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.
Bethany Adams is among the most successful female swimmers to hail from Frederick County. The 2009 Thomas Johnson High School graduate was a six-time NCAA All-American and four-time Big 12 champion at the University of Texas. She competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter breaststroke events. Bethany is one of only three female swimmers from Frederick County to qualify and participate in the U.S. Olympic Trials. She set records for the 50 freestyle during her college career and her name still is in the Longhorns school record books. Bethany was also a superb student-athlete, being recognized as a Scholastic All-American (2006-2009) in high school and continued at the University of Texas, where she was All-Big 12 Academic first team from 2011-2013.
Clarence “Petie” Cooper
Clarence “Petie” Cooper, a three-sport standout at Frederick High School, was a dominant southpaw who struck out 19 batters in seven innings to lead Frederick to 1-0, one-hit shutout against Glenelg in 1969. Cooper’s 19 strikeouts on the day allowed him to break his own school record of 18, which he set during the 1968 season. These were the headlines often seen about one of the best athletes to come out of Frederick High School. In 1969, Petie was drafted in the fifth round (110th overall pick) of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Cincinnati Reds. He played six years in the Minor Leagues with the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins organizations, reaching the AAA level. Petie’s name is all over the Cadets record books in football, basketball, and baseball. Besides his 19 strikeouts in a game, his 226 career strikeouts is best in the 111 years of Cadets baseball. He holds the FHS school record for wins in a season (13) and career (26). His 1969 season ERA of 0.56 is also etched in as the lowest ever allowed by a Cadet pitcher. The 1969 Cadets would go on the win the Frederick County, Tri-State League, and District pennants. He also set football records, which included throwing 28 touchdown passes during the Cadets’ 10-0 season in 1968.
Described by many as the best field hockey player ever to come out of Frederick County, Joann Engestrom would eventually make the 2003 U.S. National Field Hockey Team and U23 National Team. Joann, a three-sport athlete at Middletown High School, was named the Frederick News-Post Field Hockey Player of the Year her senior season. She went on to play Towson University for three seasons, leading the team in scoring her junior year. Joann transferred to Temple for her senior season where she earned All-Atlantic 10 Conference first-team honors. Joann has coached and mentored youth teams, high school players, club and college hockey teams while sharing her passion, skill and knowledge for the game of field hockey. She continues to pass on her skill, experience and drive for the game of field hockey to many future players. Joann was a talented field hockey player who controlled the field with her skill and passion and competitive drive while inspiring and motivating other players to improve their performance.
Natalie Cleckley Jackson
Natalie Cleckley Jackson played four seasons on the Linganore High School girls varsity basketball team, which she captain her junior and senior years. She was the Frederick County Girls Basketball Player of the Year her senior year. Natalie went on to play power forward for Furman University. She was the recipient of the 1987-88 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year award. She later was the 1990-91 Southern Conference Player of the Year after earning first-team All-Southern Conference first-team honors in 1990-91 and second-team honors in 1988-89. During her junior year in 1989-90, Natalie helped lead Furman to its first Southern Conference basketball championship and first 20-win season (20-9). She led Furman in scoring and rebounding as a freshman and, as a senior, she paced the Paladins in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage. She averaged 14.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per games over the course of her career. She was named to the Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll and Furman’s Most Valuable Player in 1990-91. As a senior, she set Furman single-season records for points scored (575) and rebounds (356). She was inducted into Furman’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
Tracey Kelley Kibler
Tracey Kelley Kibler is one of the finest athletes to come out of Middletown High School for her play in girls basketball and field hockey. Tracey was named All-MVAL and Frederick News-Post All-Area in basketball (1991-1993) and field hockey (1991-1992). She was named the Frederick News-Post and Hagerstown Herald-Mail Girls Basketball Player of the Year in 1993. As captain of the basketball team, she helped lead the Knights to a 26-0 record and Class 2A state title in 1993. Tracey also helped the field hockey team to a state championship in 1991. Tracey continued her basketball career at East Carolina University. She was a three-year team captain who earned CAA All-Rookie honors as a freshman and CAA All-Tournament honors as a senior. In between, she led East Carolina in rebounding for three seasons, and won Defensive Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and Leadership Award honors. Tracey, while at Catoctin High School, was named Frederick News-Post Girls Basketball Coach of the Year in 2004 and she added AWCC Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year in 2006 while at Hood College. Tracey also served as the Five-Star Women’s Basketball Camp Director and has coached many successful Mid-Maryland and MVAA girls basketball teams. In her career, Tracey serves as a High School Principal where she continues to advocate for equitable access to athletics for all students. One of her greatest passions is to serve student-athletes as a mentor and life coach.
