(From left to right) Don Verkey ‘73, Teal Gove ‘13, Mike Heymann ‘11, Karen (Wiley) Waterbury ‘87, and Kyle Norchi ‘12 pose after giving each of their speeches at Memorial Hall Gymnasium Friday, Oct. 13.
By Michael Purtell
The Plattsburgh State Athletics Hall of Fame is the way alumni of Plattsburgh State are shown their contributions to the athletic programs they represent are important, and will be remembered for the rest of Cardinal’s history.
The 2023 Plattsburgh State Athletics Hall of Fame class was officially inducted Friday, Oct. 13, and five Cardinals have joined the ranks of legendary Plattsburgh athletes. The alumni honored are: Teal Gove, class of 2013; Mike Heymann, class of 2011; Kyle Norchi, class of 2012; Don Verkey, class of 1973; and Karen (Wiley) Waterbury, class of 1987.
These athletes cover over 40 years of Cardinal excellence, and represent five different Plattsburgh State programs.
The ceremony took place in the newly renovated Memorial Hall Gymnasium as a part of Alumni Weekend. The inductees joined friends, family, old teammates and old classmates for the opening cocktail hour before being welcomed by Director of Athletics and Recreation Mike Howard and served a buffet style dinner. Assistant Director of Athletics and Master of Ceremonies Brian Savard then introduced Plattsburgh State President Dr. Alexander Enyedi and the hall of fame class for speeches.
These athletes cover more than 40 years of Cardinal excellence, and represent five different Plattsburgh State programs.
The ceremony took place in the newly renovated Memorial Hall Gymnasium as a part of Alumni Weekend. The inductees joined friends, family, old teammates and old classmates for the opening cocktail hour before being welcomed by Director of Athletics and Recreation Mike Howard and served a buffet-style dinner. Assistant Director of Athletics and Master of Ceremonies Brian Savard then introduced Plattsburgh State President Alexander Enyedi and the Hall of Fame class for speeches.
Teal Gove, while representing Cardinals women’s hockey, had one of the most awarded senior years Plattsburgh State has ever seen. In her senior season of 2012-13, she earned honors including: CoSIDA At-Large All-American of the year, two CoSIDA academic All-American selections, the Laura Hurd award, AHCA First-Team All-American (two total), ECAC West Player of the year (two total), an ECAC West Championship, the Plattsburgh State Female Athlete of the Year and the National Player of the Year by D3hockey.com and the New York Hockey Journal.
After her time at Plattsburgh, Gove worked to complete her master of sports management and leadership, a master of science in kinesiology and the Canadian Olympic Committees Emerging Leaders program. These accomplishments accompany a career in sports management, which has taken Gove from her home in Canada working with Hockey Canada to Melbourne, Australia where she now works for Cricket Australia.
The trip from Australia is the furthest trip taken this year to accept the Plattsburgh Hall of Fame induction, but Gove was excited to return to campus for the first time since her sister graduated in 2015.
Gove credits her time at Plattsburgh for several life lessons which have helped her throughout her adult life.
“When I came to Plattsburgh, our women’s hockey program, I think I can easily say, is the best hockey program in the country and winning was really what was expected. Plattsburgh taught me commitment and it taught me high expectations. It taught me how to strive for excellence. And I think that’s something that I carried over into every area of my life and that I’m really grateful for and Plattsburgh also taught me the importance of supporting others,” Gove said. “I developed and grew so much because of the support from Coach Kevin Houle and Coach Nicole Williams and I am forever grateful for that and that they took a chance bringing me on as a freshman.”
Mike Heymann is the most decorated athlete in the history of the Plattsburgh State cross country and track and field programs. He is one of only 85 runners in Division III cross country history to earn three All-America honors, finishing fifth in the 2010 NCAA Championships his senior year. In addition, he earned All-American honors twice in the indoor track national championships and twice in the outdoor track national championships. Heymann was named to the SUNYAC All-Decade Team in both cross country and track and field, was the Plattsburgh State Male Athlete of the year in 2010-11 and won the Plattsburgh State Senior Achievement Award in the same year.
After his years at Plattsburgh State, Heymann became head coach of cross country and assistant coach of track and field at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. The program started in 2003, and Heymann cites growing the fresh programs into something the school and students can take pride in as his greatest professional achievement.
Now as a head coach of his own, he finds himself teaching much of what he learned at Plattsburgh, where he discovered his interest in the career path.
“I was actually really interested in really pursuing education, not necessarily thinking it was going to be a route into coaching, but it’s just what I enjoyed. As I got to Plattsburgh I started realizing more and more that maybe this is something I can pursue in unison with pursuing a career in education. And it was something that was incredibly helpful because as I was working my way into coaching I was also a full time teacher,” Heymann said. “Truthfully, it’s even what brought me to Nazareth in the first place, as they had a graduate assistant position that allowed me to recruit and coach while I was in grad school.”
Kyle Norchi is a key member of Plattsburgh men’s lacrosse history. He was the first Cardinal to receive the honors of USILA All-American in 2011. His four All-SUNYAC selections made him the first non-goalie to receive the first-team nod in Plattsburgh men’s lacrosse history. He leads the program all-time in points (282) and goals (198) and was among national leaders in goals per game in three of his four seasons (6th in 2009, 3.29; 8th in 2010, 3.12; 11th in 2011, 3.19). He did the same for points in 2010 (8th, 4.76). He also holds the second most goals scored in a game for Plattsburgh State, with eight goals scored against Williams College on April 20, 2010.
