This is the third in a series of five articles profiling the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.
ADAMS TWP — Gary Peaco competed in several sports while at Mars High School, but one stood out.
The 1979 graduate began playing basketball in fifth grade and eventually starred as a forward for the Planets’ varsity squad his junior and senior seasons under coach Chuck Clark. Peaco was named Mars’ top senior male athlete by earning the Eyth/Williams Award.
He will be one of five people inducted into the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame Sept. 12.
“(Making the Hall of Fame) is something I have thought about for a number of years,” said Peaco. “I know a lot of the people who have gotten in the last few years and I thought I had a chance.”
He played baseball as a freshman and sophomore, tennis as a junior and ran track his senior year, but basketball was the one constant for Peaco.
“Sports always seemed to come easy for me and I took a liking to basketball,” he said. “The older I got, I was able to excel. My older brother, Ray, there is just one and a half years between us. He liked basketball and that’s probably why I got involved. It was easier for us to be involved in the same sports as far as our parents getting us to practices and coming to our games.”
Peaco, who grew up in Middlesex Township, helped the Planets make the WPIAL basketball playoffs his senior year. He followed that up by leading the boys’ track team in points scored as a jumper and relay member as the Planets went undefeated in dual meets in the spring of 1979.
Receiving the Eyth/Williams honor was a highlight shortly before Peaco graduated.
“I was shocked when I got that, considering the other guys who were up for it,” he said. “The award is voted on by the coaches and it’s one of my biggest achievements.”
Through his high school years, the reinforcement Peaco received from his parents, Raymond and Louise, was very important to his success.
“My parents were extremely supportive,” he said. “My mom used to save clippings from the newspaper and created scrapbooks for me. They also helped out with the basketball boosters. At the time, I thought it was something that every parent did. Looking back on it, I am very appreciative for what they did.”
After graduating from Mars, Peaco went on to play two years of basketball at Butler County Community College. He then enrolled at LaRoche College to major in Administrative Management and Mathematics and left college basketball behind.
“I still wanted to play, but I got a job to help pay for college. I did play a lot of pick-up games and in some (recreational) leagues and that helped satisfy the competitive itch that I had.”
Peaco has fond memories of his high school days and they will surely be on his mind come Sept. 12.
“I loved being on a team and being able to compete,” he said. “I played for some great coaches, including Clem Papik (track) and Dave Skurcenski (ninth-grade basketball). He (Skurcenski) deserves credit for getting a lot of kids involved.”