By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
EVERETT — The inaugural Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet was an opportunity to celebrate the past and a chance to anticipate a future permanent display that will forever honor the county’s greatest athletic stars.
Thursday night’s event at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center delivered good food, great speeches and, more than anything, wonderful memories from a bevy of sports legends who got their starts in Snohomish County.
“We’ve got a long history of sports in this community,” said Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson in his welcoming remarks, “and we’re extremely proud of the contributions made by this inaugural class of inductees. … So much of what is important in this community is because of the great sports stars that we honor and respect.”
“We’re so very proud of our athletes,” agreed Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon moments later. “They helped put Snohomish County on the map.”
The Hall of Fame’s initial class includes 11 individuals and the championship teams from two schools.
Inductees attending Thursday’s banquet were Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame coach Marv Harshman, formerly of Lake Stevens; former basketball All-American Jo Metzger-Levin of Everett; former major league baseball pitcher Larry Christenson, who grew up in Marysville; and former United States women’s luge champion and worldwide explorer Helen Thayer of Snohomish.
Former world champion figure skater and Olympic silver medalist Rosalynn Sumners, who was raised in Edmonds, was a late cancellation due to a family emergency.
Arizona State University football coach Dennis Erickson, who grew up in Everett, sent a video that was played at the banquet.
Former Everett High School, UW and National Football League quarterback Chris Chandler, who grew up in Everett; and former United States Women’s Amateur golf champion Anne Quast Sander, who was raised in Marysville, both live in California and were unable to attend. They were represented by family members.
Three inductees are deceased and were also represented by family members — baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill of Snohomish, former Everett High School and UW football star George Wilson, and longtime Everett School District coach and administrator Jim Ennis.
The teams inducted were the 1920 Everett High School football team, which won a national championship, and the 1951-52 and 1952-53 Monroe High School boys basketball teams which won back-to-back state titles.
Allen Funk, publisher of The Herald, introduced the newspaper’s Man and Woman of the Year in Sports for 2009 — former Snohomish High School swimmer Garren Riechel, now at Stanford University, and world taekwondo champion Danielle Pelham of Everett. Pelham accepted her award while Riechel, who is away at school, was represented by his parents.
Keynote speaker Curt Marsh, a former football star at Snohomish High School and the University of Washington who went on to play in the NFL, entertained the audience with amusing tales of aging and being a new grandfather, and even tossed in a few good-natured Husky-Cougar jokes.
But his remarks became more serious as he discussed the significance of a county sports Hall of Fame, which will eventually have a permanent display in downtown Everett’s Comcast Arena.
Anyone with roots in Snohomish County “can go by and look at what accomplishments were done by people who grew up right (here),” he said. “And they’re going to look at that and say, ‘Wow, someone from my hometown did this? Does that mean I could do something like that, too?’”
It will happen, Marsh went on, because it happened to him. As a boy growing up in Snohomish, “I always heard about Earl Averill,” he said. “And I always thought, ‘Man, if he could do it, maybe I could do it, too.’”
For young people with a desire to excel and a willingness to dream, a county Hall of Fame “will provide something that’s tangible,” Marsh said.
Many of the evening’s acceptance remarks were heartfelt and poignant. Metzger-Levin, who is almost certainly the best women’s basketball player ever produced in Snohomish County, choked up as she talked about the role of her family in her life and particularly her late father, Harry Metzger.
Christenson, who flew out from Philadelphia early on Thursday morning, told the crowd that he enjoyed “thinking back to when I was a young guy playing in sports … (because) this is where it all started.
“I’m proud to be here and I’m proud to accept this award,” he added.
The 92-year-old Harshman, who was the last inductee to receive his plaque, got the evening’s biggest laugh when he said, “It’s great to be here. In fact, it’s great to be anyplace.”
For that quip Harshman got a standing ovation, and it was a terrific capper to an already memorable evening.