a stellar career at Keuka College, earning All-Star status.

Julie Miller: An outstanding soccer goalkeeper at Watkins Glen High School and in college (Mansfield University), she established the career saves mark for high school keepers in New York State and the nation.

Phil Brown: A member of the varsity track, tennis and soccer teams at Watkins Glen High School, he especially excelled on the swim squad as a two-time All-IAC diver, and went on to a college career at the West Point Military Academy on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards.

Cathy Brown: The holder of numerous Watkins Glen High School swim records, she went on to a notable swimming career at the University of Connecticut.

Alicia Learn: A key member of highly successful WGHS girls basketball teams, she went on to significant success in the same sport at the University of Albany.

Molly Schamel: A teammate of Learn's on the WGHS girls basketball team at the start of the decade, she went on to a solid Division I basketball career in Texas.

Lunar Division

From left: Sally Wilcox, Katie Taber and Megan Matthews

From left: Matt Shutter, Michelle Thorpe and Sophie Peters

From left: Katey Cheplick, Jonathon Fazzary and Molly Murphy

From left: Jaclyn Conklin, Jennifer Conklin, Rebecca Ayers and Whitney Ayers

Lunar Division honorees:

Sally Wilcox: A standout three-sport athlete at Odessa-Montour, the lefty was the heart of a winning varsity basketball team, and was an 800 Meter Section IV, Class D champion in track. She went on to Nazareth College, where she played varsity basketball for four years.

Katie Taber: A two-time Odessa File O-M athlete of the year, she was a record-setting goal scorer in soccer, an outstanding competitor in track, and a defensive standout in basketball. She went on to a notable track career at Cortland State.

Megan Matthews: A multiple record-setter in high school track and holder of the WGHS single-season and career soccer goal-scoring marks, she went on to a solid collegiate sports career at Daemon College.

Matt Shutter: An outstanding soccer player at O-M and a key contributor on a basketball team that reached the Section IV final, he has gone on to become a key part of the Dominican College soccer team.

Michelle Thorpe: A high-scoring member of the WGHS girls basketball team for several years, an outstanding volleyball and softball player, and The Odessa File Athlete of the Year her senior year, she went on to play basketball at Daemon College.

Sophie Peters: A high-scoring soccer standout and exceptional in basketball and track at WGHS, she went on to play soccer at SUNY Geneseo.

Katey Cheplick: An exceptional volleyball, basketball and softball player in high school at both O-M and WGHS, she has gone on to play both volleyball and basketball at Converse College before transferring this year to Penn State Altoona.

Jonathon Fazzary: A multiple record holder in distance running at Watkins Glen High School, he went on to run for Division I Winthrop University.

Molly Murphy: An outstanding swimmer for Watkins Glen, she went on to a strong college swimming career at Bentley University (Massachusetts) in the Breaststroke and Individual Medley.

Jaclyn & Jennifer Conklin: These sisters were multiple-sport standouts at Watkins Glen High school -- in swimming, track and basketball -- and went on to successful swim careers in college, Jennifer at Brockport and Jaclyn at Nazareth. Jaclyn was The Odessa File Athlete of the Year in her senior year at WGHS.

Rebecca & Whitney Ayers: The Twins were outstanding for years at O-M in both soccer and basketball, with Whitney setting a soccer assist mark, and Rebecca reaching 1,000 points in basketball. They went on to success in basketball at CCC.

Comet Division

From left: Lukas Buckman, Taylor Chaffee, Michele Kenney and Haleigh Wixson

From left: Dan Stephens, Shelby Olafson, Brad Hrynko and Bobby Potter

From left: Sherry Benedict, Sparky Gardner and Michelle Melanson

Comet Division honorees:

Lukas Buckman: The highest-scoring bowler to roll through WGHS, he posted a school-record season average of 217 and a high series of 781. At last report, he was setting his sights on a pro bowling career.

Taylor Chaffee: A three-time Odessa File Athlete of the Year at WGHS, the senior excels at basketball and softball, and has been an All-Star in different years in swimming and volleyball. She plans to play softball when she enters Binghamton University in a year.

Michele Kenney: An extremely tough soccer defender and an outstanding track pole vaulter and hurdler, she was arguably the best athlete at O-M in her final two years there. She went on to Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Haleigh Wixson: A school and Section IV record-setting swimmer who repeatedly qualified for States, she started at O-M and transferred to WGHS, where she was a two-time Odessa File Schuyler Fall MVP. She will be continuing her swim career at SUNY Geneseo.

Dan Stephens: He led the O-M soccer team to a division title in his senior year, 2009-10, and was accordingly named the division's offensive MVP. He was also an IAC All-Star in basketball that year, the No. 1 singles player on the tennis team, and an Odessa File Athlete of the Year.

Shelby Olafson: A three-time Odessa File Schuyler Spring MVP for her High Jump prowess, and a three time state-tournament High Jump qualifier, she set the school mark in that event at 5'5" before a leg injury hampered her performance. She is going on to Penn State University.

Brad Hrynko: The highest profile player in an era of football success at WGHS after transferring from O-M, he was a quick, elusive back with a penchant for the end zone. He subsequently played for the minor league Southern Tier Warriors.

Bobby Potter: The linchpin of an O-M baseball team that won the Section IV title, Potter was an outstanding pitcher who rocketed to local fame with his stunning success in that championship season, his senior year. He was also a basketball starter and The Odessa File Athlete of the Year.

