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The Great Eight: Sports Hall of Famers Enshrined at 50th Anniversary Ceremony 

The Great Eight: Sports Hall of Famers Enshrined at 50th Anniversary Ceremony 

When Title IX was enacted in 1972, prohibiting gender discrimination in schools, new athletic opportunities for women opened up across the nation.  

Among those ready to take advantage was Mary Brechbiel-Agnetti, a 1974 graduate of Albertus Magnus High School. She dominated the basketball court on her way to winning the first athletic scholarship ever awarded to a female basketball player at Mercy College.  

Mary Brechbiel and family

Brechbiel-Agnetti was one of eight individuals enshrined in the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame during an April ceremony at Paramount Country Club in New City that also marked the organization’s 50th anniversary.  

The volunteer-led hall of fame has given over $30,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors and local organizations in the last 10 years alone, said Chairman Pete Scheibner. Nearly 300 individuals have been enshrined by the organization for contributing to the local sporting culture of Rockland. 

Among this year’s inductees was another trailblazing woman. Heidi Higgins Sermabekian was the first woman to play on a men’s high school baseball team in New York state. The retired NYPD detective and 9/11 first responder was obligated to pass physical and psychological evaluations before being cleared to join the team. She graduated from Spring Valley High School in 1981. 

The Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame was founded by Joseph Holland, a former county clerk. The organization’s lifetime achievement award is named in his honor. This year, it was awarded to Joe Famellette, a US Marine Corps veteran who spent 50 years at Rockland Community College coaching many sports and leaving an “indelible impression on RCC’s athletics program.” 

The interesting anecdotes of achievements of the inductees past and present are recorded and celebrated in the hall’s website. That includes the story of 2023 inductee Lance Arietta (now deceased), who once hitchhiked in a blizzard up the Palisades Parkway to a training session in West Point to pursue his passion of pole vaulting. The 1976 Tappan Zee graduate reached new heights when he won the New York State outdoor crown and state indoor title in pole vaulting, clearing 15’, 10.”  

Other track-and-field athletes among this year’s class include Kimberly McDole-Gordon (57) of Spring Valley and Dave Billings (69) of Wallkill. McDole-Gordon “forged a legacy as one of the greatest jumpers and sprinters in Rockland track and field history,” leaping 19’, 9.5” and setting a state record at the time. She was also a 100-meter-dash champion who won three individual state titles during her time at Ramapo High School. 

After losing his twin sister to cancer at age 14, Billings transformed from an “uninspired basketball player to standout runner,” He ran a record-setting 9 minute, 12 second time in the two-mile run at the 1972 outdoor New York State Championship, graduating from Nyack High School that same year. 

Jim Scaringe and Shawn Kapusinsky were also among the 2023 inductee class. Scaringe, a retired Boston City School District principal, was the Tappan Zee High School 1973 athlete of the year when he earned all-state and all-county honors while captaining the football, wrestling, and baseball teams. Kapusinsky, a longtime biology and environmental science teacher at Spring Valley High School, was a North Rockland Varsity Golf Team member in the seventh grade. He went on to become the number-one golfer in the county from eighth through twelfth grade, and excelled as a skier and tennis player before graduating in 1986. 

The Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame will also continue its tradition of recognizing teams at a Rockland Boulders baseball game at Clover Stadium in Pomona on Saturday, July 29. There, they will honor the 1969-1970 Clarkstown High School boys’ basketball team and the 1993 North Rockland High School football team. 

Photos by Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame

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