By Jim Schiltz | The Daily Gazette
Recent Taconic Hills graduate Clare Howard couldn’t help but notice just how proud the parents, siblings, coaches and friends were of the individuals who were honored Monday evening at the second annual Capital District Sports Women of the Year Awards Gala at Proctors.l
Howard’s rooting section included her mom, dad, brother and sister.
“You could see how each family supported their athlete,” said Howard, who, after each individual was honored, earned the prestigious Grand Scholastic Sports Woman of the Year prize. “To be able to invite people shows how far we’ve come in this pandemic.”
The first awards ceremony held last August saw only two guests allowed for each of the young women who were honored for their outstanding athletic and academic achievement, service to their school and community involvement.
The 2020 Capital District Sports Women of the Year gala was originally scheduled to take place in May of that year at Proctors, but that was postponed due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and was instead held at The Desmond Hotel in Colonie in a low-key affair where the grand winners were sprinter and soccer player Lydia Ware of Averill Park in the high school category and soccer player Morgan Burchhardt of Saint Rose in the collegiate category.
“This was the dream I had,” Capital District Sports Women of the Year president and founder Eric McDowell said as pictures were taken in a room adjacent to the GE Theatre, where the event was held. “Women’s sports deserve coverage and recognition outside the arena. This is what I wanted to do, and I wanted to do it here.”
Soccer player Hallie Klosterman of Russell Sage College was the Grand Sports Woman of the Year winner in the collegiate category.
Also honored Monday were recent high school graduates Phoebe Fox (Glens Falls), Riley Gibbons (Germantown), Jenna Hoffman (Maple Hill), Anna Jankovic (Averill Park), Sara Langworthy (Warrensburg), Izzy Mancini (Galway), Madison Relyea (Mayfield) and Kate Sherman (Mohonasen), rising high school senior Beth Irwin (Guilderland), and Naseyah Dix (Bryant & Stratton College).
“What an all-star team,” McDowell said before each of the honorees received a trophy and gave a speech. “What accomplishments.”
Howard, Taconic Hills’ five-sports participant and senior class president, said she was both surprised and excited when the grand awards were announced.
“I was expecting a lot when I got here, but when I heard the resumes, it was mind boggling,” Howard said. “I was blown away by what the girls had done. Each girl has so much to offer. We all could have won it for different reasons.”
“We read about them. Put out the releases,” McDowell said of the honorees. “To see them come to life was very, very special. What they did is amazing.”
McDowell said there were more nominations for the 2021 awards than in 2020, and he expects an even larger number next year.
“It’s growing,” McDowell said. “Word will come out and they will say, ‘We have someone, too.’ ”
Howard began competing in sports at Taconic Hills as a seventh-grader, and as the years passed she kept adding teams to her athletic resume. She capped off her record and award-filled scholastic career this school year by participating in soccer and cross country in the fall, swimming and skiing in the winter and track in the spring. She would have done the five as a junior, too, had that spring season not been taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Clare is a remarkable young lady that manages her time well in order to be successfully involved in as much as she is,” Taconic Hills math teacher Angela Webster said in a pre-event testimonial. “She is one of the most all-around talented individuals I have met in my career. I admire her for her positive, calm demeanor in the classroom while being an aggressive, sportsmanlike competitor on the field.”
Howard will focus on the 400 hurdles at William and Mary, and while she has yet to declare a major, she has great interest in the math and science fields where the National Honor Society member has received several prestigious awards.
“How many hours are in her day?” McDowell asked.
The multi-talented teen also has an ear for music, and can play the piano, flute and cello. She has been involved with several different groups, and was invited to perform with the Empire State String Youth Orchestra.
“I was always active growing up, and that carried over to my teenage years,” Howard, who served as her class treasurer for three years and was on the school’s COVID-19 reopening committee, said prior to the awards gala. “I am just really thankful that with everything I’ve done, I’ve had my family and friends and everyone in school backing me up and supporting me.”
Howard graduated third in her class.
“I really want to be the best version of myself as I can,” the 18-year-old academic and athletic star said when informed earlier this year that she was among the 10 high schoolers to be recognized. “It’s rewarding to see it all pay off.”
Klosterman anchored Russell Sage’s run to its first Empire 8 women’s soccer championship last spring as a junior, while academically, she was named to Russell Sage’s President’s List, Dean’s List and Athletic Honor Society for the third time. This past academic year she was also named to the college’s Athenian Honors Society. The Wallkill High School graduate has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout her college career.
“The key to my success is challenging myself to be the best I can as a student, athlete and person,” Klosterman said.
Klosterman was named the Empire 8 tournament MVP after the team captain assisted on the winning goal in the semifinals, and scored both the tying goal late in the second half and the game-winner on a penalty kick in extra time against Utica College in the title match.
“Oh my gosh,” Klosterman had said, “it was incredible. Everybody on the team, that was their goal. That’s what we were striving for. Did we have a perfect season? No. But, in my opinion, winning a championship doesn’t have to be a perfect season. If you have some upsets here and there, that’s where you learn. That’s where your growth comes from. That’s what can make or break a championship.”
Klosterman has already completed her undergraduate work at Russell Sage and is now embarking on a three-year graduate program in physical therapy.
News Channel 13 sports personality Ashley Miller served as the master of ceremonies and Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, who lived in Schenectady as a youth, was the virtual guest speaker. Indie-pop artist Annie Scherer of Voorheesville performed on piano at the beginning of the event and on guitar after a brief intermission.