PORT ANGELES — A groundbreaking girls’ team and a pair of major movers and shakers in the sports world beyond Port Angeles led the way for the Port Angeles Roughriders Hall of Fame class of 2023.
More than 500 people attended the event held at Civic Field on Saturday night. A total of 12 individuals and two teams were inducted and another girls’ team was honored.
It was the sixth class inducted in the event that dates back to 2018.
Port Angeles High School’s first girls’ team, the 1972 swim team, was one of two teams inducted. The team was created shortly after the passage of Title IX, which required schools to provide an equal amount of opportunity for girls to participate in sports and other interscholastic activities.
They were introduced as “the girls who broke the ceiling.”
Port Angeles already had a girls’ swim club run by Don Fairbairn, who is already in the Hall of Fame, and the team easily transitioned to an official high school team. The first-year team had immediate success, winning eight out of nine dual meets and finishing ninth at state.
Team member Sharon Roark said “there were a lot of firsts in that era. It was fantastic.”
The 1964 badminton team was also honored. This was not an official high school sport but was just about the only sports available to Port Angeles girls in the 1960s. The team went on to become a national and international powerhouse, going to the finals in 12 out of 15 events at the 1964 junior nationals held in Southern California.
Judy Brodhun, a member of that team, said the kids at the nationals all thought the Port Angeles girls must have come from privilege to have become so good. Instead, they simply had coach Vern Burton and a lot of motivation.
“The kids all thought we were rich,” she said. “We had three courts to play on.”
She said the team also had a huge amount of support from the community after returning from nationals.
“We were heroes,” she said.
Fiesta Bowl, Al Michaels
Also honored were Bruce Skinner and George Hill, who just happened to be neighbors back in the 1950s on Ninth Street.
Skinner, with the Olympic Medical Center Foundation, is one of the lead organizers of the Hall of Fame. He also helps put together the Sonny Sixkiller golf tournament at Cedars at Dungeness each year. His biggest claim to fame is being the director of the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix and helping to build that game into a major New Year’s Day bowl. He is already a member of four halls of fame.
“But this is by far the best, because I owe so much to Port Angeles,” Skinner said.
Skinner said he wanted to play sports, “but I was too small, too short and very slow.” He then became a statistician for longtime Port Angeles sports broadcaster Scooter Chapman, then went on to become the sports editor at the University of Washington Daily, which led to jobs with the Houston Rockets, UW and the Fiesta Bowl. Skinner did become an accomplished athlete, completing marathons on seven continents. He is now in the process of running half-marathons on every continent.
Hill said he was “very humbled and slightly embarrassed [because] I’ve just been in the right place at the right time.”
Hill got into sports broadcasting, working as a statistician and holding other roles. From the University of Washington, he moved on to the 1976 Montreal Olympics and his first college game was in Tucson, Ariz., where he got to work for the first time with longtime broadcaster Al Michaels.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. He said his sister Hester Hill (a Port Angeles Hall of Famer in badminton) sometimes gave him the best tips to hand to Michaels.
From there, he worked six more Olympics, including the Miracle on Ice hockey game at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980 and 12 Super Bowls. He even worked an NBA Finals game that was being officiated by Bernie Fryer, a Port Angeles sports legend (and already a Hall of Famer), who went on to have a long career as an official in the NBA.
Runners and more
Larry Beatty from the class of 1982 was inducted for track and field. He went on to become a highly successful track coach at Spokane Community College, a member of four halls of fame, and he echoed Skinner’s comments.
“For me, this has come full circle. This is probably the most important [hall of fame]. This is where I was raised,” he said.
Beatty specialized in the hurdles. He told a story about how his coach at the time, Bob Sheedy (already a Hall of Famer), made it a team sport, asking him if he could run the 800 instead of the hurdles in order to beat Sequim in a meet.
“He could’ve told me to chew pea gravel and I would’ve done it,” Beatty said.
• Terry Clayton, class of 1957, played basketball for the Riders and went on to play for Western Washington. He said in high school, he had a serious crush on a girl in his neighborhood and that he could have stayed with her, teaching and coaching and having a family. Instead, he moved on to the Peace Corps, traveling the world, writing books and teaching in South America.
