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Class of 2019

Three former student-athletes known for outstanding athletic success and incredible dedication to athletics in the community were recognized during the Midlakes Athletics Hall of Fame annual induction ceremony held in front of family, friends and sports boosters.

The Athletics Hall of Fame Committee inducted Don Russo, posthumously, Liz (Donk) Lewis and Aaron Hoven during a banquet on Friday, Sept. 20 at the Clifton Springs Country Club.

Also, inductees were honored during Midlakes Homecoming football game and will have plaques of their accomplishments displayed in the entrance to the sports facility at Midlakes High School.

“The Class of 2019 to the Midlakes Athletic Hall of Fame represent a wide range of inductees,” said Rick Ciciarelli, chairman of the committee. “Don Russo graduated in 1972, Liz (Donk) Lewis in 2007, and Aaron Hoven in 2009. This is the greatest span of graduation years the Hall has had up to this point.

Don Russo

Don Russo was a two-sport athlete during the early 1970s, when the Phelps and Clifton Springs merged. He played baseball and football, scoring the first touchdown of the combined program with a game-winning 12-yard interception return, said Brad Gordner, who inducted Russo.

“Don was a credit to his school, his community, and his family,” Gordner said. “He was genuine. He was funny and he wore his heart on his sleeve. He had a passion for teaching kids how to play sports with the same enthusiasm and sportsmanship that he embodied.”

He graduated with a business degree from SUNY Oswego and worked many years for the New York State Electric and Gas Co., in addition to coaching youth football, basketball, and baseball. Russo was inducted as a Friend of the Program honoree.

Russo’s children, Angie McGarry and Matt Russo, accepted the award on his behalf.

“He had a big influence on a lot of kids,” McGarry said during the ceremony. “He was always there to encourage and to challenge them. They referred to him as ‘Donny Baseball’. It was Don Mattingly’s nickname but they called him that because he shared so much knowledge of the game with so many players.”

Liz (Donk) Lewis

Liz (Donk) Lewis was a three-sport athlete recognized as Midlakes 2007 Athlete of the Year. She was a stand-out soccer, basketball and softball player. After graduation, she played collegiate basketball at Rochester Institute of Technology and The Sage Colleges, where he was a two-time captain and team MVP during the 2008-2009 basketball season.

Girls basketball coach Nate Rich said Lewis played received 10 varsity letters and more than 25 different athletics honors during her playing career at Midlakes.

“It’s not so much for her God-given athletic ability, but her work ethic that separated her,” Rich said. “Her knowledge of the game, her leadership and her win to will.”

Lewis is a physical therapist with the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES, head coach of the junior varsity basketball team and was an assistant on Rich’s staff that led the girls basketball team to Sectional titles and state tournament appearances in recent years.

“Little did I know when I start playing sports that it would act as a catalyst to enrich my life,” said Lewis, who thanked her family for being at games and for their continued support. “I learned to make and accomplish goals, overcome adversity, to be a leader, a better teammate, gracious in defeat and humble in success, (and) to respect yourself and others. I’m most grateful for the opportunity Midlakes provided me.”

Aaron Hoven

Aaron Hoven, a 2009 graduate, excelled in cross country and track and field at Midlakes. He was a five-time All-League cross-country selection and a team MVP, winner of the McQuaid Invitational and twice helped Section V win the Class B State Cross Country Championships.

He won many league titles in track and field and Sectional titles in the 800-meter run and pole vault. He also set a school record in the 1600-meter race and helped the 4x800-meter relay team to another school record. He also competed in the state meet.

His father, Chris Hoven, told the audience that Aaron found his love for running doing laps around the house with his brother.

“They would go out and run their 10 laps around the house laughing and joking,” said Chris Hoven. “He told his mom, ‘That’s where he learned to love to run – with my brother and with my parents on the porch cheering us on.”

Aaron Hoven ran for Canisius College, where he was a two-time team captain and a four-time MAAC All-Academic Team selection. He thanked his family – mom with snacks and dad as the unofficial team photography, both as eternal cheerleaders – and the many coaches at Midlakes who helped him achieve his goals.

Throughout my time at Midlakes, I had supportive coaches who always worked me to reach my best and achieve the goals I set for myself,” said Aaron Hoven. “My family was and still is my greatest support. My family helped me to understand the value of a strong work ethic and how it can lead to achieving your goals.”

Nominations for the Midlakes Athletics Hall of Fame are due Nov. 1 and can be mailed to Midlakes Athletics Hall of Fame, c/o John Lombardi, 1500 Route 488, Clifton Springs, NY, 14432. For more information, go to or email

photo of Midlakes Hall of Fame medals

The Midlakes Athletic Hall of Fame recognizes individual athletes, sports teams and those who have made exceptional contributions to the athletic programs of the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District. Athletes are eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame 10 years after they graduate.

Former coaches, administrators, and community supporters who have made extraordinary efforts to enhance the district's athletic programs are also eligible for induction.

Nominations are due Nov. 1 and can be mailed to Midlakes Athletics Hall of Fame, 1554 Route 488, Clifton Springs, NY, 14432. For more information, select the following link. 

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