By Dedra Cordle
Inclement weather may have put a damper on the first home football game at Grove City High School, but nothing could steal the thunder from 13 former athletes and coaches who were inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame class on Sept. 4.
They hailed from all eras and all sports, but the one thing they all have in common is the impact they have left on the school, says Tom Rutan, co-chair on the Hall of Fame committee.
“They are pioneers,” he said. “In some cases, they were the first in their sport to have achieved athletic excellence and in others they set the standard for athletic excellence in their sport.
“Those who came after them have said and will continue to say ‘I want to be as good as she is’ or ‘I want to break his record.’”
The 13 inductees were comprised of nine athletes, several of whom competed in multiple sports, and four coaches. The athletes honored were Derek Combs (football, basketball, track), Ann Grossman (tennis), Josh Helm (basketball, football), Bob Hitchens (football, basketball, track), Kim McKeon (basketball, softball), Bryan Mulvany Sr. (soccer), Nathan Poole (basketball, football), Larry Thomas (baseball) and Greg Waits (football, basketball, baseball). The coaches honored were Brian Cross (football), Elmer Houdashelt (baseball), Ron Hutcheson (softball, football, gymnastics) and Herb Russell (basketball, golf).
Jack Lehr, who was also co-chair of the committee, said it was very difficult to narrow the list of 42 nominees down to 13, but he believes the committee chose some truly great athletes and people to represent the first class.
“There were some guys and ladies who went on to become professionals in their sport such as Ann, who only attended school here her freshman year but went undefeated in her sport and won the state singles championship.”
Grossman, who came up from Florida with her family to attend the event, said it was a huge surprise to learn she would become a member of the school’s first Hall of Fame class.
“I was on the golf course when the phone rang and Tom told me I was going to be inducted,” she said with a huge smile. “I was so excited for the honor and really excited to come back and see everyone. This really meant so much to me.”
All of the athletes, coaches and family representatives present shared a similar sentiment.
“It was such a pleasant surprise to be honored with this group of people who were nominated,” said Josh Helm, a 2000 graduate who won numerous awards as a member of the basketball and football teams.
He said it was especially wonderful to be honored along with his childhood friend and fellow basketball and football star, Nathan Poole.
“Nathan and I grew up together and it is so cool that we were nominated and inducted together as well,” he said. “We were always pushing each other academically and athletically.”
Softball ace Kim McKeon, who helped lead the 1983 team to a state championship, said she was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the award.
“Grove City High School has been around for over 100 years and to be a part of their inaugural Hall of Fame class is just an honor.”
Karen Cross, who was there representing her husband Brian Cross, said he loved his time here at Grove City where he became the winningest football coach in the school’s storied history.
“It was really his favorite place to coach,” she said.
Beverly Russell- Stewart, who was there representing her late father Herb Russell, said she even though she was honored to hear her legendary father was chosen to be a member of the class, she wasn’t that surprised by the selection.
“I was mostly just surprised it has taken so long (to establish an Athletic Hall of Fame),” she said with a laugh.
Rutan said that now that there is one, expect for more greats to be recognized in the future.