by Jim Riggs
February 17, 2009
Just like at the first Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner 28 years ago, Monday night’s five inductees had various athletic backgrounds and they were all champions.Pole vaulting, race walking, auto racing, basketball, football and baseball were just a few of the sports Michael Heary, Mel McGinnis, Joe Mistretta, Jennifer Stuczynski and the late Julian Buesink starred in to earn induction to the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame before a packed house at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club.
Buesink, a Findley Lake native who owned car dealerships in Jamestown and then in Corry, was one of the top stock car owners of his time and is credited as the first to use the multi-car team concept in the early days of NASCAR. In 1950, Buesink was named the car owner of the year by “Speed Age Magazine.”
In his 14 years as a car owner in NASCAR (1949-1964), Buesink’s cars recorded two wins, he had 29 top-five finishes and 64 top-ten results. He then finished his successful racing career with cars at Stateline and Eriez Speedways where he had 27 feature wins and 73 top-three finishes.
Buesink, who passed away in 1998, was presented by Dick Barton, who was inducted in 2003 for his auto racing career. Buesink’s hall of fame plaque and ring, presented by the organization’s president, Ron Melquist, were accepted by his daughter, Beverly Weber.
“He would have been thrilled to be here,” she said. “Racing was his passion."
Heary, who was an all-state basketball player at Fredonia Central School and then a standout at the United States Naval Academy, was presented by his former Fredonia coach, Dave Polechetti, who said, “It’s an honor to present the most outstanding player to ever suit up at Fredonia.”
Heary started his acceptance speech with a word to some current and former referees in attendance.
“I would like to publically apologize for what I might have said,” Heary stated.
He singled out another previous inductee in attendance, former Jamestown football coach Wally Huckno, and recalled in one game he might have told him he was a better football coach than a basketball referee.
He recalled attending the induction dinner 15 years earlier when he and his Fredonia team were honored for its success. Now he had come full circle and was being inducted.
He advised high school athletes in attendance, “I was pretty slow, but I could shoot a little bit. Whatever you want to do, go for it.”
Heary, who once scored 62 points in a Fredonia game, had plenty of people to thank, but he saved his biggest thanks for his father, who passed away when he was a junior in high school.
He’s the ultimate hall of famer,” said Heary, who lives in Annapolis, Md., and works in sales and also does color on the Navy basketball radio broadcasts.
Jason Sample presented McGinnis, a Jamestown native who has been a successful race walker and qualified for the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Trials.
McGinnis said he was “thankful and humbled.”
He explained that his introduction to race walking came when he was on the track team at Brockport High School. His coach said it was a new event and he decided to try it. After finishing last in the mile run, he finished first in the mile walk and a new career was born.
McGinnis then attended Spring Arbor in Michigan and was a three-time NAIA race walk champion in 1979, 1980 and 1982, and a three-time NAIA All-American for outdoor track and two times for indoor track. He continued race walking after college and was a four-time gold medal winner at the Empire State Games.
McGinnis, who is the pastor of the Kiantone Congrgational Church, pointed out that “athletics can bring out the best and worst in a man.”
Sample also presented Mistretta, who was a standout athlete at Falconer Central School with 11 letters won in football, basketball and baseball. In college, Mistretta concentrated on baseball and hit .402 as a sophomore at Arizona Western Junior College and then accepted a scholarship to Chapman College in California, where he was a two-year starter at second base.
Mistretta said he was blessed to be another Falconer athlete to be inducted.
“I’m extremely proud of all the people from Falconer who have been inducted into this hall of fame,” he said, referring to Barton, Bill Race, Denny Meszaros, Hugh Bedient, Marion Rizzo, Lory Lodestro andLeda Peterson. “It’s not every day you get to be inducted into a hall of fame with your heroes.”
And Mistretta, who is currently the junior varsity baseball coach and assistant football coach at Cassadaga Valley, had a message for the athletes in attendance.
“I never knew I was 5 feet, 5 inches,” he said. “God blessed me with special gifts and it’s what you do with those gifts.”
