BOURBON — From 1977 Chicago Bulls NBA draft pick Rich Rhodes to University of Michigan MVP Lorea Feldman to beloved Coach Ron Smith, one contributor, one coach and four student athletes were inducted into the new Triton Athletic Hall of Fame at the Inaugural Banquet on February 19.
The six inductees — The Bourbon Foundry (contributor), Coach Ron Smith, and student athletes Lorea Feldman, Rich Rhodes, Dan Sharpe and John Yantiss were honored during the Hall of Fame weekend. The festivities began with recognition at the Triton boys varsity basketball game against Tippecanoe Valley on Friday, Feb. 18, and the inductees were then honored at a dinner ceremony at the Matchett Center in Bourbon on Saturday, Feb. 19. The Hall of Fame itself will be a commemorative wall located outside the gymnasium at Triton High School.
The Athletic Hall of Fame was developed by Triton High School Athletic Director Mason McIntyre. “I believe it’s important to know and understand our rich athletic tradition,” McIntyre said. “Since the school’s inception during the 1963-64 school year, many athletes have worn the blue and gold. But these athletes that we recognized set themselves apart by running the fastest, jumping the highest and winning championships.” The inductees were chosen by a selection committee of five members who include Larry Lemler from the Town of Bourbon, Dave Shively from the Town of Etna Green, Ken Blackford from the Town of Tippecanoe, and members-at-large Duane Walters and Hal Kuntz.
Dr. John M. Yeager, Director of the Center for Character Excellence at the Culver Academies, was the featured speaker. Dr. Yeager talked to the 130 people in attendance at the banquet about the importance of athletics and the many memories we gain from participating in sports. He is no stranger to halls of fame himself as he is a member of both the University of Massachusetts/Boston Athletic Hall of Fame and the New England Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
The Bourbon Foundry and the families of John and the late Eugene “Dusty” Westafer were the first contributors to be inducted. The Foundry and the Westafer family were proud supporters of Triton Athletics for over five decades. Representing the Westafer family was Drew Westafer, grandson of Dusty. Drew’s emotional acceptance speech set the tone for the inductees to follow.
Ron Smith, who coached boys golf for 28 years and cross country for 24 years at Triton, followed the Westafer family as he was the first coach inducted into the Hall of Fame. “Would someone please get me a chalkboard and a piece of chalk? I’d feel a lot more comfortable standing before all of you if I had those two things,” Smith said as he addressed the crowd of former faculty, staff and students during his acceptance speech. More than any accomplishment on the golf or cross country courses, Smith touched the lives of the many students he taught in his 31 years as a math teacher at Triton High School.
Lorea Feldman was the first athlete inducted. Feldman scored 1,563 career points at Triton and 1,260 at the University of Michigan. She was twice named MVP at Michigan and earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors three times. Although she had planned to be in attendance, Feldman came down with bronchitis and was unable to travel from California to be present at the banquet. However, a live video stream on the internet provided her the opportunity to watch the banquet and see her sister Becky receive her award. Her acceptance speech was given by Larry Wattenbarger, her high school basketball coach.
The next athlete inducted was 1972 graduate and 1977 Chicago Bulls draft pick and Eastern Illinois All-American Rich Rhodes. Rhodes, who is currently retired and resides in Scottsdale, Ariz., made light of his athletic career and joked about how he had forgotten his shoes during a 1971 sectional game. Rhodes did not play junior high basketball. At the time, Triton Head Basketball Coach Creighton Burns made him promise he’d play in high school. Although Creighton tried to take credit for Rhodes joining the team, Rhodes himself gave the credit to his mother, who was in attendance to support her son.
Next up was one of Triton’s greatest all-around athletes in Dan Sharpe. Sharpe participated successfully in football, basketball, baseball and track and field, where he finished fifth at the IHSAA state finals in the long jump in 1972. It was at this meet that Sharpe set the Triton long jump record that still holds today at 22 feet and 1 inch. Sharpe traveled from Tucson, Arizona to be present to receive his award, and during his acceptance speech, he described the friendship and the camaraderie that was developed during his years as a Triton student athlete.
The last induction was that of John Yantiss. A state finalist in the 880-yard run in his senior year at Triton in 1966, Yantiss is one of the greatest track stars Triton has seen. Yantiss went on to have a distinguished career at Taylor University and is in the “Taylor Track Top Ten Times” in the 880 with a time of 1:56. He thanked the Triton community for being so supportive and said that although he lives in Indianapolis, where he teaches PE and Health, he still feels very connected to Triton and has great Trojan pride.
The induction banquet was full of laughter, tears, stories and highlights like the introduction of Mary Lou Wood, widow of the late Marvin Wood who coached the 1954 Milan state championship team. Introduced by Larry Wattenbarger, Mary Lou Wood was in attendance to support Lorea Feldman, who had played for her husband’s AAU team.
“Although I am saddened to see the evening come to an end, I’m excited about tomorrow and what the future holds for the Triton Athletic Hall of Fame,” said McIntyre.
Plans for the 2012 Hall of Fame weekend have already begun. The selection committee and the Triton Athletic Department look forward to recognizing a new class of individuals who have distinguished themselves on the courts and the fields of Triton High school and beyond.