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Eric Allain )
Molly Brady )
Don Cramer )
Jerry Dahlberg )
Duo Dickinson )
Steve Filippone )
Derek Fish )
Gigi Niekrash )
Melissa McBean )
Bob Roberti )
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The Madison Athletic Hall of Fame inducted 10 new members as part of its Class of 2018 during a ceremony that was held at the Madison Beach Hotel on Sept. 20. The new inductees to the Madison Athletic Hall of Fame are Eric Allain, Molly Brady, Don Cramer, Jerry Dahlberg, Duo Dickinson, Steve Filippone, Derek Fish, Melissa McBean, Gigi Niekrash, and Bob Roberti.
Eric Allain (Class of ‘76)
Eric Allain was one of the most illustrious performers in the history of the boys’ track program at Daniel Hand High School. Allain’s javelin throw of 214 feet-4 inches stood as the school record at the time he graduated from high school. He also held the school record in the 120-yard high hurdles at 15.4 seconds. As a sophomore, Allain initially broke the school record in the javelin with a throw of 175-1, which was more than six feet better than the previous mark. He also broke the school record in the 120 hurdles (17.3). Allain often won the javelin, 120 hurdles, shot put, and long jump in the same meet. At the Shoreline Conference Outdoor Track Championship, he won the javelin, placed third in the long jump, and finished fourth in the shot put.
Allain broke his own record in the javelin (206-10) and the 120 hurdles (15.4) during his junior year. He also won the javelin and high hurdles at the Shoreline Championship, followed by a first-place finish in the javelin at the Class M State Championship. The culminating event of Allain’s junior season came when he won the javelin at the Greater Hartford Invitational—one of the biggest track meets in the state that featured athletes from around the Northeast.
Molly Brady (Class of ‘01)
Molly Brady was one of the best players in Hand girls’ lacrosse history. Brady’s speed and athleticism earned her a starting position on the varsity soccer team as a freshman, and she went on to start for both her soccer and lacrosse teams during each subsequent season. Brady was also an exemplary scholar-athlete who met high standards of service, citizenship, scholarship, and leadership to gain acceptance into Hand’s National Honor Society. As a soccer standout at Hand from 1997 to 2001, Brady was named to the All-Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) Team three times and also led the Tigers as a captain for the 2000 season. A leader on and off the field, she was a team player who helped elevate the level of play of the people around her.
On the lacrosse team, Brady was a four-year starter, a senior captain, and a three-time All-SCC Team selection. She was recognized as the Most Valuable Player of the SCC as a sophomore and was named the All-Area Team MVP by the New Haven Register as a junior. Brady then earned All-State Team and All-Area recognition in her senior season. By 2001, Brady held the school record for most goals (10) in a game and the most goals in a career (216). She went on to play Division I lacrosse at the University of California at Berkeley.
Don Cramer (Coach, 1982-2016)
Don Cramer excelled as a leader and an athlete while attending high school in the small town of Wall Township, New Jersey. Cramer was a three-sport captain, his high school’s Athlete of the Year, and took second place in the 157-pound division in the New Jersey State Wrestling Tournament in his senior season. Cramer maintained grades that put him into the top decile of his class and gained him admission into Gettysburg University in 1967. Cramer competed in football and wrestling for all four years at Gettysburg, captaining the wrestling team during his senior season. During those years, he qualified for the NCAA Division I Tournament for wrestling on two occasions. Cramer went on to coach wrestling and football at West Point Prep in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
In 1981, Cramer met Larry Ciotti through an organization called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Ciotti recruited Cramer to put one of his masters’ degrees to work as a school guidance counselor at Hand. Cramer held that position for a decade, before moving to Polson Middle School, where he continues to serve. Cramer continued his work on the spiritual side by conducting pregame devotionals for the Hand football team for more than a decade. During his time at Hand, Cramer served as an assistant wrestling coach and freshman football coach. His greatest impact was felt when he moved to the middle school in 1992. For 24 of the next 26 years, Cramer coached the wrestling team at Polson Middle School. He also spent two seasons as the head coach of wrestling at The Morgan School in Clinton.
