Looking at a collage depicting the athletic and academic career of Rhonda Phillips Scott, Nelson Griffin couldn’t help himself.
“Just to see how her hurdle form changed, look at her technique,” he said. “This is indoors during her junior year. She’s too high off the hurdle, and this is how we really corrected it her senior year.
“I’m always evaluating,” he said with a laugh.
The coach never forgets to coach.
The athlete never forgets what she accomplished.
Nor will the city school district, after the former Mont Pleasant track and field star was officially inducted into the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame at Proctors on Monday night.
Phillips Scott’s collage was at the head of a line that stretched and snaked all the way around the back room opposite the main stage at Proctors.
She joined golfer Armand Farina (Nott Terrace) as 2011 inductees that also included a Legacy Celebration of the ferocious decades-long football rivalry between Mont Pleasant and Nott Terrace/Linton.
When Phillips Scott graduated from Mont Pleasant in 1984, she held seven Section II indoor and outdoor records in hurdles, sprints and middle distances. At 45, she’s the youngest-ever inductee and just the second woman since the Hall of Fame began in 1998, after Shirley Muldowney in 2006.
“That’s the part where I’m really shining, because I’m a part of Schenectady history now, officially,” Phillips Scott said. “I’m a native of Schenectady, I grew up in Schenectady, I raised my children here and I’m just to glad to leave my name here in Schenectady.”
Phillips Scott started breaking records in 1982, and still holds the indoor 600-meter mark of 1:33.7, an event in which she was never beaten during her high school career.
She was the state champ in the 600 in 1983 and 1984, and also won state championships in the indoor 55-meter high hurdles and the outdoor 400 intermediate hurdles in 1984.
She went on to have a successful college career at Purdue University and Louisiana State University, where, as a heptathlete/pentathlete, she helped the Tigers win four Southeastern Conference titles and three NCAA championships.
She’s best known in the Capital Region as the holder of seven Section II records.
“If someone can top that, then come talk to me,” she said with a laugh.
“It’s very exciting, and a long time in the making. Back then, I knew my name was going to be around for a long time, and it’s an honor to be recognized tonight. It [photo collage] brings me back. I want to go back and try and run a little harder.”
“This brings back great memories,” Griffin said. “Memories that I kind of forgot about, but great moments.
“As an African American, you’ve got to find a way to get to college and get through things. That was her motivation, knowing that track was that opportunity, basically. She was always determined. She was tough.”
Farina led the Nott Terrace golf teams to undefeated seasons in 1935 and 1936.
He was the head pro and course superintendent at Schenectady Municipal from 1945-66 and played on the PGA Tour against such greats as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Jimmy Demeret.
Accepting the Hall of Fame induction plaque for the late Farina was his niece, Janie Farina, an LPGA teaching pro in Pinehurst, N.C.
The Hall of Fame committee had plenty of gold to mine for the crosstown football rivalry Legacy Celebration.
One of the Mont Pleasant collages shows a massive bonfire that was part of the annual pep rally before the 1965 game.
It symbolized the intensity of the rivalry, which began with a
25-0 Red Raiders victory in 1932 and ended with a 33-0 win by Linton in 1985, before the high schools merged into Schenectady High.
“They had the bonfire, then they had the car that you smashed with sledgehammers. The kids were just wild,” said Joe Green, who would’ve played in the famed 1954 game, if not for a polio outbreak that canceled it.
“It was intense; you thought about it all year long,” said Lou Gregory, who graduated from Linton the spring before the famous 1962 game won by Mont Pleasant on a touchdown catch by Joe Massaroni in the closing seconds. “They used to close the town down. Businesses were closed, there was a parade.”
Massaroni took care to reiterate that Mont Pleasant may not have won that game, 14-13, if not for a blocked extra point by the Red Raiders’ Joe DeBartolomeo.
A longstanding point of contention is whether Linton’s Pat Riley, covering Massaroni, was picked on the play.
“All I know is Joe just blasted through the line, went through everybody, head-first,” Massaroni said. “I can picture him with his arms crossed, giving it up.
“They call it a rivalry, that’s absolutely true. But we weren’t underdogs. Honestly. But they’re good kids. I would never, ever insult them with a rude remark.”
“You didn’t have a successful season unless you beat Nott Terrace,” Green said.
“It was fun, it was intense, and you had a lot of respect for the other guys,” Gregory said. “We really respected [MP coach Larry] Mulvaney. To this day, I have the ultimate respect for him. And I’m friends with some of the Mont Pleasant guys.
“Why not? It’s just a game. But when you’re in it, it’s different.”
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Categories: High School Sports