Golden Eagles Fly High At Hall Of Fame

Among the honorees, from left to right: Harrie Garris, Dan Duddy, Faith Clyburn and Erika Applegate-Walton. (Photo courtesy Joe Cimino)

BERKELEY – Central Regional High School was the scene of a stroll down Memory Lane.

Six people were inducted into the Central Regional High School Athletics Hall of Fame.

The ceremony took place in the foyer of the Golden Eagles’ gymnasium prior to Central’s Hall of Fame football game against Jackson Memorial. The honorees were also recognized at halftime of the game. Memorabilia from past ceremonies filled the foyer. Honored were Harrie Garris, Bob Breitenbach, Faith Clyburn, Erika Applegate-Walton, Dan Duddy and Chris Alan Gnehm.

“This is a very proud school,” said Central athletics director John Scran, who emceed the event, attended by an estimated 150 people. “There is a very proud athletic tradition.”

“It’s great for these students to be immortalized,” said Triantafillos Parlapanides, the superintendent of the Central Regional School District. “Harrie could have had 3,000 points, but there was no three-point line. These athletes set the bar high.”

Harrie Garris: The 1986 graduate was a three-year starter in boys’ basketball, playing power forward and point guard. He scored more than 1,000 career points. As a junior and senior, he served as the team’s captain and was named the club’s Most Valuable Player. He was named second-team all-state as a senior.

He graduated second on the Golden Eagles’ career lists in points (1,515), rebounds (708) and free throws made (321). He attended Monmouth University on a basketball scholarship.

“Just hard work was the key to my success,” Garris said. “I put in the time and the effort to make myself better. I worked on my dribble and my jumper, areas I wanted to excel at. Everything else came naturally.”

Garris, who performs heavy labor on the back of a garbage truck for a private firm, said he enjoyed the ceremony.

“It feels great to be here,” he said. “It took so long. I feel I should have been in a long time ago. It’s a nice day for me. I am glad to get my induction over with. It’s a burden off my back. When I was at Central, I learned how to get along with people. It made me a better person.”

Central often played in front of large home crowds. Fans roared their approval as Garris exploded for point after point, often capping fast breaks with rare air slam dunks.

“They were awesome,” Garris said. “When we had the lead, they were like our sixth man. The crowds were worth at least a good 15-17 points per game.”

Then-Central coach Mike Clemente praised Garris.

“Harrie broke every school record,” Clemente said. “He averaged 18 points per game as a sophomore, 24 points per game as a junior and 30 points per game as a senior when he led the Shore Conference in scoring.”

Clemente said traditional power Lakewood, then coached by John Richardson, had great respect for Garris.

“Lakewood could not stop Harrie,” Clemente said. “He shot and made twos that would now be threes (three-point shots). John Richardson yelled, ‘Get on Garris.’ He was not worried about our other four players. Harrie was the best basketball player I coached in 31 years here.”

“I would like to thank my Lord and savior and my coaches for doing this for me,” Garris said. “I would just like to say ‘Thank you,’ to my family and friends.”

Bob Breitenbach: The 1967 graduate was a four-year letterman in football, starring at halfback and defensive back. He led Ocean County in scoring during his senior year. He also won a varsity letter in baseball, playing catcher and center field. He was drafted into the United States Army after high school and spent one year in Vietnam. He wound up as a sergeant in Fort Bragg, N.C., where he finished his final year in the armed forces.

He competed in modified pitch softball in many leagues in Ocean County and considered Henry’s Playland as his favorite team. The team won the national title in 1984 and Breitenbach was named the Most Valuable Player of the National Tournament. He was inducted into the New Jersey Modified Pitch Softball Hall of Fame in 2015. A builder for 45 years, he owned his own business for 40 years. He retired in January of this year.

Breitenbach could not be reached for comment.

Faith Clyburn: The 2005 graduate was a four-year varsity starter in spring girls track and field and a three-year varsity starter in field hockey and girls basketball.

She won six Most Valuable Player awards during her three-sport career. She ranked second in career steals in basketball with 236 and fifth in career rebounds with 516. She set Central’s single-game record for rebounds, picking off 20 misfires.

She was an all-state performer in track and field, placing second in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in the triple jump at 37-7. She set school records in the 200-meter dash and the triple jump and was on the school record setting 4×400 relay team. She attended Fairleigh Dickinson University on a full track scholarship.

Clyburn was honored by her girls track and field coach, Mark Haug, who wore a tie in the school colors.

“I was successful because I just wanted it so badly,” she said. “I love sports. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my dad and coaches. They encouraged me and pushed me to be the best I could be. Without them, I don’t feel I would have been pushed as hard as I was.

“I did not complain. I was a respectful young lady who worked very hard. I gave it my all. You can’t just settle. You have to work hard to be successful. Hard work equals success. I had a lot of talent, but my success came from hard work. The biggest thing was that I wanted it more and more.”

“It feels amazing to be honored,” Clyburn said. “It is a big honor, a blessing. I don’t take it lightly at all. Being here today brings back memories from high school.”

Haug began coaching Clyburn during her sophomore season.

“I was lucky enough to step into the job when she was a sophomore,” he said. “She suffered a pulled hamstring muscle when she was a junior. We had a meet against Pinelands Regional and their coaches had big smiles on their faces as they thought Faith would miss the meet. She threw the shot put and won it. I was blessed to coach her for four years. She solidified the team around her. She was contagious.

“Now, Faith coaches with me. Now, I get to say to our kids, ‘You have one of the greatest athletes – if not the greatest athlete to grace our hallways – coaching you.”

