- Front Porch
MERIDEN — Funny how fast quarter of a century can fly. It’s been 25 years since the Platt girls basketball team beat Notre Dame-Fairfield in overtime to win the 1989 Class L championship.
Come May 1, that squad will take center stage once again as Platt High School holds its biennial Hall of Fame induction at the Aqua Turf Club.
A member of that state championship team, Michele Cooley, will be inducted as an individual athlete. Cooley was also pretty cool in soccer and softball, where she backstopped Platt’s 1987 championship season. Joining her in the Class of 2014 are:
Kyle Cooney, who starred for Platt baseball in the late 1980s and went on to play at UConn and in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
Luis Murillo Jr., a three-time state class wrestling champ and State Open champ in 2002.
Kelly Roman, a multi-sport star in soccer and track who earned 12 All-Conference selections and went on to play soccer at Connecticut College.
Dan Barrillaro, the coach who led Platt girls swimming for 11 years and the boys team for 17.
The May 1 induction ceremony starts with a 6 p.m. social hour. Dinner follows at 7. Tickets are $30. Contact the Platt athletic department at (203) 235-7962, ext. 139.
The following are bios on this year’s selections.
Boys Swimming 1988-2005
Girls Swimming 1986-1996
Barrillaro was a four-year swimmer at St. Paul-Bristol, competing in multiple events and setting the school record in the breaststroke. He went on to swim club at Fairfield University while majoring in history and minoring in political science.
Barrillaro, known for his sense of humor and improvisational speeches, asserts that during the 1980s the swim trunks became too tight, so he began wearing a whistle and people began calling him coach.
He coached both swim teams at Platt and oversaw some of the most successful seasons in school history. During his tenure, Barrillaro garnered five CCC South titles with the girls, the first in 1988 and then four straight from 1991-94. He won the CCC South with the boys in 1995.
For his coaching, Barrillaro won two Connecticut Officials awards and also the Connecticut Coaches Service Award. He played a key role in the startup of the Berlin High School swimming team and started the Meriden Special Olympics swimming team through Platt High School.
Barrillaro still resides in Meriden with his wife Allison and their four children, Sammi, Mackenzie, Daniel and Amanda.
Cooley was a three-sport athlete for the Panthers and a key figure on some dominant teams.
She was four-year goalkeeper for coach Rob Beale’s soccer team. She was All-Conference in 1986 and 1988 and still holds school records for most shutouts in a row (3), most shutouts in a season (7) and most shutouts in a career (11).
Cooley was also a four-year letter winner for Tom Johnson’s basketball team. In her senior season, she averaged almost five points and three rebounds a game for the Class L champions.
Cooley’s top sport was softball. She was a lefty catcher for coach John Phostole, a four-year letter winner with a solid arm and amazing blocking ability.
Cooley was a three-time All-Conference selection and was named All-State in the 1987 championship season and again in 1988.
After graduating fifth in her class, Cooley went on to Princeton. She played one year of softball, then joined the rugby team, which finished third nationally. By her senior year, Cooley was an All American.
Cooley is now employed as a project manager for Sanofi, an oncology company, and resides in Groton, Mass.
Class L champions 1989
Coach: Tom Johnson
With a solid returning core of six seniors and two juniors, the pieces were in place for the Panthers for a title run despite playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state. They suffered early losses to Southington and Bristol Eastern before going on a winning streak to finish the regular season with an 18-2 record and the CCC South title.
Along the way, Coach Johnson eclipsed the 100-win mark and Kim Penwell broke the all-time scoring record with 1,303 points, a mark since broken by her sister Kelley (1,472) and Damika Martinez (1,857).
The Lady Panthers entered the Class L tournament as the top seed and promptly dispatched Middletown, St. Joseph’s, and Bristol Central.
In the semifinals, Platt beat a pesky Masuk team 57-42 to set up a championship date with Notre Dame-Fairfield. A back-and-forth battle went to overtime before Platt pulled out a 61-53 victory for the state title, an accomplishment unmatched in Platt basketball history and, at the time, the first in 50 years for a Meriden school.
