Homecoming a night for the record books

Last weekend was one for the record books.

Friday (Sept. 22) was the third of five consecutive days where record high temperatures were either matched or broken, making obsolete marks which had stood since 1891.

Friday was also the day for the first inductions into the Mahomet-Seymour Education Foundation Hall of Fame.

More classes will be added on an annual basis, but there will never be a group like the first one.

The eight inaugural representatives were the charter members and they are the only eight who will ever have that distinction.

Six of the seven living inductees were present for a day of activities, which included parading through town on a float as part of the Homecoming festivities and later, their introduction prior to the football game at Frank Dutton Field.

All eight had a representative present.

Letty Grogg — and other family members — were accompanied by a large portrait placard of the late Dr. Edward P. Grogg, who passed away (in October, 2015) before he learned of his selection.

“This created such a flood of memories,” said one of his daughters, Jill Grogg Snipes, from Seymour. “It’s a very tearful day, but very special.”

Adding to the tribute was the amount of time her mother and father had been away from the community after his retirement.

“They moved in 1991,” Snipes said. “When you leave, you lose touch with your roots. Mahomet becomes a distant memory.

“I wish Dad could have been here. He loved this school.”

Edward Grogg was selected in the “contributor” category for his years of service to the school’s athletic programs and for starting the CAIR Center, which sits between the high school and the football field.

Wrestler Brett Camden, a three-time state champion who now lives in Texas, asked his niece to fill in during his absence.

Jennifer Spain, from St. Joseph (whose father is Rob Camden), accepted the presentation along with her husband, James.

The other six inductees expressed their overwhelming appreciation for the honor and recognition.

Melanie Moore Paxson makes her living in Hollywood and was accompanied by
family, including her 7-year-old son, Miller, who enjoyed the celebratory nature of the evening.

Melanie Paxson, who lives in Sherman Oaks, Cal., said, “to be part of this group, I don’t feel I’m worthy. The caliber of talent here is phenomenal.

“I’m happy and super-honored. This is the most attention I’ve gotten in some time.”

She has had a variety of film and commercial roles and hopes to be cast in Descendants 3, if the project gets the green light.

“Mahomet is such a big part of who I am,” Paxson said. “In Hollywood, I’m not that big of a deal.”

Eric (Mark) Johnson, a 1970s distance runner who still ranks among the all-time IHSA leaders in cross-country, took note of being in the debut class.

“To get filtered out in the first group is amazing and very special,” said Johnson, who lives in Wyoming.

Johnson had a chance to see the involvement in cross-country at the local level, including the more than 80 prospects who make up the junior high (sixth- through eight-grade) program.

“I couldn’t believe how many cross-country kids are coming up,” Johnson said.

Phil Knell, a multi-sport star from the 1960s who earned All-State accolades in football, watched the first M-S home game he has seen in person since his brother (Denne, who graduated in 1968) played.

“I can’t believe all the spirit,” Phil Knell said. “It’s exhilarating. It gives you goosebumps.”

Knell, who lives in Barrington, thought the passage of time might be to his detriment as far as earning selection for the Hall of Fame.

“I played football 55 years ago,” he said. “Those days are sometimes referred to as the ‘olden days.’

“While I’m old, I’m not old-fashioned. I’m thrilled I was chosen.”

Maureen Scott Renaud was the only Hall-of-Famer to have graduated from M-S in the past quarter century. A renowned distance runner in track, she was part of the Class of 2002.

She is now an Army staff sergeant and lives with her family in Texas.

“After I graduated, I didn’t think I had more Homecoming parades in my future,” Renaud said. “This is crazy.

“Mahomet has so many amazingly talented people.”

She returned to her alma mater for the first time in four years. “I didn’t realize (until recently) they were putting together a Hall,”

Renaud said. “Maybe this can be an inspiration for current athletes.”

Brian Herriott hopes his induction will send a message to student-athletes that they don’t need to pick and choose activities.

“When I was a kid, I looked up to the guys who were in arts and athletics,” Herriott said. “I was proud that many were in sports and arts, and showed you don’t have to do one or the other.

“You can do both and excel in both. Instead of taking away from each other, they complement each other. I hope kids know it’s possible to be involved in both.”

A football player in high school, as a postgraduate Herriott went on to have an acing and singing career for more than 20 years, featuring lead roles in Broadway productions.

Marty Williams is the first — and thus far, the only — coach chosen for enshrinement. His wrestling teams compiled a 191-4 record in dual meets and he coached five Bulldog teams that won or shared IHSA state championships in a seven-year span of the 1980s.

“When I look at all of the coaches, athletes, musicians and kids in theater from here, it doesn’t get more humbling than this,” said Williams, who had two stints in the M-S district, totaling 27 years. He retired in 2011.

Hall of Fame committee spokesman Jim Risley was pleased by the way the event played out, “especially with the inductees,” he said. “They showed the kind of class and vision that probably made them inductees in the first place.”

Risley said several of the Hall-of-Famers mentioned the response of the student body (most of whom were wearing green) to a school shooting earlier in the week at Mattoon, which provided the homecoming opposition for the Bulldogs.

“They commented how proud they were to the sensitivity shown to the situation,” Risley said.

Committee meetings will likely be held within a month to six weeks to start considering candidates for the Class of 2018.

Eventually, there will be tweaks made to the process.

“Definitely there will be teams in the Hall, but how we go about it and when we do it has to be determined,” Risley said.

Profiles of the charter class as well as video footage of more than half of them are available at the 24-hour web site establishing for viewing,

Nominees for the Hall of Fame Class of 2018 can be made through the web
site, but close on Oct. 1.

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