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Three from Lehighton to be inducted

  • Three from Lehighton to be inducted
    Copyright 2013
Published March 30. 2013 09:02AM

The Carbon County Sports Hall of Fame will inducted it 2013 class on May 26 at Memorial Hall in Jim Thorpe.

The doors will open at 12:45 with cocktail hour from 1-2 p.m. Dinner will be at 2 p.m. with the induction ceremony to follow.

Anyone looking for tickets to the banquet can contact any of the following people: Art George 610-826-2830; Jake Boyer 610-751-6634; Danny McGinley 570-325-3550; Tom Wehr 570-366-2694; Trevor Lawrence 570-645-4722; Ted Bortnick 570-645-9575; Emmett McCall 570-645-2093; Bob Gelatko 570-645-8652; Tom McGrath 570-668-2237; Gary Clemson 570-668-1066; Tom Pilla 570-669-6666; Bill Gardiner 570-669-6564.

This year's class includes the follow members:

TAMAQUA - Mike Hromyak Sr., Robert "Bob" Clemson, Sean Love.

JIM THORPE - Peggy Sue O'Donnell, Joe Morgan, Jack Morgan.

NESQUEHONING - Joe Ligenza, Bill Morgan, Charles Zabroski, Tom Pilla.

LEHIGHTON - Jim Tkach, Larry Mertz, Jennifer (Harleman) Lopata.

SUMMIT HILL - Joe Leonzi, Ed Kusko, Frank Santo.

PALMERTON - Billy Heydt, Bruce Kocher, Steve Kocher, Steve Barilla.

LANSFORD - Caszy Kosciolek, Roberta (Spezialetti) Porambo, Bill Maynard.

COALDALE - Pete Radocha, Diana Demianenko, Joseph Ozefovich, John Posta.

Over the next several Saturdays, the TIMES NEWS will run brief biographies of this year's class.

Following are the inductees from Lehighton:

Jen (Harleman) Lopata

Lopata is a 1991 graduate of Lehighton Area High School where she was class president, valedictorian and a member of the National Honor Society. While at Lehighton she earned a total of 10 varsity letters in basketball (four), softball (three), field hockey (two) and track (one).

In December of 1990, Lopata became the first 1,000 point scorer in Lehighton girls basketball history, eventually finishing her career with 1,442 points.

Jen was a Keystone State Games athlete and Pocono Scholastic Basketball Squad member in 1990, a year in which she also led the TIMES NEWS AREA in scoring. She was a Centennial League All-Star in basketball from 1988-1991.

She capped her basketball career by leading the TN area in scoring and earning player of the year honors in 1991. Lopata was also named to the LARC Centennial League All-Star team for girls basketball in 1991.

Lopata also earned a Centennial League All-Star nod in field hockey (1990) and was the Centennial League gold medal winner in javelin in 1991. She closed out her high school career by earning scholar athlete and female athlete of the year honors in 1991.

She continued her athletic success at Elizabethtown College, where she graduated Cum Laude and earned a total of five varsity letters in basketball (four) and softball (one). She earned MAC Academic Honor Roll from 1993-1995.

Lopata was a member of the MAC Commonwealth League Championship women's basketball team in 1995, a year in which she was also the team captain.

Lopata went on to coach field hockey at the Lehighton Area Middle School from 1996-1998, followed by a stint as the Lehighton High School girls' varsity basketball coach from 1998-2002, which included a District 11 berth in 2000.

Jen is currently an 8th grade mathematics teacher at the Lehighton Area Middle School, which is a position she has held since 1995. Jen currently lives in Franklin Township with her husband, John Lopata, who is also a teacher at the Lehighton Area Middle School.

Jim Tkach

Tkach is a 1974 graduate of Lehighton Area High School where he earned Honorable Mention All-State Honors at linebacker, First-Team All Lehigh Valley League, MVP and Team Captain awards during his football career.

Jim went on to star at Lycoming College, where he was a four-year starter and team captain. Some of his accolades include Honorable Mention All Middle Atlantic Conference and Second Team All ECAC linebacker. During Tkach's time at Lycoming, the team defense was ranked number one in the nation in Division III.