The 1989 Panthers finished 23-2. Kim Penwell was MVP of the championship game. She, Kelly Penwell and Michelle Demers were All-Conference. The two Penwells were All-State.
Other members of the team were Chrissy Danko, Christine Wanat, Michelle Cooley, Latashia Williams, Heidi Schmidt, Kelly Grady and Sarah Lane. Janette Lallier was the manager. Mike Persky was an assistant coach.
Kyle Cooney played varsity for three years. Under the tutelage of coach Rich Katz, Cooney caught and batted in the middle of the lineup. Katz called Kyle, “a true power hitter who maintained a high average while, defensively, was an excellent receiver with a rifle for an arm.”
Cooney was named All-State and All-Conference in both his junior and senior seasons. As a senior captain, Cooney batted .366 with four home runs and 26 RBIs and led the 17-5 Panthers to the CCC South title.
For his career, Cooney batted .364 with nine dingers.
In college, after a short stint at Jacksonville University, Cooney was a two-time letterman for UConn, including the 1994 Big East championship team. He batted .319 that season, hit a team-high nine home runs and broke the school RBI record with 56.
That led to Cooney being named All-Big East, All-New England and All-Atlantic Coast. In that year’s Major League draft, the Dodgers scooped him up in the 19th round.
Cooney wound up playing in the Dodgers organization from 1994-1999. He batted .301 in Great Falls and also played for Vero Beach, San Bernadino, and San Antonio. After being released in 1999, Cooney suited up for the independent league for the Waterbury Spirit.
Cooney now resides in Southington with his wife Joy and his son Brayden. He best remembers his father’s words, “Swing for the fences.”
Luis Murillo Jr.
In his four years of wrestling, Murillo became one of the most decorated student athletes in Platt High School history.
Wrestling under the tutelage of coach Bryan McCarty, he was a four-year starter at 103, 112 and 119 pounds. He won Class M crowns as a sophomore, junior and senior. In the State Open, he took third as a sophomore and junior before breaking through with an overall state championship at 119 pounds as a senior. He went on to place third in the New England final and competed in the National High School Wrestling Tournament’s All American rounds, going 5-2.
Murillo’s accolades did not stop on the mat. He was honored with the Fastest Fall award at the Class M tournament as a junior. As a senior, coaches voted him the outstanding wrestler of both the Class M tournament and State Open. He signed off with a career record of 153-18.
He made the grade in the classroom, as well. Murillo was a four-time Academic All-State wrestler and an Academic All American. In the closing months of his senior year, Murillo was honored by the National Wrestling Hall Fame in Stillwater, Okla. as the recipient of the Dave Schultz Award. Later, Murillo was honored by the Mayor of Meriden and given the keys to the city.
Although heavily recruited by Division 1 schools such as West Virginia, Murillo attended and wrestled at Trinity College in Hartford.
He is now a Captain, Infantry Officer in the United States Marine Corps, and lives in Watervliet, N.Y. with his wife Elizabeth and children Leo and Emerson.
Roman starred in soccer in fall and was just as good in track, both indoors during the winter and outdoors during the spring. An athlete of rare dedication and discipline, she amassed not merely 12 varsity letters, but 12 All-CCC South awards. She was captain of all three teams as a senior, when a state finalist for the Wendy’s Heisman Scholar-Athlete award.
Running track for Jason Bruenn and Bob Angiletta, Roman still holds Platt records in the 400 meters and as part of the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
Roman made her biggest impact on the soccer field playing for coach Rob Beale. She was named All-State in 1999 after scoring 20 goals and honored by the referees with the Whitey Piurek Award for sportsmanship and excellence.
Roman continued her soccer career at Connecticut College. She was Rookie of the Year in 2000 and All-Conference Academic in 2003. Captain her senior year, Roman led the Camels in scoring and was named team co-MVP.
Roman now teaches at Platt High School with her husband James Flynn. They have three children — Maggie, Colin and newborn Tessa.
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