Gateway Class of 1981
Charles Dickens began his famous historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, with the line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” For Pam Perrotta, one of the most gifted athletes to ever compete at Gateway, that line could have been written about her WPIAL tennis championships when she was a mere freshman. On the one hand, her accomplishment that day revealed the true greatness of her athletic ability and competitive spirit; on the other hand, she suffered misfortune that day that was to plague her the rest of her athletic career.
In the Spring of 1978, while still only a 9th grader at South Junior High (this was back when the High School still consisted of only 10th through 12th grades), Pam simultaneously competed on South Junior High’s track and field team and on Gateway High School’s varsity tennis team – a rather remarkable feat, in and of itself. Pam accumulated the most points on the track team during the year, was undefeated in the high jump, and set a school record in that event. As impressive as those achievements were, they were overshadowed by her tennis accomplishments.
Pam competed, as a mere freshman, in the WPIAL tennis singles championship tournament. In many ways, it truly was a defining moment in Pam’s athletic career, encapsulating both her athletic greatness and the misfortune which befell her. When asked her most vivid memory of Gateway High School Athletics, one of the memories Pam related was the story of that championship tournament. So perhaps the story is best told in her own words:
My most vivid memory was during my freshman year competing at the WPIAL tennis singles tournament. The officials decided to play the entire tournament in one day and I ended up playing five matches and seven hours of tennis. During the finals, the wind kicked up and the weather became very cold and damp. I felt I had the stamina due to my training for track but it was getting cold and I could feel my muscles tightening. I started to hit the ball harder to end the points more quickly – “hit or miss” was the strategy. Near the end of the match, I felt my shoulder “go” while trying to serve hard and end the points quickly. I won the match much to my surprise, but ended up paying for that day the rest of my tennis career with my shoulder never quite healing. I spent the next years in high school trying all types of rehabilitation and finished many matches serving underhand when my shoulder would weaken. But I loved the game too much to quit. Finally, after being red-shirted my first year at Penn State I switched entirely to a left-handed serve and achieved 3rd/4th singles position.
Pam won the award as the best female athlete in her class at South Junior High that year, and was also voted the Post-Gazette Athlete of the Week when she won the WPIAL singles tennis championship and qualified for the PIAA state championships.
We are all left to wonder whether Pam would have become the next Chris Evert in tennis had she not suffered the chronic shoulder injury. And yet, in one respect, the shoulder injury provided an even greater opportunity for Pam to display her outstanding athletic ability and indomitable competitive spirit. Imagine competing at the highest level of high school tennis competition while being forced to serve underhand because of her shoulder injury! Even more incredible, imagine Pam learning to serve with her non-dominant hand while successfully competing at the NCAA Division-I level at Penn State!
Knowing that Pam spent the rest of her athletic career at a great physical disadvantage because of her injury, her achievements are all the more remarkable, especially what she was still able to achieve in tennis. Consider:
· As a sophomore, Pam continued to compete in both tennis and track. She finished third in the WPIAL singles tennis championship, and reached the quarter finals of the PIAA state championships, all with a bad shoulder. In track and field (her second sport!), she won the WPIAL championship in the high jump, and finished 6th at the PIAA state championships. It is believed that Pam is the first athlete ever to win individual WPIAL gold medals in two different sports. And, oh yeah – while competing simultaneously in tennis and track & field, Pam just happened to set Gateway High School records along the way in the high jump, long jump, and triple jump.
· As a junior, Pam was undefeated in section play in tennis. She placed 2nd at the WPIAL singles championships, and 4th at the PIAA state championships. An impressive achievement? Sure. But get this: she accomplished this while having to serve underhand due to the shoulder injury she suffered two years previously while winning the WPIAL championship. But to further highlight Pam’s athletic greatness, consider what she did in track her junior year. Pam actually did not compete during the regular track and field season in her junior year in order to focus on tennis. However, track Coach Bonnie Young asked her to try to qualify for states in the high jump the day before the WPIAL championships. So the morning of the WPIAL championships, Pam went out and practiced the high jump. With one morning of practice, she then competed against athletes who had been training all season long, and won the WPIAL silver medal, qualifying for the PIAA state championships in the process.
Pam had intended to compete in the PIAA state championships in both tennis and the high jump, since both the tennis championships and the track & field championships were scheduled to be held at the same time at Shippensburg. Unfortunately, the tennis championships were then moved to a site 30 minutes away, and Pam could therefore only compete in tennis. In addition to finishing 4th in the singles championship, she and her brother Pete made it to the quarter finals of the PIAA championships in mixed doubles, after previously winning the section title and finishing 3rd at WPIALs in that event.
Pam was again honored with a Post-Gazette Athlete of the Week award during her junior year – the first athlete ever to be so honored twice. The award recognized her unique feat of being an individual WPIAL champion in two different sports.
· In her senior year, Pam again competed in the WPIAL championships in both tennis and track, and won the bronze medal in both tennis singles competition and in the high jump.
Pam went on to play tennis at the collegiate level at Penn State, where she was a co-captain of the team. She red-shirted during her freshman year to try to rehabilitate her shoulder injury. However, the shoulder did not improve, so in the summer between her freshman and sophomore years, Pam switched to serving left-handed. She then played either #3 or #4 singles for the rest of her career at Penn State, despite serving with her non-dominant hand.
In addition to her degree from Penn State, Pam earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas. She is now the Vice President/Chief Financial Officer of IBM Global Financing Unit, where she is responsible for managing the financial aspects of the unit which has $35 billion in assets and conducts business in more than 50 countries worldwide. Now known as Pam Beshoory, she is married and has two daughters, ages 7 and 9, both of whom are playing tennis under Pam’s tutelage. (Look out, Venus and Serena!)
In addition to her bittersweet memory of the WPIAL tennis championships in her freshman year, Pam included the following among her most vivid recollections of her athletic career at Gateway:
I will always remember my coaches Bonnie Young and Sue Krenke, they kept us focused and worked us hard to be the strongest athletes possible and to represent our school well. The high level of “friendly competition” between the boys and girls track teams always kept things interesting and the camaraderie and often protective nature of the athletes for each other made it feel like you could accomplish anything.
Pam is truly a deserving inductee into the Gateway High School Sports Hall of Fame. Congratulations, Pam!