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Carbon Hall of Fame: Three from Lehighton to be honored

The Carbon County Hall of Sports Hall of Fame committee will hold its 2024 induction dinner and program on Sunday, May 26, at the Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Company hall.

The ceremony will honor 21 inductees from six Carbon County communities and Coaldale who were selected for the honor by committees representing each of the towns.

The doors will open at 12:30 p.m. and the banquet will commence at 1:45.

The honorees include:

Coaldale – Bernie Krasnisky, Joseph J. Hedash and Charles Sproule.

Jim Thorpe – Phil Redline, Craig Zurn, Joe Eichorn and Jim Strubinger.

Lansford – Dan Wynn, Lacy Gonzalez Horan and Caz Kosciolek Sr.

Lehighton – Mike Tkach, Duane Heydt and Jennifer Lobasso.

Nesquehoning – Joe Tout, Esther (Hoffer) Dycziewycz and Dr. Scott Marek.

Palmerton - Lori Ann Weaver and Steve Endres.

Summit Hill – Trevor Lawrence III, Jill Zwiesdak and Trish O’Gurek.

Tickets to the event ($40 for adults and $25 for children) are available from the following: Dan McGinley, 570-325-3550, Vince Spisak, 570-645-4542, Jake Boyer, 610-751-6634, Trevor Lawrence, 570-645-4722, Bill Gardiner, 570-669-6564, Bob Gelatko, 570-645-7565, and Evan Evans, 570-645-7716.

The Times News will begin running the biographies of the inductees by town) on Saturdays. The inductees representing Lehighton are as follows:

Jennifer Lobasso

Jennifer Lobasso graduated from Lehighton Area High School but not before earning 11 varsity letters as a three-sport athlete – field hockey, basketball and softball - and in 1994 being named “Female Athlete of the Year.”

She continued her academic and athletic careers at East Stroudsburg University, where she was a three-year member of the women’s softball team.

After accepting a Social Studies teaching position at Stroudsburg High School, Jennifer took on the role of varsity head coach of both the field hockey team in the Fall and the softball team in the Spring.

She served as the head varsity field hockey coach for 18 years and finished with an overall record of 281-102-17. After taking over a program that had not won a game the previous year, she led the team to its first of 16 straight District 11 tournaments in just her third season at the helm.

Over her career, Jennifer’s teams have attained four Mountain Valley Conference, three Mountain Division East Penn Conference and one East Penn Conference championships, and finished as runner-up in District 11 six times. Her teams qualified for the PIAA state tournament six times, finishing in the final eight in 2016.

Her players were awarded numerous all-league, all-area and all-state recognitions and her teams were ranked nationally in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

From 2011-2016, her teams compiled an astounding record of 124-17-3.

In 2014, Jennifer was honored as the PA Field Hockey Coach of the Year and was a finalist for National Coach of the Year honors. She was also recognized and given an official award of excellence by both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania Senate. In 2015, she was inducted into the District 11 Hall of Fame.

Jennifer continues to share both her love and knowledge of field hockey as the director of the 570 Field Hockey camps each Summer and clinics she provides in the Winter for local children. In addition, she has been a color commentator for Blue Ridge Cable TV-13 Sports from 1999 to the present, covering field hockey, soccer, basketball, wrestling and softball.

She and her family continue to live and raise their children in the Lehighton Area School District, where she currently volunteers her time and effort in supporting not only youth sports, but also by encouraging students to read.

In the 2022-2023 school year, she donated a free copy of her authored book to every kindergarten students at the Lehighton Elementary Center. This past school year, she transferred from Stroudsburg to Lehighton to teach and to be a true part of the community. Her goal now is to continue as a teacher, mentor and coach and to raise her two sons in an area that has given so much to her, while giving back to it as well.

Duane D. Heydt Jr.

Duane D. Heydt Jr. is a 1989 graduate of Lehighton Area High School who has risen to prominence in sports as a referee in college and now in the National Football League.

After leaving LAHS, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biostatistics from the University of South Carolina and began his professional career in 1995 as a biostatistician at the Geisinger Medical Center.

Duane started officiating high school football in 2002, proceeding to referee 100 varsity games through 2022. He entered the college ranks in 2006, beginning in the South Atlantic Conference, where he worked for six years. He joined the Southern Conference from 2010-2012, and the Big South Conference, where he refereed from 2011-2021.

