MID-OHIO VALLEY SPORTS HALL OF FAME: Induction Saturday
VIENNA –A who’s-who of local sports figures were inducted into the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday inside the Grande Pointe Conference & Reception Center. For the 22nd year, a list of 10 deserving individuals had their legacies cemented among friends, family members and peers. This year’s group saw success all around the Valley throught their respective careers, as they represent a wide range of counties.
The first inductee of the night was Jackson County’s Andrew Benford.
Benford ran cross country at Ravenswood High School and amassed two consecutive individual state championships in 2004 and 2005 and four straight team championships from 2003 to 2006. After high school, he found a groove at the University of Richmond as a multi-time conference champion. Benford spoke about how his family was behind him “almost every step of the way” and that he always wanted to be like his brother, Adam.
The first Wood County inductee of the night was Jeff Deem. He made his mark in maroon and yellow as a fullback-linebacker hybrid at Williamstown High School in the late-1970s. At the turn of the decade, he impressed Don Nehlen at West Virginia University and was a leading tackler as a part of Nehlen’s linebacking corps. After a knee injury cut his career short, Deem was still revered by those around him. He could not attend the ceremony due to health issues, so his close friend, sports anchor Mark Martin, spoke on his behalf.
He said that Deem played against future NFL stars and “had it not been for the knee injury, he would have been playing on Sundays.” Whether it was sacking Dan Marino in the Backyard Brawl or simply realizing a dream was fulfilled, Deem can now call himself a Hall of Famer.
Ron Haught of Ritchie County was next in line. Haught was a multi-sport standout athlete at Harrisville High School. Though he played football and baseball, Haught’s basketball career set him apart from his peers. The 1961 Harrisville grad set high marks at the school and led the Little Kanawha Conference in scoring in ’61. Haught took to the podium for a bit over a minute, but was still appreciative of the honor.
“I’d like to give my daughter a ‘thank you’ for me being here,” he said. “My daughter got a scrapbook that my mother made me in high school made out of newspaper clippings. When I played football, basketball and baseball, she summarized it (the highlights in the scrapbook) to the hall of fame committee.”
As a result of that, Haught was selected and was “very surprised” to make it into the 2019 class.
Tim McCartney’s speech was longer and just as appreciative. Having coached wrestling for 31 years at Parkersburg South, his pedigree was enough to induct him. However, McCartney insisted he didn’t know why he was chosen. His humilty extended to stories about his time starting out as an assistant wrestling coach.
“We stayed in a hotel one time that cost seven dollars a room,” he cracked. “We were low budget, I’m telling you! But from there, we fought up the ladder.”
In addition to wrestling, McCartney coached football and pole vaulting. All of that experience helped pad out a hall of fame resume.
The winningest coach in the history of the MOV Sports Hall is now Donna Newberry. She coached softball at Muskingum University over a 36-year span. Nine hundred and seven wins later, she stood alone at the top of NCAA Division III competition. The South graduate’s winning attitude stayed with her up until her death in 2010.
When Pam Reeves passed away in 2016, the local tennis scene was taken for a loop. Afterall, she guided the Parkersburg High School boys and girls tennis squads to five state titles apiece and was an integral figure in popularizing tennis around the area for decades. Her family did not give her a speech at the ceremony. Instead, they each held up one letter each that spelled out “THANK U”.
Noble County’s lone inductee was Connie Richardson. In what was a trend of this class, she also excelled in multiple sports. Softball and volleyball were a part of her wheelhouse, but she did her best work on the hardwood at Caldwell High School.
Having averaged a 22-13 double-double in her senior campaign, she continued her playing time at Heidelberg University as a four-year starter and Ohio Athletic Conference standout. She earned All-American honors in 1985 and 1986. She said she would always go around playing basketball with the boys while growing up and that her craft was formed with lots of practice that turned her into the star she became.
Steve Shaver was a running back under Buddy James at PHS and at WVU for a year, but he soon turned his attention to four wheels and a need for speed in the mid-1980s. Having won a multitude of races around the area, he said “if you can win races in the Mid-Ohio Valley, you can win anywhere.”
Shaver became emotional upon reflecting about his career and credits his parents for never ginig up on hm. He also thanked his pit crew for their unwavering support.
Don Strahler of Washington County thanked his players and talked about them more than he did himself. That tireless gratitude was a highlight of not only his speech, but of his time coaching the Fort Frye girls basketball program for 18 years. His approach was to not yell at the kids. He wanted to treat them fairly so they would listen. That approach clearly paid dividends, as he compiled 292-95 record as the Cadets’ head man.
Larry Taylor of Pleasants County was the 10th and final inductee of the night. At St. Marys High School, his dedication to track and cross country led to him becoming a multi-time all-LKC selection in cross country. He also set blistering paces in events that led to him becoming a fixture in professional road racing several years after he graduated from SMHS in 1980. He also bragged about running a mile in 9:21 on the back end of 40 years old. He attributes his long stint as a runner due to not only doing for his health, but for fun, as well.