The Community Connection

Falcons induct 4 into Hall of Fame

Detweiler, Beasley, Valentine, Carter honored

- By Jeff Stover jstover@21st-centurymed­ @MercuryXSt­over on Twitter

LOWER POTTSGROVE » Her athletic career at Pottsgrove High has been a family affair for Jill Detweiler.

The former Jill Burkert, a Class of 1984 graduate, followed the examples of brothers Randy and David as a four-year letterwinn­er in girls basketball. She plied her craft, and refined her game, under the tutelage of her father/head coach, the late Arlan Burkert.

Saturday, Jill followed Randy’s lead by being inducted into the Pottsgrove School District’s Athletic Hall of Fame during ceremonies at the high school. She is part of the Class of 2021 honorees — the second such group of inductees in the Hall’s brief history — that includes Charles “Chris” Beasley (Class of 1992), Sheila Valentine (Class of 1995) and Brent Carter (Class of 2006).

“It was always family,” Detweiler said of its athletic involvemen­t. “I’d go to my brothers’ games, and to my father’s church league.”

Jill establishe­d herself as a fixture on the highschool sports scene, also lettering four times in track and three in tennis. But the hardwood was the place where she compiled her greatest athletic credits.

Accumulati­ng 1,589 points and 1,161 rebounds during her scholastic career, Detweiler was Pottsgrove’s Most Valuable Player 1982 to 1984, team captain her junior and senior seasons and the Mercury All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year in 1983. The three-time All-Ches-Mont selection (second team 1982, first team 1983 and 1984) led the program to a school-record 21 wins in her time there.

“There were a number of people who worked hard at supporting me,” Jill said during her induction speech. “What I liked was having my dad as a coach. It was great ... the time we spent on the court was very special. Love, laughter and fond memories.”

Jill noted one simple message her father passed on to her: Hard work, putting the team first and being humble.

“I wish he was here to see me get this recognitio­n.” she said. “He made it a lot of fun.”

Detweiler, who went on to play college ball at Philadelph­ia Textile (later Philadelph­ia University and now Jefferson University), noted family influence was not an overriding factor in her athletic involvemen­t. She also offered a basic explanatio­n for her three-sport status.

“I love being active,” she said. “After basketball, it would be ‘What will I do now?’ I wanted to be a competitor.”

Beasley and Carter were key contributo­rs to Pottsgrove football’s run of success during the three-plus decades when Rick Pennypacke­r was head coach. Like Detweiler, they were multi-sport stars in high school, combining to earn 13 letters.

Beasley had a particular­ly-memorable 1991 grid season, rushing for 1,482 yards and 15 touchdowns. The team’s captain his senior year, Beasley was the Pioneer Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year and Pottstown Community Television (PCTV) Player of the Year, as well as being accorded All-PAC first-team honors a second straight year.

Chris also distinguis­hed himself on the wrestling mats. On the way to winning 112 matches for his career — he was the first in program history to go over the 100-win mark — Beasley was a two-time sectional, District 1 and South East Regional champion. He also medalled in the 1991 PIAA Tournament, placing third at 152.

“That was the best time of my life,” Beasley said. “I had friends in high school that are still my friends: Derek Lynch, Justin Foster and Jerry Steinmetz. Football was the bond that brought us together. We were more like brothers.”

Beasley noted the friendship bond to be more significan­t after going on to the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a three-year letterman for the Panthers prior to his graduation in 1997.

“When I got to college, I didn’t have the chance to play with friends ... a chance to be with people who grew up together,” he said. “When I was in high school, it was like family.”

Following his college days, Beasley did a stint with the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League. Nowadays, he serves as coach for the travel baseball team of his son, Chris.

Carter achieved a level of football success at Pottsgrove that ultimately led to his being offered a full scholarshi­p to Penn State University. He rushed for 1,000 or more yards his sophomore through senior seasons, hitting the 1,500 mark in 2005.

Brent also rushed for 37 touchdowns his last two years. A two-way starter each of his three seasons, Carter was an All-pAC first team pick two times, a firstteam selection to the Philadelph­ia Inquirer All-Southeaste­rn Pa. team and a pick to the East-West All-Star Game, where he collected 97 rushing yards.

“I inherited a program that had been set in place,” he said. “We knew it in elementary school, in middle school and high school. It (Pottsgrove) was one of the top teams in the area.”

Along with his exploits on the gridiron, Carter was a two-year captain and 2006 All-PAC boys basketball selection. He expressed joy in returning to his alma mater and interfacin­g with its residents.

Brent currently serves as golf coach at John R. Lewis High School in Springfiel­d, Va.

“I don’t get to come back often,” he said, “but walking through the halls, there are a lot of memories. The experience­s, playing the game, the teachers, the principal ... it warms my heart to think about the Pottsgrove tradition — a tradition I’m sure will continue and grow.”

Valentine distinguis­hed herself in track and cross country at Pottsgrove, earning four letters in each sport.

Sheila was a two-time PAC cross country champion in four medal-winning performanc­es, a District 1 titlist from four medal performanc­es, and twice medalled at states. In track, she won 14 PAC medals (nine golf, five silver), four at District 1 (one champion, two runner-up) and two Top Three finishes in state competitio­n.

“It’s humbling,” Valentine said while on a video feed from Maryland, where she is on the staff at Mount St. Mary’s University. “I’m really honored.”

One particular aspect of her time at Pottsgrove was the 1995 PAC championsh­ip meet. Valentine competed in the meet’s four longest-distance races — the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 individual­s, the 4x800 relay — and was a winner in all four.

By the calculatio­ns of then-Pottsgrove head coach Larry Rechtin, it was four gold medals in 20 hours.

“Charlie (Coach Yohn) and I talked about it with her,” Rechtin recalled. “We didn’t want to do it because it would be rough. But Sheila went after it.”

Valentine’s performanc­e was instrument­al in Pottsgrove girls track finishing as the PAC’s 1995 team champion. She still holds two of four program track records she held at the time of her graduation.

NOTES » Three individual­s from the Athletic Hall of Fame’s inaugural Class of 2020 were in attendance at the ceremony: Randy Burkert (Class of 1978), Kurt Wrigley (Class of 1979) and Mallory Greene (Class of 2003). The 2020 class also included individual­s Gina Bianchini Fuchs (Class of 1998) and Roxanne Murgia (Class of 1981), plus the 2012 boys cross country team that was the PIAA Class AA team champion . ... At the conclusion of the ceremony, the plaques for the Class of 2021 inductees were placed in the hallway by the entrance to the “Falcons Nest” gymnasium.

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