The 2016 inductees into The Times-Gazette Highland County Athletic Hall Fame have been selected. They are Bob Bergstrom, Jesse Mount, Galen Neal and Craig Unger.
They will be honored during a dinner banquet planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 23 at the Ponderosa Banquet Center in Hillsboro, where more than 30 outstanding senior student-athletes from Highland County will also be honored.
The event is open to the public. Tickets are $16 each and can be reserved by calling Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522. The hall of fame inductees, the student-athletes, and the coaches who nominated the student-athletes, are the guests of The Times-Gazette.
This year’s class is the seventh to inducted into the Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame. The hall was established in 2010 to honor not only outstanding athletes from Highland County, but those who have made other significant contributions to athletics in the county.
Following is a brief bio on each of this year’s inductees. More complete feature stories on the inductees will appear in upcoming editions of The Times-Gazette.
• Bob Bergstrom is stepping down after 46 years as a track and field coach, including 38 years as the head coach at McClain High School. His nomination form for the hall of fame included 16 letters of recommendation, most of them from his former student-athletes.
One of the letters came from Dante Jackson, McClain’s only state track and field champion, who won 110-meter hurdles titles in 2006 and 2007.
“Words can’t really explain how important coach Bob Bergstrom has been for my development into an adult. Coach Bob is way more than a track coach; he’s a father, a teacher, a mentor, and a wonderful person.” Jackson wrote. “… Coach Bergstrom has been the face of the track program at McClain longer than I’ve been alive. During his tenure he has helped so many of us reach heights on the track that we could only dream about. I experienced this first-hand while running track at McClain. My freshman year coach Bob said to me that I could win the state championship. I honestly didn’t believe him, but two years later at Jesse Owens Stadium coach Bob became the first state champion coach in the history of McClain High School… It was coach Bob’s belief and and his hard work and dedication that have earned him two state championships. The awesome thing about Bob is that it’s really a great accomplishment to be a state champion, but to him a greater accomplishment is helping develop all of his players into young men and women.”
Bergstrom has also served on Greenfield City/Village Council since 1998, except for about one year.
He plans to continue helping student-athletes as a volunteer assistant for the McClain track program.
• Jesse Mount, a 1948 Lynchburg High School graduate, recently finished his 68th year as the scorekeeper for his alma mater’s boys basketball team. He has also kept the book for the girls basketball team for 20-plus years. He recently completed his 51st year as a school bus driver for the district and has driven boys and girls teams to countless athletic contests.
Mount had polio as a youngster that limited his participation in sports, but he was on the Lynchburg basketball team his sophomore through senior years. It was during his senior year that he first kept a scorebook for Lynchburg, now known as Lynchburg-Clay.
“I kept the book a game or two that year when guys couldn’t show up or something and I just took it up from there and went on with it,” Mount said.
He said that later on he pitched fast-pitch softball for about 10 years, “and was pretty good at it,” once pitching all 21 innings of an extra innings game.
“I played up until I was about 30 years old and quit because they went to an old man’s game called slow-pitch. I said, ‘If they’re going to an old man’s game, I’m quitting,’” Mount said.
He was also known around Lynchburg for exceptional skill on a pool table.
• Galen Neal is a 1955 graduate of Sinking Spring High School who first started keeping a scorebook at his alma mater his senior year. Neal played on the school’s basketball team his sophomore and junior years and joked that, “There were only seven guys on the team and I was probably the eighth man on the bench.”
He said that was the only sport at Sinking Spring in those days, although he did play intramural softball.
Before his senior year Neal’s father suffered a serious injury and Neal had to give up basketball to work on the family farm. But his coach, Glenn Armstrong, asked him if he could keep score.
“I said, ‘I don’t know how,’” Neal said, “and he said, ‘Well, sit down here and I’ll show you,’ and I’ve been doing it pretty much ever since.”
Neal said he kept the scorebook at Sinking Spring for a few more years, took a two- to three-year break, then started keeping the book at Hillsboro and has been doing it more years than he can remember. He’s also kept the clock for Hillsboro home wrestling matches for several years, and has drove Hillsboro buses to untold numbers of basketball, football, track and wrestling contests.
In all his years of keeping the scorebook, Neal said he’s missed five games.
“It’s been fun and I still enjoy it,” he said.
• Craig Unger is a 2001 graduate of McClain High School where he was an All-Ohioan in basketball and all-district in football. But it was on the football field and in the classroom at Morehead State University in Kentucky where he found his greatest success. A finance major at Morehead, Unger earned All-America honors both academically and athletically.
He earned CoSIDA first-team Academic All-America recognition in 2003 and was named to the Division 1-AA Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star Team.
Unger was a first-team All-America selection by Dan Hansen’s Football Gazette and The Sporting News in 2003. A two-time, first-team All-Conference selection, he was named 2003 Pioneer Football Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year. A two-year MSU captain, Unger twice led the team in tackles, including a career-high 132 stops in 2003. He was a 2004 National Scholar Athlete.
Craig and his sisters – Maggie and Emily – upon the untimely death of their father in a work accident, along with friends and family members, have established the Daryle C. Unger Scholarship for McClain students. They hold auctions at the Daryle Unger Birthday Bash, held annually since 2001, for the scholarships and also help with the Daryle C. Unger and Peanut Kids Fishing Derby held annually in Greenfield.
Upon graduating from Morehead, Unger earned his master’s degree in business administration/finance. He worked at PNC in Cincinnati for seven years and now works at US Bank in Cincinnati.
The Times-Gazette Scholar-Athlete nominees will be announced in Thursday’s paper.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.