“I would not have had that other life … the life that I lived,” he said. He brought with him the medal he won playing in the Nike World Games in the 60-65 age division. His team finished second.
• Joni Jacobs, class of 1996, was inducted for swimming. She went on from Port Angeles to be a two-time NAIA national breaststroke champion at Central Washington.
Frank Prince, a former athletic director for Port Angeles High School, spoke for Jacobs, who couldn’t attend.
“You look at the record board in Port Angeles, there’s her name,” Prince said. “You look at the record board in Central Washington, there’s her name. She is a hall of famer all the way through.”
• Prince’s son, Frank Prince III, was inducted for track and cross country. He was an All-American, conference champion and regional champion, running for the University of Puget Sound.
“As a kid in Port Angeles, we had it made. We got to be on the cover of the sports page. We would go to Haguewood’s for cinnamon rolls to be interviewed by Scooter.”
Prince said one of his favorite memories of running in Port Angeles was road trips with his dad to meets in Kitsap County. He was especially motivated to win those meets because his dad told him, “It’s the Silverdale Mall or Red Robin if we win. It was McDonald’s if we lose.”
• Dave Denny, class of 1964, was the leading scorer for the Riders basketball team in 1963 and 1964, then became a cross-country coach at Montesano, winning a state championship in 1974. He said the hall of fame events “are like a huge class reunion. I’ve seen people I haven’t seen for a long time. Thank all of you for your support of Port Angeles athletics.”
• Harry Leons, a member of the 1956 football team, went on to become the MVP at Western Washington and had a tryout with the Detroit Lions of the NFL.
Leons said when he first started playing football, he was plenty tall, but skinny, and spent his first couple of years on the bench watching his teammates. “I couldn’t tackle or block anyone. I gained 40 pounds … and there were six ends on the team. I was number six on the depth chart. I won the starting job at right tackle and never looked back.”
• Jon Madison, class of 1997, played basketball and baseball for the Riders, leading the basketball team in scoring 1997 and leading the team to a seventh-place finish at state. His baseball team also finished fourth at state.
“I loved playing baseball on this field,” Madison said. “It makes me want to lace up the cleats right now.”
Madison said his older brother James, already a hall of famer for basketball, “would never let me win at anything. He always kicked my butt. It made me a better player.”
•Alison Maxwell, class of 2011, ran track and cross country for the Riders and continues to run for Club Northwest as a Brooks High Performance athlete. She also ran at Middlebury College in Vermont.
She said at Middlebury, she realized that she didn’t have the same resources at school that some of the other athletes had. “But I think that made me more prepared.” She said that living in Seattle, people she knows there see Port Angeles as a vacation spot.
“That vacation destination is my hometown. I have the privilege of knowing real Port Angeles people deeply connected to their environment,” she said.
• Kelley Burglund, class of 1999, was inducted for basketball. She went on to play at Washington State and Seattle Pacific, then played professionally in Germany and coached at Portland, Sacramento State and Boise State.
Her mother Linda Beil spoke on Berglund’s behalf, quoting her letter that “it was a great honor to be inducted and I’m with you in spirit” and that it was the Port Angeles community that “nurtured us in all sports, not just basketball.”
• Mandy Wood, class of 2002, played basketball and soccer for the Riders, leading the basketball team to the state tournament four times. She went on to play at Seattle Pacific, playing in the NCAA Div. II national championship game her junior year.
“Growing up here, sports were my life. If I wasn’t outside catching frogs, I was playing sports,” she said. She was especially proud that in one of her years at state, the Roughriders had the dubious distinction of going 0-12 in state tournament games. After losing their tournament opener to go 0-13, they won their second-round game. She said coach Mike Knowles wrote “1-13” on the whiteboard. “I’ve never been more proud of a record than this one,” he told his players. That team went on to finish fifth at state.
• The 1956 football team was also inducted. The team went 7-1.
“It really was a fun time. A wonderful, wonderful time,” said Bill Grover, quarterback for the team.
Grover said assistant coach Jack Elway (a previous inductee) had a play called a belly play in which he put the ball in the belly of the running back. Against an East Bremerton team, he faked a handoff on the belly play and threw the ball to Ron Suslick for an apparent game-winning touchdown. The referee blew the whistle because Grover ran the play so well, he lost track of the ball. And the play was nullified.