Olympic Rowing Champ to be Honored in PA Sports Hall of Fame

DUNMORE, Pa. -- Each year, the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame honors a new class of inductees. This year's list includes Dunmore Bucks football coach Jack Henzes and a special honor for the late Berwick football coach George Curry.

But another name on the list this year is a two-time Olympic rower from our area, Abby Peck from Lackawanna County.

She says she is honored to be part of it all but wanted to talk about what she's been doing since her time in the world spotlight: helping cancer survivors stay well.

This is Abby's story.

The Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and the world witnessed a young woman from Lackawanna County's dream come true.

Abby Peck is being recognized for her athletic excellence in rowing at this weekend's induction to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

But these days, it's this gym, the top floor of Northeast Radiation Oncology Center in Dunmore that's become her training ground.

Abby took up rowing in college but dove in head first, she says, after a chance meeting with a rowing coach in Boston four years later.

"She said, 'Are you going to talk about this or are you going to do it?' That's a gauntlet I've used on myself over and over again, so I showed up at 6 a.m. the next morning and just fell in love with the sport," Peck said.

That was 1981. Just nine months later, Abby would make her first national team.

"In 1984, I made my first Olympic team. Oh, my God ,that was a dream come true."

Which she would realize again four years later at the Olympic Games in Seoul.

Abby went on to get a master's degree in exercise and sports science, doing research for Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Then life intervened. She moved home to Waverly to care for her ailing parents, with the goal to continue the work she had started.

"I put together a prospectus, gave it to Dr. Harmar Brererton. He was my dad's radiation oncologist. And he said, 'this is a great idea, let me test it on a few patients.' And it ended up working really well."

That was 11 years ago.

Today, Abby's gym at NROC is a place full of laughter, obvious deep friendships, and doggy kisses from Kai, who often comes to work with her.

The facility is exclusively for cancer survivors.

Donna Dombrowski from Carbondale was diagnosed in 2007 and was treated at NROC. She thinks Abby's program is one of the reasons she has not had a cancer recurrence.

"What can I say? She's our trainer, our counselor, and most of all our friend," Dombrowski said.

Abby Peck's dream may have been realized long ago but she'd say she's really living the dream today.

"I guess I'm just very, very honored. Honored to be recognized by the Sports Hall of Fame, and I'm incredibly honored to be a part of this group," Abby said.

Some of the women who work out with Abby will be on hand to watch her be inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame this weekend.

Newswatch 16 Sports' Jim Coles is the emcee of that event at the Woodlands on Saturday.

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