By Nathaniel Cline, Northeast Ohio Media Group on February 26, 2014 12:09 p.m.
PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio — Holy Name graduates and supporters kicked off the new school year in a special way for a rare occasion.
In the area of Parma where the Namers call home, fans are not only celebrating their school’s 100th anniversary, but are witnessing a special winter for their ice hockey, and boys and girls basketball teams as they have climbed among the top teams in the area.
“Sometimes things happen for a reason, but I think that we build a tradition here at Holy Name where we try to put the best coaches in place to coach the kids,” athletic director Jack Richardson said. “It’s one of those outside the realm things or cosmic that things are coming together where we have three great teams.”
In the past couple of months, Holy Name’s ice hockey and boys and girls basketball teams have separated themselves from the pack during the regular season, joining some of the top teams in the region and in some cases the state.
Senior student athlete Trey Smith, who has been a spectator this winter season, said he’s enjoyed embracing this special time.
“I’ve thought about it a lot, just how exciting it would be, how everybody would react and how our sports [teams] would do knowing it’s our 100th year,” said Smith, who plays football and runs track. “But yeah man, it’s very exciting.”
The boys basketball team (16-5) is ranked No. 18 in the cleveland.com Top 25 and seeded second in the Division II Westlake District Tournament. Holy Name earned a bye and will host the winner of the ninth seeded Rocky River vs. No. 10 Fairview game on Saturday.
Holy Name’s ice hockey team (17-10-5) is two wins away from reaching the state final four.
The Green Wave is seeded second in the Brooklyn District tournament. Holy Name will face third-seeded St. Edward on Wednesday at the Brooklyn Recreation Center. Holy Name’s hockey team was ranked seventh in the final state ranking. One of its most notable wins came against No. 1-ranked St. Ignatius.
Holy Name’s girls basketball team is 21-3 and won a North Coast League title with a record of 10-0. The Green Wave are the top seed in the Division II Elyria District and will play for the district title on Friday against No. 3 Fairview.
Girls basketball coach Kim Jones said the team’s leadership has been one of the key ingredients to the team’s success.
“The seniors have high expectations for how they want to end the season,” Jones said. “They push each other, push the younger kids on the team and I think that’s definitely a big part of it.”
Senior girls basketball player Samantha Day said she’s attended a number of events and her teammates have caught the celebration fever.
“We all want to leave our spots here and being the 100th year makes it that much better,” Day said.
Hockey coach Tim Sullivan said after resurrecting the hockey program at Holy Name 11 years ago, he and the other coaches push each other to be great. The goal for Sullivan’s team is a state championship.
“What a great honor it would be to be state champs, bring home that trophy and presenting it to the president in the 100th year,” he said.
Boys basketball coach Jeff Huber admitted he hasn’t talked much about the anniversary with his team, but said the guys are aware.
Junior boys basketball player Lawrynce Johnson also celebrated with his team, scoring his 1,000th career point earlier this month.
“I think for us, we are fortunate to have two talented players,” Huber said of Johnson and Brad Karn. “But what’s so special about our team, the other guys on our team are just as important in our ranking.”
Holy Name Hall of Famer Marlo Termini agreed this is special time in the school’s history.
“I tell you, it comes at a good time and it’s a highlight of the years,” said Termini, who starred in basketball and graduated in 1945. “I’m not close to it actively…but I’m elated by their success at the present time.”
Holy Name, which was the first coed Catholic school in Cuyahoga County, earned the nickname Little Davids of the biblical story of David and Goliath. In the late 1930s and 1940s local newspapers characterized Holy Name’s football team as the Little Davids because of its enrollment size compared to larger schools. Holy Name would compete against such schools as St. Ignatius.
“[Attitude] was one of the things that developed at the old Holy Name back then of never giving up and always being in the ball game,” said 1967 graduate Mickey Morris. “Not that we always won championships, but Holy Name was always respected because of that.”
Alums say the success of its athletic teams would not have been possible without alumni members being motivated to relocate the school. The motivation came in 1975 when Holy Name won its first state football title. In the mid-1970s Name supporters experienced one of their toughest periods with declining enrollment and a deteriorating building on Harvard and Broadway in Cleveland.
But it was athletics, specifically the undefeated football team in 1975, that arguably spearheaded a rally by alumni and supporters for fundraising for a new school.
Holy Name graduate and quarterback Kevin Hartman said he believes the state championship win against Cincinnati Wyoming was a critical component in moving the Namers to the former Nazareth Academy for All Girls building in Parma.
“We were the classic Cinderella story. We came out of nowhere and then bada bing,” said Hartman, now the athletic director at Garfield Heights. “I was very fortunate to be a part of that team.”
From graduates and supporters returning to Holy Name and lending their time or offering large monetary donations, the school has been able to continue expanding and add more sports memories to their history. The school recently expanded its library and in the past 10 years constructed a new gymnasium.
“The school is the thing,” graduate and former teacher Dick Donovan said, quoting the school’s slogan. “We were always known for our spirit.”
In addition to the football title, Holy Name also won state in 1981 in baseball and 2006 in girls soccer. It has produced two individual state champs – wrestlers Eddie Lynch, who won in 1997, and Aaron Sulzer in 2008.
With the success of the sports teams this winter in the school’s 100th year, director of constituent relations Colleen Corrigan Day said the school is attracting fans and alumni members.
“The reception has been great,” Corrigan Day said. “We’ve had hundreds of alumni connecting back with us, want to celebrate with us and just be a part of this.”