Virginia Commonwealth had just secured a spot in the NCAA Final Four last Sunday when the phone rang.
It was Logan, calling from my college, Butler University, which will be VCU’s opponent in the national semifinals Saturday.
I don’t know Logan from Adam. His call wasn’t to whip up school spirit, but rather to help the school’s annual funding.
“As a graduate, wouldn’t you like to help Butler by making a financial pledge before the fiscal year closes?” Logan politely asked.
Talk about striking while the iron is hot.
“Didn’t I just donate?” I asked him.
“Well, yes, but your additional contribution can help Butler students enjoy the same college experience that you did,” he replied. Logan seemed to have an answer for everything; he’ll have a fine career in business when he graduates.
Butler was the Cinderella of last year’s NCAA tournament when the Bulldogs came within a fraction of an inch of hitting a buzzer-beating, half-court 3-pointer that would have made them the 2010 national champions instead of Duke.
Pride in the city of Indianapolis, and school, swelled and even though Butler lost last year’s final game, the President of the United States called the team afterward.
The 2010 trip to the Final Four was thought to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a small mid-major school, but someone forgot to explain that to the Bulldogs, who have won one exciting game after another in the tournament to reach this year’s national semifinals. (Check out the winning basket against Old Dominion, final three seconds of the game against Pittsburgh or the overtime win over Florida. Each was a heart-thumper, and don’t call Butler Cinderella anymore.)
As Logan and I spoke, I could almost hear the words to the school fight song:
“We’ll sing the Butler War song. We’ll give a fighting cry. We’ll fight the Butler battle –Bulldogs ever do or die. …In the end, I relented, although as a private joke I’ve sometimes substituted a word in the lyrics relating to the timing of Logan’s call: “We’ll ka-ching the Butler War song….
The check’s in the mail, Logan.
An email from Peter Finck arrived Thursday morning with a subject line that read: Very Sad News.
Because Peter was a man who liked to share a good laugh and a corny joke, I was certain his email would begin:
The Pillsbury Doughboy died today of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71 … Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded.
But the opening lines read this way:
My father, Peter Finck (Pop Pop), passed away last night with a sudden heart attack. He was in good health and this was a huge shock.
The email was written by Peter’s oldest son, Chris, and sent to those in Peter’s address book.
Huge shock is right.
I’ve known Peter since the mid-1980s. I had the tennis beat and his younger son Greg was a tennis star at Centennial, winning four county titles and coming agonizingly close to winning a state singles title three times.
Peter loved tennis, and he loved to tell stories, often on himself.
Here’s a classic:
When Greg was 7, Peter spent the summer teaching him how to play tennis. By the fall he was ready to hand Greg over to a teaching pro to improve his game, so Peter took Greg to the Columbia Tennis Barn for his first lesson with Rip Salmon.
“After the lesson I expectantly waited to have Rip tell me that I had gotten Greg off to a good start and he would build on the progress already made. That was not exactly what Rip told me. He said that Greg might need at least eight weeks of weekly instruction to undo the flaws that had been built into his game, and then he would begin to develop as a player. My image of tennis-teacher parent was quickly and forever shattered.”
So while Rip did the teaching, Peter drove Greg to tournaments. He realized that some events were well run and others were not. That observation sparked his interest in administering tournaments.
For years each spring, he took time off from his “real” job as a pupil personnel worker for the Howard County school system to run the annual high school county tournament. He also ran the district tournament when it was held in Howard County.
For 15 years Peter also oversaw the Columbia Junior Open and the Columbia Flier Junior tournament each summer.
His name was synonymous with a well-run tournament and a tad bit of rain. He joked about his knack for producing a tournament-stopping shower.
A smile was never far from Peter’s face.
In 1992 and 2002, Peter was named Maryland state tournament director of the year. He represented Howard County on the Maryland Tennis Association, working his way up to president. He was also the MTA representative to the Mid-Atlantic Tennis Association, and he helped found the Howard County Tennis Association, whose goal is to promote the growth of junior tennis.
Peter’s involvement with local tennis led to his 2006 induction into the Howard County Community Sports Hall of Fame. He was a member of the second class of inductees.
Peter did more than administer tournaments. He was an avid player. In 2002, he was on the Columbia 3.0 men’s senior team that won the USTA League national title.
