Derby High School Athletic Hall of Fame

 

Congratulations to the DHS Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2017

Bob Ahearn '63
Mark Angeletti '89
Ray McGhee '88
Dennis O'Connell '75
Dawn Sengstacken '86
Bill Thompson '79
Rick Uluski '73
 

The Class of 2017 was announced by a Facebook livestream on August 28, 2017.  The official induction ceremony will be held at a banquet on March 10, 2018 at the AM Club.

Bob Ahearn '63

By the early 60's, Derby football had become a middle-of-the-pack program, a far cry from the glory days under Coach Nuggy Ryan. The Red Raiders often had trouble with Valley rivals Ansonia and Shelton. Beating both in the same season was unheard of. 

When rookie head coach Ron Carbone took over in 1962, nobody knew what to expect. Like most of his teammates, returning star Bob Ahearn looked to help his new coach make his mark. Unfortunately, an 0-5 start put a damper on their hopes of resurrecting the tradition. Or, did it?

A surprising Week 6 victory over powerhouse Ansonia got the ball rolling. The '62 version of Big Red rolled through the remainder of its schedule without dropping a game, including a rousing win at Shelton, the first time in several years that Derby got the better of both the Chargers and the Gaels in the same year. 

Carrying the load for Derby that year was Ahearn, an All-State running back, who galloped past the 1000-yard mark, and won the Albarella Trophy as the team's most outstanding player. Bob went on to accept a scholarship to play for UConn, where he played for two years. 

Bob Ahearn was an excellent ball player on the diamond, as well, starting for three years, and was also a star on the basketball court. His all-around athleticism earned praise from all who saw him play. All these years later, Coach Carbone still calls Bob one of the best athletes he's ever coached. Many fans and opponents would agree. 

Mark Angeletti '89

When it comes to nicknames, being called "Mule" is about as good as it gets, once you consider the reasoning behind it. As early as Pop Warner, coaches took notice of Mark's incredible work ethic and stubborn drive to excel. Mule, like his namesake, was a true beast of burden the first day he put on shoulder pads. 

A leader on and off the football field, Angeletti earned varsity playing time as a sophomore, and started both ways each of the following two seasons. As a captain during his senior campaign, Mule earned All-State honors on offense, and was even more dominant as a linebacker on D, often leading the team in tackles. His prowess on the gridiron won him the Albarella Award for the '88 season, one of the few non-skill position players to do so. 

On the merits of his football career alone, Mark would be a solid choice for Hall of Fame honors. 

His exploits in wrestling are even more impressive. During his stellar 4-year career on the mat, Mule lived up to his nickname even more, dominating the 189-pound weight class and, as captain, set an example for others with his undying work ethic and relentless pursuit of perfection. In addition to his 107-12 record (90%), he was a 2-time Class S champion, a State Open Champion and New England runner-up. 

In a 1988 newspaper article, it was mentioned how kids in Pop Warner went from asking for jersey #56 (for Lawrence Taylor) to requesting Mule's #54. They all wanted to be Mark Angeletti when they grew up. Truth be told, there's only one Mule. Few were as good in football; even less were as good in wrestling. None were a better combination of the two. 

 

Ray McGhee '88

When Ray McGhee medaled in the 1985 Class S track meet as a freshman, he put the rest of the state on notice. He was on his way, a rising star with unlimited potential. He had always been fast, but now he had a chance to prove it.

The next three years saw a total of 12 more medals come his way. Ray's most dominant event was the 300m hurdles. In addition to his rookie success in that event, he finished in the Top 3 five more times, including a clean sweep in 1988, when he won the Class S, State Open and New England titles, setting an Open record in the process. He also won two Class S titles in the 110m hurdles ('86 and '88), and was runner-up twice ('87 Class S and '88 Open). McGhee was a key performer in relays, too, winning a silver in the 4x400 ('86) and two bronze medals in the 4x100 ('86 and '87).  

Ray was one of the captains of the '87 football team. As part of a potent backfield attack, his breakaway ability left would-be tacklers dazed and confused. On defense, he was part of a secondary that made opposing quarterbacks think twice before attempting to throw downfield. He was an integral part of two Housy championship teams, and was  Class S champ ('85) and runner-up ('86).

