It almost does not seem possible that it has been 10 years since Pam Stricker walked into my office and told me The Times-Gazette needed to start a Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame.
Pam was serving as an interim publisher for us at the time. One of our sister papers she was overseeing was holding an annual hall of fame event, and another was honoring senior student-athletes. As she was explaining them to me, she told me The Times-Gazette should do both, and that I should be in charge of the events.
I was not exactly thrilled about adding a major project to what I perceived as an already busy schedule, but in hindsight it has been more than worth the time and effort.
Mark Huber, the sports editor for the News Journal in Wilmington — one of those sister papers — sacrificed his free time to attend our first banquet. Shortly thereafter, maybe even later that night, he sent me an email. I do not remember his eloquent words exactly, but they where were something like this: He said he watched as we inducted Bill Uhl Sr., a McClain High School product and All-American basketball player at the University of Dayton, into the hall of fame that night. Bill was somewhat elderly and not in the best of health at the time. But Mark said that he could see, if only for that night, that Mr. Uhl had a twinkle in his eye, and that we made him feel proud of his accomplishments again, and if for no other reason than that, our time and effort had been worthwhile.
I took those words to heart, and have watched what he was talking about play out many other times over the years. I saw it when tears streamed down the face of one of my high school teammates when he was inducted. I have heard it in the words of others when they say are not deserving of the honor, but express their appreciation. I have seen it in the eyes of the inductees’ families.
This year’s dinner banquet, where The Times-Gazette will honor its 2019 hall of fame inductees as well as outstanding senior student-athletes from across Highland County, will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 13 at the Ponderosa Banquet Center in Hillsboro.
But it is not possible without a lot of help. Each year we send a packet of nomination forms to all the athletic directors in Highland County. In the packet are letters for each of their varsity coaches, and we ask each of those coaches to nominate one student-athlete — for each sport they coached — for the Highland County Scholar-Athlete Award. Each of the nominees is honored at the banquet and receives an award. The one we select as the overall winner receives a $200 scholarship and a nice plaque.
To be honest, I have been a little later than usual getting the packets out this year. But they should be at all the public schools, plus the Hillsboro Christian Academy, by the time you read this.
Because we want to honor as many deserving senior student-athletes as we can, I am asking a favor of all the Highland County varsity coaches, including cheerleading coaches: Please take the time to nominate a deserving senior student-athlete. Those who attend the banquet seem to enjoy it, and it is likely the last time they will be honored for their outstanding achievements on their respective athletic fields of endeavor, in the classroom and in their community.
As a bonus, coaches, you will receive a superb free dinner, prepared by Andrea Holt at Ponderosa, if you are able to make it to the banquet.
The deadline to submit a nomination form is Monday, May 20.
If you would like a form in an electronic format, send me an email or give me a call and I’ll see that you receive one.
I am also asking the public for hall of fame nominations. We have a few, but we want more. You can email them to me at email@example.com, drop them off at our offices at 108 Gov. Trimble Pl. in Hillsboro, or just give me a call. Please remember that often we have little information on the inductees, and the more you supply, the better chance your nominee has of being inducted.
My favorite part of the whole process is meeting with the inductees prior to the banquet and interviewing them for stories that we publish in The Times-Gazette. Some of the tall tales they have spun, well, let’s just say they will remain between me and them. But others bring out a side of them few would otherwise know.
But the dinner/banquet is not just about the past. It is also about the future, and that’s why we honor senior student-athletes. It is truly special to see the past and future come together for an evening.
So, coaches and the public, if you would, please lend us a helping hand. You never know how much it might mean to someone.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.