The Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance has announced the four winners to receive the Gold Key award in 2012.
Mike Walsh, winner of over 500 games and six state championships at Trinity Catholic High School; Kristine Lilly, who began her storied soccer career in Wilton and was a member of the United States women’s national team for 24 years; Dave Shea, who has won over 300 games in three different sports at Bacon Academy in Colchester; and John Dunham, who has collected over 400 wins in 37 years as coach of the Trinity College hockey team, will be honored at the 71st annual Gold Key Dinner on April 29 at the Aqua Turf Club.
The Gold Key is regarded as one of the highest sports awards in the state, and since 1940 the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance has recognized individuals from the state who have achieved excellence on the youth, high school, college and professional levels. Past recipients of the Gold Key include Connie Mack (1940), Willie Pep (1961), Walt Dropo (1975), George H.W. Bush (1991), Gordie Howe (1992), Geno Auriemma (2001) and Jim Calhoun (2003).
Walsh has been the architect of one of the most successful high school boys basketball programs in the state at Trinity Catholic. Now in his 33rd season as head coach (and 39th overall), Walsh has a career record of 526-242.
The 64-year-old Walsh has led the Crusaders to 11 state finals and won his sixth state championship in March by capturing the Class M title. His first state final came in 1995 when, led by Rashamel Jones, Trinity Catholic finished as the Class M runner-up to New London.
Walsh and the Crusaders returned to the finals the following year and defeated Northwest Catholic for their first state crown. They won their second state championship in 1999, garnering the Class L title, and that began a remarkable run of seven straight trips to state finals, winning four of them.
Walsh has also led Trinity Catholic to 10 FCIAC finals, winning six of them. From 2001-2009, Trinity appeared in eight of the nine FCIAC championship games and won five of them, including a record-tying three straight from 2003-05, and collected nine straight East Division titles.
In addition, Walsh coached Babe Ruth Baseball in both the 13-15 and 16-18 age groups, finally stepping down after his 40th season last summer. During that time, he’s won numerous state titles and has been to 10 World Series as manager of the Stamford All-Star team. He also coached in the Springdale Little League for 25 years, winning a state championship in 1990.
It seemed as though everywhere Lilly went, winning followed as Wilton High School won two state championships and the University of North Carolina went 4-for-4 in NCAA Championships while she played for the Tar Heels, who retired her No. 15 jersey.
Lilly was only 16 and still in high school when she made her debut with the women’s national team, the first of more than 300 international games she would play in. She participated in five different World Cups, from 1991 through 2007. She also competed in three Olympics, winning gold medals in 1996 and 2004, along with a silver medal in 2000. She more than likely would have played in the 2008 Games, but Lilly gave birth to the first of her two children.
When the Women’s United Soccer Association was formed in 2001, Lilly was a founding member and team captain of the Boston Breakers. She played every minute of all 21 games that inaugural season, leading the league with 11 assists.
Lilly would return to the national team in 2008, playing for two more years until announcing her retirement in December of 2010 after her 352nd cap. She retired as the most capped men’s or women’s soccer player in the history of the sport.
She scored 130 goals for the U.S. and 30 more for the professional teams she had played with both here and overseas.
Ticket to the 2012 Gold Key Dinner, which begins at 4:30 p.m., can be purchased by contacting either CSWA President George Albano of The (Norwalk) Hour at Truckin114@AOL.com, or Vice President and Dinner Chairman Bob Ehalt of The New Haven Register at Ehalt.Bob@sbcglobal.net. Tickets can also be obtained by mailing a check to Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance, P.O. Box 70, Unionville, CT 06085.
For more information on the history of the dinner, visit the Alliance web site at ctsportswriters.org.
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