She is employed as a paraprofessional at Central where she coaches field hockey, girls basketball and girls spring track and field.

“It’s good to give back here,” Clyburn said. “If I could attend this high school again, I would.”

Erika Applegate-Walton: The 1984 graduate was a four-year varsity starter in girls softball, playing second base, third base and catcher.

She was a second-team all-state selection. She stroked 94 career hits, including eight home runs, nine triples and nine doubles. She drove in 74 career runs. She posted a .318 career batting average and fielded .948 during her career. She led Central to three straight Shore Conference Class B South championships one Ocean County Tournament title and one Shore Conference Tournament crown.

She was named the Most Valuable Player of the OCT after leading the Golden Eagles to the title.

“It’s amazing to be honored,” said Applegate-Walton, a physical therapist in Charleston, S.C. “The honor is so special and I am so appreciative of it. Central is like a family so it feels really good.”

Applegate-Walton said she grew up in an athletic family, a key to her success.

“My dad and my brother played sports,” she said. “I competed against them. Norm (then Central coach Selby) pushed me and he did it in a way that made you want to do well for him. He had expectations of you.”

“Erika was one of five freshmen on our team,” Selby said. “She was a utility player for most of the time. She did a fabulous job at third base as a sophomore and caught for us as a junior and senior. She threw out more runners than anyone else. She was clutch in all aspects. She epitomizes what a good person is. It’s an honor to her and to present her into the hall of fame.”

She was a two-time All-Northeast selection at Monmouth University and a second-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference regional selection. She also captained the Hawks.

In 1998, she was nominated for Monmouth’s Woman of the Year Award. While at Monmouth, she had a career batting average of .338. She ripped 188 hits, including eight homers, 20 triples and 27 doubles during her career. She drove in 106 runs in her career. She is among the statistics leaders at Monmouth in runs scored, runs batted in, triples and walks.

She is now employed as a physical therapist.

Dan Duddy: The former Brick Township High School football standout was hired as Central’s head football coach and as a teacher in 1992.

He was an assistant girls’ basketball coach when Central won a title. He coached the 4×400 team, which included a daughter, Aileen, to fifth place in the state. His football teams posted 10 straight winning seasons, including the Class B South title in 1994. He led Central to the NJSIAA playoffs in five seasons.

“It’s amazing, great to be honored,” Duddy said. “I had a wonderful experience here. This school is rich in integrity in all ways. I miss my coaching staff.”

He won six Coach of the Year honors, coached the Ocean County All-Stars multiple times in the All-Shore Classic and coached the New Jersey All-Stars in the Governor’s Bowl in which they battled the New York All-Stars. He began a school-wide mentoring program in 2002 and the program continues to grow. Nearly 500 players have signed the “We Will” sign, the glue of the brotherhood Duddy built.

He is also a member of the Chicago Bears, Jersey Shore Sports and Brick halls of fame. Duddy, who played and coached as a Brick assistant under the legendary Warren Wolf, also piloted Monsignor Donovan.

“The kids I coached at Central were an entirely different breed,” Duddy said. “They were tough. They were a melting pot who forged a brotherhood from five sending districts into a tough, powerful football team. I miss them. They were made up of different races and different socioeconomic backgrounds. They did not make excuses. The kids from Central are the toughest kids I have ever coached and that is hard to say for a Brick guy.

“I would like to be remembered as a player’s coach and as someone who coached above the game and into the player’s hearts,” he said.

Former Central player Louis Brown said Duddy was a large influence on his life.

“He impacted my life beyond the football field and the weight room,” said Brown, who flew from Atlanta to attend the ceremony. “He is the Godfather of my first child. I still call him, ‘Coach,’ as I still feel I am learning tons and tons from him. I attended Lakewood High School as a freshman and wound up living in a shelter in Seaside Heights with my mom, a single parent. He said, ‘Success is dictated by what type of men and dads you become.’ His family has been tested (a son of Duddy’s was fatally injured in a Toms River motor vehicle accident a few years back).

“I am blessed to be an honorary member of the Duddy family.”

Duddy said he is impressed with how Brown has evolved.

“Louis is a story that a book will be written about,” Duddy said. “He is an amazing young man of incredible character. He never made excuses. He never complained. He was as tough as hell and he always put other people first. He was a man at age four. The world needs more Louis Browns.”

Duddy is the pastoral minister of athletics at Donovan Catholic. He is the national chapter coordinator and a board member of the Catholic Athletes for Christ. He’s also a full-time guidance counselor at Donovan.

“My job is to inject Catholicism into our sports programs and on a national level through The Catholic Athletes for Christ,” he said. “Donovan has become a flagship high school for displaying the benefits of what The Catholic Athletes for Christ does for our athletes, the school wide community and their families. Essentially it brings the gospel to life on the playing fields.”

Chris Gnehm coaching his women’s soccer team at Palm Beach Atlantic University. (Photo courtesy Palm Beach Atlantic University)

Chris Gnehm: The 1992 graduate starred in boys’ soccer at goalie as a junior and senior.

He was named first-team all-state Group III. As a senior, he was a first-team all-state selection and was honored as one of top two keepers in the state. He was the first Central soccer player to win the honor. He was presented by Central coach Robbie Bechtloff.

He attended Averett College where he was a four-year starter and a three-year team captain. He set school records for saves in a season (213) and career saves (678).

He is in his fourth year the head women’s soccer coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida where he resides in Jupiter with his wife, Tiffany, and son Bodhi.

Gnehm could not be reached for comment.