Jeff Comer is one of the best all-around athletes to ever come out of Thomas Johnson High School. From 1970 to 1972, Jeff was the team captain, leading his youth sports teams to several different championships, including Maryland State Little League championship, Frederick Midget Football League championship, and the Maryland State Babe Ruth championship. This carried into high school, where Jeff was part of the Maryland State Track and Field 440-yard relay state championship-winning team in the spring of 1974, was selected as an all-state athlete by the Maryland State Football League in the fall of that year and was a starting forward on the Thomas Johnson High School Basketball team that won the 1975 Maryland State Championship. That same year Jeff was a regional selection for the Maryland State Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Jeff continued his athletic career in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Duke University, where he was the starting split end and three-year letterman from 1976 to 1978. Jeff is still very involved today with Duke University’s prestigious Iron Dukes Athletic Booster Club.
Rick Conner is described by his colleagues as the best high school football coach ever in Frederick County. In 1998 Rick was inducted into the Western Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2014 was inducted into the Maryland High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. Throughout Rick’s career, he has touched many lives by being a great leader, mentor, and coach, not only on the football field but also by coaching basketball, swimming, track, and as a physical education teacher. Since 2001, as Linganore High School’s head football coach, Rick has racked up three state football championships, four state runners-up, seven regional championships and 10 Conference championships. As a defensive coordinator at Urbana High School, he helped guide them to four consecutive state championships, which is a state record, and 50 consecutive wins. At Thomas Johnson High School, he was the defensive coordinator and helped guide those teams to two state playoffs, a regional championship, and three conference championships.
Gail Gaeng is a graduate of Thomas Johnson High School. From 2005 to 2011, Gail was part of the Bennett Blazers sports program in Baltimore where she garnered national attention as the 2007 National Wheelchair Basketball Prep Champions and MVP. In 2011, the Blazers finished second at the National Wheelchair Basketball Varsity Championships, and again Gail was named MVP. Gail played wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois where she was the team captain, two-time First Team Division I All-American, and helped the program place second in the 2015 and 2016 national championships. Gail was a member of the Team USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, team captain, and Gold Medalist in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and was a gold medalist on the 2015 Para Pan-Am Games in Toronto. She is currently playing for the Chicago Lady Hawks, a semi-professional team in the Women’s Wheelchair Basketball League, wherein 2018 she was named MVP at the National Wheelchair Basketball Women’s Tournament.
Philip Hammond graduated from Frederick High School where he was an avid and award-winning tennis player. In 1974, he was ranked first in Maryland in the 18-and-under boys doubles division. He went to Furman University in Greenville, S.C., where he was a team captain his senior year, leading the squad to the Southern Conference Championships in 1976 and 1977. In 1980, he won the Middle Atlantic Husband-Wife Mixed Doubles Championship with his wife, Jody. In 2006, Phil won the Maryland State Hardcourt and the Middle Atlantic Clay Court 50-and-over doubles championship. He is a six-time champion of the Rice Radcliffe Singles Tournament and 17-time champion of the J. Richard Remsburg Doubles Tournament at the Frederick Tennis Club. Phil helped build the Mount Saint Mary’s tennis program to a reputable and competitive program in the Northeast Conference from 2004 to 2015 as the program’s coach. He led the Mount’s tennis program to winning seasons seven out of his first 10 years.
This year, the Hall of Fame committee established the Alvin G. Quinn Sports Hall of Fame Rising Star Award to honor an individual or team, whose age/s are no older than 19, that has demonstrated exceptional accomplishments and contributions in their athletic field, and has brought honor to self and Frederick County during the past year. The Hall of Fame Rising Star committee unanimously voted to recognize Saylor Poffenbarger, a 16-year-old girls’ basketball standout from Middletown High School.
Saylor is currently a junior at Middletown High School. She was one of only 33 players who received an invitation to try out for the 2019 USA Women’s U16 National Team and in May 2019 was named to the 12-member roster. In June of 2019, Saylor helped led Team USA to a gold medal in the FIBA U16 Women’s Americas Championship, beating Canada 87-37 in the Gold Medal game. Team USA went 6-0 in Puerto Aysan, Chile, beating teams from Brazil, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Chile, Mexico, and Canada. Saylor contributed significantly to the team’s success. She averages 18.4 minutes per game, 7.2 points per game and scored 10 points in the gold medal game against Canada.
Saylor has been recognized as a 2018 and 2019 All-State first-team selection, 2019 All-Area, and 2018-2019 Central Maryland Conference Player of the Year. She has compiled 1,109 points, 597 rebounds, 207 assists, 137 steals, and 149 blocked shot through her sophomore year at Middletown High School. Saylor verbally committed to play college basketball at the University of Connecticut, the most successful women’s college basketball program in the nation with 11 Division I national championships and 19 Final Four appearances since 1995.
Yuri Suguiyama graduated from Urbana High School where he was the Frederick News-Post Swimmer of the Year in 1997 and four-time Frederick County swim champion. He swam for the Curl-Burke Swim Club for five years, winning a national title in the 800 free relay at the 2000 Spring Nationals. Yuri continued his swimming career at the University of North Carolina, where he was a four-year swimmer and holds UNC’s record for the 1000 and 1650 freestyle events. He was an NCAA All-American selection his senior year and three-time All ACC selection. Yuri qualified for the 2000 and 2004 Olympic trials and competed in the 2000 Olympic trials. He was the assistant coach for the University of California men’s swim team that won the 2014 NCAA national title. He currently is the head coach for the University of Wisconsin men’s and women’s swim teams. Yuri has coached for Team USA and was the individual coach for Kate Ledecky during the 2012 Olympics in London, where the 15-year-old won the gold medal in 800 freestyle.