“What a good person,” said Karl Boin, who was also a member of that team.
When Peter retired from the school system, he and Sandy moved to Naperville to be closer to Chris and their grandchildren, Amanda, Riley and Dylan. Peter saw them every day.
“Pop Pop was my children’s best friend,” Chris wrote in an email. “He saw them for several hours every day and was their teacher, playmate and entertainer. He told his ‘not-so-funny’ jokes to them as much as he sent them to you in emails. My children always thought the jokes and stories were funny. Sometimes his humor was at the middle school level, which is not surprising given his 30 years as a teacher and school guidance counselor.”
The last seven months had been busy ones. Greg got married in August in Kennebunkport, Maine, and Peter reported a Bush sighting.
“W” waved at us, and using maximum restraint, I waved back using all five fingers instead of just one!” he wrote.
In early January, Peter and Sandy embarked on a 66-day cruise around South America, a trip that included four days in Antarctica. They returned home March 12 from their journey to find that the city had turned off their water for non-payment.
In his understated, witty way, Peter wrote that there was “some confusion about the validity of our credit card to make our automatic payments.”
Peter said he had taken 3,135 pictures on the trip and was planning to whittle that down to 2,000+ good photos and then 500 keepers for their album collection. His email included a few shots from Antarctica.
Peter turned 70 last weekend, and Chris and Greg surprised him with a special weekend of NCAA basketball games with three generations of boys in the family and a series of surprise family dinners.
“He said many times that this was the best birthday he had ever had and how lucky he was,” Chris wrote. “I am grateful that we were able to celebrate such a wonderful weekend with him and were able to show him how much we loved him.”
So the subject on Thursday’s email was right after all: It was very sad news. Peter Finck died, Wednesday, March 23, and he probably never knew how much he was needed, or appreciated.
The Howard County girls basketball coaches met this week to make their all-county selections.
Oakland Mills junior guard Jasmine Hill was chosen Player of the Year. Glenelg coach Don Beall, whose team won the county and District V championship, was named Coach of the Year.
Named to the coaches’ teams were:
Sam Heisig, Glenelg, sophomore, guard
Kara Hight, Oakland Mills, junior, guard
Emily Russo, Glenelg, sophomore, guard
Bridgette Snyder, Atholton, senior, guard
Simone Wise, Howard, senior, guard
Kenitra Alston, Centennial, senior, guard
Joy Blackson, Mt. Hebron, senior, forward
Rakia Bryant, Reservoir, senior, forward
Alauna Jackson, Howard, junior, center
Kelly Jones, Mt. Hebron, junior, guard
Kayla Kelly, Centennial, senior, guard
Alexis Briscoe, Long Reach, junior, forward
Danielle Burris, Glenelg, junior, guard
Brittany Butler, Howard, junior, guard
Abbey DeFeo, River Hill, senior, guard
Rebecca Fath, Marriotts Ridge, senior, guard
Kiana Richards, Wilde Lake, senior, guard
Imani Sanders, Long Reach, freshman, guard
Emily Smoot, Reservoir, senior, guard/forward
Megan Sterling, River Hill, sophomore, guard
Brianna Taylor, Oakland Mills, senior, guard
Look for the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times girls all-county teams, story (and season-ending statistics) in the April 7 issue.
The Maryland high school wrestling season may have officially ended last weekend with the public schools state tournament, but the best may be yet to come.
The annual Maryland State Wrestling Association senior all-star event will be held Saturday night at 7 at Mount St. Joseph High School, and organizer Kevin Colabucci (that name may sound familiar) is trying out a new format.
In the past, the 1A/2A public schools, the 3A/4A public schools and the private schools each fielded a team from 103 up to 285, made up of the best seniors available, and competed in a traditional tri-meet.
There were always a few really good dream matches, and several burning questions were always answered.
But this format also had its limitations. For example, it’s sometimes hard to find 103-pound seniors, even with the generous weight allowance (underclassmen are forbidden to compete in postseason all-star events). Also, some of the best seniors opt not to compete in the event, which is understandable given the rigors of the long season, travel time, scheduling conflicts with spring sports, having to make weight (private schools have already been done for a few weeks), etc.
