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Posted: 01/23/13

Above, more than 100 individuals are recognized on the Romeo High School Athletic Wall of Fame. The Wall was started in 1968 by then RHS athletic director, Dan Barnabo, when Clyde Cushingberry became Romeo's first All-State athlete. Cushingberry is shown top row left. Barnabo, who was inducted the following year, is shown next to him, top row, second from the left. Below top, Romeo High School Athletic Director Greg Brynaert installs photos in the new academic-only portion of the Wall of Fame at the high school. Below bottom, this section of the RHS Athletic Wall of Fame shows inductees from 2004 though 2010, including three coaches: Richard Terry (golf), Ralph Wiktor (softball) and Bruce Udvari (volleyball).

(Observer photo of Brynaert by Jerry Fraeyman)

(Observer photos by Mike Nicley)

RHS Athletic Wall of Fame
celebrates 45th anniversary

Observer Special Writer
      Romeo High School has a long, proud athletic tradition.
       From the early years playing in the Tri County Conference, to competing in the Oakland Conference in the `60s and `70s, through present-day Macomb Area Conference membership, Bulldog teams have won their fair share of games, matches, meets and titles.
       The glass cases lining the corridors of the high school provide evidence of Bulldog team success, with trophies for dozens of league, county, district and regional championships.
       In addition to team prowess, Romeo has produced its share of individual stars over the years - athletes whose achievements separate them from the crowd.
       The Romeo athletic department recognizes these individuals via the Romeo Athletic Wall of Fame, which lines the main hallway near the Romeo gym.
       The wall is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, an occasion that warrants a look back at its history and a look ahead to its future.
       Qualifications: All-State or Hall of Fame
       To appear on the Wall, a Romeo athlete must be chosen All-State in their sport.
       Basketball player Clyde Cushingberry was Romeo's first All-Stater in 1968. Since then, more than 100 individuals have been enshrined, including five coaches, who were added after their induction into the Michigan HS Coaches Hall of Fame.
       While "All-State" seems a clear-cut criteria for getting onto the wall, that definition has changed over time.
       It's a misnomer that the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) grants All-State. Instead, All-State teams are chosen by the media or by the sport's coaches association.
       For the first 30 years, qualifications for getting on the Romeo Wall were as follows, as stated in the RHS Athletic Handbook:
       • "If you compete in football, basketball, softball, volleyball, golf or soccer, you must be named to the first team by Associated Press, United Press International, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News or by your sport's state coaches association
       • If you compete in cross-country, swimming, tennis, track or wrestling, you must finish first, second or third in the State meet"
       When current RHS Athletic Director Greg Brynaert took over in 1998, he expanded team sports to include second, third and fourth teams, so long as RHS receives a certificate from the media or coaches association.
       The certificate is the key, according to Brynaert.
       "If an athlete gets a certificate, they are going up on the wall."
       The exception is honorable mention status, which does not qualify.
       The processfor appearing
       Once an athlete is recognized, the following sequence of events occurs:
       • A letter is sent to the athlete from RHS acknowledging their achievement and inviting them to schedule a session with LaLonde Photography to have a photo taken; the cost of the photo is paid by RHS.
       • An order is placed to have a frame and plaque created with the athlete's name, sport, achievement and year.
       • The photo, frame and plaque come together and are mounted in chronological order on the wall.
       If a player is recognized in multiple years, a new plaque is created to capture the additional info. New photos are not taken for multi-year players       "She had changed so much since her freshman year that by the time she was a senior, we owed it to her to get a new picture," said Brynaert said.
       Changing definitions
       Expanding the team qualifications has had a marginal increase in Wall membership. From 1968 to 2000, for example, eight football players were added. In the years since, seven have joined. Softball has nine players from pre-1998 and 10 since.
       Sports like wrestling and track and field have seen a more significant growth in wall members due to changes in how their coaches association award certificates. Romeo wrestling Coach Jim Cali recalls a time when the wrestling coaches association gave certificates to the top three finishers, even though medals at the State Meet were awarded to the top six or eight competitors.
       Likewise for track. The top eight have always received medals at the State Meet. But up until 2005, the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coach Association (MITCA) gave certificates to just the top three. As a result, according to Larry Russell, former Romeo track coach, many medal-winning Romeo runners are undeservedly missing from the Wall.
       Separating academic from athletic
       Fans of the Romeo wall may notice a subtle change in the coming weeks. Up until now, the wall has blended Athletic All-State with Academic All-State.
       Brynaert is moving to academic-only members to a separate section across from the athletic office. He's doing so, he says, because the criteria for making Academic All-State is inconsistent across different sports. Also, he says, not all sports recognize Academic All-State for their athletes.
       Romeo stopped including academic-only athletes in 2006 but is not going to remove those already in place.
       (Editor's note: the Wall of Fame story is a two part series. Next week we'll look at the names, numbers and stories of various wall members.)

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