In the 1980s and 1990s, Enfield High School was a factory for outstanding field hockey players. In an 11-year stretch, the school won five Class M state championships, establishing itself as one of the top programs in New England.
The Raiders won back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984, then tapered off slightly until the arrival of a top-flight freshman named Karen Hebert in 1990.
Hebert led the Raiders to state championships in 1992 and 1993, then went on to a successful career at the University of Maine. She earned her teaching certification and went to work in her hometown; she is currently a physical education teacher at Henry Barnard School.
Now married with two children, Karen (Hebert) Gowen was elected to the Enfield Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. Last week, she received the news that she will be inducted into the Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame this fall.
"I was pretty shocked when Jenna Tucchio (of the Hall of Fame committee) called me," Gowen said in a recent interview. "It's an honor to even have my name mentioned with so many great players, coaches and referees."
Gowen will be joining some very familiar names when she is inducted on Oct. 6 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Her high school coach, the legendary Cookie Bromage, was inducted into the state hall in 2007, and a year later, her sister Erica Hebert was enshrined.
"I am beyond thrilled that she's going in, it is so well deserved," Bromage said. "Karen was a benchmark for field hockey in her time, and a joy to coach."
Erica Hebert will be presenting her sister at the state Hall of Fame dinner. It is believed they will be the first pair of sisters ever inducted.
"I'm ecstatic about Karen getting into the Connecticut Hall of Fame," Erica Hebert said in an email to Enfield Patch. "It is well deserved as Karen was one of the best players Enfield has ever seen. I'm very proud of her and can't wait to see her induction."
"Erica and I have always been close, and it will be a tremendous honor to have her present me," Gowen said.
Gowen is one of the finest all-around athletes in Enfield history. In addition to her amazing field hockey resume, she also was an All-State softball player and an All-League basketball player, finishing just shy of 1,000 career points. At Maine, she was named conference Rookie of the Week three times, played on a pair of league championship teams and captained the squad as a senior.
Despite her individual accomplishments, Gowen said her biggest thrill was winning back-to-back state championships alongside her sister.
"Those were my happy days, winning with girls I grew up with," she said. "We traveled together, and it was so rewarding to see our hard work pay off."
Gowen said she plans to acknowledge many people during her induction speech.
"I'm being inducted, but it's not just about me," she said. "I wouldn't be where I am today if not for all of my teammates, coaches, family and supporters."