SACO – The Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame enshrined its seventh class at a ceremony inside the school auditorium Saturday, inducting four former standout athletes, a contributor and one team as part of this weekend’s homecoming celebration.
Lisa DeFrancesco (class of 1985), Lowell Inness (class of 1912) and Kristin Hoitt Nason (class of 1984) were all inducted for career success, while Williams Howard Jr. (class of 1972) was presented with the Great Moments Award for his performance at the 1972 Southwestern Maine Championship track meet. The 1962 Class A state championship football team also went in, as did Dr. Connor Moore for his 40 years of service to the school’s athletic medical program.
The Hall of Fame was created in 2006 when the school’s Alumni Association and board of trustees decided to begin recognizing the athletes, coaches, teams and others affiliated with the school who have excelled at or contributed greatly to athletics at TA. The inductees are chosen by the Athletic Hall of Fame Committee, made up of five alumni and Athletic Director Gary Stevens.
“Today is a day to thank our newest inductees for your individual contributions to Thornton Academy athletics, contributions that have enhanced the athletic experience for generations of Thornton Academy athletes who have followed your lead,” school Headmaster Rene M. Menard said during the ceremony. “Your contribution to Thornton Academy athletics laid the foundations for the success of today’s comprehensive athletic program, which has over 400 athletes involved during this fall alone.”
DeFrancesco was a three-sport star while at Thornton in the 1980s, excelling at basketball, softball and most notably field hockey, in which she was an all-state selection for three consecutive years and made the Olympic “B” team after graduating. She was also an all-conference performer on the hardwood, playing 53 varsity games (second all-time) and scoring 493 points (fifth all-time), and as a senior captain she led the Trojans to a 17-1 regular-season record and an appearance in the Western Maine Class A final. On the diamond, DeFrancesco was two-year varsity starter, earning all-conference honors as a pitcher.
Hoitt Nason was a contemporary of DeFrancesco at Thornton, but she made her mark on the track, both indoor and outdoor, as a seven-time state champion. Running with the boys team her junior year due to lack of a girls squad, Hoitt Nason placed fourth in a meet with eventual state champion Cheverus, only the second time a female had placed in the history of boys track in Maine. The one point turned out to be a big one for the Trojans, who went on to upset the Stags 77-76.
At the 1983 girls indoor track state championship, Hoitt Nason won three events, the 60-yard dash, 300-yard dash and long jump, setting state records in the last two, and at the 1984 outdoor state championships she won the 100- and 200-meter dashes as well.
“Thank you so much to Thornton Academy and all the athletics it offers all of its students,” Hoitt Nason said at the ceremony. “I think it’s fantastic and it really gives everybody an opportunity to find their strengths and gain confidence in themselves as I did when I was in track here.”
Inness played for the Trojans football squad more than 100 years ago, quarterbacking the 1911 team to a 6-1-1 record and a championship, kickstarting a decade of dominance for the Trojans, who won 80 percent of its games and seven titles in the following 10 years. Inness was also adept on the tennis court, where he won the singles title at the Bowdoin Interscholastic Tennis Association tournament his senior year.
Howard was the last of the individual athletes to go in, for his heroic performance at a 1972 track meet. The favorite to win the 45-meter low-hurdles at the Southwestern Maine Championships, Howard instead hit the first hurdle and hyperextended a joint in his knee. Not letting that get in the way, he went on to win both the high jump with a personal best of 6 feet, 2 inches, and the intermediate 600 race, taking home the meet’s outstanding performer award.
“I want to thank all the people involved in creating such a thing, especially for us old-timers who have been out of school so long and caught up in the things we do in life so we don’t really think about school anymore,” Howard said. “And this is really a great thing.
“The disciplines and importance of athletics is more than a bunch of young kids running around having fun. Yes, it was that. But you walk away from being an athlete and not even knowing what you learned – 1,000 things come up in your life that you reach back into that period of time and you remember coaches and teachings and camaraderie.”
The 1962 state championship football team went 9-0, with a dozen members of the team returning to celebrate. The team outscored its opponents 216-34 during the season, upsetting the favored St. Louis squad of Lewiston in the championship game 13-7 thanks to a last-minute Bob Kimball touchdown run in front of 8,000 fans at Thornton Academy Athletic Field.
Dr. Moore was the only inductee to go in without ever playing in a Trojan uniform, instead being honored for his 40-plus years on the sidelines providing athletes with medical attention. Moore became the team doctor for the football team in 1970, a time when medical programs were far from the norm, and has been providing medical advice to coaches and athletes at Thornton ever since.
“The truth be told I was a very average high school athlete, I never was elected to my high school in New York’s Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame or even Doorway of Fame,” Moore joked during his speech. “What I’d like to do is thank Thornton Academy’s coaches, administration and the student athletes for fostering an environment of sportsmanship and cooperation of the 40 years. I never would have continued with the job if that environment had not existed.”