On Thursday evening at the Society Hill Sheraton located in Philadelphia, Pa., 15 of the city’s most revered sporting figures were inducted into Philly’s Sports Hall of Fame, with two of the inductees hailing from Chester County’s very own West Chester University.
“We recognize every sport, at every level,” said Ken Avalon, the founder and president of the Hall, who was proud to have a representation of nine different sports in this year’s class.
Among those being immortalized in Philly sports history this year were 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon, Eagles coaching legend Dick Vermeil and former Overbrook High School and UCLA basketball standout Walt Hazzard, who was represented by his wife and children.
“Tonight, we are adding 15 stars to our constellation,” former Philadelphia 76ers business manager Pat Williams said to the throng of family, friends and supporters that were seated in the Sheraton’s brisk ballroom. Prior to the inductees’ acceptance speeches, Williams praised each one of them, reciting not only their accolades and accomplishments, but also a poem that he composed with each line describing them as he best saw fit.
Williams depicted WCU’s very own Cindy Timchal, who was a multisport athlete as a Golden Ram whose main area of expertise was in lacrosse, as “someone that really knows how to coach lacrosse.” Timchal’s many achievements in her respective sporting lane echoes this sentiment, and she’s very proud that her legacy’s preliminary stages began at West Chester University.
“It was at West Chester University that I realized what I wanted to do, and that is play lacrosse,” said Timchal, who accredited her success today to her locality as a high school and college student. “I am who I am because of where I grew up,” the current head coach of the United States Naval Academy Women’s Lacrosse Team said.
Timchal, who has coached lacrosse at Northwestern and Maryland Universities, is known for her work as the Terps’ head-woman, which included a seven-year reign as National Champions (1995-2001), and a 50-game win streak.
She was motivated to become a lacrosse savant by the competiveness and talent that was prevalent on campus during her days at WCU in the early 1970s, as she was petrified at the thought of not comparing to her cohorts.
“Everyone at West Chester was good, and I was so scared I wouldn’t be good enough,” Timchal revealed to those seated at tables cluttered with plates of half-eaten catered food and Coronas. Timchal went on to exceed athletic expectations as a Golden Ram, lettering in lacrosse, tennis and track and field.
“WCU is where it all started,” Timchal said during a face-to-face interview between the two of us prior to the start of the ceremony. “I’m glad to grow up in an era where we broke barriers for women’s sports, and I’m thankful I was able to get my career off the ground at West Chester.”
Just like Timchal, field hockey coaching guru Karen Shelton got her start at West Chester University, and she spoke very highly of the institution to myself and during her speech.
Shelton, who was a member of the 1984 U.S. National Field Hockey Team that won the bronze medal in Los Angeles, currently coaches the University of North Carolina’s Field Hockey team, and has been patrolling the sidelines for the Tarheels since 1981.
During her stint at UNC, Shelton has clinched six National Championships, and is fourth in NCAA history in wins.
This is not atypical of Shelton, who’s familiar with racking up wins in rapid succession from her days at West Chester.
“I was very happy to start a dynasty at WCU,” Shelton said in reference to the four National Championships West Chester captured during her tenure as the on-field helm of the team (three in field hockey, one in lacrosse.) Just as Timchal, Shelton expressed gratitude towards Vonnie Gros, a fixture of field hockey that Shelton described as a “visionary.”
Shelton also thanked her brothers and their competitive nature for aiding her in reaching her athletic pinnacle, as their constant jousting for supremacy made her “tough.”
And although Shelton’s job relegates her to the South, she never forgets the city where it all began for her.
“I’ve been in North Carolina for 35 years, but I treasure my Philadelphia roots. It truly is the best sports city in the nation, and I found my life’s passion here.”
Timchal and Shelton show that greatness truly is bred in our own backyard, and that hard work, paired with mental fixation on a particular goal can generate levels of prosperity beyond what initially may have been thought.
B.J. Boyer is a third-year student and he can be reached at WB806695@wcupa.edu.