By Josh Langenbacher
The next class of athletes whose excellence took root in Blair County will bring the number of enshrinees to a three-figure milestone and introduce some new sports to the local Hall of Fame.
The Hall’s 19th class includes football coach John Hayes, motorsports standout John Lingenfelter, watercraft sports pioneer Eric Malone, basketball player Eddie Miller, swimmer Tawney Nardozza Schmitt and the 1970 Bishop Guilfoyle boys basketball team.
The dinner, set for May 2, 2020 at the Blair County Convention Center, will bring the number of honorees to 100 and represents the first time auto racing or watercraft athletes will be recognized. Nardozza Schmitt will be the second swimmer honored.
“The latest Hall of Fame class features inductees who have achieved national and statewide recognition — our top criteria — and represents maybe the most diverse class, with Olympic and other non-traditional sports, that we’ve ever had,” Hall of Fame president Neil Rudel said. “We look forward to another very special night of recognition.”
Hayes, whose 38-year tenure at Bellwood-Antis is the longest in Blair County history at one school, ranks 10th all-time in the state with 323 victories.
He was inducted into the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in May 2019, and six of his Blue Devil squads won District 6 championships with another three reaching the PIAA final four.
In addition, he administered the East-West all-star game from 2001-2010, was the PSFCA president in 2002 and served as B-A’s athletic director for 37 years.
Lingenfelter achieved prominence as one of the world’s most prolific drivers, engine builders and tuners in motorsports.
He won 15 National Hot Rod Association events and finished second twice in the Pro Stock Truck standings. He also established Lingenfelter Performance Engineering and was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame in 2006.
A Central High School graduate in 1963 and Penn State Altoona alumnus, Lingenfelter was critically injured during an NHRA Summit Sports Compact drag racing event in Pomona, Calif., in 2002 and died from those injuries in 2003 at age 58. He will be inducted posthumously.
Malone also made his name for himself worldwide. He claimed eight world championships (seven pro, one amateur) in the International Jet Sports Boating Association freestyle championships between 1995 and 2010 and won 11 pro U.S. national championships sanctioned by IJSBA, American Power Boat Association and Freerider Watercraft Association.
A 1995 graduate of Hollidaysburg Area High School, Malone’s cutting edge technology he developed in the realm of freestyle machines helped him land a working card with the Screen Actors Guild. He was a stuntman riding jet skis as a double in the hits “I Am Number Four” and “Into the Blue.”
Since retiring from competitive freestyle, Malone’s business has become a world leader in the production of competitive jet skis. Malone was recognized for heroism by President Bill Clinton in 1996 when he rescued several people from danger by floods in Linds Crossing and Claysburg.
Miller was a two-year starter (1966-68) for the University of Mississippi after graduating from BG.
He led Mississippi’s freshman team in scoring with 18.3 points per game and chipped in an average of 11 points per game as a sophomore and eight as a junior. He helped Ole Miss to its first winning season in seven years and made a game-winning shot against Mississippi State.
Miller still holds BG’s single-game scoring record of 50 points and captained the Carolina Military Academy, where he spent a year before moving onto Mississippi.
Miller was Blair County’s first scholarship basketball player to what is now a Power-5 conference.
Nardozza Schmitt, like Malone, built her reputation in the water. She set seven school records at Hollidaysburg, was inducted into IUP’s Hall of Fame in 2007 and was an All-American there each of her four years.
Overall, she was a 19-time All-American at IUP and is the most decorated IUP athlete in any sport.
Nardozza Schmitt is recognized by some as one of the trailblazers of the university’s women’s sports program. She owned the school record in 10 separate events at one point and placed second in the 100 freestyle and 200/400 relay during the NCAA Division II meet as a senior.
Once again, the Blair Hall will honor a team, and the 1970 BG Marauders earned that distinction due in part to winning the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association title in the PCIAAás highest of three classifications against a rugged schedule.
Denny Tomassetti’s dramatic corner shot with three seconds remaining lifted BG to a 76-74 win over Allentown Central Catholic for the school’s second PCIAA title. That Marauder team went 20-4 and is the last Blair County boys basketball team to win a state title.
It was headlined by top scorers Bob Landolfi (15.9 points per game), Tim Lambour (15.4), Bill Gibbons (11.8), Tomassetti (9.6) and Steve Skelley (9.3).
Tom Lane, then in his second season, coached the squad, which sent Lambour to Georgetown under John Thompson.
Pittsburgh broadcaster Stan Savran will return as banquet emcee, and the featured speaker and other award winners will be announced when finalized.
Advance orders for tickets, priced at $85 ($850 for table of 10) before Dec. 31 and $95 ($950 for table) after that, are currently being accepted. Checks can be made payable to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 162, Altoona, Pa. 16603.
For more ticket information, call Kathy Millward at 312-0151 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of Bishop Guilfoyle’s 1970 PCIAA championship team include, from left: First row — Dave Benton, Tim Lambour, head coach Tom Lane, assistant coach Tom McGee, Bill Gibbons, Charlie Tate. Middle row — Bub Kilcoyne, Joe Bernhart, Steve Skelley, Bob Landolfi, Denny Tomassetti, Denny McDonald, Jerry Milliron. Back row — managers Fred Bennetti and Dave Mason, Steve McManus, Tom Furrer, managers Andrew Miller and Ted Beam.