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Tom Roberts

Class of 1968

Versatile, highly competitive and superbly talented, Tom Roberts capitalized on his high school career to carve a memorable niche in Green Wave sports annals. It mattered not whether it was on the baseball diamond, the basketball court, the cinder tracks of his era or cross country courses throughout the region, Tom displayed superior ability and a penchant for success.


From the start of his sophomore year when he earned the Most Improved Player award in cross country to his final hurrah in the spring of his senior season as one of the best middle distance runners in New England, Tom did the community, his school, his teams and himself proud.


Tom quickly established himself as a key runner on a potent Green Wave cross country pack early in the autumn of 1965, proving to be a reliable asset as his team posted a 10-0 record to win the Western Connecticut Conference title.


As a junior in 1966, Tom was never quite was able to track down the Green Wave’s frontrunner, senior John Bucinsley, who for two years was one of the state’s best runners en route to his own NMHS Athletic Hall of Fame recognition. Yet Tom’s consistent runner up finishes to the powerful Bucinsley helped the Green Wave to yet another 10-0 season and WCC championship.


Such was Tom’s quality as a runner that he tied a course record at Joel Barlow in Redding, only to have Bucinsley claim first place 28 seconds earlier. Along the way, Tom was able to hold off, for the moment, the brilliance of younger teammate Peter Squires, a rising standout early in his own Athletic Hall of Fame career. Tom closed his season by earning third place in the WCC meet and sixth place in the state sectional race.


As harrier co-captain in the fall of ’67, Tom found himself once again in a familiar spot, usually finishing as runner up for the Green Wave, this time with Squires now ascending as an all-timer in the sport. Peter and Tom were 1-2 in each dual meet, including a narrow defeat to Ridgefield that cost NMHS another league title. As his cross country career wound down, Tom chased Squires to the finish line to claim a silver medal in the WCC meet.


Come New England’s wintertime chill, Tom took the conditioning he’d gained in cross country to the basketball court, maturing from a part-time varsity player as a sophomore to become one of the WCC’s best players. His efforts helped the Green Wave improve from a stretch of down years to a dangerous state tournament team by the close of his senior campaign.


As a junior, Tom averaged 13.7 points per game, highlighting his season with 21 points against a tough Masuk squad and leading the Green Wave past Newtown with a 24-point performance. He also shouldered a heavy load on the boards with 125 rebounds, all the while emerging as an excellent defensive player.


As senior co-captain, Tom demonstrated his maturity by accepting a lesser scoring role, averaging 10.6 while post standout Gary Rogers and mercurial sophomore guard Tom ‘Tucker’ Burke, himself destined for the NMHS Athletic Hall of Fame, displayed their offensive prowess. Tom again played superior defense, often against rivals’ top players, and continued as a strong rebounder. He found time during a narrow loss to powerful Abbott Tech to outscore the Wolverines’ gifted all-stater, Sylvester Vines, 22-21. Tom and Co. finished their season with a 12-8 record, the Green Wave’s best ledger in six years. Along the way, Tom climbed to 10th all-time on the program’s scoring list.


Even with all the accomplishments of the fall and winter seasons, Tom really waited ‘til the spring season to fully demonstrate the breadth of his athletic skills. He distinguished himself as a baseball player during his sophomore and junior seasons, anchoring the Green Wave defense as its shortstop as a sophomore and alternating between shortstop and catcher as a junior, depending on who was pitching for his team. Relied on for offensive production, too, Tom batted second or third in the lineup.


All that, and the best was yet to come… Tom decided he’d switch from baseball to track & field for his final season, and was rewarded by creating Green Wave history. From the season’s outset, Tom showed he would be a standout in races from sprints through mid-distances. During the regular season, he dominated his WCC rivals in the 440- and 880-yard runs, occasionally venturing with success into the 100 and 220 as well. Legendary coach Russell Devin knew a good thing when he saw it, and employed Tom as the anchor on the Green Waves potent 4 x 220 relay, and in the long jump.


Among the season’s highlights, Tom ran a school-record 49.8 to win the 440, captured the 880 and anchored the 4 x 880 relay as the Green Wave crushed arch-rival Ridgefield, 97-43, prompting coach Devin to gush a very uncharacteristic “best team ever” comment. He then won the 440 and 880, the latter in a school-record 1:58.2, to spark a WCC title-clinching win over Wilton, a week before winning the same two events in the league meet.


Still, Tom wasn’t done etching his name in the NMHS track record book. He won the state class ‘B’ 880 in 1:57, lowered it a bit more with a 1:56.9 clocking in the state open, then climaxed his career in a burst of brilliance with a 1:54.5 time, good for third place, in the New England meet.


Following his single season being coached by Russell Devin, and before heading off to college at King’s Point Academy, he offered a humble appraisal of his coach: “He had a unique ability to motivate his team in a way never harsh or confrontational… he just had a way of helping his team believe in itself and do its very best.”


That said, it’s altogether fitting that Tom Roberts be inducted alongside coach Devin in the NMHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

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