By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Beckwith "one of a kind"
Mary Beckwith hasn't been to Ceres High in over two years. The last time the former Bulldog visited was to watch nephew Charlie Cunha play football and basketball.

On Sunday, 49-year-old Beckwith (formerly Cunha) will return to her alma mater to take her place among the first-ever inductees to Ceres High's Athletic Hall of Fame.

The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. A total of 35 players, two coaches and two teams from yesteryear will be enshrined.

"I feel honored," said Mary, a 1977 graduate. "I really do. I can't wait to see everybody."

Beckwith won a section title in badminton, competed on an undefeated Valley Oak League champion cross country team and started for a basketball squad that participated in the playoffs during her senior year.

Her success came five years after Congress passed Title IX, requiring schools to provide equal access to all education programs and activities regardless of gender.

"It was a special year for all of us," Mary said. "Sports for girls was just really starting then."

"She's one of the great ones," said former Ceres High athletic director Phil de la Porte, who was in his third year of teaching social studies and coaching boys basketball when Mary made her mark. "She was a very talented athlete. She was extremely tough mentally. Don't let her fool you."

Beckwith became the first Ceres High student to win a section title in a girls competition when she placed first at the Sac-Joaquin Section badminton singles tournament in Fairfield.

"It was an awesome feeling because I put Ceres on the map," she said. "No one knew where Ceres was."

Held in May, the all-day competition featured players from eight leagues.

Beckwith played 20 games in a period of eight hours. She had to battle back from the loser's bracket after suffering an early defeat.

Mary claimed the championship with back-to-back wins against Fairfield's Benita Enano. The final match was settled via tiebreaker (11-3, 6-11, 11-6).

"At the end of the night, I was wiped out," said Beckwith, who didn't get home until midnight. "I was still excited."

Mary trained twice as hard as her competitors.

On top of her normal practices, she scrimmaged several times a week against several Ceres High teachers and coaches (Mr. de la Porte, Joe Cucinella and Richard Uribe).

"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have got to where I was," she said. "The constant working gave me stamina. I also had an outstanding coach (Marlys Weekly)."

"Truthfully, we had wars," Phil said. "It was no holds barred. We tried to kill her."

Beckwith was the top player in the Valley Oak League as well, compiling a 7-1 record during the regular season. She finished second at sub-sections.

Mary was a member of one of Ceres High's most accomplished cross country teams, which placed first at the league championships and posted a 9-0 dual-meet record. It was the first undefeated season by a Bulldogs team since the 1968 football squad's perfect campaign (10-0).

Mary took 11th at the VOL finals, held at Caswell State Park. She completed the two-mile course in 17 minutes, 21 seconds.

Beckwith placed 37th in a field of 89 with a time of 15:22 at the District 4 meet (sub-sections). The event was hosted on the University of the Pacific campus.

An all-league point guard in basketball, Beckwith led the Bulldogs to a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance, 12-5 overall record and second-place finish in the VOL standings (8-2).

Ceres High advanced to the playoffs after upsetting undefeated St. Mary's 33-29 on the final day of the regular season. Mary made the go-ahead basket for the Bulldogs. The victory knocked Sonora out of contention.

"The whole team was hyped," said Beckwith, who tallied a team-high 60 steals on the year."

Asked which sport she found most challenging, Mary said: "They were all fun. The hardest one was badminton because it was individual. I liked the competition."

Beckwith still has her racket, which has several broken strings.

Mary lives in Lathrop and works at Bass Pro Shops in Manteca.

She's been married for 28 years to Douglas. They have three children: Andrew (25), Michelle (22) and Samuel (18).

Beckwith has three siblings that reside in Ceres, including brothers Tony and Dennis, and sister Anna.

Sister Charlotte is a resident of Turlock.