About 100 people were in attendance Thursday evening at the Ponderosa Banquet Center in Hillsboro as Tom Purtell, Ed Ayres, Andy Richmond and the 1928 Marshall High School state championship basketball team were inducted into The Times-Gazette’s Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame.
Gary Abernathy, publisher and editor of The Times-Gazette, credited assistant editor Jeff Gilliland for his part in organizing the hall of fame for the past eight years.
The 1928 Marshall basketball team is only team from Highland County to ever capture a high school team state championship. The Red Flashes won the 1926 Highland County Basketball Tournament, then in 1927 won the 36-team Athens Class “B” District Tournament and advanced to the eight-team state tournament, where they lost in the state semifinals to Kent State High School, the eventual champions. In 1928, Marshall became to first team to repeat as Class “B” district champions, then went on to win the state title.
Janie Shoemaker, a former local minister, addressed the crowd regarding a small, gold-plated, basketball-shaped pendant her father, Lloyd Chestnut, and other players on the team were awarded for winning the state championship in 1929.
Shoemaker, who to this day has the pendant, said she lost it on two occasions, but it still made its way back to her – first, when her family moved from Xenia and she left it hanging on the corner of a mirror in her former home, and when she hid it before leaving for vacation, but couldn’t recall where when she returned.
Both times, though, she found it again, and now keeps it in a safe place.
Ed Ayres, with help from Harry Roads, led Hillsboro to a runner-up finish at the 1909 Ohio Track and Field Championships – competing against the state’s largest schools. Ayres won the pole vault at 10-1, a record for both high school and college in Ohio at the time. He also won the high jump. Hillsboro finished second to Toledo Central. Ayres did not go on to play sports in college. Instead, he went to work at the W.R. Smith Drug Store, which later became the Ayres Drug Store. The pestle and mortar that was in front of the business in those days still stands there today in the 100 block of East Main Street in Hillsboro.
Chris Duckworth, Ayres’ grandson, accepted the award on his behalf. Duckworth remarked that his grandfather talked more about his boxing career than track, but that Ayres loved all the sports in which he competed.
Duckworth said he was proud Hillsboro produced such landmark athletes over the years, “and you’re going to get another one soon.”
Andy Richmond played three-plus years of varsity basketball at Lynchburg-Clay, where he set the school’s all-time scoring record with 1,361 points. That record has since been broken, but Richmond is still the all-time career rebounding record holder with 940. He also participated in cross country, track, baseball and volleyball. He went on to play basketball at Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla.
Gary Abernathy, at the request of the Richmond family, shared some remarks on his relationship with Andy Richmond.
“It’s hard to imagine how dominant he was,” Abernathy said. “Andy Richmond is the best basketball player Highland County has ever produced… And he felt like a big brother to me.”
Chad Richmond, Andy’s son, accepted the award on his father’s behalf.
Tom Purtell played baseball and basketball at Fairfield High School in the late 1960s, but is better known for his later contributions to Leesburg athletics that continue today. He started coaching youth baseball in 1968. He still is an assistant softball coach at Fairfield and Wilmington College, and runs the youth softball and baseball programs in Leesburg. He has coached summer traveling softball teams, organizes youth basketball for boys and girls in grades 4-6 in Leesburg, and has been doing so since the late 1970s, is active in the Lions Athletic Boosters scheduling concession stand workers, and keeps the clock at basketball games. And that’s just scratching the surface.
When introducing Purtell, Gilliland said those working for various news outlets have come to expect fully written articles from Purtell after softball games, often very late at night or early in the morning.
“I’ve often wondered when he sleeps,” Gilliland joked.
Purtell said he was “surprised and shocked” when Gilliland called to tell him he had been nominated.
“I’m truly humbled and honored to receive this award,” Purtell said, crediting family, friends and coaching staff for contributing to his success.
Outstanding senior scholar-athletes from across the county were also honored for excellence in studies and sports, and Hannah Binkley of Lynchburg-Clay High School was the winner of The Times-Gazette’s Highland County Scholar Athlete Award for 2017, which includes a $200 scholarship.
The 28 scholar-athletes nominated for the award were:
• Caitlin Ahrmann, Hillsboro
• Mackenzie Anderson, McClain
• Mat Barton, McClain
• McKayla Binkley, Lynchburg-Clay
• Dillon Burley, Fairfield
• Maggie Carr, Whiteoak
• Jesse Current, Fairfield
• Jensen Daulton, Fairfield
• Brittany Ernst, Lynchburg-Clay
• Wyatt Evans, Fairfield
• Kaylee Hurley, McClain
• Tyler Jackson, McClain
• Ethan Johnson, McClain
• Alexis Jones, Whiteoak
• Sajoun Jones, Hillsboro
• Hayley McConnaughey, Lynchburg-Clay
• Veronica Olaker, McClain
• Maria Onusko, McClain
• Tristan Pitzer, McClain
• Taylor Polley, McClain
• Molly Rowe, McClain
• Kourtnie Smith, Fairfield
• Hope Tira, Hillsboro
• Lillian Van Zant, Hillsboro
• Alexis Waits, Lynchburg-Clay
• William Klay Walker, Fairfield
• Nicholas Wells, McClain
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.