MANCHESTER – Six people representing a variety of sports will receive the ultimate honor for Manchester athletes.
Mike Hartfield, Karl P. Then and Mike Lombardo will be inducted into the 38th class of the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame. Art Pongratz, recognized as one of the greatest sports promoters in Manchester history, has been selected into the Hall of Fame by the Legends Committee.
Fred Lennon, longtime basketball coach of the Bennet boys, will receive the Founders Award for his selfless dedication to Manchester sports while John Gregorek, four-time Manchester Road Race winner, will receive the Joe McCluskey Award for his achievements in the Manchester road race.
The dinner will take place on April 30 at the Manchester Country Club from 6.30pm with a social hour at 5.30pm. A limited number of tickets, priced at $50, are available at the Parkhill Joyce Flower Shop on Oak Street in Manchester.
Mike Hartfield has had a stellar career as one of the nation’s top long jumpers. His career began at Manchester High when he won State Open long and triple jump titles and three Class LL titles before graduating in 2008.
He went to Rend Lake College in Illinois and won the national junior college title in the long jump, then went to Ohio State where he had even more success, winning the Big Ten titles indoors and outdoors. He broke Jesse Owens’ 77-year-old record in the long jump with a leap of 26 feet 8¾ inches. He finished sixth at the 2012 Olympic Trials and fifth at the 2016 Trials.
He was selected for the 2016 Rio Olympics as an alternate and finished 25th out of 32 in the long jump.
Karl P. Then made his greatest contributions to Manchester sports in the pool. He was the 1963 Interscholastic League champion of New England, Connecticut and Central Connecticut in the 50-yard freestyle and a member of the Manchester State Champion 200-yard freestyle relay. He was captain of the 1962 team.
Then also played football and captained the team in 1962.
Once his sporting career ended, he coached in the Manchester Midget program and was Coach of the Year in 1983. Then died in 2019.
Michael Lombardo stood out in two sports at Manchester High – football and athletics.
He played in the football team from 1972 to 1974 and had incredible success. He was unanimously selected to the All Central Connecticut Interscholastic League team as a center back in 1973 and 1974. He won the Hugh Greer MVP award in 1973 and 1974, the only time he was won consecutively.
The team was known for shutout wins and Lombardo played a key role in all of that.
Lombardo then played college football at Brown and played on two Final Four teams.
Lombardo was a jumper in the Manchester track teams, competing in the high jump, long jump and triple jump in addition to the mile relay. He held the single season and career record for runs scored and was also Manchester’s first high jumper to use the “Fosbury Flop” – clearing the high jump bar upside down.
He was also Manchester Scholar-Athlete in 1975. He would join his younger brother Jeff at Manchester Hall.
Pongratz was a catcher for the Manchester High baseball team and also played for several local teams. However, he is best remembered for his promotional and organizational skills, known to many as the best sports promoter in Manchester’s history. He was the organizer of some of Manchester’s top semi-professional basketball teams.
Pongratz has also helped many local charities with his promotions.
Lennon coached at Bennet for four decades where he taught many students basketball and sportsmanship skills.
Gregorek was the winner of the Manchester Road Race in 1988, ’89, ’91 and ’93. He was also second twice and third twice.
Gregorek, an American runner from Georgetown University, was known for his blistering finishing kick. He competed in the 5,000 meter steeplechase at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.