PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Roughrider Hall of Fame grew to 35 members Saturday night when 15 individuals and two teams joined last year’s inaugural class into the hall.
In an event attended by more than 550 people at the Vern Burton Community Center, the second-ever class of the Roughriders Hall of Fame was inducted.
Carrie Morrison, a class of 1975 graduate who is one of several Port Angeles Hall of Famers inducted for her exploits in badminton, is also a member of the Arizona State University Hall of Fame after leading ASU to two NCAA badminton national championships.
“This is a big deal,” Morrison said. “When we were inducted into the Arizona State Hall of Fame, it was nothing like this. This is amazing.”
This year’s class included one athlete who graduated nearly a century ago, Leonard Johannes (class of 1925) and another who graduated less than 10 years ago, Jessica Madison (class of 2011). It also included the first-ever siblings inducted together, Jessica and James Madison, the first two teams elected into the hall — the 1959 football squad and the state-champion 1985 tennis team. It also included the father of an NFL Hall of Famer, Jack Elway, whose son John was born in Port Angeles and went on to star at Stanford and with the Denver Broncos.
Badminton is deeply woven into the history of Port Angeles sports. Last year, badminton player Tyna Barinaga was inducted into the hall. Joining her this year were badminton players Hester Hill (class of 1967), Caroline Jensen (class of 1965) and Carrie Morrison (class of 1975).
They all spoke of the contributions that Vern Burton made toward creating the badminton program at Port Angeles High School and how much he was behind turning Port Angeles into the badminton mecca of the U.S. for many years.
Hill, who spoke at last year’s and this year’s ceremony, was also a longtime badminton coach in Port Angeles. She didn’t allow recent back surgery two months ago from stopping her from attending.
She said it was poignant that the event was being held in a center named after Burton. “He spent more time in this building than the janitors,” she said.
Morrison told a powerful story of how sports and badminton literally saved her life.
Morrison became an elite marathoner after she was done with her badminton career, just missing out on qualifying for the U.S. Olympics team. However, all those years of badminton and running took their toll as she endured six surgeries. Finally, a doctor told her she simply had to stop running marathons.
“I went down a rabbit hole and at the bottom of that hole was a gun. I was ready to call it quits.
Morrison said she remembered the words of Burton telling her, “ ‘Morrison, you’re dogging it’.”
“So I stayed on the court,” she said. “Those who coach and teach … you have no idea of the lives that you save.”
Jensen won the U.S. women’s doubles title in badminton along with Barinaga as a teenager in the early 1960s, a feat that Hall of Fame organizer Bruce Skinner called “maybe the greatest athletic accomplishment” of anyone in the hall.
Jensen said the local kids simply didn’t realize how good they were at badminton until they hit the national stage.
“I don’t understand how we won so often … it was all Vern’s doing,” Jensen said.
“I feel like I’m following racket royalty,” said Cec Coulson, a 1986 graduate who starred in basketball and softball. She went on to play softball at the University of Oregon, reaching the women’s world series and played 15 years for the Seattle Express, which won the world championship in 2005.
She related a story that she tried taking up tennis, but immediately hit the ball over the fence and into the woods at Shane Park where it was never found.
“I rode my bike to the softball park, where you can’t be contained,” she said.
“What the takeaway of being a Roughrider? It’s an island at the tip of Washington where magic happens. Nobody sits on the bench in PA,” Coulson said.
Coulson also spoke about how she was the first generation that benefited from Title IX, which mandated that schools provide equal athletic opportunities for girls and women.
Linda Fairbairn-Gonzalez, the daughter of inductee Don Fairbairn, a longtime Port Angeles swim coach who passed away several years ago. She also spoke about how Fairbairn worked for equality for the girls’ athletes. Title IX was passed in 1972, but it took four years for it to be fully implemented. Fairbairn didn’t wait, however, according to his daughter.
“On the 1971-72 team, he made sure the girls would earn their letters,” she said.
James and Jessica Madison were born 15 years apart, but ended up joined at the hip for their athletic accomplishments. James Madison set the Roughrider record for points scored as a basketball star in 1995. He went on to star at Cleveland State University and still coaches and teaches in Ohio. Sixteen years later, his little sister Jessica came along and broke his points scoring record in 2011. She went on to play at the University of Alaska-Anchorage and led her team to the NCAA Div. II national championship game.
“I knew my record was going to be broken someday. Did I know it was going to be my 2-year-old sister in diapers? No, ” James said.
Many speakers poked fun at last year’s inductee Lee Sinnes for the length of his Hall of Fame speech. Roughrider quarterback Gary Gagnon, who was inducted individually as a quarterback for the 1959 and inducted again as the entire team entered the hall, tried to gives Sinnes a run for his money with his speech, which included a number of props he brought to the podium.
Gagnon broke the state passing yardage record at Port Angeles High School. But, he stressed that he didn’t do it alone.
“It wasn’t just me. I didn’t catch the football. I didn’t run the ball,” he said.
Karena Greeny, a 1997 graduate who threw the shot in track and played basketball and soccer, spoke of her three-year battle with cervical cancer.
“To say the least, the road has been tough. Those skills you learn in sports help you with real life,” she said.
Greg Thomas was an outstanding high jumper and decathlete for the Roughriders. After 40 years, he still holds the decathlon high jump record of 6 feet, 10 inches. Thomas told a story that as great of a level as his athletic achievements reached, he still had his bad moments.
In the same decathlon that he high jumped 6-10, he also managed to only pole vault 6-6.
“That’s not a record I’m proud of,” he said.
Jack Estes, who played for Jack Elway, spoke on behalf of the Port Angeles coach who died several years ago. His son, John, also provided a video message.
Estes, who went on to play at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, said Jack would sometimes play pickup games with Port Angeles students while working at the gym. He spoke of Elway’s competitive drive.
“He was not a gentle player and he was not a fair player,” Estes said.
Dave Klock spoke on behalf of his father Bob Klock, a longtime legendary Port Angeles basketball coach who died a year ago. He said there were so many stories he could tell about Klock, who was famous for kicking the bench or throwing his jacket during games.
“Thanks to all of you for being part of dad’s life,” Dave Klock said. “It meant a lot to him to be a Roughrider.”
The event also raised money for the Port Angeles High School athletic depertment, Skinner said the event raised about $50,000, including $15,400 in an auction, $12,500 from “fund a need” and $3,000 from its “catch a pass” fundraiser.
The 2019 Roughrider Hall of Fame inductees include:
John Camp, wrestling, class of 2009
Cec Coulson, softball and basketball, class of 1986
Kay Dill, basketball and tennis coach
Jack Elway, football, baseball and basketball coach
Don Fairbairn, swim coach
Gary Gagnon, football, class of 1960
Karena Greeny, track, basketball, soccer, class of 1997
Hester Hill, badminton, class of 1967
Caroline Jensen, badminton, class of 1965
Leonard Johannes, football, class of 1925
Bob Klock, basketball coach, athletic director
James Madison, basketball, class of 1995
Jessica Madison, basketball, class of 2011
Carrie Morrison, badminton, class of 1975
Greg Thomas, track and field, class of 1979
1985 state champion girls tennis team