“We all think about what condition the world is in, but look around at all these student athletes. Look at what we have to look forward to.”
That was a quote from Galen Neal, one of the four new members inducted into The Times-Gazette Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame Thursday night at the Ponderosa Banquet Center, the seventh annual event held by newspaper.
Along with Neal, the new inductees are Bob Bergstrom, Jesse Mount and Craig Unger.
Bob Bergstrom started off the night by saying he was surprised when he got the call from The Times-Gazette’s Jeff Gilliland informing him that he was going to be inducted.
“When Jeff called and told me I was going to be inducted, I said ‘What, for perseverance? For just hanging in there that many years?’” said Bergstrom. “But he told me there were quite a few people that thought I did a pretty good job and I appreciate that very much.”
Bergstrom, a track coach for 46 years, 38 of those at McClain, said he had always had a desire to run. But one day he realized that he wasn’t going to be an Olympian so he started picking the brains of others about running and eventually started coaching. He said his coaching has always been about the athletes and helping them better themselves. He said that if an athlete wanted to reach a goal, then they sat down and talked about it. Bergstrom went on to thank his two sons, daughter and his wife Becky.
Mount, a scorekeeper for 68 years at what is now Lynchburg-Clay High School, was a man of few words as he accepted his hall of fame award.
“Well I’m definitely not a speech maker,” Mount said. “The gentleman from McClain, he could come back up and talk for me. It’s a very big honor to be inducted into the Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame. There has been a lot of people I know that’s already been in there, so like I said, it’s a big honor. I’m not going to stand up here and talk ‘cause I don’t know how to talk. I just keep book. I appreciate it and thank you all very much.”
Neal, another scorekeeper has missed just five games in all his 55 years of keeping the book. He has kept the book for seven Hillsboro High School athletic directors and 17 different coaches.
“Between me and Jesse [Mount], we have nearly 125 years of keeping book between us,” Neal said about the man who spoke before him. “We live in joining school districts and we’re only about 10 miles apart. I’d say probably no one else in the state can say that.”
Neal started keeping book his senior year of high school after his father had a farming accident. He was unable to make the practices so he wasn’t able to be on the team. His coach at Sinking spring High School, Glenn Armstrong, asked him if he wanted to keep score, but Neal didn’t know how. His coach sat him down and taught him, and he’s been doing it ever since.
Neal also talked about his first and only technical as a scorekeeper as he was winding down his speech.
“I was in Belfast and there was an over-and-back right there in front of the scorer’s table. I yelled across the floor at the ref [Bruce Taylor] that it was and he told me that it wasn’t,” Neal said. “Then I said something I shouldn’t have and he stuck me with a technical without studdering or hesitation. I haven’t said a word to a referee since.”
Craig Unger closed out the night for the inductees by saying he had come a long way since being an overweight kid who wanted to do nothing but sit around, play video games and collect baseball cards.
A McClain High School graduate, Unger played basketball, track and football. He went on to Morehead State University and was the starting linebacker for four years.
Unger said that he had countless people to thank and said that little of what we accomplish is about us. He said it’s more about the people that shaped and molded other’s lives. Unger thanked his many coaches for not only what they taught him on the field, but also what they instilled in him off the field that still helps him today.
Unger told a story that jokingly thanked his two sisters for turning him from an overweight kid into an actual athlete.
“I literally had to run around the barn 10 times before I was allowed to come in the house and eat. Inside the house, we had a little Nerf basketball hoop and we’d play horse on it. I had to jump up and touch the backboard 10 times before I was allowed to make a layup. I couldn’t touch it, so I would never win,” he said.
Unger closed with a quote that was written on his high school graduation card by close friend Ryan “Smoke” Blankenship that Under said he still uses in his life today.
“You might think that what you did yesterday was great, but what are you going to today,” Unger said.
Thirty-one scholar-athletes, who were nominated by their coaches and had to have a 3.0 grade point average and have lettered in at least one sport their senior year, were also invited to the banquet. Fifteen of those athletes were able to attend and collect their awards before the night ended.
The 2016 Times-Gazette Scholar Athlete Award, which comes with a plaque and $200 scholarship went to Lynchburg-Clay’s Devin Pierson, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and played soccer, baseball and basketball.
Reach Robert Stegbauer at 937-393-3456 ext. 1679 or on Twitter @RStegbauer.