Over the past 175 years, many athletes have come to the hilltop to further their academic studies and hone their athletic skills. Thanks to their talent, tenacity and sportsmanship, each year a few standout graduates continue contributing to their sport and competing at the highest levels. The Blair Athletic Hall of Fame Committee is pleased to honor those individuals and announce the athletes and coaches chosen for the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2023: Robert H. Dalling Sr. ’29, A. Jon Frere Hon. ’74, Christian C. Passannante ’92, David T. Low Jr. ’89, Sarah (Marcincin) Hartman ’07, Kellen Russell ’07 and the 1984-1985 Girls’ cross country team.
“It is a privilege to induct this year’s class into Blair’s Hall of Fame to honor their love and dedication to their passions,” Director of Athletics Paul Clavel ’88 said. “These coaches and alumni gave so much of themselves to the School and to their sport during their time on the hilltop and beyond, and they truly represent the excellence of the Blair Academy athletic program.”
To recognize and celebrate the outstanding athletic achievements of its alumni and coaches, Blair established an Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016. In order to be considered for Hall of Fame membership, nominees must have exhibited the highest caliber of athletic accomplishment during their time at Blair and have been outstanding members of the School community in the areas of scholastic achievement, citizenship, integrity and moral character. Selection is based primarily on athletic accomplishments while a Blair student or coach, although subsequent achievement in athletics or other areas may be considered. Finally, alumni nominees become Hall-of-Fame eligible in the 10th year following their graduation, while coaches become eligible after their retirement from Blair.
Robert H. Dalling Sr. ’29
Bob Dalling Sr. was, no doubt, one of the founders of New Jersey wrestling. Nicknamed the “Father of Blair Wrestling,” he was known for his great sense of humor and became widely respected for his integrity and humility. Born in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, before moving to Stillwater Township, New Jersey, Bob came to the hilltop in 1924, the same year the first scholastic wrestling program in New Jersey started at Blair. Bob served as captain of the Blair Academy team in 1929, then matriculated at Lehigh University, where he captured two Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association titles, while achieving a winning percentage of .895 at 126 pounds.
While wrestling as a prominent member of the Lehigh University team during their first golden era, Bob began coaching at Blair. Coach Dalling nurtured, built and led Blair for 32 years over a 42-year period that spanned the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, coaching Blair’s first NCAA title winner and Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2017 inductee Michael Lieberman ’71. He was known as a strict disciplinarian, a superb teacher and a strong proponent of sportsmanship. In 1933, he engineered a 23-consecutive win streak, and throughout his career, his team won eight National Prep titles and had 28 place-winners in the National Prep Championships.
Bob was inducted into the Sussex County Hall of Fame in 1993. After his passing in 1995, the New Jersey chapter of the National Hall of Fame posthumously honored him with the Lifetime Service Award to Wrestling.
To honor Bob’s legacy at Blair, the Robert H. Dalling Prize was established in 1972, awarded to the outstanding male athlete who best represents Blair Academy in athletic competition. In 2005, the Robert Dalling Sr. Wrestling Scholarship was established to honor Blair’s storied wrestling history in a way that Bob himself most certainly would have endorsed: a scholarship providing one deserving student the opportunity to attend Blair to study, wrestle and prepare for the future.
A. Jon Frere, Hon. ’74
Jon Frere joined the Blair Academy faculty in September 1966 as a full-time member of the language department, dormitory advisor and assistant coach. In the summer of 1970, he was appointed head football coach and Director of Athletics and Physical Education at Blair until 1984, when he founded the school’s lacrosse program.
As former Headmaster James R. Kelly wrote in 1987, “Virtually every one of (Jon’s) fourteen seasons as head coach were winning ones, but more important than that was the sense of spirit, of accomplishment, of pride, and of camaraderie which he was able to develop in his teams.” In 1994, Jon established the A. Jon Frere Scholarship to be awarded to a student in good academic standing whose involvement in all aspects of school life enhances the quality of the academic, athletic and extracurricular programs at Blair Academy.
Christian C. Passannante ’92
As a newcomer to Blair, Christian Passannante quickly caught the attention of his coaches as a three-sport athlete, participating in soccer, swimming and lacrosse. Turning his focus to swimming, he excelled in the pool throughout his time on the hilltop, and his coach, the late Dr. Richard E. Clarke Jr., took notice. “He is one of the most enthusiastic, talented and hard-working swimmers that I’ve ever had and I certainly look forward to another successful season for him,” Dr. Clarke wrote.
Christian broke multiple pool and school swimming records and still holds the current school record for 200m freestyle set in 1991. During his junior and senior years, he earned the title of High School All-American in the 200m freestyle and 50/100m freestyle and was named to the top 15 national high school list for the 200m freestyle in Swimming World Magazine.
Christian matriculated at the University of Tennessee, where his swimming legacy continued. He was a multiple All-American, leading his team to two third-place finishes and one second-place finish in 1995 in the SEC. Christian’s senior year culminated in a first-place team finish in the conference and a spot on the SEC Scholar Honor Roll.