Sherry Benedict: The best softball pitcher in the area in years, Benedict helped establish O-M as a winning force to be reckoned with. Her career as a lefty hurler was marked by repeated no-hitters and one-hitters until she injured her throwing arm, effectively ending her career.

Sparky Gardner: Sparky, real name Kristine, led the O-M girls basketball team to the state Final Four in a magical season. Game in and game out, she was the go-to scorer on a team on a mission. She was also a standout soccer player and a starter on the softball team.

Michelle Melanson: A leader of the O-M girls varsity basketball team, she reached the 1,000-point plateau in her final game. She was a standout on defense on the varsity soccer squad, and an outstanding sprinter and school-record-setting Triple Jumper on the track team, as well as a two-time Odessa File Athlete of the Year.

Outstanding Coach:

Burton Brewster: This was a unanimous choice, for Brewster (pictured at right) has experienced success after success at O-M across the decade as the head of girls soccer and track teams -- and done so with humility and an admirable dedication to his young charges.

His record has arguably been superior to that of any other coach in the county. His soccer teams have been consistent contenders -- with seven IAC division runnerup finishes in the past 10 years, and a divisional title last year -- while his track teams have repeatedly won divisional and Section IV Class D championships: seven each in the past 10 years. They also finished second in Class D twice. Their regular-season record has been 74-14.

Among those he coached: All-Decade athletes Michele Kenney, Sparky Gardner, Rebecca & Whitney Ayers, Katie Taber, Sally Wilcox, Michelle Melanson and Stefanie Collins.


Members of the Wild Bunch included, front from left, Aaron Thomson, Sam Schimizzi, Jeff Meehan, Brian Rentschler, Joe Westervelt and Travis Phoenix, and back from left, Conor Flahive, Tim Rentschler, John Michael Bianco and Patrick Suits. Not pictured: Jonathon Fazzary, Brandon Marvin and Steven Combs.

Outstanding Boys Team: The Wild Bunch

This 2005-2006 WGHS boys basketball team went 18-0 in the regular season -- setting the tone for school spirit along the way with fun, irreverence and success. They were so named by a poem that I wrote for this website, and the name stuck. The poem went like this:

The Wild Bunch

In a far distant time, long beyond our brief lives
Researchers will unearth reports not contrived
That tell a tale full of great charm and success
About a sports grouping with speed and finesse.

This grouping -- a basketball team it was called --
Did something quite daring: it losing forestalled.
It won and it won and it won once again.
Until there were no games to lose for these men.

The names that were gloried, some plaques they were carved in,
A Flahive, a Westervelt, Schimizzi and Marvin.
The things they accomplished, all writ in our tomes
Were done by the Rentschlers and Meehan and Combs.

When years have gone by, and we’ll likely quit carin’
The exploits will be there, the ankle of Aaron,
The putbacks by Phoenix, long shots by Fazzary,
Bianco and Suits drives that kept their foes wary.

The outfits they’d don, with their attitude brashful,
It all spoke of winning, these guys they weren’t bashful.
The pressure they’d bring, the quick hands and the picks
In the Year of our Lord, it was Two Thousand Six.

A footnote: The poem was written after the team had won seven games. It anticipated, no doubt brashly, a perfect 18-0 regular season -- which came to pass.

Members of The Wild Bunch included Conor Flahive, Joe Westervelt, Sam Schimizzi, Brandon Marvin, Tim Rentschler, Brian Rentschler, Jeff Meehan, Steven Combs, Aaron Thomson, Travis Phoenix, Jonathon Fazzary, John Michael Bianco and Patrick Suits. The coach was John Fazzary, assisted by Ed Augustine.


The Glory Girls: Front from left, Allison Bloom, Anna Feliciano, Stefanie Collins, Cara Mundt, Val Richardson, and Jenny Thomason. Back row, from left, Coach Frank Gavich, Amber Hoffman, Cristen Hill, Christie Emerson, Stephanie Cross, Jill Pevo, Tiffani VanZile, Tracy Cooper and Assistant Coach Greg Gavich. (Photo by Lou Cicconi)

Outstanding Girls Team: The Glory Girls

This O-M girls basketball team went 23-4 as it won the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D Championship in 2000-01. It was led by Solar Division standout Stefanie Collins, who averaged 30 points a game, including 47 in a State Semifinal win over Argyle. The Comet Division's Kristine "Sparky" Gardner was the team manager, too young at the time to be playing varsity ball. Her stardom came later.

Members of the Glory Girls, in addition to Collins, were Jill Pevo, Cristen Hill, Christie Emerson, Cara Mundt, Stephanie Cross, Amber Hoffman, Allison Bloom, Tiffani Van Zile, Val Richardson, Tracy Cooper, Anna Feliciano and Jenny Thomason. The coach was Frank Gavich, assisted by his son, Greg Gavich.

The team went 11-0 before losing to Edison 73-59, and then won five more games to go to 16-1 before closing the regular season with another loss to Edison, 63-53. It then lost to Lansing 74-63 in the IAC playoffs before sweeping to the Section IV, Class D title with three victories. Then came wins over Watertown in the Central Regional Playoff, Argyle in the State Semifinal, and Sherman in the Final, giving O-M the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship. The post-title Federation playoffs saw O-M defeat Dwight in a semifinal before falling to a much larger school, Kellenberg, in the final.

© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869


Katey Cheplick