Lacrosse umpire Jill Fitzcharles retires after 35 years

Coach Randy Johnson wins state softball title at Caravel
May 31, 2022

Umpire retires - Jill Fitzcharles, who has been a referee for women's lacrosse for 35 years, umpired her last game May 26 in the state championship final won by Cape over Tatnall 16-4. Jill seemed moved and genuinely surprised. And then her last game generated nine yellow cards, which had Tatnall competing one player down, then later two players down, and sent star player Lydia Colasante out of the game early. My position with umpires is any call they make that I don’t like must be wrong. And I don’t want to know the intricacies of the rules. I have stories to write, not rule books for physical education majors. But I’m cool with officials. I'm nice to them and they in turn are nice to me. Best of everything to Jill.

46 years - The photo (Bob Christie) from the summer of 1976 (l-r) shows Guy Wilkinson, Bill Collick, Randy Johnson and Dave Frederick. May 16, 2022, a mere 46 years later, Randy organized a van trip of the boys from back in the day to the Crown Center for the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame to support my induction. And so, since he’s head coach of Caravel softball, when the Buccaneers beat Sussex Central 8-7 to win the state championship, I was happy for Randy. This is the third state title for Randy. He has lost in the state championship game five times. But a Sussex Central win with Madge Layfield on the mound would have been a tremendous story to gladden the hearts of all Sussex County families.  

Two-mile relay - The 4-by-800 relay race has always been my favorite, and in the 50-year history of Cape track, it has been consistently the best. I was at the Delaware Field House in February 1976 when Cape won the indoor title. Tom Hickman was the coach with a team of Mike Price, Wayne Warren, Jay Reed and John McNair. I was excited, but they were more blasé, like, “Relax, man, we win races at Cape all the time.” I coached a 4-by-800 relay team in 1984 that had Darren Purcell, Hank Stack, James Johnson and Danny Harmon, who ran 7:59 to set a school record that still stands 38 years later. Two weeks ago, the 4-by-800 team of Brian Sponaugle (2:04.6), Liam O'Donnell (2:04.3), Ben Clifton (2:03.7) and Julian Calloway (1:57.9) ran 8:10.65 to win the Division I state championship. I was covering a boys’ lacrosse game, but I kicked myself for missing that race and pulled a hamstring.  

Green River - Indian River High School won the DBVCA boys’ volleyball state championship this spring. Next season, boys’ volleyball will be an official DIAA-sanctioned scholastic sport, which means spectators will have to pay and make sure all cheers are in the spirit of good sportsmanship. The DBVCA all-state team included Cape’s Odin Potemski on first team, and Alex Patterson and Ethan Shuttleworth on second team. Indian River dominated its four postseason tournament games, beating Mt. Pleasant 3-0, Cape Henlopen 3-1, Salesianum 3-1 and DMA 3-1.  

Masser 5-Miler - The 29th annual five-mile race that starts and finishes at Cape Henlopen High School and shares the trail with the wet sprockets of the western world saw 184 finishers, with the top 89 running a pace of 9 minutes per mile or faster. “People don’t train as seriously as they used to,” said Race Director Tim Bamforth. The early-season race participation numbers have always been an indication of the vibrancy of the tourism industry. Many families on vacation like the running scene; it’s just something to do that isn’t sluggish. 

Demographics - Speaking of school sports related to population demographics in the small state of Delaware, I don’t have a good handle on what has happened to Cape since I arrived in 1975, let alone the entire state. OK, actually I do have ideas, which I'd love to bat around the room in a free exchange of thoughts, but that is just never going to happen. When I was teaching, I could spend a week on the homeroom roster just figuring out how students were connected to various community families. I’d love to do the same thing with sports rosters from other schools. Padua has won 20 outdoor state track titles since 1983. Salesianum has won 19 track titles since 1971. That’s a serious preponderance of running citations. It reminds me when one of my sprinters, “Humpty” Carter, ran down the Sallies anchor in the 4-by-200 relay. Father Joseph Beattie, the coach, turned to me and said, “He’s well coached.”

Snippets - I was a football coach in Pennsylvania before coming to Cape. I once called a brilliant play action on a two-point conversion – a post flag pattern off backfield misdirection. The quarterback rolled to his right and hit the wide-open receiver in the hands. The would-be hero batted the ball down into the ground. I asked him, “What was that?” He said, “I’m sorry, coach. I thought I was on defense.” Go on now, git!


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