Inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame Opens with Halftime Ceremony, Banquet


Photo by Emily Nagy

Longtime baseball coach Farron Riggs greets alumni at the athletics hall of fame banquet. The hall of fame inductees were announced during halftime of the varsity football game against the Magruder Colonels.

Elenna Mach, Editor-in-Chief

As people filed into the restaurant, with their families by their side, smiles and laughter immediately emerged on their faces as they reconnected with their former teammates and coaches from decades ago. Smells of Italian food spread throughout the room as the athletes, coaches and their families settled in for heartfelt, emotional and entertaining speeches.  

The RHS community gathered Oct. 5 at the Athletic Hall of Fame (HOF) football game and Oct. 6 at the HOF banquet at That’s Amore Italian Restaurant to honor RHS’ inaugural class of the HOF which recognizes those who worked or studied at RHS, for their outstanding contributions to school athletics.

Inductees can include RHS student-athlete alumni, athletic directors, coaches, administrators and supporters of athletics. They must be nominated through a form on the RHS athletics site. This year, nine inductees were chosen by a 10-person selection committee composed of athletic director Michael Hayes, varsity baseball coach Farron Riggs, administrators, varsity coaches and booster club president Chris Emond.

We’re looking for the best of the best at this point.  -athletic director Michael Hayes

There were about 40 nominations that the committee chose between, ultimately choosing six former RHS athletes and three former RHS coaches through a comparison process. During the selection process it was determined that all of this year’s inductees have shown outstanding accomplishments throughout their high school athletic career and beyond RHS. The inaugural class includes Coach Jim Conner, Coach Tom Manuel, Coach Larry Nuzzaci, Brian Howard (‘81), Larry Hurd Senior (‘74), Audra Poulin (‘00), Debbie Shockley (‘88), Andrew Stroud (‘94) and Gene Thomas (‘88).

“We’re looking for the best of the best at this point: the top athletes that came out of Rockville High School and coaches as well,” Hayes said.


Andrew Stroud (‘94)

RHS has a rich history of athletes and coaches who excelled in their sport or multiple sports. Stroud contributed to RHS’ 1992 and 1993 soccer state championships while also winning back-to-back state wrestling championships in 1993 and 1994 during his time at RHS. Stroud took his soccer career further when he received a full scholarship to compete at the  Division I level at Towson University.

Stroud first took up wrestling as a way to stay in shape for his main sport, soccer, not expecting to be as successful as he was in his weight class. He earned a spot on the All-Metropolitan team in 1994 and ended his senior year season with a record of 27-0 and an overall career record of 84-14.

[Rockville soccer and wrestling] helped me learn how to be a leader over time. -Andrew Stroud (’94)

“I think [Rockville soccer and wrestling] helped me learn how to be a leader over time, starting as a freshman,” Stroud said. “It really helped me learn a lot of discipline, specifically with wrestling [and to aspire] to be the best at everything that I do.”

Stroud’s older brothers, John Stroud (‘87) and Jeff Stroud (‘89) also earned notable accolades during their time at RHS. Such accolades include John Stroud’s naming of Washington Post’s soccer player of the year in 1985 and 1986 and Jeff Stroud’s Model Ram Award in 1989. All three brothers trained under soccer Coach Larry Nuzzaci at RHS, who is also a HOF inductee.


Coach Larry Nuzzaci

Nuzzaci played baseball in his adolescent years and assisted varsity baseball coach Tom Manuel, also a HOF inductee, in his early years at RHS. Nuzzaci taught in MCPS for 36 years mainly as a biology teacher and also as a career education teacher for 10 years.

Fifteen years of his career were spent at RHS and 13 years were committed to coaching varsity girls and boys soccer. Nuzzaci coached the boys team to six state championships out of the seven times they were in the finals. Another highlight of his career was during the 1991 and 1992 seasons when the team had 19 shutout games in a row, Nuzzaci said.

Nuzzaci coached the girls varsity soccer team to three county championships and was undefeated, untied and unscored upon one year. However, the girls soccer teams at this time were unable to make it to playoffs for the state championship because the tournament was played during the fall season whereas MCPS’ girls soccer season was played in the spring.

“To be selected for the first [HOF], I think it speaks for itself. I’m extremely honored to be in the first class and I’m overcome with excitement,” Nuzzaci said. “I just think for an honor like that, I would fly half way across the world, I’m that excited about it.”


Audra Poulin (‘00)

Like many HOF inductees, Audra Poulin (‘00) wasn’t just a standout athlete in one sport, but multiple sports. She played basketball, cross country, track and field and mainly, soccer throughout her high school athletic career. She was on the varsity girls soccer team all four years and has played soccer all her life; her adolescent years were filled with soccer, playing for the Bethesda Falcons and the Maryland State Team called the Olympic Development Program. She was on the All-Metropolitan girls soccer team in 1998 and was Player of the Year in 1999 with 89 career goals and 60 career assists.

During her senior year, Poulin fulfilled her childhood goal of earning a scholarship to play soccer in college. She attended University of Maryland College Park with a full scholarship and was a starter all four years, finishing her collegiate career with 168 shots. She has played with and against players such as two-time Olympic gold medalists and FIFA World Cup champions Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach, but has learned never to be intimidated by someone else’s name, she said.

“Find whatever you are passionate about and whatever you want to throw all your energy at, that’s what your supposed to be doing,” Poulin said. “Only you know what makes you tick and once you find that and put all your energy in it, then there’s no limit to what you can do.”


Current Students, Prospective Hall of Famers

Inductees to the HOF are exemplars of what current and future students should strive for in athletics. Senior Nate Watts, who is committed to the Naval Academy for swimming, already has distinguished himself as a notable athlete at RHS, let alone in the state, with his three individual and two relay state championships, all the while still having another swimming season left in his high school career.

“I know that in order for me to get in [to the HOF], I have to show how I’ve been successful past the high school level and at the collegiate level and even after that,” Watts said. “Some of the inductees this year went on to go at the professional level, some of them paid for college through sporting events and some of them have outstanding achievements other than sporting events and [they are] just great people all around.”

With the first round hall of famers inducted, Hayes said that the current plan is to select new nominees for the future every two years.