Stephen Linger’s legacy in the world of women’s fast-pitch softball in Frederick County is still felt today. He was the founder of the Lewistown Tigers in the 1980s, the first girls’ fast-pitch softball travel team in Frederick County. The Tigers won 42 tournaments and produced 21 players that received scholarships to play in college. Stephen coached softball at Thomas Johnson High School where his teams went 40-17. He ran the Tigers fast-pitch softball clinic at Frederick Community College for years. He later coached at Messiah College where he guided the team to its first 20-win season in 1991 and added three MAC Championships (1991, 1993, and 1994), eventually winning the MAC in 1994. Stephen not only cared about all the players he coached but also cared about the community, and he was named Outstanding Young Marylander in 1980. An example of his dedication to softball in the county, he started the Frederick Community College softball team with no budget and donated his coaching salary back to the program to make it successful.
Joe Alexander was an outstanding basketball player at Linganore High School where he set several school records. After spending time at Hargrave Military Academy, Joe was heavily recruited to play college basketball and ultimately chose West Virginia University. While at WVU, Joe averaged almost 17 points per game, 6.5 rebounds, and close to 3 steals a game. He became only the sixth player at WVU to earn Big East first-team honors. He also led WVU to an NIT championship in 2007. He also scored a record-breaking 34 points in a Big East Tournament game and went on to play in the NCAA March Madness where he led his team to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. After his stellar college career, Joe declared for the NBA Draft and was a lottery pick, selected 8th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. He played for the Milwaukee Bucks from 2008-2010. Joe also spent time with the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets in his NBA career. Since then, Joe has been playing professional basketball overseas for the past eight years, splitting time in leagues in Israel, Italy, and Turkey. In 2020, he signed one of the most lucrative free-agent contracts, making him the second-highest-paid naturalized Israeli player in the entire Israeli Basketball League.
Bengie Biggus was a three-sport star at Frederick High School, excelling in basketball, baseball, and football. After high school, Bengie attended Frederick Community College and joined the baseball team. After two standout years at FCC, he was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers. Bengie went on to play six years of professional baseball, splitting his career between the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants. Bengie held the mark for the most modern baseball professional pitching wins by any player from Frederick County until the 1990s. Bengie pitched more than 570 innings, appeared in 114 games, struck out 321 batters, and compiled an overall 37-26 record. Bengie’s best year was when he pitched for the Shreveport Captains in Double-A, helping his team to the best record in the Texas League, where his 12-6 record and a 3.21 ERA were third-best among all starting pitchers that year. After sustaining a significant injury in his pitching arm, Bengie returned to Frederick County, where he has coached, trained, and mentored various baseball and basketball teams and fitness training for soccer, football, and track and field athletes. At FHS, he served as an Assistant Baseball Coach alongside Head Coach Phil Rhodes for ten years. In addition to his lifetime love of sports, Bengie has worked and volunteered alongside his wife Angie for nearly 30 years to serve underprivileged, special needs, at-risk youth, and high needs adults and families in Frederick County and abroad. Most recently, Bengie was highly honored to be selected as one of only 200+ Frederick athletes of all recorded times to be featured on the Frederick Sports Mural, one of the largest sports murals in the country, to be installed at the Frederick Keys Stadium.
Elizabeth Lebherz Hansel
Elizabeth “Liz” Lebherz Hansel was a Thomas Johnson High School graduate and Towson University swimming standout. Liz was never part of a losing meet in high school and went on to a stellar college career that included 10 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference titles, six CAA records and she broke 17 school records during her tenure. She held eight school records when she graduated. Liz earned All-CAA honors in seven events during her senior year and qualified for the NCAA Championships as a senior. Liz was one of only three Towson swimmers that were named to the CAA 25th Anniversary Women’s and Diving Team. Liz is recognized as one of the best swimmers in Towson University history. After graduating from Towson University, Liz was an assistant swimming coach for Towson University and earned her Master’s Degree from Goucher College in teaching.
