All seasons: Pelton excelled in many sports

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Brent Engh
Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alicia Pelton points to her family's influence in fueling her early passion for sports.

The youngest of four children, Pelton said her sisters were basketball players and competed in track and field, and her brother played basketball and ran cross country.

Pelton displayed her athletic prowess from the time she arrived at Janesville Craig High School in 1984. She earned nine athletic letters in nine opportunities. She not only competed year-around, she excelled in every sport she participated in for the Cougars.

But Pelton didn't stop there. She went on to the University of Wisconsin, where she competed in track and field as a freshman. She had aspirations of qualifying for the Olympics in the triple jump before suffering a jumping-related injury during her first year in college.

She met her future husband, Madison native John Byce, at Wisconsin, where he was a standout baseball and hockey player. Pelton went on to play a year of professional basketball in the Swedish Elite League when her husband was there playing pro hockey.

Pelton also has been a longtime physical education teacher, and she was the founder of a successful youth recreation program, My First Sports, in Madison and Milwaukee.

Pelton will be inducted into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 14, at the Janesville Performing Arts Center. Joining her in the 2011 class will be Gary Schieve, John Brikowski, Tom Scalissi and Joel Schmitz.

"I was pretty floored," Pelton said of receiving the news of her Hall selection. "I love sports, but when you have a husband who's who he is, and he's in the Madison Sports Hall of Fame, and you go anywhere and he's recognized. And then I'm focusing on my son and daughter, that I forget what I've done over my life.

"People just think of me as a teacher. They don't really know."

Those who watched Pelton compete at Craig in the mid- to late-'80s likely remember her as one of the most gifted and versatile athletes of her time.

-- In basketball, Pelton won three letters. As a senior point guard, she set the Cougars' single-season scoring record with 406 points, led the Big Eight Conference in scoring (275 points), was the Big Eight's Player of the Year, and played in the state all-star game. She averaged 20 points, eight steals and six rebounds per game.

-- She also earned three letters in track and field, twice advancing to state in the triple jump in which she placed eighth as a senior and 12th as a junior. She set Craig's triple-jump record of 37 feet, 2.5 inches as a sophomore. She also competed in the long jump, 300-meter low hurdles and 100 high hurdles.

-- She earned two letters in cross country and was the Cougars' top runner both her sophomore and junior seasons.

-- As a senior, Pelton decided to play tennis and was a conference, regional and sectional doubles champion, team MVP, and competed on the Cougars' fourth-place team at state.

What sport was she most passionate about in high school?

"Whatever the sport of the season was," Pelton said.

She said she likely earned the most recognition in basketball.

"I kind of liked the whole experience," Pelton recalls. "It's been so long. I remember stealing the ball a lot and I remember (people) talking about that, and I remember scoring a lot."

She said her most enjoyable high school sports season may have been tennis.

"I had grown up playing tennis and (Craig coach) Camilla (Owen) coached me when I was younger," Pelton said. "And I loved it. That could be my favorite season out of all my high school seasons. That was so much fun. The girls were great. The coach was great. The experience was great. And we got off school all the time."

Pelton has many positive memories of high school athletics.

"I enjoyed playing in the state all-star (basketball) games," she said. "And I enjoyed going to state in tennis and going to state in track. Those are the kind of things you remember forever."

Pelton said all of her coaches at Craig "brought something different to my life."

She also fondly recalls how one of her teachers, then-boys basketball coach Bob Suter, treated her during her three years at Craig.

"Coach Suter was not my coach, though I went to his (basketball) camps," Pelton said. "But he always had me under his wing a little bit, and I really respected that because I was this lone female. ... He gave me so much respect, as much as the boys, that I really cherished that."

Pelton has taught physical education for the last eight years at Madison Central Montessori School.

Her husband, John, was drafted in 1985 by the NHL's Boston Bruins. He played briefly for the Bruins, then competed for several minor-league teams before retiring in 2000 after spending the last of his 10 pro seasons in London.

Pelton and Byce have a son, Ty, 14, and a daughter, Kaya, 6.

Ty, who is a top-level hockey and soccer player and also excels in golf and baseball, keeps Pelton and her husband on the move.

"He wants to play all these things," she said. "We make it work."

No matter what her future holds, Pelton says it likely will include some form of athletics.

"I look back at my life and, gosh, it really is sports-oriented," she said. "I've been a wife, athlete, coach, manager. I've managed my son's teams, I've coached my son's teams in soccer. I've done every aspect of it.

"So I'm thinking, how do I want to utilize that in my next phase of life? I can tell you it will probably be in sports."

Last updated: 4:57 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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