Duane became a Power 5 college football referee in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, where he was recognized as one of the top officials in all of college football officiating.

His most notable postseason assignments include the 2017 Rose Bowl game between Penn State and Southern California; the 2018 national semifinal Orange Bowl game between Alabama and Oklahoma; the 2020 Army-Navy game played at West Point, where he introduced then-President Donald Trump at the coin toss; and the 2022 College Football National Championship game between Alabama and Georgia played in Indianapolis.

Duane’s other bowl assignments include the Outback, Liberty, Citrus, Cactus and Senior bowls.

In 2022, Duane received a call from the National Football League to be one of only 121 league officials in the country. He joined the NFL staff as an umpire and has completed his second season on Brad Allen’s staff, wearing No. 42 on his uniform. In only his second season, he was selected to work as the umpire in the wild card playoff game between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, and as an alternate official in a divisional game between Houston and Baltimore. To date, he has worked 43 professional games, including a stint in the USFL in 2022.

On the business professional level, in 2002 Duane started Tegra Analytics, LLC, providing statistical and analytical consulting services to the pharmaceutical industry. In 2005, he started investing in real estate and continues to manage his portfolio of properties while also providing statistical and analytical consulting services.

On a personal note, Duane and his wife, Sonia, are residents of Columbia, S.C., and have raised three great children: Miranda, who works as a statistician and lives in Boston; Connor, who is majoring in marketing at Anderson University; and Kelsey, who is majoring in nursing at the University of South Carolina.

Mike Tkach

He started what would be a lengthy career in athletics on the Little League Baseball, Catholic Youth Organization courts and American Legion diamonds as a Lehighton team member, and took his talents to the high school and collegiate levels before moving on to career options in athletic training and coaching.

Mike Tkach, a 1984 graduate of Lehighton Area High School, earned seven varsity letters playing basketball for Coach Jim Smith and football for coaches Jimmy Wentz and Dave Parsons. At the conclusion of his scholastic career, he was named an honorable mention All-State linebacker as an Indian gridder.

He initially had plans to matriculate to the University of Scranton to play basketball but opted for the gridiron of West Chester University with hopes of pursing a physical therapy career.

While donning a Golden Ram uniform, Mike nailed down a linebacking position and also handled long-snapping assignments, lettering in three campaigns. Upon completing his collegiate career, he received an invitation to try out with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.

While substituting at his alma mater (LAHS), Mike received an invitation to interview with the Pat Croce organization and was offered a position as an exercise physiologist in Nashville, TN, where he also pursued his certification and license as a certified athletic trainer. While in Tennessee, he covered four high schools in addition to doing clinic work, before relocating to Sellersville. Back in PA, Mike served local high schools as well as the Quakertown Barons, a college baseball summer league squad.

The following year, he relocated to Atlanta with Croce’s organization, where he served as a trainer in clinics and for the Atlanta Hawks. He attended to athletes at Morehouse College and served as an assistant trainer for the Atlanta Knights of the International Hockey League, during which time the team won the Turner Cup Championship. Mike also oversaw rehabilitation and covered occasional matches for World Championship Wrestling.

Through his trainer work, Mike had the privilege of training and “rehabbing” athletes at all levels, including professional wrestlers, NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA athletes, Hall of Famers, Cy Young Award winners and college, high school and recreational athletes.

In 2001, Mike opted for a career change, moving closer to his family and his wife’s family in Doylestown and Lehighton, accepting a teaching and coaching position in Milford, DE. He was later named head coach there and led the Buccaneers to the 2008 State of Delaware Division II State Championship, after which time he received the 2008 Henlopen Conference Coach of the Year award, the John Whitehead/NIKE Eastern PA Coach of the Year honor and the Division II Delaware Coaches Association Coach of the Year award.

He left Milford in 2014, accepting assistant jobs at Caesar Rodney High School and Cape Henlopen High School. He was inducted in the Milford 12th Man Club and Football Hall of Fame in 2022.

During his tenure in Delaware, Mike coached the Gold Squad in the State of Delaware All-Star Game eight times, twice as the head coach and six times as an assistant.

Mike attributes his opportunity to coach to “being able to lean on my brothers,” who include HOF inductee Jim Tkach and Rick Stroup, noting he “was blessed to have older brothers, sisters and cousins who supported me and pushed me to be the best I could be.”