Coach Kevin Lynott spent more than two decades as an exceptional football coach with tenures at Brunswick and Middletown high schools. Coach Lynott is best known for the dynasty he created as the football head coach at Middletown High School from 2008-2017. During this time, he compiled a record of 86 wins and just 27 losses. The Knights won three out of four consecutive 2A Maryland State Football titles from 2010-2013. He led the Knights to five MVAL championships, five 2A West regional championships, and one 1A North regional championship at Brunswick, five Piedmont Conference titles, and guided the Middletown High School football program to the longest winning streak ever, winning 36 consecutive games. To add, while at Brunswick High School he helped lead the football team as an offensive coordinator to its first 1A State Championship appearance in 1999. It’s no wonder that fnfcoaches.com named Lynott one of 20 most influential coaches when his career has a combined record of 112 wins and 53 losses. Coach Lynott has been named as the Association Press Maryland State Football Co-Coach of the Year, USA Today National Runner UP, Mid Atlantic Regional, Maryland Coach of the Year, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year. Coach Lynott has been very instrumental in growing Youth football in Frederick County through his leadership role as a USA Football Master Trainer for the Heads Up Football Program, working with the MVAA Youth Football program for many years his support of Frederick youth programs. Currently, Coach Lynott’s is focused on Move United as USA Wheelchair Football Senior Consultant for Development, Education and Training (2019- current) and NFL Salute to Service & Bob Woodruff Foundation (serving the Disabled Veteran Population).
Alexis Maday Packard
Alexis Maday Packard was a standout gymnast spending time on the U.S. National Team for several years and represented the United States of America in Brussels, Belgium, in 1997. Alexis was a Frederick High School graduate in 2000 and received a full athletic scholarship to the University of Iowa. While at Iowa, she was a three-time All-America gymnast from 2002-2004. Alexis was a six-time Big Ten champion, winning the all-around in 2001. She earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from 2001-2004. Alexis was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2001 and Big Ten Gymnast of the Year in 2004. She holds or shares the University of Iowa school records in the all-around, uneven bars, and floor exercises. In 2018, she was inducted into the University of Iowa’s Sports Hall of Fame, becoming only the second female gymnast to receive this prestigious honor.
Phil Rhodes was the Frederick High School baseball coach for 30 years, serving from 1992 to 2021. He led the Cadets to an MPSSAA Class 3A State Championship in 2009. During his tenure at Frederick High, he also led teams to the state finals, regional championships, and CMC championships. Phil coached the Cadets to 266 wins during his career. Phil was named Coach of the Year by the Frederick News-Post four times: 1996, 1999, 2005, and 2009. He also was named the Coach of the Decade from 2001-2010 by the Frederick News-Post. Coach Rhodes was fortunate enough to Coach several players who played professional baseball and currently has six former players who serve as high school baseball coaches throughout Frederick County.
Dell Ahalt was a superb baseball player for Middletown High School in the mid-1980s, where he played all four years on the varsity baseball team. He racked up countless awards for his excellence on the baseball field, including three-time All-MVAL and the Frederick News-Post 1st and 2nd team honors. In his senior year, he was chosen to the Maryland All-State baseball team after hitting .500 and going 6-1 as a Pitcher. Dell helped Middletown to a state runner-up finish in 1983. He played in the 16-18-year-old Babe Ruth World Series in Frederick. Dell received a full scholarship to attend N.C. State University to play baseball, where he led the Wolfpack in the ACC. He was named to the ACC 1st Team in 1988 and batted .346 with 14 home runs his junior year. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1988 and played for the Erie Orioles and Frederick Keys. After his professional career, Dell took the reigns as a Player/Coach for the Hagerstown Braves semi-pro team and led them to three Franklin County League titles. He had a lifetime average of .404 and was named tournament MVP on two occasions. In 2022, he was inducted into the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame.
