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West Hartford Residents Among CT Women’s Hall of Fame Inductees and Spotlight Recipients

From left: Lhakpa Sherpa, Betty Remigino-Knapp, Heather Buck. Courtesy photos

The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame ceremony on Oct. 20 celebrates ‘Women in Sports.’

By Ronni Newton

At the 29th Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) Induction Ceremony Thursday night, West Hartford resident Lhakpa Sherpa will be one of four inductees, and town residents Heather Buck and Betty Remgino-Knapp will be celebrated as “Spotlight Recipients.”

In addition to Sherpa, CWHF inductees Suzy Whaley, Jennifer Rizzotti, and Cora Lee Bentley Radcliffe (posthumously) are being “recognized for their exceptional work, inspiring spirit, and tremendous achievements in breaking the glass ceiling” during a ceremony that also marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX. The Founding President’s Award is also being presented to Special Olympics Connecticut “in recognition of their work to empower and educate girls and women with and without intellectual disabilities.”

“We have an exceptional program this year,” CWHF Executive Director Sarah Smith Lubarsky said in a statement. “We are thrilled to honor these amazing women, who have not only achieved great personal success in their sport but have also carved easier paths for women and girls to follow. In this 50th Anniversary year of Title IX, it is appropriate that we recognize the progress that has been made and highlight the achievements of these extraordinary women.”

Sherpa, a native of Nepal who has lived in Connecticut for 20 years and West Hartford for 18 of those years, continues to break her own records for successful summits of Mt. Everest. In May, she reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain for the 10th time, breaking her previous record ninth successful climb four years earlier.

Lhakpa Sherpa (left) and her 15-year-old daughter, Shiny, a student at Conard High School in West Hartford, stand with a Conard banner at Mount Everest’s base camp on April 30, 2022. On May 12, 2022, Lhakpa Sherpa became the first woman to reach the summit for the 10th time. Facebook image (we-ha.com file photo)

“In 2016, she was listed as one of the BBC’s 100 Women,” the summary of Sherpa’s achievements in the CWHF program notes.    “Her interest in climbing began at a very young age, where she would often join her father on his expeditions as a porter in the Makalu region in the Nepalese Himalayas. Her mother discouraged this behavior, calling her a ‘tomboy’ and claiming that she would never get married. Lhakpa’s passion for the mountain proved to be stronger than the social norms of the town she grew up in. Eventually, she summited Mt. Everest on May 18, 2000 – the first woman to do so successfully.”

In 2019, when she was celebrated as a “Wonder Woman” by Malta House of Care, Sherpa said she was putting off climbing that year due to the death of her father, and her 10th summit was ultimately delayed until 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lhakpa Sherpa not only climbs Mount Everest, but also guides climbs in New England and elsewhere in the world through her company, Cloudscape Climbing.

Sherpa has a son, Nima, and two daughters, Sunny and Shiny. Shiny accompanied her mother to Everest Base Camp this spring, and the two plan to continue climbing together. Lhakpa Sherpa has indicated that she plans to climb K2 – the earth’s second-highest peak – in the summer of 2023, with Shiny accompanying her to base camp.

“Lhakpa’s achievements have not only started a shift in Sherpa culture and inspired more women in Nepal and New England to climb but have also marked her as a symbol of strength for women all over the world,” the CWHF states.

Remigino-Knapp and Buck are among the 18 women who are 2022 Spotlight Recipients.

Betty Remigino-Knapp speaks at the “Passing the Torch” anniversary celebration of Title IX and girls sports in West Hartford. April 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Remigino-Knapp retired in 2016 as West Hartford’s athletic director, responsible for the high school programs at both Conard and Hall high schools, a position she held for 20 years. She was recognized as Athletic Director of the Year in 2016, and in 2015 received the Distinguished Service Award from the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors.

The CWHF noted that “during her 20-year tenure as AD, Betty oversaw several key initiatives affecting the student-athletes at both high schools. She facilitated implementing one of the first heat protocols for high school athletes to help maximize health and safety during exercise in intense heat working closely with Doug Casa, the CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute at UConn. Working closely with town officials she also upgraded the stadium facilities at both high schools. Betty continued her championing of equality for women in sport with the addition of the girls’ ice hockey team. ”

Prior to becoming West Hartford’s athletic director, Remigino-Knapp led the women’s cross country and track and field programs at UConn as head coach from 1980 through 1986 where she led her teams to two Big East championships and a New England championship, and coached five All Americans, three Academic All-American Scholar Athletes, and two Olympic qualifiers.

While at UConn, she served as president of the Big East Coaches Association from 1994-96 and was president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Track and Field Rules Committee for six years.

A graduate of Central Connecticut State University, Remigino-Knapp began her athletics career coaching at Conard High School in 1977. She was Conard’s head cross country and track and field coach from 1978-1980. During her tenure, the 1978 cross country team won the Class L title and in 1979 the outdoor track and field team won the State Open Championship.

After her retirement, Remigino-Knapp returned to coaching in 2017, leading the Hall High School girls cross country and track and field teams. In 2019, Hall won the divisional cross country, State Open, and New England Championships.

Heather Buck. Courtesy photo

Also a 2022 Spotlight Recipient, Buck is a native of Stonington and a 2008 graduate of Stonington High School where she led the team to a 2006 Class M State Championship, was a four-time All-State selection, was CHSCA State Player of the Year in 2006 and 2008, and was Connecticut’s Gatorade Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008. At Stonington High School, she had a program record 2,205 points and 1,406 rebounds.

Buck went on to play basketball at UConn, and “was part of the program’s 90-game win streak from 2008-2010 which, at the time, established an NCAA record for both men’s and women’s basketball. In the midst of that streak, Heather memorably took the floor during her junior season as the team trailed Baylor and their 6’8” star Brittney Griner. She defended Griner mightily in the final eight minutes as the Huskies came back and won 65-64. Over the course of her five years at UConn, the team competed in five straight Final Fours and won the National Championship in each of their appearances in 2009, 2010 and 2013. Heather was named the Outstanding Senior Scholar Athlete in 2013 prior to graduating with her Nursing degree with Honors,” the CWHF states.

She was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.

Now a West Hartford resident, Buck works in nursing leadership at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. She has also worked for and volunteered for The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and helps out the Conard girls basketball team as a volunteer assistant coach.

More information about the 2022 Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame ceremony, including details about all award recipients, can be found on the website.

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