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OCHS inducts new members into Sports Hall of Fame


Ocean City High School added 10 former athletes, one championship coach and a record-setting baseball team to its Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The ceremonies in the William and Nancy Hughes Performing Arts Center were hosted by veteran basketball coach John Bruno.

These are the new Hall of Famers –

Casey Beyel (introduced by her brother, Dave) was a successful three-sport athlete at Ocean City High School, using her varied talents in field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. She shared The Flagship Award (now The Billy Schoppy Award) in 2007 which is presented to the top Cape-Atlantic League athlete in the graduating class. In her four field hockey seasons, Casey played on four CAL champions, two South Jersey champs and one state champion. The teams were a combined 82-6-5. She finished her career with 58 goals and her 43 career assists tied for the school record at the time. In basketball she played on two CAL champions that were a combined 50-8. In lacrosse, her teams won 26 straight CAL games and she graduated with 162 goals, the school record at the time.
Coach Gary Degenhardt (introduced by Wayne Colman) invested many seasons as an assistant football coach at OCHS before becoming head coach in 1991. He had two losing seasons in his first three, sandwiched around a Cape-Atlantic League champion, but things started to happen in 1994. He put together a string of eight straight winning seasons that produced five CAL champions and three South Jersey champions. That included the 1996 team, inducted into the OCHS Sports Hall of Fame last year, that finished 11-0 and won the South Jersey Group 4 title by outscoring two opponents, 75-14. The team was ranked No. 1 in South Jersey, No. 3 in the state and No. 8 in the East by USA Today. Gary finished his career with a school record 101 wins, the 10th highest total in CAL history.
Robyn Fortsch (introduced by Pat Dougherty) was a versatile athlete at Ocean City High School despite limitations caused by knee injuries. She was an all star in softball but missed most of her junior and senior years because of injury. In basketball, despite missing nearly half of her junior year, she scored 1,081 career points – the fifth highest total in school history when she graduated. Robyn averaged more than 17 points per game in both her junior and senior years and finished her career in the top 10 at OCHS in rebounds (4th), steals (8th ) and assists (8th). After high school she attended the University of Pennsylvania where she was successful in yet another sport – track and field. She also returned to the CAL as girls basketball coach at Egg Harbor Township High School.
Jill Kozakowski (introduced by Lauren McHale) swam back in the days when boys and girls swimmers in the Cape-Atlantic League were grouped on the same team. Jill was a record-setter. She still holds the school record for the fastest 500 meter freestyle by a girl more than two decades after she set it. And she was the only female swimmer to be named part of the 1990s Team of the Decade at Ocean City High School, earning the nod in the 100 butterfly. She went on to a successful swimming career at Seton Hall where she was named to the Big East All-Academic Team. She also threw the javelin and discus in high school track. Jill later returned to the Cape-Atlantic League as coach at Cape May Tech and was selected a Coach of the Year by the South Jersey Interscholastic Swimming Association.
Scott Lipford (introduced by his brother, Rick) could do it all in sports. He was successful in football, basketball and track. In football, he was part of the 1996 team that many consider Ocean City’s greatest. He finished his career with 16 touchdown receptions, catching three in one game three different times. He had 1,710 career receiving yards, an OCHS record and second best in Cape-Atlantic League history. He also holds OCHS records for yards in a season (861), yards in a game (201) and yards per catch in a career (24.6). Scott also made his mark on the track, setting a record in the 400 hurdles that still stands. He was also part of the fastest 4×400 meter relay team. In basketball he was second on the team in three-point goals and shot better than 75 percent from the line.
Lauren McHale (introduced by Jill Kozakowski) left her mark in two sports and she was part of Ocean City’s All-1990s Decade Team in both sports. She was selected for the 800 meters in track after winning the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in the event. During her four years, the track team was 36-1 in dual meets, winning four CAL titles and finishing second in the South Jersey meet three times. She was the OCHS Girls Soccer Player of the 90s after graduating with 66 career goals and 37 career assists, both school records at the time. Her goal-scoring record was broken a few years after she graduated but her assist record still stands. She is also one of two players to score five goals in one game and twice had three assists in one game, also a school record.
Miles Schoedler (introduced by Bill Moreland) was one of the finest middle distance and distance runners in South Jersey during the fall, winter and spring. And that success earned him The Flagship Award (now The Billy Schoppy Award) as the best male senior athlete in the Cape-Atlantic League. In cross country he was a South Jersey champion in back-to-back seasons and ran one of the fastest times in the history of Holmdel Park. In indoor track he won the state championship in both the 800 and 1600 meters and was a champion at both the New Balance Boston Grand Priz Mile and the Hispanic Games Mile. He also finished third in the Millrose Games. And in outdoor track he won South Jersey championships in the 1600 and 3200 meters as a junior but an injury late in his senior year ended his high school career prematurely.
Melody Sye (introduced by Bill Moreland) was one of the first championship female athletes at OCHS after girls sports began to arrive. She was the top runner on the girls cross country team for three straight years, winning the South Jersey individual championship in 1982. The team was 43-6 during her three seasons in the lineup and won three consecutive Cape-Atlantic League championships. In track, Sye ran the middle distances just as successfully. She qualified for the NJSIAA state meet as a sophomore and was a champion in the 400 meters both her junior and senior years. During her three years in the track and field lineup the Raiders were 21-7, including the very first undefeated team in 1984. Those teams also won three county meets, two CAL championships and the South Jersey title in 1983.
Don Tarves (introduced by his brother, Earl) was a rare athlete at Ocean City High School – an athlete who excelled in four sports. He was a record-setting freestyle swimmer during the winter. In the spring he was an all star outfielder on a baseball team that won back-to-back Cape-Atlantic League titles and he also won the CAL championship in the high jump. In those days an athlete was permitted to compete in two varsity sports during the same season. But Don’s biggest contributions were in football. He was a multiple all star who was the OCHS record holder in career rushing yards and rushing yards in a season when he graduated. He still holds the school record with more than nine yards per carry over his career. Ocean City was 19-7-1 in his three football seasons, including a CAL championship.
The 2010 baseball team (represented by head coach Craig Mensinger) was first Ocean City High School baseball team to win a South Jersey championship on the field, finishing 21-9, a new school record for wins. The team struggled a bit in the early season, though they swept three games in Florida, but they entered the Group 3 Tournament with 10 wins in 12 games. These Raiders defeated Highland for the South Jersey title and topped Hopewell Valley in the state semifinal at The College of New Jersey. Brian Longo set four school records, including most hits and runs in a season. Tyler Reich and Andy Fiorentino led the team with 28 RBIs each, Fiorentino also setting a new mark when he was hit by a pitch 12 times. Colin Norton set a school record by throwing out 23 baserunners. And the versatile Connor Ortolf was an all star outfielder who also made 12 strong starts on the mound. Kolya Stephenson, John Huff, Tom Ballezzi and Beau Hall were also key pitchers.

