Titles, farewells mark top sports stories of 2003


Staff report



The year in Chester County sports was filled with athletes celebrating triumphs and the area saying goodbye to longtime figures in the community.

2003 saw dominating performances on the baseball diamond, the cross country trails and the soccer field. But the winds of change blew admid the cheers as highly successful coaches Jack Helm and Jim "Scoogie" Smith decided to retire from coaching.

The landscape of the area’s top league also went under alteration as the Ches-Mont League expanded once to accommodate the split of Downingtown into East and West and open its doors again to welcome nearby neighbor Bishop Shanahan.

The following is a look at the people and the stories that made 2003 a memorable year in the area.

Vikings win state baseball

This season, the West Chester East boys’ baseball team accomplished something for the first time in program history: the Vikings won a state championship.

East defeated Bethel Park on June 16 for the PIAA, Class AAA crown, the first time a District 1 team had won the state title since 1995.

The championship was a perfect punctuation to a season that was downright dominant.

Riding the right arm of sensational ace Bill Muldowney, the VikingsApril 28, the West Chester University women’s gymnastics team was dropped, along with men’s lacrosse, in a budgetary move.

The university said it would save $30,000 in discontinuing women’s gymnastics and $50,000 for eliminating men’s lacrosse.

At the same time, the university added a women’s golf program.

A group of WCU gymnasts filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia in September claiming the university violated Title IX, or was guilty of gender discrimination, and sought reinstatement of the team immediately.

On Nov. 12, Judge R. Barclay Surrick issued a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania., ordering the immediate reinstatement of the team.

In the first week of December, the university hired Jennifer Teneza as the team’s coach. Teneza, of West Goshen, was coach of the team in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Her task: get the team ready in less than two months for its first meet in January.

Henderson rules in cross country

This year’s West Chester Henderson High School boys cross country team had a hard act to follow.

The Warriors 2002 squad had an amazing year which featured an undefeated dual-meet season, a first-place finish in the Ches-Mont League, a runner-up finish at the District 1, Class AAA Championships and the capture of the PIAA Class AAA state title.

The only way this season’s group of Henderson runners could improve would be to sweep all three postseason meets -- the Ches-Mont League Championships; the District 1, Class AAA Championships; and the PIAA Class AAA Championships.

And, that’s just what they did.

With junior Ian Gottesfeld leading the way with a silver-medal performance, the Warriors repeated as boys Class AAA team champion at the 2003 PIAA Cross Country Championships at HersheyPark’s Cross Country Course.

Individually, Gottesfeld was second with a time of 15:59. The Warriors’ other finishers were Jim Alexander (10th, 16:31), Greg Williams (15th, 16:38), Chris Ferry (64th, 17:23), Tom Espedal (151st, 18:03), Mike Horne (201st, 18:40) and Joe Kochiss (225th, 20:18).

At the District 1, Class AAA Championships, Henderson won the team title with 130 points, with Coatesville a close second with 132. The Warriors’ scorers were Gottesfeld (first), Williams (second), Alexander (eighth), Ferry (47th) and Horne (72nd).

In the Ches-Mont meet at Malvern Prep, Williams was first, Gottesfeld was runner-up and Alexander placed fourth.

"With this cross country season, our goal was to win states and get better -- and we did," said coach Kevin Kelly.

"Scoogie’ says so long

The coach who brought the only boys basketball Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AAAA title to Coatesville, Jim "Scoogie" Smith resigned in late March after another successful season as head man of the Red Raiders.

Smith had just led his overachieving Red Raiders to the PIAA Class AAAA Eastern finals,where they lost to Chester.

In Smith’s storied nine-year reign at Coatesville, the Red Raiders won nine Ches-Mont League titles, one Class AAAA PIAA state title (during the 2000-01 season), two Class AAAA District 1 championships, and reached the PIAA Eastern Finals three times.

At Coatesville’s helm, he compiled a remarkable 222-71 overall record.

While Smith guided Coatesville, the Red Raiders were known to be the best conditioned team in the state, and year in and year out, one of the most feared teams in Pennsylvania.

Smith cited spending more time with his family and a possible pursuit of a masters degree as reasons for his decision.

"I’ll miss everything," Smith said after announcing his resignation in March. "The bus rides, the preparation, the kidding around with the kids, and I will miss the rivalries I had with the other coaches in the Ches-Mont."

One thing is for certain: The man known as "Scoogie" will be missed by everyone in Coatesville just as much he misses them.

Ricky Hicks, a former star player at Coatesville and Smith’s assistant, took over as head coach.

