Standout high school, college and professional athletes and coaches recently joined an elite Bucks County group.
Members of the county’s chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame welcomed 15 inductees to their ranks during an April 11th ceremony in Lower Southampton.
The inductees include Central Bucks East’s Tara Schmucker and the late Lisa Laskow Adams, Central Bucks West’s Linda Nixon, Council Rock’s Marybeth Freeman, Bobby Hill and Maureen Flynn Martin, Neshaminy’s Cindy Daeche Curley, Jack Dunn and Bob Grupp, Pennsbury’s Shayne “Kip” Kiefer and Donna Runyon and Karl Kremser of the former Woodrow Wilson High School (now Harry S. Truman High School) in Bristol Township.
The chapter also inducted Miki DeBaise, a three-sport athlete at Arcadia University (formerly Beaver College) and longtime tennis coach at the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, the late Fred Lening, a professional bowler from the Yardley area and the late Lilyan Wright, a Temple University graduate and the founder of the women’s athletic program at The College of New Jersey (the former Trenton State College.)
The county’s Sports Hall of Fame mission is to recognize athletes and coaches who have brought “pride and distinction” to Bucks.
The chapter has inducted 156 athletes and coaches since its inception in 2009.
The Class of 2019 “is exceptional in all phases of athletic endeavor,” the chapter’s executive committee members said.
All the inductees had a support system they depended on along the way, said Bobby Hill, a champion soccer player and wrestler at Council Rock in the mid-1980s.
“They have given us a pat on the back and sometimes a kick in the butt,” Bobby said during the ceremony at Brookside Manor at Somerton Springs.
Coaches are a key piece of an athlete’s support system, said Jack Dunn, a distinguished wrestling and football player at Neshaminy in the mid-1960s.
“They were the kind of guys who would do whatever they can to motivate people,” he said.
After a successful wrestling career at Northwestern University, Jack returned to Bucks County to teach for 36 years and coach wrestling for 28 of those years at Bensalem High School.
“This was my dream,” the coach said. “There were so many great kids.”
Donna Runyon enjoyed a successful coaching career on the college level after being a champion three-sport athlete at Pennsbury.
She said sports helped her develop her life goal. It is: “Do not be better than anyone else. Be better than I used to be.”
Karl Kremser was a championship athlete in football and track and field before coaching soccer and track on the collegiate level.
His life journey has exceeded his “wildest expectations” thanks to sports.
“I feel I have never worked a day in my life because I loved what I did,” Karl said.
Kip Kiefer, who excelled in four sports at Pennsbury, said it is an honor to be part of the elite group.
He recently ran across a question while doing some reading that made him stop and think about the impact sports has had on his life.
The question was: “Would you always like to lose or never play the game?”
Kip thought about it and realized the answer is obvious.
“I would definitely take losing every time over never playing the game,” he said.
Here’s why: “(In sports) you give it your all,” Kip said. “You have the feeling that you have given all you have. That makes it all worth it.”
Fred Lening, a native of Germany, came to the United States when he was two but did not start bowling until he was 28, said one of his three daughters who accepted the induction award in his memory.
His daughters recalled how he would load their family up in the car and drive all over the country to different competitions.
“It was his life,” Fred’s daughter, Diana, said. “But our family was his love.”
The Lening sisters said their family is thankful to be able to watch his tournaments on YouTube.
Lisa Laskow Adams played three sports at CB East in the mid-1970s, including the school’s championship lacrosse and swimming teams.
“Athletics came as easy to her as breathing,” her daughter Kylie said while accepting her mother’s induction awards.
Lisa was grateful for Title IV, which leveled the playing field for female athletes beginning in the 1970s, her daughter said.
Shortly before her death in 2017, Lisa went with family members to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Women’s March.
She made the trek “to stand up for what she believed in,” her daughter said.
“She has been quietly marching with women all along and breaking barriers.”
Lilyan Wright was one of those women who broke barriers for others, said Pat Toner, the field hockey coach at Central Bucks South High School.
Pat, a Trenton State graduate and vice president of the chapter, accepted the induction awards for her former teacher.
“She impacted all of us,” Pat said. “We were lucky to have her at the College of New Jersey. She cared about us.”
Lilyan was hard not on her athletes, but students training to be physical education teachers, she said.
Pat recalled one time Lilyan sent her students out in the snow to play field hockey.
The students were in shorts and the teacher was bundled up in a coat.
“‘It’s not that bad,’” Pat recalled Liliyan saying. “‘You just have to stop thinking about it.’”
The students called her “Tiger Lil.”
“The world is a little less happy without her,” Pat said.
PHOTO CAP: Neshaminy grads Bob Grupp and Jack Dunn