With all that in mind, this year’s event will be called the Senior All-Star Super Matches. That name has a nice ring to it. Reminds me of some of those old WCW pay-per-view events, like the SuperBrawl or Starrcade.
The main event will be Spalding’s MIAA champ KK Smith against Southern Garrett’s three-time state champ Bubba Scheffel, but Howard County also will be well represented.
Five local guys will be taking the mat for one last time in their high school singlet:
130: Glenelg’s Nick Caffrey (two-time region champ, third state) vs. Mount St. Joseph’s Kevin Johnson (third private school states).
171: Wilde Lake’s Alvin Harris (two-time county champ) vs. Owings Mills’ Mohammad Ali (Baltimore County champ, region champ, third state).
171: Reservoir’s Mark Colabucci (county champ, two-time region champ, two-time state champ) vs. St. Marks’ Josh Snook (two-time Delaware state champ, third at Mount Mat Madness).
215: Wilde Lake’s Zathy Ndiang (two-time county champ, region champ, state champ) vs. Mount St. Joseph’s Tyler Tippett (MIAA champ).
285: Reservoir’s Josh Hamilton (county champ and region champ, third state) vs. Good Counsel’s Steve Snyder (two-time state champ).
These are the kind of matches that you can only hope to see during the season, and while this is an all-star event, these guys will be going hard. So if you want to see one more outstanding high school wrestling show before heading out to the baseball diamonds and lacrosse fields for the spring, this is your chance. Admission is $5.
I’m here at Cole Field House for the opening round of the state wrestling tournament, and I thought this would be a good time to point out a few of the best who didn’t make it this far.
It just goes to show that nothing can be taken for granted. Sometimes an extremely talented, experienced wrestler ends up in an incredibly difficult region and misses the trip to Cole.
Some of these guys will get another shot next year, but others won’t.
Drew Vickers, Mt. Hebron senior, 125. Vickers finished his season 33-6, and has more than 100 career wins. His only loss at the county tournament was to Nathan Kraisser of Centennial. Yet he finished fifth in the region for the second year in a row to miss out on states.
Logan Kirby, River Hill freshman, 171. Kirby, the latest of the wrestling Kirby brothers (Brian, the youngest, is set to make his high school debut next year) but also the biggest, wrestled well for a freshman at such a high weight class, finishing 21-15, but came on very strong toward the end of the season. He upset Glenelg’s regional champion David Pruett in the third-place match at the county tournament, then lost to county champion Alvin Harris by a 3-2 decision in the regional tournament, where he failed to place.
Colin Morse, Marriotts Ridge senior, 112. He finished his senior season 32-6, and despite losing only once at the county tournament to take third, finished fifth in the 1A/2A South.
Anthony Pagnotta, Glenelg sophomore, 152. The transfer from McDonogh had a solid public school debut, finishing 26-9, taking third in the county and helping the Gladiators to their first state duals title. But the only Pagnotta helping Glenelg at the state tournament will be freshman Austin (125), because Anthony finished fifth in a tough region.
Donovan Peek, Reservoir freshman, and Tola Morakinyo, Wilde Lake sophomore, 140. The talented underclassmen finished second and third at the county tournament and combined to win almost 50 matches this season, but found themselves just over their heads at the 3A/4A East tournament.
Ryan Noonan, River Hill senior, 160. A county finalist a year ago, and a third-place finisher this year, Noonan placed fifth in the regionals and finished 27-16.
Omar Messallam, 189, and Jason Johnson, 285, River Hill juniors. Messallam finished 26-11, Johnson was 30-11. Both did well in the county tournament but missed the cut at regionals. Unlike Noonan, though, they’ll both get another shot next year.
Andrew took his first job with the Howard County Times as an editorial assistant/obituary writer in 2001. He has written about an array of sports, from rugby to roller skate dancing. Andrew was a (mediocre) swimmer at Loyola College, but he enjoys playing many sports, including rec-league softball, kickball, basketball, football, soccer, and ultimate Frisbee. He would play rec-league unicycle badminton if he could find a league. He is a fan of all the Baltimore sports clubs, from the O’s to the Blast. When he’s not obsessing over the athletic endeavors of others, Andrew enjoys watching zombie movies from the 70s and 80s. He resides in Catonsville.