Lessons learned on the track and on the field have helped Ray along the way. He played both sports in college, and is now a fitness director, inspiring others to clear life's hurdles and chase their dreams, full speed ahead.

Dennis O'Connell '75

Dennis O'Connell (a.k.a. Demo) has been involved in Derby athletics most of his life. As an active participant, he achieved excellence at every level, and in multiple sports. A major portion of his adult life has been dedicated to the town's parks and rec department, where he eventually ascended to the role of director. 

While at DHS, Demo was a force to be reckoned with. He never saw a fastball he didn't like, and his prowess at the plate was a big reason why he was a three-year starter in baseball.

He enjoyed even greater success in football. Demo played two years at linebacker for the Red Raiders, earned All-Housy twice as a guard, and was a first team All-State selection his senior year.  He went on to achieve All-Conference honors at UConn twice, and was named team captain in 1978 - one of three Derby High graduates who earned that distinction.

His years of service with the Parks and Rec Department, and his dedication to youth sports and development at the Boys and Girls Club earned O'Connell induction into the Club's Hall of Fame in 2009, an honor befitting a man who's done so much for so many. 

 

Dawn Sengstacken '86

As one of the first girls to play Little League in Derby, Dawn Sengstacken caught the eye of legendary coach Red Clynch, who encouraged her to play softball at DHS. 

In three years as the starting center fielder, Dawn hit over .500 each year, and displayed a gun of an arm, keeping opposing runners from taking the extra base. She earned back-to-back All-Housy and All-State honors, and helped lead the charge toward a first-ever Class S championship in 1985. 

Sengstacken also stood out on the basketball court. Although the team's success didn't reach the same level as softball, Derby enjoyed a winning record all three years that Dawn played. As captain, she was regularly among the team leaders in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Despite missing several games due to injury, Dawn still made All-Housy 2nd team, fighting through the pain to finish strong. 

In their yearbook, the Class of '86 voted Dawn Sengstacken Most Athletic. Coach Clynch called it 4 years before they did. He knew talent when he saw it, and he made sure Dawn took hers to the next level - and beyond. Her legendary career on the diamond earned Dawn a full ride to UB, where she started right from the get-go. Good thing she listened to the old coach. He certainly knew what he was talking about.

Bill Thompson '79

Like the man who set them, Bill Thompson's records were meant to go the distance. Upon graduation in 1979, Thompson finished his cross country career with more course records than most guys have wins, and most still stand to this day. 

As captain of the '78 squad, Bill earned All-State honors with a Top 5 finish in the Open. Along the way, he finished #1 in the Class S, and repeated as Housy and Valley meet champ as well.  His undefeated dual meet record as a junior and senior set a standard of excellence that few have even approached. The only matter in question wasn't whether he would win, but whether he would break the course record in the process. All told, Thompson finished his career as a 3-time All Housy, 3-time All-Valley and All-New Haven County selection, making him the most decorated cross country performer in school history. 

Championships and records followed Bill to the track, as well. As a miler, he was the '79 Class S champ and a two-time Housy champ, while finishing Top 5 in the Open. His personal best of 4:22 is still the standard at DHS to this day. He was also the first in school history to run 880 yards (now 800m) in under two minutes, a mark that stood for almost 40 years.

Whether it was the 880, the mile or the 5K, Bill Thompson always went the distance, usually in record time. 

 

Rick Uluski '73

Even on teams that were loaded with stars, Rick Uluski routinely stood out among his peers. After all, when you're a three-year starter in multiple sports, whatever you do is hardly routine at all. 

Rick excelled on the diamond, running down line drives in centerfield. His closing speed on fly balls frustrated many an opposing batter. On offense, he led the Red Raiders in batting his junior and senior seasons, demonstrating the type of two-way talent that also made him great on the football field. 

Speaking of football, Uluski earned the starting job as a sophomore, a feat that was not common in the DeFilippo Era, and never looked back. Just as he did in baseball, Rick utilized his superior speed to excel on both sides of the ball. On offense, he ran by defenders as a star receiver. On D, he achieved All-State status as a shut-down defensive back. His overall dominance also helped him bring home the Silver Turkey Award in a hard-fought win versus Shelton. 

Winning the Albarella Trophy that year was the perfect ending to a perfect 10-0 season. There's nothing  routine about that. 

 

 

Story posted on August 28, 2017


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