Former Elyria wrestling coach Erik Burnett gives his induction speech into the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame on May 6. (Travis Nelson – The Morning Journal)
The Elyria Sports Hall of Fame got a little bigger May 6.
A total of six individuals and one team were inducted as the hall of fame’s 2023 class at the annual banquet held at LCCC’s Spitzer Conference Center.
Erik Burnett, Chase Farris, Mary Lanette Taylor Eggleston, Kate Verhoff, Ellen Borowy Casey, Bill Troyer and the 1979 Elyria Catholic baseball team were this year’s enshrinees.
Just one year off retiring after 25 years at the helm of the Elyria wrestling program, Burnett is now an Elyria hall of famer. The former coach had a decorated wrestling career as an athlete, but his coaching milestones got him inducted.
Burnett’s teams won 299 dual meets and finished as state runner-up three times. He coached 12 state champions, 27 state finalists, 66 state placers and 108 state qualifiers.
“It’s great, I’m being inducted into a hall of fame that has so many other good inductees and phenomenal people,” Burnett said. “It’s gratifying, it’s an honor. Going in as a coach and being a part of this community has meant everything to me.”
From one coach retiring to one coach entering, Farris is the new Elyria Catholic football coach, and he’s now in the hall of fame. He was an All-Ohioan in 2010 on both sides of the ball, and found success at the highest levels of football with championships with both Ohio State and the Patriots.
While he’s in the hall of fame for his accolades on the football field as an Elyria Pioneer, and he will now coach the Elyria Catholic Panthers, Farris sees the same community in both schools.
“From the jump, I’ve always pushed us,” Farris said. “It’s not us vs. them, it’s just us. To be in a position to connect two well-decorated programs is an amazing feeling to be in the middle of that. I could just wrap my arms around the whole city and bring it together.”
It feels like everything is fresh with Farris recently becoming the EC head coach and being inducted in the hall of fame. However, he’s been back in Elyria for a few years, and continues to make an impact in the community with a non-profit after school program for the youth.
In his induction speech, Farris said he was surrounded by love, and he thanked those around him to get to this point.
“For me, it’s not me going into the hall of fame. It’s the hard work from everybody around me,” Farris said.
Three other individuals, Eggleston, Verhoff and Casey, were all inducted for their athletic achievements. Eggleston and Verhoff are both two of the best basketball players to ever come out of Elyria, while Verhoff also thrived in volleyball along with Casey.
Eggleston played at Elyria West and holds school records for both points and rebounds. She went on to play at Cleveland State and is the only female basketball player to ever be named an All-American for the Vikings. Her career continued on to the professional ranks, playing five years overseas.
“To my friends, family and community, even though our high school is closed, I thank you for your love and support, and the memories that can never be forgotten,” Eggleston said in her induction speech. “Elyria West will never be forgotten, and I thank you for the hall of fame nomination.”
Verhoff continued her family line of Elyria Sports Hall of Famers. She is the third sister behind Jessie and Lisa to be inducted. She earned All-Ohioan in basketball and volleyball at Elyria, and was named Lorain County player of the year in both sports. She went on to play collegiately at the Southern Florida, Kent State and Notre Dame College.
“Through the years, the experiences and opportunities that sports provided me had a profound impact on my life,” Verhoff said in her induction speech. “Sports have taught perseverance, accountability and resiliency.
“It’s taught me how to be a teammate, how to compete and how to be a leader. I am forever grateful to have played on the same court as my sisters, and I’m forever grateful to have been a part of the Pioneer tradition.”
While Casey had a strong volleyball career, she was also an all-around athlete with basketball and track accolades. In volleyball, Casey was All-Erie Coast Conference and MVP honors in both her junior and senior year. She went on to Clarion to play, where she is in the school’s hall of fame.
While thanking many role models, Casey also made sure to mention those who made it possible for female athletes to play when she did at the beginning of Title IX.
“For any female athlete lucky enough to compete in the 70s and 80s like me when Title IX was in its infancy, it was an experience like no other,” Casey said. “We couldn’t imagine life without it, and on the shadow of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, I’d like to acknowledge, in gratitude, all female athletes who struggled when funding was little to nonexistent, and those who made it possible for female athletes today to enjoy all of the opportunities that are available to them.”
This year’s Distinguished Service Award winner was Bill Troyer. He was in charge of the Elyria Parks and Recreation Department for nearly 40 years, and he organized and officiated many area sporting events. He passed away in December and was honored at the ceremony by his wife and daughters. On this day where he was inducted, it happened to be their wedding anniversary.
The 1979 Elyria Catholic baseball team was also inducted in this year’s class. The Panthers won two regional games in the same day over Harvey and Orrville after postponement due to rain. They fell in the semifinals to eventual state champion Columbus DeSales, 5-4, in nine innings. EC was one strike away from advancing to the state finals. Team MVP Tom Taylor spoke on behalf of the team.