ITHACA – Ithaca High will induct eight graduates into its Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday evening, including a beloved long-time member of the athletic department who passed away in December.
The ceremony is scheduled to take place at Bliss Gym, in between the junior varsity and varsity girls’ basketball games featuring Ithaca and Elmira. The JV game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
This year’s induction class includes: Aaron Axtell, Class of 1999 (football, wrestling, lacrosse); Josh Dennis, Class of 1986 (soccer, lacrosse); William A. “Willie” Evans, Class of 1979 (football, lacrosse); David Singley Jr., Class of 1976 (swimming); Terri Hoppenrath, Class of 1975 (swimming); Frank Welch, Class of 1971 (football, lacrosse); Jessica Welch Shea, Class of 1999 (swimming, lacrosse); and Daniel “Boone” Wells, Class of 1970 (contributor).
Wells, who worked at the school for more than 40 years, died on Dec. 4 at age 63 after a short illness. He was officially inducted into the hall on Dec. 3 in a special ceremony in his hospital room.
Several members of the Ithaca High athletic community were present, and Wells received a congratulatory phone call from Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim, for whom Wells worked as a counselor at SU’s summer basketball camp for 40 years.
Axtell played football and lacrosse and wrestled at Ithaca, captaining all three as a senior. He played four years of varsity lacrosse, earning first-team All-Southern Tier Athletic Conference honors in ’99, and was named team most valuable player after his junior and senior years. He was a three-year varsity athlete in both football and wrestling, captaining the wrestling team for two years and placing sixth at states as a senior. He was a Section 4 All-STar in football as a senior.
Dennis played five years of varsity lacrosse, amassing a school-record 240 points and earning first-team All-STAC honors his junior and senior years. He also was voted High School All-American as a senior, and played in the North-South All-Star Game. He went on to play at Duke under 1975 Ithaca High graduate and 2002 Hall of Fame inductee Tony Cullen; Dennis was a four-year starter and three-time All-American.
Dennis also played three years of varsity soccer for Coach Terry Habecker, and was twice named all-STAC.
Evans was a three-year letterwinner in both football and lacrosse and captained both as a senior. He was named All-STAC twice in lacrosse and was voted All-America as a senior; he helped the team win the STAC title in his junior year and share the crown as a senior. He attended SUNY Farmingdale, where he was a member of the 1981 NCAA Division III title team, and was in the inaugural class of the National Black Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Evans has been an assistant coach with the Cornell sprint football team for 22 seasons, and has been a lacrosse official for more than 30 years.
Singley swam for four years at Ithaca, helping the Little Red finish in the top five in the state all four years. Ithaca hadn’t had a winning record for five seasons prior to that. Singley set numerous school and Section 4 records in his four years, was voted team MVP twice and placed in the top three in two events at the Eastern Championships his senior year. He continued his swimming career on scholarship at North Carolina.
Hoppenrath swam four seasons on the boys’ varsity swim team after being invited by long-time coach Roy Staley. As a sophomore, she helped the Little Red 400 freestyle relay team to a first-place finish, in school-record time, at the Section 4 Championship meet. As a junior, she helped Ithaca defeat Vestal for the first time, snapping the Golden Bears’ 64-meet win streak, and beat powerhouse Liverpool to finish the year undefeated and ranked second in the state.
She was the first girl to swim for four years on a boys’ varsity team, and although her times were fast enough to set IHS girls’ records and earn All-America recognition, they were not recognized as such since she competed against boys.
Welch was a two-time All-STAC lacrosse player and a member of Ithaca’s 1970 undefeated, state-championship football team. He went on to Ithaca College, where he was a four-year starter on the lacrosse team, and returned to IHS as a coach in 1976. After a season with the JV football team, he began coaching lacrosse and is still at it: His teams have won 341 games and 15 sectional titles, and had 6 state semifinals appearances and two state runner-up finishes.
In addition, Welch has been voted state coach of the year five times and was a three-time Empire State Games coach, earning two gold medals and one silver. In October, he was inducted into the USA Lacrosse Upstate New York Hall of Fame.
Welch Shea swam for two years and played lacrosse for four, captaining the lacrosse team for two seasons and earning first-team All Section 4 and All-America honors as a senior. She played for four years at Ithaca College and broke a 20-year-old program record for career points, earning All-America honors as a senior. The daughter of long-time IC football coach Mike Welch, she was also a two-year captain for the Bombers.
This year’s class brings the total number of inductees in the hall to 111.
Ithaca Hall of Fame
Aaron Axtell, Class of 1999 (football, wrestling, lacrosse)
Josh Dennis, Class of 1986 (soccer, lacrosse)
William A. Evans, Class of 1979 (football, lacrosse)
David Singley Jr., Class of 1976 (swimming)
Terri Hoppenrath, Class of 1975 (swimming)
Frank Welch, Class of 1971 (football, lacrosse)
Jessica Welch Shea, Class of 1999 (swimming, lacrosse)
Daniel “Boone” Wells, Class of 1970 (contributor)