PLYMOUTH – These were some of the brightest stars to ever shine on the Norwich High School sports stage, and they were honored Saturday night at Canasawacta Country Club as the first inductees into the NHS Sports Hall of Fame.
From Glenn “Tommy” Manning, a product of the “Roaring ‘20s” to breakthrough track and field star, Katie Almeter, tales of legendary accomplishments were told by those who knew these athletes the best.
Manning, Salvatore “Toots” Mirabito, Charles “Doc” Ulrichs, Edward Ackley, Kurt Beyer, Jason Morris, Almeter, and the boys’ basketball teams of 1992-1993, and 1993-1994 comprised the first class, and Manning was the lone entry to not have a family member present for the occasion.
Hall of Fame committee member, Jim Dunne, recounted stories of Manning in the opening acceptance speech. He reminded the some 170 guests in attendance that the selection process of athletes from the bygone era was not an easy one, and required hours of painstaking research. It also helped, Dunne joked, to tap into the long memory of Frank “King Kong” Mirabito, who was familiar with many great Norwich athletes prior to World World II.
In an era where seniors dominated the playing field – as well as post-graduate players – Manning was that rare athlete from the 1920s who played – and earned – three varsity letters in football, and four in basketball. Manning, as the team’s best football player, quarterbacked Norwich to a combined 13-2 record his final two seasons, and as a starting guard, his NHS teams posted a 59-18 record, nearly 15 wins a year – during his playing career.
Mirabito’s son, Rick, presented his father Sal, who may well be the most decorated and gifted athlete Norwich has ever had. Not only did Mirabito guide the unbeaten and unscored on football team of 1937 (scoring 19 touchdowns as well), but he played nearly every other high school sport with distinction. In college, Mirabito was even better. Mirabito finished his athletics career as the NCAA heavyweight boxing champion. In summing up his father’s statistics, the most impressive was indeed in boxing. Not only was Sal Mirabito unbeaten during his college boxing career, an 82-0 record, but he never lost a round either.
Ulrichs, one of four posthumous selections, was the very definition of an All-American boy, said 1945 NHS classmate, Frank Benenati. Benenati was a lifelong friend of Ulrichs, who went on to play college football with Ulrichs at Princeton. Benenati noted that Ulrichs was the star of the NHS football team, a star on the basketball team, and he was a star in the classroom, amongt his peers, and in his community service. Ulrichs served in several leadership positions during high school, while also teaching swimming lessons to the youth of Norwich during the summer.