LACONIA — The Laconia High School Athletic Department will host its 2016 Athletic Hall of Fame induction Friday Nov. 25. This class consists of two standout coaches and four athletes from over the past 100 years.
The ceremony will commence at the Huot Center on the LHS campus at the Meredith Village Savings Bank Culinary Arts Center on the first floor at 5 p.m. After a social hour, everyone will move to the LHS auditorium for the formal induction ceremony at 6 p.m. The legendary "Voice of the Sachems," David Rea, will be the master of ceremonies once again. The event is free of charge and open to all. Inductees and their families would embrace the support of former teammates and players' attendance.
• First honored will be former coach and athletic director Socrates Bobotas. Soc, as he was referred to as, was a native of Manchester, where he attended Manchester Central, went on to a postgraduate year at Tilton Prep, and spent his collegiate years at the University of New Hampshire. In 1949 he came to Laconia High School to teach physical education and coach baseball. In 1954 he took on the basketball position. In 1958 he transitioned to become the athletic director and director of physical education. He held that position until his retirement in 1976. As a baseball coach, he led the Sachems to state titles in 1956 and 1972 and runners-up in 1954, 1955, 1960 and 1966. In addition to leading the LHS athletic program, Soc was the founder of the Laconia Little League in 1953. One of his greatest legacies was his implementation of Title IX sports at LHS in 1972, which mandates equity between boys and girls playing sports. The passion for Soc's contribution to athletics recognized forever with the naming of the practice field space at Laconia High School.
• Second, was legendary coach Paul Phelps. Paul graduated from Laconia High School in 1962 as a student and athlete. Upon graduation from Plymouth State Teachers College, Paul came back as an assistant football coach from 1967-1986, 1993-1998. He was either the assistant or head track coach for winter and spring from 1968-1980 and 1992-2001. He also coached basketball from 1967-1973. His football teams appeared in state championships in 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1993, 1994, and 1995 where the Sachems took home the title in the latter two. His track team won the 1978 Class I outdoor Championship and he has coached numerous school and state individual record holders. He was named Coach of the Year during that '78 season. He was a committed history teacher and assistant principal for the district for 35 years. Former athletes rave about his dedication and devotion he showed towards his athletes. His knowledge and understanding of his role as an assistant and as a head coach set him apart from many who have coached this game. In 2002, he was named AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year. He truly coached his players on and off the field. Frequently athletes were at his house to lift weights in his basement, or just to stop by for guidance. He has a heart of gold.
Former player, and head football coach at Brown University Phil Estes said, "It was about 43 years ago that Paul Phelps changed my life. He introduced to me the game of football and the many life lessons it taught me. Humility, trust, team, perseverance, and most of all, caring. He changed my life because he cared so much about me as a person, not just a football player."
Current athletic director Craig Kozens said, "Paul is one of the nicest men you could ever meet. He will do anything to help anyone. He took me under his wing as a first-year employee, and until this day, he constantly checks in and is there to listen. I have met thousands of people from Laconia in my 16 years here, and every person that I have met have had nothing but great stories to tell about Coach Phelps. When you think of Sachem Pride, you envision Paul Phelps."
• Next is Wilbur Fay, a multi-sport athlete at LHS from 1921-1924. Wilbur was a member of the varsity football, basketball and baseball. He also competed in statewide speed skating events including the races that were held at Pearl Street where he placed second overall in the state, and the Laconia entry won the state championship. His 1923 basketball team competed at Tufts College where they were eventually eliminated by a Salem, Massachusetts, team. He went on to teach and coach at various places until he settled back into the area where he opened Fay's Boat Yard in 1942. The business still stands and is family owned and operated.
• Inductee Amy Cantin, Class of 1986 was an alpine skier, field hockey and softball standout. She shined as captain of the field hockey team in her senior year where she earned NH All-State status and was named the team MVP. She culminated her career playing in the Field Hockey Classic for Team NH as they snapped a three-year drought with a victory over Team Vermont. Amy went on to begin her ski career on the Varsity team as a seventh-grader and eventually captained the team in her senior year. She dominated the slopes and earned the team MVP award in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons. In 1985 she was the NHIAA Giant Slalom state champion. In 1986, she won the NHIAA Slalom State Championship. As a softball player, she lettered in her junior and senior seasons. From LHS she went off to Keene State College where she played both field hockey and skied. She was referred to as by many coaches as not only an outstanding player, but an outstanding young lady during her playing days.
• Inductee Charlene Emond was a track and basketball standout from the Class of 1988. Charlene captained her senior basketball team where she lettered for three years. In her senior season she earned the basketball team's MVP honors. Charlene shined even greater as a track and field athlete. Her Laconia High School record in the women's shot put has stood since 1985. She earned All-State honors in shot put throughout her four years of high school, while she posted the same honors in her junior and senior seasons in the discus event. In 1987 and 1988 she was a NHIAA Shot Put State Champion. She qualified for the New England Meet of Champions where she was a Top 10 finisher. In her senior year she earned the LHS Most Outstanding Field Athlete Award. She culminated her high school athletic career earning the coveted Joyce H. Bobotas Award.
• And lastly, is 2009 graduate Christian Birt. Christian excelled on the basketball court as a four-year starter and prolific scorer, and on the football field as a dominant two-way starter. As a basketball player he was named co-MVP in his senior year and team captain in both his junior and senior seasons. He was All-State in his senior year. He scored his 1,000th point in his senior season and guided his team to a final four finish. In football, he led the Sachems to an undefeated State Championship team in 2007, and returned to the state championship finals in 2008. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in his junior and senior seasons and ended his career with 12 interceptions from his safety position. He was recipient of the McDonald's MVP his senior year as well as being named the Elk's Scholar-Athlete award winner. He was a First Team Division IV All-State recipient in his junior and senior seasons. He was named by the Union Leader as All-State for all divisions. He received the Joe Yukica NH Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame award in his senior season. In addition he was selected to play for Team NH in the Maple Sugar Shrine Football game, but had to decline due to having to report to preseason at the University of Massachusetts where he was a full scholarship football player. Also was a Mr. NH Football finalist for all divisions. LHS head football coach Craig Kozens says, "Christian not only was one of the best pure athletes that I had the opportunity to coach, but he also was humble in his accomplishments and was an exemplary student in the classroom. He was the real deal. His fluidity as an athlete made it all look so easy for him. One of the best athletes that I have ever coached."
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