Knoxville — The Knoxville High School Athletic Hall of Fame Induction luncheon was held Friday at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum.
Inducted this year will be 1944 Drake Relays pole vaulting champion Jim Schaal, track star Lisa (Moats) Crossett, football star Sean Mason and tennis coach Joel Tonda.
Schaal was Knoxville's first Drake Relays champion. He went on to become a teacher, writer and college professor. Schaal was the only inductee unable to attend Friday's ceremony, because, at 86, he was at a speaking engagement in New Orleans.
Joe Cunningham, emcee for the luncheon, read a letter Schaal wrote in regard to the luncheon. Schaal remembers Knoxville and surrounding towns, and still has memories of losing to Pella, at a time when that school was much smaller.
Crossett, KHS Class of 1982, won state titles in 1980 and 1981. She earned a pharmaceutical degree from the University of Iowa, where she still holds the indoor long jumping record.
Crossett shared memories of her school days. She even recalled getting the nickname "Speedy Gonzalez" from her elementary PE teacher. When she made it to college, after finding great success as a high school track star, she did not intend to participate in track. Coaches at the first school she attended, Northeast Missouri State University, as well as Iowa, invited her to join their teams. Crossett said that none of her success would have been possible without her family, coaches, teammates and the Knoxville community.
"I never expected to get such recognition," Crossett said.
Mason, Class of 1991, led the Panther football team to its first playoff game. He recalled signing up to play baseball in second grade. From then on, he was active in sports year round, throughout the rest of his Knoxville school days.
Mason went on to Iowa State University and walked on to the football team, but he was there to earn his engineering degree. He was hired by Al-Tech Industries after college and still works for them. Soon he and his family will move to Lexington, Ky. He is still very fond of Knoxville.
"What a great place to grow up," Mason said. He later added, "I'm up here because of the support I had around me."
He shared memories of his playing days and thanked his family for their years of support. In closing, he said he would remember the day for the rest of his life.
Mason was coached by Tonda, and he gave Tonda a special mention before it was the coach's turn to address the crowd. Tonda coached tennis in Knoxville for 32 years. Throughout that time, he also coached other sports in different seasons.
Tonda grew up in Knoxville and is a KHS alumnus himself. He was surrounded by family at the luncheon - including a sister who surprised him by flying in from Houston for the Hall of Fame ceremonies.
Tonda thanked his family and called himself "the luckiest guy" in regard to having the support of his wife, Terri, through the years. The coach shared memories of his years in Knoxville, and provided special mention to coaches with whom he competed, but also had great respect for.
The most enriching part of coaching, according to Tonda, was seeing these young men, talented athletes and those less physically gifted, grow up to be successful as adults. He said he could name hundreds of students he has coached over the years who have become good men.
Tonda expressed his gratitude to the athletic directors he has worked with as well. As he closed, he shared a quote, contained in a congratulatory letter he received from Dr. Ted Eller, in which Eller told him, "Your father would be proud." Reading that brought tears to Tonda's eyes.
The inductees will be honored during a special ceremony during tonight's (Friday, Jan. 31) basketball games. This was the tenth annual ceremony for the Hall of Fame. The 42 members previously inducted claim several accolades, including Olympians, High School All-Americans, Collegiate All-Americans and Drake Relays champions.
Journal-Express Sports Editor Perry Bell has interviewed the inductees. Look for more in-depth stories on each one in his special series in upcoming editions of the Journal-Express.