District News


We watch college sports. These FLSD staff members played them.

Posted on: March 31, 2017

Their students -- and often even their co-workers -- may not know it, but Matt Breines, Cathy Counts, Craig Dukes, Sharon Furlong, Mark Hafner Lora LeMay, Carol Miller and Joe Nichols were all gifted college athletes.


March Madness makes us all wish we were college athletes, but the reality is that less than 4 percent of high school basketball players – and only about 6 percent of high school football, soccer and baseball players – will ever make a college team. Still, eight Finneytown Schools staff members did just that, competing at the collegiate level on the track, on the field, in the gym and in the pool.

Whitaker fourth-grade teacher Carol Miller was a standout basketball player at Xavier University and led the Lady Musketeers to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 1993. Mrs. Miller, who had a 19.3-point scoring average and still holds the single-game scoring record of 46 points, was twice named the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Player of the Year. “It is something that you never forget – representing your university, and the bond that you create with your teammates that can never be broken,” she says.

Groundskeeper Joe Nichols, who played baseball at Florida State University, calls the experience “the best four years of my life.” A favorite memory is of pitching his first college game. “I was standing on the mound, collecting my thoughts when I just gazed into the stands to see all those fans, and I said to myself, ‘Boy, this is your chance. Don’t screw it up. Just throw strikes.”

Secondary biology teacher Matt Breines was a four-year soccer player at Marquette University, captaining the team both his junior and senior years. He says a benefit was being part of an intensely professional organization. “I remember hanging out with six of my teammates who were truly my best friends. We were all inseparable, truly brothers. My college soccer team was a genuine family, so I was blessed to have two powerful families in my life at that time,” he says.

Sharon Furlong, an alternate to the 1980 Olympic Games in volleyball, played for Indiana University. “I am very proud to have played volleyball before Title IX enforced equality between male and female athletes,” she says. “There were no scholarships. We did not have a training table where we ate together or a big food allowance when we were on the road. Our uniforms were hand-me-downs. We paid for our own shoes. The journey I have had helped me understand what commitment is, and that it’s my responsibility to be part of something bigger than myself.”

School psychologist Lora LeMay not only ran cross country at Muskingum University but was named an NCAA Academic All-American during her years there. Being part of the team gave her an immediate circle of friends and made her transition from a small high school less stressful. Balancing studies and the demands of a college sport taught her time-management skills and self-discipline.

Her best memory? "I will never forget a meet we had right after an overnight downpour," she says. "The starting line was in a field, and we were all lined up with a huge mud puddle in front of us. There was no way around it so we knew we were going to be drenched and caked with mud the entire race. As the gun sounded, about 75 young women took off running full force and laughing, shoes squashing everywhere, mud flying!"

After a strong high-school swimming career, Secondary counselor Cathy Counts swam for the University of Missouri Tigers. "In terms of life lessons, I could write a book. Certainly, time management, dedication and self-motivation are skills that I learned and have been able to implement into my adult life. But I often reflect on the thousands of hours spent in the water and the only thing that I could hear were my thoughts," she says. "Fortunately, in high school and college, I was taught mind-training techniques that helped me with focus and perseverance.  These are skills that I have refined and continue to use today." 

Playing a fall sport meant Mark Hafner, now a math teacher at the Secondary Campus, had friends from the moment he set foot on Butler University's campus. "I knew about half the student body right away," he remembers. Playing guard on the football team taught him time management and focus, and gave him a way to release daily frustrations.

As a sophomore, he made the traveling team. His favorite memory is a trip to San Diego. "There are lots of memories of sitting with your buddies and knowing you went through the rigors of college sports together -- you went through the wringer with the guy sitting next to you."