Two new Hall of Fame members were unable to attend.

Joi Johnson excelled at two sports during her high school career – basketball and track. She was a state Group 3 champion in the high jump and was named to the OCHS All-90s Decade Team in girls track and field. But in basketball, Joi was the Player of the Decade in the 1990s, scoring 1,322 points, the fourth highest total in school history at the time. As a senior, she scored 20 or more points 16 times, including four games with 30 or more points. Joi made more than 61 percent of her shots as a senior, still the OCHS school record 27 years later. She averaged nearly 10 rebounds and four steals per game during her career. Her award was accepted by Antwan McClellan, President of the Sports Hall of Fame Committee.
Joe Myers was the classic three-sport athlete in high school – a significant player in football, basketball and baseball. He started as a freshman in football and was an all star, playing defense and both quarterback and wide receiver. He shares a school record with three TD catches in one game. In basketball, he played in 64 games, starting most, and was the team leader in rebounds as a junior and consistently one of the tops in steals. But it was on the baseball mound that he really excelled. He won nine games in 1977 and struck out 122, both school records. Twice he struck out 17 in one game, another record. His career strikeout record was broken nearly 40 years after he set it. And he was durable, starting 27 games in his career and completing 21 of them. In his senior year the Raiders won their first CAL title in 13 years. His sister, Cynthia, accepted for him.
New Hall of Famers (from left) Gary Degenhardt, Lauren McHale, Don Tarves, Melody Sye, Jill Kozakowski, Casey Beyel, Robyn Fortsch, Scott Lipford and Miles Schoedler.
These players and coaches from the 2010 baseball team were on hand for the celebration.