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Stories shared, connections reestablished at Avon Hall of Fame dinner

The 2025 class of inductees for the Avon High Athletic Hall of Fame. From left, Jim Murray, Taryn Miller-Stevens, Tyler D’Onofrio, Ian McNeill, Kevin Gormley, Kristen Weldon and Janet (Lachmann) Balthazar along with Molly Hamel, Sara Stokesbury and coach Al Dadario representing the 2012 Avon High girls cross country team.  More banquet photos

AVON, May 3, 2024 – A third group of exceptional athletes and coaches was inducted into the Avon High Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday at the Golf Club of Avon.

Tyler D’Onofrio (Class of 2011), Kevin Gormley (1990), Janet Lachmann Balthazar (1989), Bill Loeffler (1968), Ian McNeill (1998), Taryn Miller-Stevens (2003), Dushawne Simpson (1991), Kristen Weldon-Leston (1999) were inducted into the Hall of Fame along with long-time girls soccer coach Jim Murray and the 2012 Avon High girls cross country team.

Stories were shared. Connections were re-established and old friends took pleasure in seeing each other again.

Broadcaster Joe Zone of WFSB-3 in Hartford was the host of the event. Zone, an Avon resident, is celebrating his 50th year on the air in the television business.

Jim Murray, left, is all smiles at Friday’s Avon High Athletic Hall of Fame dinner. More banquet photos

A few words about the inductees:

Tyler D’Onofrio (2011): A three-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball), Tyler set school records in football for career receptions (89), yards (1,523) and touchdowns receptions (16) along with single season records for receptions (51), yards (974) and TD receptions (12). He is the all-time leader in career rebounds for Avon basketball and was a captain in all three sports as a senior. He holds the school record for most career rebounds (689) and helped the basketball team win the NCCC title in 2011. As a senior, he earned All-NCCC honors in basketball and basketball and All-Pequot Conference honors in football.

Kevin Gormley (1990): Kevin was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball) at Avon and was a two-time All-State pitcher in baseball. He was 17-1 in his final two seasons on the mound for AHS. He was 8-1 with a 1.52 ERA as a junior and 9-0 with 0.11 ERA and 119 strikeouts as a senior. Kevin played college baseball at UConn where the Huskies won a Big East title (1993) went to the NCAA tournament twice (1993, 1994). He went onto a successful coaching career at North Kingstown, Rhode Island, leading his team to the state finals five times before his team won a pair of state championships in 2021 and 2022.

Janet Lachmann Balthazar (1989): A three-sport athlete at Avon (soccer, basketball, softball), Janet earned 12 varsity letters and was a captain of all three teams as a senior. She was a three-time All-State selection in soccer and went onto to play in college at Canisus College where she had 21 goals and 19 assists in 67 games over four seasons. 

Bill Loeffler (1968): Bill was a three-sport athlete at Avon (football, basketball, baseball). He was an All-State running back for the undefeated 1967 football team (8-0), running for 1,016 yards and nine touchdowns. He ran for a school-record 259 yards on 16 carries against Housatonic in 1967 and earn a spot in the Nutmeg Bowl. That record lasted until 2008. In basketball, he had a then-school record 36 points in a win over Lewis Mills in January 1968. In baseball, he was an All-Northwest Conference shortstop on a Falcon team that won the 1968 state championship. He went on to play college football and lacrosse at Bowdoin College. 

“I totally want to emphasize that each and every teammate made important contributions to our team’s success,” Loeffler said in a message read by a classmate at the event. He couldn’t make it to the event. “Everyone had a role to play in each sport. My teammates made it fun to play and be successful. We kids were all fortunate to grow up in Avon and get a great education and a great school play sports,” he said.

Ian McNeill (1998): Ian was a three-sport athlete at Avon competing in football, basketball and track and field. A two-time Pequot Conference selection, Ian ran for 3,256 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career. He was a two-time captain of the basketball team and the track and field team. Ian played on Avon’s 1997-98 basketball team that won the NCCC championship and went 23-1 before falling in the Class S semifinals. He played football at Harvard for four years and was a member of the 2001 Crimson squad that was undefeated and won the Ivy League title.

Taryn Miller-Stevens (2003): Taryn played soccer, basketball and golf at Avon earning All-State honors in basketball (2002, 2003) and in soccer (2002). She had 35 goals and 12 assists in 76 games in her soccer career helping the Falcons win three NCCC championships and two CIAC Class M state titles. In basketball, she scored 864 points in her career and set the school record for career assists as the Falcons won four NCCC titles. She played basketball for four years at Tufts.

Jim Murray: A math teacher at Avon, Jim found great success as the girls soccer coach for 38 years, leading the Falcons to 10 state finals and five state championships. Three times, he was the state coach of the year (1993, 2002, 2011) and was named national coach of the year in 2010 by the National High School Coaches Association. His teams qualified for the state tournament in 35 of 38 seasons and his Falcons had a 64-match unbeaten streak (61-0-3) from 2001-03. In his career, he coached with the boys soccer (three years),boys basketball (five years) and track and field programs (three years). He also started an ultimate frisbee club that won a state championship in 2015.

Dushawne Simpson (1991): Dushawne played three sports at Avon (soccer, basketball, track) and earned All-State honors in soccer and track and field. He was an All-State soccer player in 1990 and was a Class S state champion in the 200 meters (1991) and 400 meters (1990, 1991), helping Avon win the 1991 Class S title in track and field. In college, he played soccer at Southern Connecticut State and Salem State. He played professionally with the Connecticut Wolves and other teams in the United Soccer League before heading into coaching. He led the Pingree School girls team to New England titles in 2013 and 2014.

Kristen Weldon Letson (1999): Kristen participated in field hockey, swimming, track and girls lacrosse at Avon but excelled at field hockey where she was an two-time All-State selection and regional All-American as a senior in 1998. She was a starter all four years in field hockey and the Falcons reached the Class S championship game twice in her career. Kristen finished her scholastic career with 35 goals and 39 assists. She played in college at New Hampshire, helping the Wildcats earn a spot in the NCAA Division I tournament as a sophomore. She scored 16 goals and had 14 assists in her collegiate career. Kristen was elected to the Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

2012 Avon girls cross country team: The Falcons (26-0) won the NCCC championship, a Class MM state title and were second at the State Open. They were the first AHS team to qualify to run at the New England cross country championships where they finished 14th. They also won four invitationals during the regular season (Nonnewaug, Haddad Windham, Belllringer and Going to the Sun). Five girls on the team – Rachael Rosow (Bates), Sara Stokesbury (Tufts), Molly Hamel (TCU), Maddi McHugh (Mississippi) and Ryley Higgins (Syracuse) ran in college after graduating from AHS.

Frank Waters, left and Kevin Gormley catch up at Friday’s Avon Athletic Hall of Fame banquet at the Golf Club of Avon.

Photos from the 2024 induction dinner (Facebook)

Photos from the 2023 induction dinner

Photos from the 2022 induction dinner

Editor’s note: Collinsville Press editor and publisher Gerry deSimas, Jr., who has been covering scholastic sports in the area for more than 40 years, is one of the nine people on the nominating committee.



Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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