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Sports column by Karl Lindholm: Middlebury's first family of sports

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Posted on August 1, 2013 |
By Karl Lindholm



Ritterfamily.jpg
CHRISSY, LEFT, BOB, Katie and Sue Ritter comprise four-fifths of the athletically talented Ritter family of Middlebury. The parents graduated from Middlebury College in the ’80s, the daughters attend the college now. The youngest, Bobby Ritter, is a rising junior at MUHS.

You figured their kids would be good athletes, but it took them a while to get together.

She said that was his fault. “I had to give him an ultimatum.” He sees it differently, “It took her a long time to see that I had a couple of things going for me.”

Sue Parsons was a junior at Middlebury when she started dating Bobby Ritter, a senior. That was 1982. They were married nine years later.

Sue came to Middlebury from Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, where she was required to participate in sports, and she did so with enthusiasm, “field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, track, you name it,” she said.

Her passion, however, was figure skating: “I practiced four or five hours a day,” and skated competitively. “I chose Middlebury because it had an ice rink and an ice show.”

Tall and elegant, she skated beautifully. Her Ice Show performances were memorable indeed. She also found time to play on the varsity women’s basketball team, a fledging sport, then coached by Missy Hopkinson (later, Missy Foote).

Bob Ritter was a star athlete at Wachusett Regional High in Holden, Mass., north of Worcester, playing football, basketball, and baseball. “I was best at football and was recruited to play at Middlebury by Mickey Heinecken, but baseball I loved the most.”

Encouraged by friends and Coach Jim Grube, he switched from baseball (“I was a 5’9” first baseman”) to lacrosse. “In those days, a good athlete could pick the game up,” he said.

After graduating, Sue went back to Philadelphia to study law at Temple University and practiced law there and later in Boston. Bob went into coaching, at Middlebury (six years) and then at Tufts (seven years), where he was varsity lacrosse coach.

In 1995, Bob and Sue, married (finally), with two small daughters, Katie and Chrissy, returned to Middlebury from Boston, Bob taking over as head football coach when Heinecken retired in 2001.

Sue practiced law in town and taught skating and helped coach the Middlebury Union High School girls’ basketball team. She now puts her legal training to effective use as the human relations officer at Middlebury College.

OK, enough with the big folks. Now to their kids. Good athletes, indeed!

It would be hard to find a more storied athlete in local circles than Katie Ritter. To enumerate her honors in high school at MUHS would take too much space, so we’ll just highlight:

In her junior year she was awarded the prestigious Dorey Cup for “athletic ability, leadership, scholarship, and moral integrity.” She won 12 varsity letters, was captain of the lacrosse team and three-time first-team All-State. In basketball, Katie was a four-year starter, captain her senior year, and scored over 1,000 points.

At Middlebury College, she has been a National Women’s Lacrosse All-American (third team) as a freshman and a Regional All-American in both her first year and this past spring, playing for Hall of Fame coach Missy Foote on two Final Four teams (33 wins – 8 losses).

“I knew I wanted to go to a place like Middlebury,” Katie said. “but maybe someplace else. My recruiting visit to Middlebury, an overnight, really drew me in. I stayed with a lacrosse player and really loved the atmosphere of the team.”

Katie’s a pretty daunting act to follow for the next in line, sister Chrissy, just a year younger. Chrissy, however, did not suffer greatly from her big sister’s long shadow.

She too won the Dorey Cup, was captain of three sports at MUHS (field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse), was first-team All-State in field hockey and lacrosse, won the Dud Phinney Sportsmanship Award her senior year, among other awards and distinctions.

Chrissy too decided to attend her parents’ alma mater, and she also gave serious thought to leaving town:

“Originally, I didn’t want to attend Middlebury. I wanted to go to college in a city. I visited lots of other schools, but Middlebury always looked good in comparison. I thought, not going to Middlebury just because it’s in my hometown, was a bad reason.”

There’s not much evidence of sibling rivalry in these sisters. Chrissy said, “It’s awesome playing with Katie. In high school, we played on three teams together. Here, it’s just lacrosse.”

Katie concurred. “I didn’t think she was coming to Middlebury. I love playing with her. She has her own team in the fall (field hockey), her own identity — she’s not ‘Katie’s sister.’ She’s very independent. I wasn’t worried at all.”

This summer, Katie, an economics major, has an internship in Burlington with Morgan-Stanley, before heading off this fall on a study abroad adventure to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, to study at Charles University there.

Chrissy will likely major in art and psychology. “I enjoy painting and drawing. It’s a different way to express myself.” This summer, she is enjoying an internship at the Middlebury College Art Museum.

Wait! There’s more. Another Ritter child, hardly reluctant to follow in his sisters’ footsteps, is about to make his mark.

That’s Bobby Ritter, the Younger, who will be a junior at MUHS in the fall. He is a three-sport athlete like his sisters (and parents). Last year, he played JV football (running back and cornerback) and varsity basketball and lacrosse.

Will he follow his sisters (and parents) to Middlebury College? He’s playing it cool: “I don’t know. It’s a great school,” he said. “I’ve got some time to think about it.”

Would he like to play football for his father: “Yeah, I’d like to play for him. He’s been my coach from first to eighth grade, and we’ve always had a good time.”

The elder Ritters are understandably proud of their kids. Sue said, “It’s a gift to watch them grow right here. I roll out of my office to go to their games. They play for the best coaches in the country, who are also my close friends.”

Bob said, “I’m grateful for the opportunities sports have given them, to grow and become confident. They’ve had such great coaches, both in high school and college.

“I’m proudest that they are good teammates; they really enjoy being part of a team, learning that there is something bigger than themselves, learning lessons that go beyond sports.”

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