Jerry Dahlberg (Class of ‘63)
Jerry Dahlberg was one of the best athletes in Madison history. A star in three sports, he excelled in basketball. In his senior year, Dahlberg proved one of the best players in the Shoreline League, while guiding Hand to a record of 10-7 and the state quarterfinals. He was ultimately was selected to the All-State First Team—a rare accomplishment for player whose team didn’t advance to the state final or semifinals. Dahlberg, a 6-foot-2 power forward, excelled as a defender, rebounder, and scorer. Beginning in his sophomore year, he started for Hand’s soccer, basketball, and baseball teams. As a sophomore, Dahlberg led the soccer team to a 7-3 record and the state semifinals, marking Hand’s best performance in its 10-year history. He then helped Hand go 6-1-1 in his junior season. Dahlberg was also an outstanding shortstop and pitcher during his high school baseball career.
Duo Dickinson (Exemplary Contributor)
Madison resident Duo Dickinson, a world-renowned architect, is being inducted into the Madison Athletic Hall of Fame as an exemplary contributor to athletics in the community. A 1977 graduate of Cornell University, Dickinson established his architecture firm in Madison in 1987. He is currently the architecture critic for the New Haven Register, a writer for the Hartford Courant, and has written eight books. He’s also hosted radio and television broadcasts on architecture. Dickinson has taught at Yale University and Roger Williams University. He’s on the faculty of Building Beauty, the Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento, Italy, where he serves as co-chair of the American Advisory Board.
Dickinson’s pro bono work has contributed to the construction of 75 projects, including the Strong Center at the Surf Club in Madison. His labor of love helped transform a decaying facility into a state-of-the-art facility. Dickinson’s foresight demonstrated the success of a $3.2-million, private-public partnership project, and his donations saved the project at least $180,000 in architectural fees. Dickinson volunteered his office staff, supplies, and hours of time to help the completion of the Strong Center come to fruition throughout an 11-year period. For the past 15 years, Dickinson and his wife Liz have donated books to each graduating senior on the Hand football team as a gift and a reminder of the impact of knowledge.
Steve Filippone (Coach, 1979-2016)
As a young man from Bricktown, New Jersey, Steve Filippone came to Madison in 1979. A graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, he had hopes of inspiring the young people of the town through education and athletics. Filippone was hired as a special education teacher at Hand and became an assistant football coach. Ten years later, Filippone earned the position of head coach for the football team, beginning a run that saw him become one of the most influential educators and coaches in Hand history. From 1989 to 2016, Filippone’s fierce, competitive spirit transcended to his players, while he accomplished feats unparalleled by any other coach in Connecticut. He took an established program and used his expert coaching and motivational skills to bring it to the next level. In his 28 years as Hand’s football head coach, Filippone achieved a record of 223-82-5 for a winning percentage of 72 percent that included four undefeated teams and seven state championship teams (1989, ‘97, ‘03, ‘04, ‘05, ‘11, and ‘12). The ‘97, ‘04, and ‘12 teams were voted the No. 1 team in Connecticut by the state’s sportswriters.
Filippone received several prestigious coaching awards during his tenure. In 2010, he was inducted into the Connecticut Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Bricktown Hall of Fame. He was named the 2013 National High School Coach of Year, the Walter Camp Coach of the Year, Connecticut’s Coach of the Year, and was also a three-time Football Foundation Coach of the Year. In 2005, he received the elite Doc McIernery Coach of Year Award for all sports as selected by Connecticut’s sportswriters. In addition, Filippone served as chairperson for the Football Coaches’ Committee and was president of the executive board of the Coaches’ Association for 14 years. He also served as chairperson of the Connecticut-Rhode Island All-Star Game.
