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The Notable Sports Stars Who Call(ed) Wakefield Home

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Lake Quannapowitt serves as a hub of social and physical activity for Wakefield residents.
Lake Quannapowitt serves as a hub of social and physical activity for Wakefield residents. The Boston Globe

One of Wakefield’s many draws is its strong athletics program. In 1999, the high school’s football team won the Division II Super Bowl title. Both men’s and women’s basketball won state titles in 1997, and Wakefield is also home to the Wakefield Merchants, an Intercity League baseball team.

The town’s wealth of less-formal outlets for exercise (from jogging Lake Quannapowitt to easy access to local hiking) also promotes the active lifestyles of Wakefield residents.

Couple the natural outlets for exercise with a robust youth athletics program, and it’s no surprise that Wakefield has churned out top-tier athletes over the years. Here’s a look at seven of the names that stand out among the long list of notable Wakefield natives.

Marcia Pankratz: Field hockey

Pankratz was a three-sport captain at Wakefield high School and was Globe All-Scholastic in field hockey.

Following her time with the Warriors, she attended the University of Iowa, earning first team All-American in 1984 and 1985. In her time at Iowa, she won Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year twice and still ranks high in the Hawkeye’s record books in career goals.

Pankratz competed in the Pan American Games several times, and she competed in the 1988 and 1996 Olympics. She has been coaching for the University of Michigan for nine seasons, and now she owns and operates 4Goalz, a consulting company for high school athletes navigating the college recruitment process.

Joe Cannata: Ice hockey

The 25-year-old Cannata began his high school career at Buckingham Browne & Nichols before transferring to Boston College High School. There, he helped the team to win the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Division 1A Championship in the 2006-2007 season. He was named MVP and a Catholic Conference All-Star.

He was recruited by Boston College and University of New Hampshire but, spurred by his desire to play as much and as early as possible, decided to attend Merrimack College.

In 2009, Cannata was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks. He briefly played for the Chicago Wolves before signing with the Canucks in 2012. Despite his tenure in Canada, he told New England Hockey Journal that he loves David Ortiz, the Patriots, and still opts for “Dunks’’ over Tim Horton’s.

Wakefield native Joe Cannata in net for Merrimack College in 2011. —The Boston Globe

John Lilley: Ice hockey

Wakefield-born John Lilley graduated from Cushing Academy in 1972 as a record-holder in all-time scoring. He then attended Boston University.

Lilley was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1990. He played with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and also spent time in the German Ice Hockey League. In 1994, Lilley was a team member of Team USA in the Winter Olympics.

He currently works as scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Mark Kumpel: Ice hockey

Kumpel was born March 7, 1961 in Wakefield.

He played at Lowell University (now UMass Lowell), scoring 36 points in 30 games as a freshman. In 1980, The Quebec Nordiques drafted Kumpel. Two years later he joined the U.S. Olympic team and ultimately competed at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984.

Kumpel also played for the Detroit Red Wings, Winnipeg Jets, Moncton Hawks, and Providence Bruins. He retired in 1993 and has occupied a string of assistant coaching positions in the minor leagues.

Kayla Harrison: Judo

Harrison won Olympic gold in Judo in 2012, becoming the first American of either gender to do so. Her career is littered with wins and photos atop podiums.; She began judo at the age of six and became Junior U.S. Open Champion in 2003, 2004, and 2005. In addition to many other accolades, she won gold at the World Championships in 2010, and bronze in 2014.

Though she hails from Ohio, at the age of 16, Harrison moved to Wakefield to be coached by local Judo legend Jimmy Pedro.

Kayla Harrison becomes the first American to win gold in Judo at the 2012 London Olympics. —Getty Images

Dave Lapham: Football

Lapham captained both basketball and football at Wakefield High School. He was named an All-Middlesex League selection and an Agganis All-Star and All-Scholastic.

Lapham went on to Syracuse University where he captained the football team. In the 1974 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Lapham, with whom the team went on to win the AFC Central Division and AFC Championship.

Curently, Lapham works as a radio announcer for the Cincinnati Bengals and regularly commentates on Boston radio shows when the Bengals face the Patriots.

Michael Souza: Ice hockey

Souza was born in Wakefield on January 28, 1978. He was a star player on Wakefield High’s hockey team, reflected by his 2009 induction into the Warrior’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Souza starred on one of the best hockey teams in the University of New Hampshire’s history. In his career as a Wildcat, he scored 156 points in 156 games, and he served as captain during his senior year.

He was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1997. Following graduation, Souza played for the next 11 years in the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, and across Europe. His career as a player ended in 2011, and he currently coaches at Brown University.

Souza with his teammates, Jason Krog (center) and Jayme Filipowicz (right), during a 1999 NCAA Division 1 semifinal game. —AP