PORTLAND, Maine — It was a great day for Maine sports as the newest class was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon in Portland's Merrill Auditorium.
12 athletes and coaches, six men and six women, make up the 2022 class. This year, the class represents a wide range of sports and successes from the high school ranks all the way to the Olympics.
“This community you know, they love their local sports heroes, and they follow the pro sports teams, and really it’s a sports town," 2022 inductee Ryan Flaherty said. "I don’t think people necessarily realize that [Mainers] love their sports and it’s an honor to be from here.”
Flaherty was a three-sport athlete at Deering High School in Portland but he excelled on the baseball diamond and played nine seasons in the MLB. Now, he's a coach for the San Diego Padres.
Clare Egan is a two-time Olympic biathlete who retired after the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. The 2022 inductee is from Cape Elizabeth and she played three sports, cross-country, track, and nordic skiing, at Wellesley College and for one year at the University of New Hampshire.
Egan said she was finally able to rest and take a summer vacation this year after training for the last decade.
“It’s been great to sort of take a step back and see what else has been going on and all the incredible achievements of other Mainers, it’s fun to meet them," she added.
For Egan, she said she was lucky to grow up in a community and in a state where women athletes are respected, thanks to former Olympic gold medalist, and Cape Elizabeth native, Joan Benoit Samuelson.
“What a gift [it] is to the children of this state and especially to the daughters of this state," Egan said of Benoit Samuelson's impact. "And what a gift it was for me to know that without a shred of doubt that a little girl from Maine could be an Olympian.”
Christy Gardner is another member of the 2022 class. She was a three-sport athlete at Edward Little High School before suffering an injury while serving in the U.S. Army that forced her to lose both legs.
She didn't let that stop her athletic accomplishments as she played for the USA National Sledge Hockey team.
Former University of Maine and National Football League defensive end Michael DeVito said it was an honor to be part of this year's class which has a wide range of athletes.
“I’m very lucky, very blessed, and excited to be part of this incredible group this year and if you look at this group it’s just unreal, so very grateful," he added.
DeVito said during his playing days with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, he had coaches mention that players from Maine always seemed to be some of the toughest on the field and he wanted to pass that mentality on to the next generation.
“We’re built different up here so I think these young, whether they be college or high school, athletes take pride in the fact and courage in the fact that we’re built a little tougher than the rest of the world so embrace that Maine strong, that hard work ethic that we have and know that it can take you very far," he added.
The other inductees of this year's class include Ron Cote, Mikey LeBlanc, Lori McPherson, Hank Pfeifle, Adrienne Shibles, Emily Caras Snyder, Diana Walker, and Rod Wotton.