Brittain Altomare is known as one of the greatest women’s lacrosse players ever to come out of Frederick County. Brittain went to Middletown High School and was selected as a four-time Frederick News-Post All-Area and all-conference selection for the Knights. In her senior year, she helped lead the Knights to an 18-0 regular season. At Middletown, she tallied 247 career goals and 95 assists. She was selected as a High School All-American. She went on to play lacrosse at Hofstra University from 2012-2015 where she racked up numerous achievements, including NCAA Division 1 All-American, Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, CAA All-League First Team Selection 3 Years in a row, CAA All-Rookie Team, USWLA Mid-Atlantic All-Region Team, and IWLCA Third Team All-American. She was also included on the Tewarraton Award Watch List during her senior season. Upon graduation from Hofstra, she was the program all-time leader in Points, Assists, and Draw Controls, as well as holding the season record for all of those categories. She remains in the top three on the all-time list for most of the significant point categories at Hofstra. She played professionally after her stellar collegiate career for the Baltimore Ride in the United Women’s Lacrosse League in 2017. Brittain spent her first four years after college working for Harlem Lacrosse, the nation’s largest lacrosse non profit. She now works as a 5th-grade teacher at PS 149, the Sojourner Truth School in Harlem, New York. Brittain joins her great-grandfather Warner Brittain in the Sports Hall of Fame. Inducted in 1986, Warner “Mike” Brittain was known locally as the father of Frederick County football through his leadership as a coach and promoter of sports. The Frederick Seneca Football Team was founded in the early 1940s. This program helped to reinstitute football at Frederick High School in 1946, following a 24-year absence dating back to 1923. Brittain was the complete coach, treating his athletes with respect and understanding, which fostered lifetime values. He was a valued community leader, devoted coach, and friend to all privileged to work with him.
Ernie Bowens was known as a dynamic athlete and team leader on the football field and basketball court. He played for Governor Thomas Johnson High School in the early 1970s, where he excelled in football and basketball. Known for his athleticism, speed, quickness, and toughness, he led the 1971 Governor Thomas Johnson High school football team to a 10-0 season. As a quarterback, he guided a team that averaged 36 points per game. He helped a defense that allowed only 50 points for the season. He was named to the Maryland All-State team in 1971. For years, he was the all-time leading scorer in TJ basketball history and led the basketball team to the Tri-State League Championship and state playoffs in 1970-71 as the starting point guard. Ernie went on to play for the Frederick Falcons in 1972 and helped the Falcons go undefeated that season and win the league championship.
Michael Rice was one of the top basketball players ever to play at Governor Thomas Johnson High School. Today, he still holds many top individual basketball records at the school. He remains the top rebounder in school history with 1,284 rebounds and is second in school history with 1,972 career points. His 51 points in a single-game record are tied for first in school history. In his senior year, he averaged 27.7 points a game and led the team to win their first state championship. In his senior year, he was ranked in the top 20 power forwards in the country. Mike went on to play basketball for the University of Pittsburgh from 1976-1977 and the University of San Francisco from 1979-1980. After college, Mike played professional basketball for several years in Finland, Chile, and Puerto Rico in the CBA.
Frederick Schumacher is one of the most recognized senior running athletes in Frederick County history. He has completed 37 JFK 50-mile races, ranking him third on the all-time finishers list. He has been competing for more than 20 years in Senior Olympics, earning 51 medals: 18 Gold, 19 Silver, and 14 Bronze. He not only participates in running marathons, he also is known as a sprinter in the 200 and 400 meters, the javelin and football throw competitions, and the shot put. He has participated in more than 250 races, winning numerous other awards, and has been the center point of many national articles about his successes. Fred proudly served his country for many years and retired as a U.S. Army Colonel. He has been instrumental in many clubs and organizations throughout Frederick County, such as the Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club, Veteran Day Echo Taps, and the Frederick County Veterans Advisory Council. Fred is certified as a Level 1 USATF Track and Field coach and has certifications as a personal fitness trainer. Fred served as a volunteer Strength and Conditioning Coach for Gettysburg’s varsity athletes from 2016 to 2020.
Kathleen Sixx certainly meets the YMCA Core Values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility through her lifetime of accomplishments on and off the field in Frederick County. Kathy spent 40 years as a field hockey official in Frederick County before retiring in 2017. She also served as the Coordinator for Frederick County Officials for nearly 39 years, advocating for the sport, the players, and the officials. She was instrumental in helping field hockey grow in Frederick County and even recruited players to become officials and trained them. Kathy held training camps regularly throughout Frederick County to help train and mentor young athletes. Kathy has received many accomplishments off the field as well, being recognized as Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Department Chair/s, Team leader, and teacher. She is a graduate of Catoctin High School and Frostburg State University.