Perhaps you read enough about the Union High School Athletic Hall of Fame in last week’s issue. There was a lot of coverage for the inaugural event, for good reason, though.
In fact, there was so much content to fit in, I didn’t have a chance to get a reaction column in, so here it is. If you feel like you have read enough, you have permission to skip this column (I won’t even know!).
With all of the facts, stats and bios, I didn’t get to tell those not in attendance how educational, interesting and honestly, downright emotional it was.
I know I’ve said this before, I’m not an athlete. Every once in a while, I convince myself that I can be athletic, but only to disappoint myself four weeks (or four days) into my reinvention. Those inducted into the first UHS Athletic Hall of Fame — not so.
These athletes, coaches, sports contributors and teams lived and breathed athletics. They worked hard, competed and won often.
I can’t possibly go through all of the amazing stories and moments from the Sept. 9 induction ceremony, but here are a few that impressed me.
George “Buzzy” Brown, a 1932 graduate and track athlete, set the state record for the high jump his senior year with a jump of 5 feet, 11.25 inches. At that time, there were no mats to land on.
Imagine that! Jumpers had to land on their feet rather than turning their body, launching up, tucking their head in, arching their backs and landing horizontally.
It is believed that his record stood until the late 1960s.
In high school, tried as I might, I never once cleared the high jump bar at the lowest height. Embarrassing, I know, but I was too afraid I’d break my neck. Needless to say, I wasn’t a successful track athlete.
Another inductee, Brenda “Benny” Freiberger, a 1974 UHS grad, tried out and made it to the U.S. Olympics women’s handball team.
She was set to compete in the 1980 Olympics, but the United States boycotted the Olympics in 1980 because the Soviet Union refused to remove troops from Afghanistan.
Robert “Bob” Hanneken, a 1957 UHS graduate, still holds the school’s mile record of 4:27:04. For comparison purposes, many (nonathletic people like myself) run a mile in 12 minutes, and I’m being generous with time there.
Another interesting tidbit — before UHS was home of the Wildcats, it was home of the Red Raiders. I’m not quite sure when the mascot change took place, but it’s hard to imagine a mascot I can only guess would be similar to that of Texas Tech today.
Chris Arand, former athletics director at UHS, said the Red Raiders stopped being the Red Raiders around 1942. In 1944, the basketball team came up with the Wildcats.
Bill Nicholson, who was on the 1943-1944 team, said the coach came to the team that season and told them they needed to come up with a mascot, and that’s when it began.
Something special happened during the final athlete recognition.
When athlete Stephanie Thater was on the Olympics Trials Team, she gave a signed jersey to Coach Greg Curran to give to his daughter.
His daughter is grown now, and Thater has a young daughter of her own. At the Hall of Fame induction, Curran gave the jersey back to Thater for her daughter. The presentation was touching and even Thater couldn’t hold back her tears.
Speaking of tears, after all of the awards had been presented, the entire gymnasium broke out singing the school song. As a UHS alum, that moment was powerful.
Hats off to Arand and former Union coach Chris Kelley, who took the idea for the Hall of Fame and ran with it. Both have moved on to different positions, but certainly left their mark here in Union.
The UHS Athletic Hall of Fame is just inside the main entrance at Union High School. To view the bios online, visit unionwildcats.touchpros.com.