Jeno Begolo, Pete Riddle, and Bob McGarrigle received special mention at this year’s 13th annual Runway of Recognition.
Held Tuesday at John-Michaels Banquet Hall in Thorold South, the event took on a nostalgic note when emcee Bob Elliott paid tribute to the three Thorold sport supporters, all of whom passed away since the last awards banquet.
Hailing Begolo as “A champion race car driver and a champion for the city of Thorold,” Elliott called Riddle “One of the best goalies the region produced,” and said McGarrigle was a founding member of the Runway of Recognition committee, which has erected 97 plaques to date, in the Thorold Arena.
Introducing the first 2018 recipient, he said, “Mike Graffi is best described as a rower who became a football player” and “the first Thorold inductee who played for the CFL.
“It’s a huge honour when your home town calls you back,” stated Graffi. “Success in sports is based on the environment where you grew up. I love this town of Thorold.”
From his humble beginnings as male athlete of the year at Denis Morris High School, Graffi went on to play for Wilfrid Laurier University, where he became part of the 1978 OUAA Championship team. He was then chosen by the Ottawa Roughriders, playing on that team until 1984 and he later joined the Hamilton Tiger Cats, recording 1.0 quarterback sacks in his career. Graffi said a broken spine and serious knee injury forced him to quit.
Dave Graffi, his brother, was also inducted to the Runway. According to Elliott, “It’s the first time we’ve inducted two brothers.”
Elliott added, “Like his brother, he was a world-class rower. He also played basketball and became an all-round great athlete.”
Graffi said he has many “fond memories of growing up in Thorold,” at the historic Moore-Lampman house at 44 Clairmont Street. “Home town is special.”
While “Sports was always a part of my life, it wasn’t until Mike tried out for the football team that I decided to sign up for the Thorold Blacks,” he said, joking that “If he could do it, I could do it better.”
Starting out on the Denis Morris football field, he was chosen to play for Wilfrid Laurier, then joined the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1981 and played until 1986, winning the Grey Cup in his last year.
“It’s the sport of rowing that allowed me to see the world and like football.”
Commenting on his many awards, he concluded, “I saved the best for last—the Runway of Recognition.”
The 2018 Albert Ciancio “Trombone” Award went to Steve Krawchuk, for his many decades of devotion to Thorold girls’ softball.
“I went to watch my daughter play T-ball,” he recalled, “and I was sitting in the stands. The fellow who was umpiring left the field and when home, so I stepped in to help out and I was hooked on it ever after; just to be with the kids from the very young all the way up. It was a lot of fun. There were three girls who won scholarships to the U.S. while I was there.”
He worked his way up to league president, and taught them more than just baseball, Krawchuk added; “To learn some respect, and meet friends.”
He shared one of his favourite memories with the 200 people who attended the banquet.
“I was doing a T-ball game when a little girl came up to bat and she handed me this piece of paper that said, ‘To my favourite empire.’ At that moment, I felt like an empire.”
“This means a lot,” said Samantha Keltos, this year’s winner of the Irene McInnis female athlete of the year. The young Thorold resident played basketball at Sir Winston Secondary School, then acquired a Division 1 Scholarship from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York. As a member of the Terriers team—which ranked in the top 10 for the highest overall team GPA against all NCAA Division 1 teams in the U.S., she appeared in 28 contests, recording one start and averaged 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. Her shot is at 92.9 per cent on free throws, and she netted a season-high 11 points at St. Francis on 5-of-8 shooting.
Lonna Jorgenson Keating
In 1971, Lonna Jorgenson Keating launched her skating career with the Linwell Skating Club (now the Thorold Figure Skating Club) after attending Thorold’s annual ice show at age eight. Skating at lightning speed, she was the first single skater who advanced to the Canadian National Championships. Many tried, but no other skater could execute her famous split-flip, double toe jump combination like she did.
“Skating has always been my bloodline,” said the 2018 Runway inductee.
Chosen by the TAAA for his excellence in hockey, Anthony Tremonte’s name was added to the prestigious James Whyte Memorial trophy this year, which was first awarded in 1939.
According to Elliott, “The names on the trophy are the who’s who of hockey in Thorold.”
Tremonte said he was “Pleased, honoured and humbled to accept and join a long list of recipients who are respected.”
He thanked the TAAA and his coaches and teammates, “who have shaped me to be the player I am,” and his parents, “who gave up a lot for me. My goal is always to play the highest level of hockey possible.”
The Mike Eggeroff Memorial trophy was presented to Carson Eden, who began playing hockey in Thorold with the TAAA and skated his way to the Hamilton Bulldogs team, before being drafted to Owen Sound.
Crediting the TAAA, friends and family “for supporting and motivating me,” Eden also thanked his father, “For making everything possible; for the outdoor rink and coaching,” adding, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
This year’s Daryl Mahler Memorial Award went to Bill Merpaw, described by Elliott as “The coach who has shown that a coach is more than a person who stands behind the bench … Someone who gets involved with his players’ lives, and who makes a difference.”
A long-time TAAA coach, Merpaw has helped with the hockey school for a number of years.
“It never occurred to me that I’d be recognized for something I love to do,” said Merpaw. “All the past honourees loved what they do and I am humbled to be among them.”
TSS Football team
Finishing the season undefeated, the Thorold Secondary School football team “has always been a source of great pride,” noted Elliott. “This school has won two district championships in three years. Purple Eagles reign again.”
Jacob Turner, Jason Stewart, Tyler Reid, Tyler Broderick, and Andrew Daly accepted the Team of the Year trophy on behalf of the senior boys’ championship team.
“Once we put on that purple and gold, you know everyone’s going to have your back,” Stewart said of his teammates.
“We created memories that will last a lifetime,” added Reid.
Daly gave a “special shout-out to Charles Champion, who came and filmed all our games so we could see where we were going.”
He also thanked the coaches, “Because I know I wouldn’t have the success or be the person I am without you.”
For his record-setting achievements and multiple medals in the triple jump, DeAndre Fournier was awarded the Wilf Slater Male Athlete of the Year honours.
“It’s an absolute dream to be recognized by my city,” said Fournier, thanking his coach Steven Fife of the Thorold Elite Track team. In 2018, Fournier collected gold, silver and bronze medals, in provincial and national track and field matches.
Thorold Peewee A Hockey Team
In 1985/86, the Thorold Peewee A hockey team captured both the OMHA and the OHA championships, as well as the Great Grape tournament, the Woolwich tournament, and were finalists in the Silver Stick regional tournament.
Presented their award as inductees by former hockey coach Mayor Terry Ugulini. “At their last game, 1,500 fans watched, he said, “the biggest crowd ever to watch a minor hockey game in Thorold. They grew into successful young men, working in and giving back to their community.”
Former NHL star Owen Nolan was the team captain and Peter Riddle—who recently passed away—was the assistant coach.