By GREG KEIM firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — ELKHART — Often times someone refers to saving the best for last.
According to Jim Hahn that is exactly what they did during the 2013 induction banquet for the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night at the Matterhorn Restaurant.
Phil Preston was the 22nd and final member of this year’s class to be inducted. Hahn, a standout player at Penn High School who went on to a stellar career coaching the Concord Minutemen, introduced Preston who passed away last April. His wife of 53 years Shirley accepted the award.
“The committee saved the best for last. That’s truly the way I feel about Phil,” Hahn said. “This is going to be a tough one. It’s truly an honor.”
Hahn was emotional during the speech, stopping several times to fight back tears.
Preston was inducted as a volunteer. He was known for his love of basketball and his long-time sponsorship of AAU boys basketball teams, especially Wakarusa Pharmacy.
“Phil sponsored Waky Pharmacy from the mid-1970s until the late 1980s. It was an extreme honor for me to have played for him,” Hahn said. “He touched so many lives.”
Shirley Preston said, “I know Phil would be very pleased and proud to be a part of this group.”
Others in the 2013 class were Gretchen Nyce, 1989 Bethany Christian graduate; Russ Mann, 1999 Concord; Fred Myers, 1965 Concord; Haley Emerson, 2006 Concord; Ton Conway, 1958 Elkhart; Gary Kratzer, 1968 Elkhart; Clyde Riley Jr., 1969 Elkhart; Ben Paolillo, 1977 Elkhart Central; Rod Morgan, 1978 Elkhart Memorial and Jim Nicholson, 1973 Elkhart Memorial. Also, Doug Thwaits, 1974 Fairfield; Ryan Thwaits, 2000 Fairfield; Don Ogle, 1967 Goshen; Tenelle (Ramer) Milun, 1995 Goshen; Lance Allen Swank, 1979 Jimtown; Kellie Heuermann, 1988 Jimtown; April (Allison) Russell, 1997 Northridge; Gary Zimmerman, 1988 Northridge; Kent Sullivan, 1982 Northridge; Carol Duncan, 2002 NorthWood and Dennis Lewis, NorthWood coach 1985-2005.
Tenelle (Ramer) Milun was a four-year letterwinner and a four-time MVP for the Redskins. She was a 14-time NLC champion, a 13-time sectional champion and a four-time state qualifier.
“She stands among the best swimmers in GHS history. She still holds four school records,” Devon Hoffman said in her introduction. “I have no doubt in my mind she would have been a state champion if she would not have had to jump in the pool at the same time as Lindsay Benko.”
Ramer went on to swim at Florida State where among other accomplishments she was on an ACC-winning 200 medley relay in 1998. She placed in six ACC tournament events and earned a Golden Nole as a freshman.
“That’s an award they give for athletics and academics,” Milun said. “I was truly honored as a freshman to receive it.”
She shared how her career in the sport began.
“I cried when mom took me to swimming lessons,” Milun said. “The lessons were at the same time my brother was going for club swimming. Thinking back there might have been a connection. I made up my mind that I was not going to quit. If my brother could do it so could I.
“I did a lot of laps to get here and I’m very honored. I had great support from my parents, family and friends. I’m blessed.”
Milun is a charge nurse in an operating room at a New Jersey hospital.
Don Ogle earned eight letters in football, basketball and baseball at Goshen, but is probably as well known for his work as an athletic trainer. He was the head trainer at GHS from 1977-86 and he spent time at Goshen College, both as a trainer and helping set up a teaching program.
“Don was confident, conscientious and excessively organized,” Hoffman said. Those qualities make for a solid trainer. What set Don apart was the compassion he showed for athletes.”
Ogle was a two-way starter on the 1966 GHS football team that became the first Redskin squad to defeat Elkhart at Rice Field, he was the starting point guard on the 1966-67 basketball team that finished 17-3 and the starting center fielder on the baseball team that won a sectional title in 1967.
“I was fortunate to play in the golden era of GHS sports. When the gyms were filled with fans,” Ogle said. “As a trainer I was fortunate to be part of another era in the 1980s when Goshen had some state championship football teams.”
Carol Duncan earned 11 letters at NorthWood in volleyball, basketball and track and field. She helped NorthWood win the 3A girls state basketball champions in 1999 and finished her prep career with 1,214 points and 828 rebounds. She went on to play four years at Purdue, scoring 1,033 points as the Boilermakers won two Big Ten tournament championships.
“I was so inspired by the coaches at NorthWood. Steve Neff in basketball, Peg Bough in volleyball and Kirt Hunsberger in track,” Duncan said. “My parents were great. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. My older brother Tom was my hero and I wanted to be a trailblazer for my little sister Audrey showing her how to be a strong female athlete.”
Neff has announced his intentions to retire after the current basketball season.
“It’s incredible his career has spanned four decades,” Duncan said. “I hope he has a good season.”
Duncan works for Gym Rats in Fort Wayne, coaching youth basketball teams.
“I speak constantly with the kids about things he (Neff) taught me,” she said. “It was a privilege go through the NorthWood program.”