Saranac Lake honors its student-athletes

Mark Gilligan addresses the audience at the auditorium Tuesday after he was inducted into the Saranac Lake High School Athletic Hall of Fame. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Saranac Lake’s athletes were recognized and honored Tuesday at the Red Storm’s annual year-ending awards night.

The awards were preceded by a rainy gathering at the football venue as it was officially rededicated Wilson Raymond Field. The rest of the evening stayed dry at the the high school auditorium where all of Red Storm teams from the fall, winter and spring seasons were introduced.

In another highlight of the two-hour event, Mark Gilligan, whose coaching and teaching career in the Saranac Lake Central School District stretched across five decades, was inducted into the Saranac Lake Athletic Hall of Fame.

Hanging on stage were new banners of this school year’s four varsity championship winning teams: volleyball, boys cross country and track, and the combined Saranac Lake Placid girls hockey team.

School district Director of Athletics Eric Bennett spoke first to open the presentation. He showed a brief film clip of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin explaining that the most dangerous time of the day for kids is between 3 and 5 p.m., just after they get out of school. Tomlin explains that training and athletics fill that gap.

Patrick Alberga receives the Student Council Award from boys indoor track coach Cy Ellsworth. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Red Storm junior varsity athletes were recognized first, and two members from of each one of those teams were presented with most improved and best teammate awards.

Varsity coaches then brought their teams to the risers in front of the stage. Each coach recognized two team members — one with a Red Letter Award for character and another with the most valuable player Student Council Award.

Gilligan was introduced by Mark Farmer, who reflected on some of the highlights of new inductee’s career at Saranac Lake, which began in 1969. Gilligan became the fourth coach added to the Hall of Fame, which also includes 99 individual athletes and two teams. Academically at Saranac Lake, Gilligan was a physical education teacher, a health teacher and a dean of students. On the sports end, Gilligan was a director of athletics, and coached football, golf and hockey, the sport where he earned his biggest accolades. Farmer served an assistant during 16 of the 31 years Gilligan led Saranac Lake’s icers.

Gilligan is a 2002 inductee into the New York State High School Hockey Hall of Fame, located in Lake Placid, and is currently fifth on the list of the state’s winningest coaches with 332 victories.

“I went on to count how many of his players went on to college. I stopped at 50,” Farmer said before inviting Gilligan up to the podium. “He had a simple coaching philosophy. He would say ‘Work hard,’ and once you did that, he’d say “Work harder.’ Fifteen of his former players are in this hall of fame.”

Grace Clark, left, is presented with the Student Council Award by girls soccer coach Emily Doyle Shubert. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

In his acceptance speech, Gilligan provided the answer first before asking the question, “Why coach?”

His answer was “The players Mark mentioned are to be thanked, the parents, especially, the school, community, the Pee Wee Hockey association — it goes on and on,” Gilligan said.

“When you look at the athletes that are there and the coaches that are there, it’s nice to be included,” Gilligan said after the awards night wrapped up. “What I liked about coaching, and I thought about it forever and ever, it came back to me tonight. When I looked at the presenters who played hockey for me and the number of administrators that we have at Saranac Lake High School, the number of teachers we have in the system, that’s what coaching to me was all about: trying to get people to show up, be accountable and look for bigger and better things down the road, and they’ve done it.

“Hundreds of kids, great kids,” Gilligan continued. “When I was sitting back there tonight looking at people winning awards, I taught their parents. Went through a lot of kids over 35 years, and it was very rewarding. That’s why people teach. That’s why people coach. It’s not for the money. This is a wonderful honor.”

The final awards of the evening were presented to Saranac Lake High School’s most outstanding female and male athletes — senior Grace Clark and junior Patrick Alberga. Those two are among the 13 Red Storm athletes who have one more event remaining before their school year of athletic competition ends. That group is participating in the New York State Public High School Track and Field Championships taking place Friday and Saturday at Middletown High School.

Red Storm superfan Rick Gonyea shares a laugh with the two-time Class C championship volleyball team. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

This year’s Red Storm title-winning teams were girls volleyball (Section VII, Class C champions), boys track (unbeaten Champlain Valley Athletic Conference champions), SLP girls hockey (CVAC champions) and boys cross country (unbeaten CVAC champions, Section VII champions, New York state Class C champions).

Saranac Lake varsity sports awards

Red Letter, Student Council Award


Boys soccer: Owen Yando, Marshal Moore

Girls soccer: Edina Cecunjanin, Grace Clark

Volleyball: Madelyn Gay, Marissa Gibbs

Boy cross country: Anderson Gray, James Catania

Girls cross country: Gwen Mader, Katie Samperi

Football: Patrick Alberga, Ben Munn


Boys basketball: Brooks Fletcher, Jacob Shipman

Girls basketball: Kelsey McCarthy, Nora Glover

Girls nordic skiing: Evelyn Eller, Sylvie Linck

Boys nordic skiing: Jacob Alberga, Nick Kelting

Alpine skiing: Peter Fogarty, Andrew Fogarty

Boys hockey: Quin Peer, Rhett Darrah

Girls hockey: Lea Hill, Lydia Bullock

Girls indoor track: Grace Clark, Edina Cecunjanin

Boys indoor track: Caleb Shoemaker, Patrick Alberga


Baseball: Dylan Stewart, Ben Munn

Softball: Madison Reardon, Marissa Gibbs

Golf: Will McClure, Zach Churco

Boys lacrosse: Sully Fogarty, Bruno Freeman

Girls lacrosse: Erica Swirsky, Ryley Fischer

Boys track: Micah McCulley, Patrick Wamsganz

Girls track: Grace Clark, Edina Cecunjanin

Unified basketball: Holly Kurtz, Darron Balch

Stephen Hoyt Award: Quin Peer

Tad Duso Award: Jon Kratts

Johnny Kent Award: Ryley Fischer

Outstanding male athlete: Patrick Alberga

Outstanding female athlete: Grace Clark

Coach of the year: Bill Peer