By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
EVERETT — Snohomish County’s long and distinguished sports history was celebrated on Wednesday night as 10 individuals and two teams were inducted into the county’s Sports Hall of Fame during a gala banquet at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Comcast Arena.
Many of the surviving inductees talked about the importance of having their roots in Snohomish County, and of the powerful role played in their lives by firm, caring and committed coaches.
Ron Gipson, who went from Everett High School to the University of Washington football team where he earned four varsity letters and played on the winning 1978 Rose Bowl team, cited high school coaches Tony Whitefield and Bert Slater, who “told me I had some talent and they told me not to waste it. … If not for sports and the coaches who grabbed hold of me, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you tonight as a Hall of Famer,” Gipson said.
Herm Atkins, one of America’s premier distance runners in the late 1970s and early ’80s, got his running start at Seattle’s Garfield High School, “where I tried football and I tried basketball, and I learned that I am not a contact-sport type of person. … But my parents had given me some fantastic genes — and I’m not talking about Calvin Klein — and my coach convinced me to run track and field.
“God gave me a gift and I took advantage of it,” Atkins said. “I ran my heart out, I challenged everyone, I wanted to be the best. My goal was to run fast, run fast, run fast, and with that it would bring honor to myself, my family and my community in Snohomish County.”
Several of the inductees, including Gipson and Atkins, live today in Snohomish County. Others have moved on, like Karen Bryant, who is the president and CEO of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.
“I’ve lived most of my adult life in King County,” said Bryant, an Edmonds native who was inducted as a special contributor, “but Snohomish County still holds a very, very special place in my heart. … I’m so very proud of my Snohomish County roots.”
Joining Gipson, Atkins and Bryant in this year’s class are basketball player Jack Nichols of Everett, who played at the UW and then in the NBA from the late 1940s to the late ’50s; football player Steve Thompson of Lake Stevens, who also played at the UW and later won a Super Bowl title with the New York Jets in 1969; Tony Volpentest of Edmonds, who despite being born without hands or feet went on to be a four-time gold medalist in Paralympic sprinting; and long jumper Sherron Walker of Everett, who still holds the state high school record in Washington and was a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team.
Also inducted were longtime football coaches Dick Armstrong of Snohomish and Terry Ennis of Everett, two of the all-time winningest coaches in state history; and Nancy Snyder of Darrington, who has spent decades coaching multiple sports at Darrington High School.
Of the individual inductees, only Volpentest was absent. He lives out of state and was represented at the banquet by his mother. Nichols, Armstrong and Ennis are deceased, and were represented by family members.
Two boys basketball teams were also inducted _ the 1940 Everett High School team and the 1977 Mountlake Terrace High School team. Both won state championships.
Echoing a theme mentioned by several of the inductees, Thompson said: “I’m so proud to be from Snohomish County. So proud to be part of something that I think is building a culture of honor. When you build a culture of honor, you get children and grandchildren that rise up and say, ‘Wow, we’re part of something that is really great. I’m glad we live here.’”
Likewise, keynote speaker Jim Lambright, the former UW player and coach, related his history as an Everett athlete and gave credit to coaches like Jim Ennis, the father of Terry Ennis and himself an Everett legend.
“Snohomish County produces great athletes, great people and great leaders, and has tons of success,” Lambright said. “And it’s where I grew up.
“It’s great to be a part of Snohomish County and the city of Everett, and to be a part of the Sports Hall of Fame, and to see it grow,” he added. “We have people pushing it and pulling it, and they’re creating something that through the years will be a tremendous point of pride, and something that you’ll be able to build on year after year after year.”
Rome, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, was honored for winning the 2011 U.S. Championship in the discus and later being the Pan American Games silver medalist as well as setting a personal best of 225 feet, 7 inches. Rowland finished her senior season on the University of Washington volleyball team in 2011 and helped the Huskies to a 24-8 record and an NCAA Tournament berth while being named a second-team All-American.
Rome and Rowland were both out of town and unable to attend the banquet, and were represented at the event by their parents.