Edited-one question--"his teams"at Downingtown AND Coatesville?

Helm no longer at helm

"Twenty five seconds for 25 years." That is how Downingtown High School football coach Jack Helm described the amount of time it took him to inform his players of his decision to resign last January.

Helm stepped down as head man of the Downingtown program as the school was getting ready to split into two separate schools.

He said he wanted to have more time to see his sons, Brad and Matt, play college athletics.

Helm left the coaching ranks with a glittering 98-29 record on the sideline, including a 56-14 mark at Downingtown after compiling a 42-15 record at Coatesville.

His teams??? captured three Ches-Mont league championships, and Helm led the Whippets to the Inter-District Class AAAA title game against Central Bucks West in 2000.

In his final season, Helm coached Downingtown to 10 straight victories and the No. 1 seed in the Inter-District playoffs.

But the coach wanted to get out of football while his passion for the game was still intact. This way, he’ll only have great memories to look back on.

"It might sound silly," Helm said at a press conference, "but it’s time for me to leave feeling good about the program and not stay and become washed up and miserable."

Zwaan replaces Daniels at WCU

On Feb. 14, Bill Zwaan was named the 15th head football coach at West Chester University.

Zwaan arrived at WCU after six seasons as the head football coach at NCAA Division III Widener University.

The University of Delaware graduate replaced Rick Daniels, who resigned in early December after 14 seasons leading the Golden Rams as head coach and eight seasons before that as an assistant.

At Widener, Zwaan had compiled a record of 54-14. His winning percentage of .794 is the highest in school history. In his last season at the Delaware County university, Zwaan led Widener to the school’s third consecutive Middle Atlantic Conference Championship.

Widener, in 2001, reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

In the last three seasons under Rick Daniels, West Chester had amassed a 13-19 overall record after going 7-3 and winning the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division in 1999.

In his first season at the Rams’ helm, Zwaan led the team to an 8-3 record overall and 4-2 in the PSAC East Division. The squad placed third in the PSAC East.

Both WCU loses were by one point each, to Kutztown 17-16 and East Stroudsburg, 28-27.

"I’m really disappointed for our seniors," said Zwaan, after the final game of the season, a 55-27 triumph at Mansfield. "We were two points away from a great season. We’ve learned 8-3 is not good enough for this football program. We have to make something more of it."

W.C. East boys soccer make state final

Ever since they were in middle school, the nine seniors of the West Chester East boys’ soccer team made a pact: to win a state title before graduating.

How close they came.

The determined and hungry Vikings played inspired soccer all the way to Hershey, but lost in the PIAA, Class AAA finals to a just as determined Upper St. Clair squad.

The 1-0 overtime defeat was a bitter end to the season, but it did nothing to take away from all that East accomplished during the year.

The Vikings raced to a 19-6-1 overall record, won the Ches-Mont League title and advanced to the District 1 championship, where they lost to Council Rock North.

But the Vikings got another crack at Council Rock North in the state semifinals, and they got their revenge, winning an emotionally-charged 3-1 contest.

Brian Johnston, the Daily Local News Player of the Year, did what he did all season that game, scoring one goal to go along with two assists.

After that game, the Vikings were walking on air, ecstatic that they were able to exact revenge and just as ecstatic that they would be heading to Hershey for a shot to achieve their ultimate goal.

But in life and in sports, there are defeats, some more bitter than others. And after the state championship game, there wasn’t a dry eye wearing a black jersey.

But years from now, when the nine seniors look back on their improbable season, chances are they’ll remember more how they got to the state finals than what happened once they got there.

As sweeper Andrew Anzalone said after the season, "It’s not an embarrassment to lose in the state final."

Bishop Shanahan to join Ches-Mont

This year the Ches-Mont League opened its doors for expansion as Bishop Shanahan was approved to begin league play in 2004.

Shanahan’s inclusion will make the Ches-Mont a six-team league following Downingtown’s split into East and West schools. Coatesville and West Chester East and Henderson are the other members.

The league will expand again in 2005 when the Bayard Rustin High School is completed.

"It will provide our students with a lot of local rivalries," said Shanahan Athletic Director Hank Berardi. "It was the unanimous desire of the members of our staff when we first started talking about this a year ago."

The Eagles will be leaving the Southern Chester County League, where they have been a member since at least the 1970s.

Shanahan is expected to be more than competitive in sports such as girls soccer, swimming and softball.

The league also will be a major test for its young football program, that has lost close contests to their future brethren.

©Daily Local News 2003