Norchi also spearheaded the first Plattsburgh lacrosse team to make the SUNYAC playoffs, which happened in 2009.
In the years since his graduation, Norchi has become a fully-licensed locomotive engineer for the Long Island Railroad, and lives in East Islip.
Cardinal athletics left a lasting impact on Norchi after his collegiate career, and said his favorite moment from his playing days was, “playing and becoming friends with so many great people and teammates through my time at Plattsburgh.”
The lacrosse program at Plattsburgh represents more than just the statistics and the awards. For Norchi, it was building up the fresh program with a team of good people around him that made his years special.
“The goal for me and a lot of my classmates that I played with was to up-end Cortland. We didn’t really accomplish that while I was there, but to see the program take leaps and bounds forward as the years went on and then eventually have them win a SUNYAC championship, and even come close — they came close a couple of times where we lost by a goal or two in the SUNYAC finals leading up to their championship. That means more to me than any accomplishments I had,” Norchi said. “To see the program get nationally recognized and ranked and winning the SUNYAC tournament and playing in the NCAA tournament, that is just the coolest thing for me.”
Norchi is the first name to enter the Plattsburgh State Athletics Hall of Fame for men’s lacrosse, but he doesn’t believe it will be for long. Norchi has followed the Plattsburgh lacrosse teams and still shows his support. If you asked him, he could name plenty of players who he believes were phenomenal talents for the Cardinals, and he hopes will join him soon.
Don Verkey spent two years at Plattsburgh after time at Broome Tech, but those two years were chock-full of high-level basketball. Verkey was a team captain immediately upon his arrival, and was second team All-SUNYAC. In his senior year, he led Plattsburgh to NAIA tournament contention and earned first-team All-SUNYAC honors. When he hung up the Cardinals uniform, he held all three of the men’s basketball program’s steals records with 296 for his career, 183 in a single season, and 15 in a single game. Verkey is also 10th all time in the program for blocked shots, with 78.
After his time on the basketball court, Verkey decided to hit the food courts. He managed and owned restaurants for 30 years, and spent time working for New York State. He is now retired, with two kids who both work in education. He’s lived in Plattsburgh since graduating.
Athletic success runs in the Verkey family. Don’s brother, Rodney Verkey, earned a roster spot in the NFL. Through sharing an All-State team, Don and Rodney got to become good friends with future New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin.
His son, Chris Verkey, was also inducted into the Plattsburgh Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011 for his national championship in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. They’ve become the first father-son duo to make it into the Plattsburgh Hall of Fame.
Don Verkey’s induction was a long time coming, according to his friends and family, but unbeknownst to them, this was actually his second invitation to the Hall.
“I was nominated a long time ago and I refused it because there was no junior college players in at that time. I didn’t think it was right,” Verkey said. “I just didn’t think it was fair to all the other people been here for four years, so I literally turned it down.”
Yet, those two seasons were enough to set long-standing records, as no one has come close to Don Verkey’s career steal records. After a second invitation, now to join his son and other two-year Cardinals, Verkey decided it was time to accept.
Verkey remains with the program through his volunteer work running the shot clock for Plattsburgh State’s home basketball games.
Karen (Wiley) Waterbury has the second most wins by a coach in the history of SUNYAC women’s soccer. The head women’s soccer coach of 23 years ended her coaching career with an overall record of 278-151-32. She led Plattsburgh State to a SUNYAC and an ECAC title in 1998, a NYSWCAA championship in 1996, and three NCAA Division III tournament appearances. She ranks 50th all time in Division III women’s soccer coaches in career victories, including her work in 1989 with SUNY Potsdam.
As a player, she was an All-SUNYAC athlete for the Cardinals in 1986.
After her successful coaching career with Plattsburgh and time served as the Plattsburgh State Director of Recreation, Waterbury is now retired and paints part-time with her son. She also remains local, but spends half of her year in Fort Myers, Florida.
Waterbury built countless relationships as a coach and player, which have lasted her a lifetime. With her induction to the hall of fame, she’d received countless emails, texts, and packages in the mail filled with celebrations and congratulations from Plattsburgh alumni.
One of the more obvious relationships formed was with Plattsburgh State Head Men’s Soccer Coach Chris Waterbury, who is now both her husband and a Hall of Famer himself. The two coached the men’s and women’s soccer teams for decades and were co-head coaches for the tennis team.
Karen Waterbury built a professional and personal family through Plattsburgh alongside her sterling coaching career, and they aren’t unrelated.
“You’re a great coach when you have good players, when you have great assistants, when you have great support in admissions. Admissions was phenomenal,” Waterbury said. “I think to be successful, you have to have good people around you and you have to have good players. Was I a good coach? I like to think I was. I cared about the kids, I treated them like family. They’re still family to me.”
The Hall of Fame committee will meet over the upcoming winter break to begin the selection process for the 2024 class. Anyone can nominate a SUNY Plattsburgh athlete for consideration as long as the athlete has graduated from Plattsburgh State and has been graduated for at least 10 years. To nominate someone, visit gocardinalsports.com.