Other Sports

Female athletes ‘reach for the stars’ at Sports Society banquet

Former FIU women’s basketball coach Cindy Russo.
Former FIU women’s basketball coach Cindy Russo. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

There was perfect symmetry for two of the top reward recipients Tuesday night at the Sports Society banquet to honor the top female scholar-athletes in South Florida.

First, Cindy Russo, 62,who has recently retired as the basketball coach at FIU, received the Lifetime of Giving Award. Then Susan Summons, one of the players Russo coached more than three decades ago at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, received the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award.

There were many hugs and talking of old times between Russo and Summons during the dinner at Don Shula’s Grand Slam Ballroom in Miami Lakes.

“I was not surprised she went on to become a coach,” Russo said of Summons, who now coaches the Miami Dade Kendall women’s basketball team. “She was a great player back then, she’s a great coach now.”

Did Summons ever give Russo a hard time as a player?

“Can’t remember any,” Russo recalled. “She pretty much ate and drank what I told her to. She could score on anybody.”

Summons, 57, has been at Miami Dade nearly three decades and has the reputation of being a high-energy, motivational coach. If something needs to be said, Summons will say it.

“I try to be a coach, educator and mentor,” she said of working with her players.

Where did that style come from?

Summons gives much of the credit to Russo. “She was a big influence,” Summons said. “You develop relationships that last a lifetime through athletics. Cindy had a lot of passion in her coaching, but she also had a lot of caring.”

Summons told the assembled high school and middle school athletes and scholars in the audience, “Sports is like a trampoline. It will bounce you all over the place. If you believe it, you can achieve it. It’s a wonderful journey.”

Then she added, “You all have the eyes of champions.”

The theme for the 32nd annual banquet was “Reach for the Stars.”

They didn’t have to reach very far as the ballroom was filled with the best young female athletes and scholars South Florida has to offer.

That included Hannah Balmaseda, an FIU student out of Varela High who won the Alleine Swain Scholarship Award.


Sports Society outstanding female middle school athletes: Isadora Figueroa, St. Patarick’s; Gabriela Alonso, Immaculate Conception School; Caitlyn Landsom, Gulliver Academy; Hailey Mira, Westminster Christian School; Isabella Allen, Miami Country Day; Alyssa Morales, St. Peter and Paul; Rosalyn Viaros, St. Peter and Paul; Paige Erickson, St. Louis Covenant; Elise Gomez, St. John Neumann; Sophia Francossa, St. Rose of Lima; Sabrina Garcia, St. Hugh.

Sports Society outstanding female high school athletes: Rosa Bello, Booker T. Washington; Alyssa Flores, Braddock; Sidney Thomas, Miami Country Day; Valeria Ruiz, Varela; Alexandria Brianna Slocum, Hialeah Gardens; Carla Rodriguez, Coral Reef; Samantha Esposito, TERRA; Christina Saint-Ilma,North Miami Beach; Sydne Vigille, Krop; Monisha Washington, Central; Carmen Estrada, South Miami; Jessica Costero, Goleman; Janet Harrison, Norland; Andrea Guerra,Gulliver Prep; Victoria Hope, Westminster Christian; Andreyna Alvarado, St. Brendan.

Delta Psi Kappa Scholar-Athletes: Mikaela Ronnkvist, Mourning; Gabriella Sallai, Goleman; Samantha Russell, Booker T. Washington; Caroline Cabello, Coral Gables; Michelle Mesa, Coral Reef; Sydney Vigille, Krop; Sabrina Verdes, Varela; Yanley Garcia, Braddock; Alexa Lavernia, Hialeah Gardens; Nicole Rios, Miami Lakes; Sydney Garcia, Ferguson; Rina Lucena, MAST; Priscilla Fernandez, Coral Park; Marguerite Saint-Julien, Edison; Rose-Mirth Jean, Norland; Sasha Mulett, Palmetto; Budelyn Noel, North Miami; Judith Moravi, North Miami Beach; McKenzie Van Heusen, South Dade; Alexandra Rojas, South Miami.

Alleine Swain Scholarship recipient: Hannah Balmaseda, Florida International University.