Derek Fish (Class of ‘08)
Derek Fish was a three-time conference champion wrestler who took first place in his weight class during his sophomore, junior, and senior years at Hand, while nearly duplicating that feat at the state level. Fish was a three-time place winner at Class L State Championship, taking fifth place as a sophomore and then earning the state title as both a junior and a senior. Fish’s success continued at the State Open Championship, where he placed in his sophomore, junior, and senior years. He made it to the State Open final as a junior and senior. As a senior, Fish was the No. 2 seed at the State Open and went on to win the tournament and be crowned the 145-pound champion. He also won the New England championship as a senior, while preventing his opponents from scoring a single point against him throughout the entire tournament. Fish was named the Connecticut Wrestler of the Year for all weight classes in his senior season.
Melissa McBean (Class of ‘93)
Melissa McBean earned 11 varsity letters as a three-sport athlete at Hand. She then continued her soccer career at Dartmouth College, earning All-Ivy League Team honors for four seasons, before going on to play semi-pro and professional soccer. At Hand, McBean was a four-year varsity starter for the girls’ soccer team, earning All-Shoreline Conference and All-State Team accolades for three seasons. In 1990, she helped Hand reach the state final. The next year, McBean guided Hand to a league title, while earning All-New England Team recognition. In her senior season, the Tigers finished with a record of 15-1-2 as McBean scored 32 goals and had 20 assists. She had scored a school record 90 goals by the time her high school career was finished. McBean earned All-American honors as a senior and was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” for her offensive dominance.
McBean also scored more than 1,000 points and was a leading rebounder for the Hand girls’ basketball team. She was an All-Shoreline Conference Second Team selection in her junior and senior seasons and won a Shoreline Conference title as a sophomore. As a captain in her senior year, McBean earned the Tap-off Club Scholar-Athlete Award and placement on the New Haven All-County Team. As a member of the outdoor track, team, McBean competed in the 200, the long jump, the 4x100 relay, and the 4x400 relay.
Gigi Niekrash (Class of ‘05)
Gigi Niekrash was an impact player for Hand field hockey team beginning in her freshman season. She played a big part in helping Hand earn two triple-overtime wins against higher-seeded teams in the 2001 State Tournament. During her junior year, Hand defeated perennial powerhouses Cheshire, Branford, and Guilford in the same season. Hand also won its first SCC title that season. A defender, Niekrash had a fierce shot and finished in the top 10 in scoring for the SCC in her junior and senior seasons, finishing her career with 49 points. She was honored as an All-SCC, All-State, and New Haven Register All-Area Team player in 2003 and 2004, and was also invited to play in the Senior All-Star Game. Niekrash served as a captain for the field hockey team in 2002, when Hand posted a 15-3-1 record, won another SCC title, and earned a repeat trip to the Class M State Tournament semifinals.
On the softball diamond, Niekrash was known to crush the softball while batting third in the order, in addition to chasing down challenging fly balls as Hand’s center fielder for four seasons. She finished with a career batting average of .344 and made the All-State Team three times. During Niekrash’s softball career, she helped Hand make the state semifinals twice and earn two state final berths.
Bob Roberti (Coach, 1974-2004)
Under Bob Roberti’s direction as head coach, the Hand boys’ outdoor track team won the Shoreline Conference championship for 14 of the 16 seasons between 1980 to 1995, finishing as the runner-up in the other two years. Hand also won the Hammonasset Division championship in six of the eight seasons from 1997 to 2004, earning runner-up honors the other two years. In his 25 years as head coach, one of Roberti’s most notable achievements is that he never lost a meet against Guilford. Roberti’s 30-year career as a physical education teacher and coach in Madison began at the Jeffrey School in 1973. Athletic Director Bob Duncanson recruited Roberti to be the boys’ cross country coach and the assistant coach for boys’ track. Roberti coached cross county for seven years, winning Shoreline Conference championships in 1978 and 1979. In 1980, he became head coach of the track team at Hand.