When he talked about why he was so successful during his time at Concord- Carlisle, Lowell “Sandy” Smith had no trouble putting his finger on it.
“It’s the bond between athlete and coach,” said the 1965 graduate, who excelled in football, basketball and track and field.
Smith was one of seven former Concord- Carlisle athletes who were inducted into the Concord-Carlisle High School Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Nashawtuc Country Club. In addition to the individual athletes, the 1979-1980 state championship girls soccer teams were also inducted.
The individuals were Smith, Glenn Stephens (1984, football, Nordic skiing, lacrosse), Chris Anderson (1993, basketball, lacrosse), Lisa Andrews Gruber (2001, basketball), John Bauer (2002, soccer, swimming, track and field), Lisa DeBruzzi Wisniewsk (2007, soccer, basketball, softball) and Rebecca Jenkinson (2007, cross country, swimming and diving and lacrosse).
Just about every inductee was quick to give credit to the coaches who taught them the fundamentals of their sports and motivated them to be successful.
“I was just this skinny kid,” said Anderson, who went on to play basketball at Princeton University under Basketball Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril. “Coach (John) McNamara saw something in me.”
For Stephens, his lacrosse coach, Jim McClellan, taught him about more than lacrosse. “He taught me windsurfing, hiking,” Stephens said.
Stephens, an avid surfer who lives in San Diego, played lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the Boston Blazers of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.
Jenkinson, a state champion diver for C-C who went on to excel in diving at Georgetown University, remembers how her diving coach, Tracey Bird, sometimes got on the board herself to show her the nuances of some dives. That hands-on approach has influenced Jenkinson in her own career as a cross country and track coach in San Francisco, where she now lives.
“Sometimes I jump in and run with them,” she said. “Then I have to remember to warm up.”
Of course, it wasn’t just the coaches who molded these athletes. It was also family members and the community itself.
“When my brother, Erik, played football, I’d be playing in my own football games in the field behind (Memorial Field),” Jenkinson said. “Every time the announcer called out ‘tackle by No. 34, Erik Jenkinson,’ I’d stop playing and yell ‘That’s my bro!’”
For Andrews Gruber, C-C girls basketball’s all-time leading scorer and one of the captains of the 2001 MIAA Division 2 state championship team, the neighbors also brought out the best from her competitively.
“There were five boys in the neighborhood,” said Andrews Gruber, who was also a 1,000-point scorer at Holy Cross in college. “We’d play dodgeball and all kinds of things. They would not take it easy on me.”
Andrews Gruber also recalled the community support her team had on its way to the state championship.
“I’d go into Cumberland Farms and the clerk would ask me about the game,” she said.
Heidi Comeau Bruning also remembered people taking a similar interest in her 1979 soccer team’s title run.
“In the cafeteria, people would ask us about our games,” she said.
While DeBruzzi Wisneiski, who lives in Chicago, was not able to attend, her father, John, recalled the way the community welcomed the entire DeBruzzi family.
“There’s nothing like it,” he said.
Today, Concord-Carlisle High School is noted for its state-of-the-art athletic facilities, its gym, weight room, turf fields and a pool that is located right across the driveway from the school.
It wasn’t always that way.
“Before we practiced or played, we’d have to walk the field and pick up rocks,” Comeau Bruning said.
Said Bauer, “When we swam, we didn’t get to just go across the driveway. We’d have to get on a bus and go to Minuteman Tech.” Bauer was a member of C-C’s state championship 200-yard freestyle and medley relay teams and placed second in the 50 freestyle and third in the 100 freestyle. In the spring, he won an All-State track title in 800 meters.