High five for Lowell High Hall: 2017 Induction Ceremony

High five for Lowell High Hall

By Carmine Frongillo, cfrongillo@lowellsun.com

DRACUT — Striving and achieving is part of the genetic makeup of each and every member of Lowell High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

As a collective group they have been productive and prominent in their respective field/court/ track/rink of endeavor, creating memories and milestones that have withstood the test of time.

On a night filled with nostalgia, emotion and cheer, many of the greatest athletes in the Red Raiders’ rich sports history gathered to welcome their newest class of peers at the 32nd annual LHS Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Lenzi’s Thursday night.

This year’s inductees, Bob Lekites (Class of 1952), Jim Quigley (Class of 1981), Jason Bazemore (Class of 1992), Laurie (Tanguay) Ziakas (Class of 2003) and Katrina Lutkus (Class of 2005), have earned the right to take their place alongside the Red and Gray’s legends of the game. The addition of this multi-talented Fab Five brings the total of Hall of Famers to 165 at a high school that has played sports for more than 100 years.

For two members of the Class of 2017 — Ziakas and Lutkus — getting inducted brought them back full circle as they attended the ceremony as high school students.

“I remember coming to this when I was at Lowell High,” said Ziakas. “I was a captain and got invited and I remember listening to the stories and all the great achievements of the inductees and wondering if I would ever make it here. It crossed my mind then, but it really hasn’t since. It was a great surprise when I got the call and found out I had made it. I was like, ‘Wow!’ It’s such an honor. I was really taken back.”

It also turned back time for Lutkus, who also attended the ceremony as a student-athlete at Lowell High.

“This is such a great honor,” said Lutkus. “I remember sitting in the crowd my senior year and thinking, hopefully, one day I can be inducted. So it’s really surreal to be inducted.”

At 84-years young, Lekites is the elder statesmen of this year’s class. A two-way standout on legendary Raider coach Ray Riddick’s gridiron juggernauts of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Lekites was an All-Scholastic selection in 1951.

In the 1950 Thanksgiving game against arch-rival Lawrence, which ended in a 13-13 tie, Lekites returned a fumble that he caught in mid-air 98 yards for a touchdown. In the 1951 Turkey Day tilt, Lekites scored a touchdown and had an interception in a 34-0 victory over the Lancers. As a senior, Lekites scored eight TDs while helping Lowell to a 9-1 record. He was also a great punter, unleashing kicks of 65 and 63 yards during his career.

“Coach Riddick was a great man,” said Lekites. “He was the best. We used to play on Sunday’s and he wanted us to get our rest in the days leading up the game. Well there was this one Friday night, me and Bob Trouville were walking our dates home. All of a sudden I spot coach Riddick’s car, a big Hudson. I say, ‘Bobby, here comes coach. So we jumped into the hedges and the girls kept walking.

“The next day at our Saturday practice nothing seemed to go right for either of us. During practice he comes up and says, ‘How did things go last night?’ Nothing got by him. That’s why he was such a great coach.”

Lekites joins his daughter, Amy (LHS graduation Class of 1985), in the LHS Hall of Fame. Amy, who passed away in an automobile accident less than a year after her graduation, was an outstanding sprinter and long jumper.

“It’s so great to be in the Hall with her,” said Lekites. “She was such a great gal. I’ll tell you I was so happy and proud for her when she made it.”

It was also a bittersweet night for Bazemore, who pinned down an abundance of success of the wrestling mat, while also starring in football. Bazemore’s teenage daughter, Hannah, who helped push for his induction passed away suddenly this past May.

“This is a huge honor, but it’s also bittersweet,” said Bazemore. “It’s tough. This is something my 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, wanted to see happen. She had been a huge driver of making this happen. She literally had a scrapbook that had every paper clipping of mine from high school that my family had kept. She made photo copies of everything.”

Bazemore was a four-year varsity wrestler who did plenty of legacy leaving during his career. As a senior, he compiled a record of 39-1 (28 wins by pin) while winning the New England Tournament championship at 189-pounds. Bazemore was The Sun’s Wrestler-of-the-Year and earned High School All-American honors as a senior. He finished his high school career with a 103-9-3 record.

“This is a really special honor,” said Bazemore. “Lowell has such a storied wrestling program. I’m just honored to be part of it. I go to other parts of the country and when guys find out I wrestled at Lowell, they know the program. People think of Iowa or Ohio when they think about wrestling. But Lowell is right up there with those hot-beds.

“Anyone who knows wrestling, has heard of George Bossi. The man is not only a great coach, he’s a legend. He makes Lowell wrestlers great. It’s funny, but to this day when I go to shake his hand I still cower a little bit.”

Quigley is another Red Raider grappler who took his place among Lowell High’s greats Thursday. He was a four-year starter and a two-time state champion at 134-pounds. He also placed second and third at the New England Tournament his junior and senior years.

As a senior, Quigley went 17-0 in duals with 11 pins. Quigley posted a 35-1 record as senior and was named the Outstanding Wrestler in the state tournament.

“Someone asked me at a class reunion years ago, ‘If I had been inducted into the Hall of Fame and I said no,’” said Quigley. “I never really thought about it. You know out of sight, out of mind. When I got inducted, I looked at the Hall of Fame website and you can see how serious they take. The people that I knew and the guys I wrestled with who were inducted were people I looked up to. It’s humbling to be considered on a par with some of those guys. It’s flattering. It really is.”

Ziakas was LHS’ Female Athlete of the Year in 2003. She was a three-sport star who excelled in field hockey, basketball and softball. Softball was her first love and she was a four-year starter at shortstop. Her senior year, Ziakas batted .446. She had a career varsity batting average of .343. Her name is still listed in 14 categories in the LHS softball record book. Ziakas then went on to have an outstanding softball career at UMass Lowell.

“This is such an awesome honor,” said Ziakas. “It’s humbling. It’s exciting. It’s such a great achievement. It’s so great to see everyone and celebrate a big part of my life with them. There are a lot of emotions.”

Lutkus blazed her path to glory as a sprinter. Her junior and senior year she was undefeated in both the 50 dash, setting a school record at 6.2 seconds, and in the 55-meter dash, posting a record time of 7.43.

As a sophomore she ran a leg on a sprint medley relay team that placed second at the Massachusetts State Relays and qualified for the National High School Championships.

On the LHS outdoor track team Lutkus won the 100 meters at the MVC All-Conference Meet three straight years. She set the LHS 100 meter record with a time of 12.4. Lutkus went on to have a distinguished college career running at UMass Lowell.

“I didn’t even realize some of the records I held and the honors I received,” said Lutkus. “When I read the article (about getting into the Hall of Fame) in the Lowell Sun I cried. I was like who is this girl that they are talking about. I never thought of myself as one of the great athletes. So to read that was very emotional.”

Carmine Frongillo covers high school, college and professional sports. He has worked as a sports reporter at the Lowell Sun since 1986. Carmine is a Massachusetts native and graduated from Bridgewater State University.

Follow Carmine Frongillo @cwfrongi

High five for Lowell High Hall (SLIDESHOW)

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