After college, Tkach began his coaching career as an assistant for the Palmerton football program in 1978. He would later take over as the head coach from 1979-1981. Jim went on to be an assistant football coach and strength and conditioning coach at Lehigh University under John Whitehead from 1981-1983.

Tkach achieved great success as the Northern Lehigh head football coach, where he served for 14 years. Some of the honors he achieved while coaching there include four Colonial League championships, two District 11 titles, one Eastern Pennsylvania Championship and an appearance in the PIAA State Championship game in 2003. His teams also enjoyed two undefeated regular seasons and were given the Lehigh Valley Sportsmanship Award twice. Tkach produced 18 All-State players while at Northern Lehigh.

Tkach was named Colonial League Coach of the Year four times, earning PIAA District 11 Coach of the Year on two occasions and garnering Pennsylvania Coach of the Year honors in 2003.

Tkach is a member of the McDonald's Lehigh Valley Football Hall of Fame as well as the Lycoming College Athletic Hall of Fame. In May of 2013 he will be inducted into the National Football Foundation Lehigh Valley Hall of Fame.

Since his retirement, Tkach has been a volunteer football coach at Liberty High School for three years, Northern Lehigh for one year and Milford High School for one year.

Tkach is the preident of the Bo Tkach Foundation, named in honor of his late son Travis Bo Tkach. He is also the Director of the Nike Football Coaches Convention in Allentown and a play-by-play announcer for Blue Ridge Communications.

Tkach currently resides in Milford, Delaware with his wife of 34 years, Sandi, who is the Team Leader at Delaware Hospice.

Tkach's daughter, Tristin, is a graduate of Wilkes University and married to Nicholas Brannon, both of whom teach in Delaware. Jim's son Tyler is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and is currently employed by Sunoco Corporation in Philadelphia.

Larry Mertz

Mertz graduated from Lehighton Area High School in 1978. He enjoyed playing football, basketball, baseball and track.

His favorite sport was football where he was known for his quickness, versatility and endurance. During his sophomore and junior years, he played wide receiver and safety. As a senior, Mertz seldom came off the field. He started at running back and linebacker, returned punts and kickoffs and was on the kickoff, punt and field goal teams. He racked up over 1,520 all-purpose yards, averaging 7.6 yards per carry and 15.8 yard per reception. He scored a record 120 points his senior year contributing to the team's record breaking 347 points.

During the spring of his senior year, Mertz participated in track to focus on his speed and endurance in preparation for college football. During that season, he broke records for the quarter mile relay and the 330 hurdles.

After his record breaking year, almost all colleges were recruiting Mertz as a running back. Only Kutztown University was considering him for defense. Scoring touchdowns was exciting but defending goal lines and delivering "explosive hits" were the intrinsic values he respected most. Kutztown was his choice.

During his junior year, Mertz had two interceptions in one game, both of which he returned for touchdowns. That feat got him selected to the ECAC weekly all-star team. The defense was ranked seventh nationally for pass defense and 11th nationally in scoring defense. That same year, the team shared the PSAC East title. He capped his junior year by attaining the school record for tackles in a season and was awarded All-PSAC East First Team honors.

During his senior year, Mertz's teammates voted him co-captain of the football team. He broke two more school records for tackles in a game (record still stands today) and tackles in a season. He received All-PSAC East First Team honors, an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) All-Star selection and AP Little All-America Honorable Mention.

After his college career, Mertz developed a computerized scouting program with the help of his computer professor, Dr. Wolfe. Mertz and former co-captain, Dave Keaney (who later became the head football coach at Kutztown), implemented and ran the program together during the 1983 football season.

In 1989, Mertz was recruited by Circuit City to be a Loss Prevenion Manager, which forced him to relocate to the San Fransisco Bay Area of California.

In 1992, Larry started a risk management consulting business and a design-build landscape contstruction company, which he has been running for more than 20 years. Mertz is the lead landscape designer for his company and also operates a website design business.

He married his wife, Michelle, in 1996 and has two children (Mackenzie and Nathan) and a stepson (Nick Visconti, who took third-place in the 2012 X Games).

Larry enjoys participating in his children's sports as a mentor, coach, parent and fan.

In 1998, Mertz was inducted into Kutztown University's Sports Hall of Fame.

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