Randy Anderson presented Stuczynski, who he first saw in September of 1998 when he was the Jamestown girls’ soccer coach and she was playing for Fredonia. He noted that she wasn’t the best soccer player, but he could tell she was a great athlete.
She has proven that as a six-time U.S. pole vault champion who this past summer won the silver medal at the Summer Olympics.
That became her primary sport long after her days at Fredonia where she was the state pentathlon champion and also played softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer and golf. Then at Roberts Wesleyan College she led the basketball team to two appearances at the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament game and was named NCCAA Basketball Player of the Year in 2004. She also won NCCAA titles in the pole vault, javelin and 100-meter hurdles.
Stuczynski noted that when she heard she was being inducted with fellow Fredonia graduate Heary, it brought back memories.
When she was a freshman and sophomore at Fredonia, Heary was the star athlete and she remembers his retired jersey being displayed at the school. Now her jersey is on display.
“Now I’m in his world a little bit and it’s awesome,” she said.
She added that her trip back to the area after winning the Olympic silver medal still surprises her.
“It’s amazing to come home,” she said, noting there are still signs and shirts and other items on display celebrating her accomplishment. “It’s not just Fredonia, it’s everywhere.”
The guest speaker was former Buffalo Bills placekicker Steve Christie. The first year he kicked for the Bills was in the 1992 season when he connected on the winning field goal against the Houston Oilers in the greatest comeback in NFL history. Then the Bills eventually went to their third straight Super Bowl and lost to Dallas 52-17.
After the game, Christie said none of the press wanted to talk to many of the Bills, so they were able to dress quickly and head outside to board the buses for the trip back to the hotel. But the buses weren’t there yet.
“When you lose like that, you deserve to walk home,” Christie said was the way he summed up the situation.
He noted that most of the inductees started out in other sports, like he started in soccer.
“Athletics builds character,” he said. “Western New York has a lot of character.”
Chautauqua County had plenty of area high school and college champions since the last induction dinner and the Hall of Fame honored them. Emcee John Murphy, the voice of the Buffalo Bills, presented them with plaques while induction dinner chairman Chip Johnson announced their achievements. They were:
Chautauqua Lake Central School – Bryan Fish, Class C all-state soccer first team
Clymer Central School – Nick Lambardozzi, Class D all-state football first team
Dunkirk High School – Joe Polechetti, Class A all-state baseball first team
Falconer Central School – Shannon Murphy, Class C all-state cross country first team
Frewsburg Central School – Asa Johnson, Class C all-state baseball first team
Jamestown Community College – Dan Rosemier, NJCAA wrestling all-American; Dusty Truver, NJCAA wrestling all-American; Craig Elston, NJCAA mem’s basketball all-American; Kari Barmore, NJCAA women’s volleyball all-American
Jamestown High School – Sebby Bellitto, Class AAA all-state baseball first team
Maple Grove Central School – Boys’ basketball team Class D state champions; Joe Caporale, Class D football first team; Matt Fox, Class D all-state football first team; Alex Josephson, Class D all-state girls’ soccer first team; Jake Larson, Class D all-state football first team; Corey Gens, Class D all-state baseball first team; Chris Secky, Class C basketball state player of the year, Class C all-state basketball first team, Class D football state player of the year, Class D all-state football first team; Tom Secky, Class C all-state basketball first team; Andrew Wascher, Class D all-state football first team
Ripley Central School – Samantha Eimers, Class D girls’ basketball all-state first team, Class D softball all-state first team; Alex Reyda, Class D girls’ basketball state coach of the year
Sherman Central School – Rachel Ottaway, Class D all-state girls’ basketball first team
Southwestern Central School – Football team, Class C state champions and state scholar-athlete team; Jasen Carlson, Class C all-state football first team; Zack Sopak, Class C football state player of the year, Class C all-state football first team
The induction dinner invocation was given by Raymond McGinnis, retired chaplain for Heritage Ministries, and the national anthem was sung by Southwestern students Olivia O’Boyle and Abbey Henshaw.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.