David T. Low Jr. ’89
Dave Low Jr.’s tenure at Blair started well before he stepped foot in a classroom, moving to the hilltop at the age of 8 with his family, when his father, Dave Low Sr., took the role of Assistant Headmaster. When it came time to join the Class of 1989, Dave hit the ground running as a three-sport athlete in soccer, basketball and lacrosse. The latter swiftly developed into a passion, and Dave became a top-scorer for Blair Lacrosse, becoming the New Jersey state career scoring leader—and holding that title—for two decades. In the 1980s, he was even selected as New Jersey’s “Player of the Decade.” Dave’s leadership on and off the field led to three captain titles in his respective sports and membership to the Cum Laude Society at Blair.
As a college sophomore and junior, Dave helped Middlebury’s lacrosse team secure two Eastern College Athletic Conference championships, and he led the team in goals his senior year with 42 in 15 games. In 1993, Dave won Middlebury College’s John P. Stabile Award, presented annually to a member of a men’s team who best exemplifies the Middlebury spirit.
Dave’s love of lacrosse led to him coaching Bainbridge High School’s boys’ lacrosse team in Bainbridge Island, Washington, and he served as a longtime board member of the Washington State Chapter of U.S. Lacrosse. He was inducted into the Washington State Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2013.
Sarah (Marcincin) Hartman ’07
At the time of her graduation, Sarah (Marcincin) Hartman’s field hockey and lacrosse coach said, “She’s the most amazing athlete in both sports I’ve ever seen.” Her college counselor echoed those sentiments, sharing an anecdote from the time Sarah hit a ball so hard in a field hockey game that it actually broke, grounding play to a halt as players, coaches, referees and spectators looked on in disbelief.
“Not surprisingly, Sarah Marcincin is one of the top field hockey players in the country, and perhaps the best female athlete ever to attend Blair,” she said. During her career, Sarah garnered nine varsity letters, four in both field hockey and lacrosse and one in basketball. Sarah is the School’s all-time scoring leader for lacrosse with 223 goals and 101 assists from 2004 to 2007, winning back-to-back Lacrosse Prizes in 2006 and 2007, and earning First Team All-Prep and All-MAPL for lacrosse from 2004 to 2006. Sarah scored 50 goals and 45 assists from 2003 to 2006 in field hockey, receiving the Field Hockey Prize and earning First Team All-Prep and All-MAPL for field hockey from 2005 to 2007. In 2007, Sarah received Blair’s William Zester Prize, given to the female athlete who best represents Blair in competition. Sarah’s legacy continued through college as a four-year starter at Northwestern University, where she was selected captain as a junior, Second-Team All-Big Ten her senior year and earned Academic All-Big Ten recognition.
Kellen Russell ’07
During his senior year, fierce competitor and dynamic leader Kellen Russell was described as a shining example for other high-level athletes at Blair Academy. Throughout his four years, he won three National Prep Titles, received invitations to prestigious senior events such as the Dapper Dan and Dream Team Classic, captained the wrestling squad and won a Senior National title at the National High School Coach’s Association Nationals. Kellen was the 2007 recipient of the 2007 Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award and was a member of the Wrestling USA Dream Team. Among his other accolades, Kellen earned championship titles at major tournaments, including the Junior Freestyle Nationals, Cadet Freestyle Nationals, Beast of the East and Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tournament.
Kellen’s wrestling success took him to the University of Michigan, where he was a three-time NCAA All-American, winning two NCAA Championships and four Big Ten Championships. Boasting an overall college record of 134-12, Kellen went undefeated his junior year and was named the University of Michigan’s Athlete of the Year twice. He won the 2012 Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Big Ten Championships and the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Award. After college, he continued to train on the international scene with the hopes to make the World and Olympic teams. Currently, Kellen is an assistant coach at Cornell University.
1984-1985 Girls’ Cross Country Team
In the fall of 1984, the girls’ cross country team became the first at Blair to take home the state championship for their sport. Despite the years that have passed, former head coach and history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, Hon. ’81 still remembers the day the girls’ team won the state championship on Blair’s course fondly.
“Certain moments resonate in a coach’s memory,” Dr. Miller said. “It was almost 40 years ago when our leading runners emerged from the hills in the top three positions.” Sisters Dana (Post) Murray ’85 and Christine Post ’86 had led the team throughout the 1984 season along with Lyn (Avery-Jones) Brabant ’89. On that day, four decades ago, they were poised just one lengthy, rectangular field away from victory. “As they rounded the soccer fields, I can still picture Lyn’s dad, the Rev. Peter Amerman, Blair’s longtime chaplain, coaching soccer and being distracted by his daughter racing by with abandon. Our athletes held their places to the finish line and garnered the first such trophy for the girls’ cross country team; it was a good day,” Dr. Miller recalls.
Christine Parker ’85, Jennifer (Kapp) Spinks ’86, Theresa (Colton) Rooth ’88 and Anita (Ricketts) Sarate ’88 rounded out the squad that fall. With an undefeated dual season, the team also won the Newark Invitational Championships. Individually, Dana finished the season undefeated.
Learn more about the Athletic Hall of Fame selection process and view bios of Athletic Hall of Fame inductees here.
Suggest nominees for the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2024 here by December 31, 2023.