Hillman Sports Hall of Fame inducts 2019 class

News Photo by James Andersen Hillman High School welcomed and inducted the 2019 class of the Hillman Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon. The 2019 inductees represent the Hall of Fame’s sixth class. Pictured left to right are, front: Tom Kennard, Ernie Orm (representing Donald Orm), Diane Cordes, Kelley Smith, Natalie Jones, Janill (Nicholas) Edwards, Julie (Shiffer) Shepherd, Jenny (Brandon) Brandt, Lydia Walker and Rick Hamilton; back: Sara Jones, Erin (McDonald) Andrews, Sara (Davis) Vanderveer, Sarah (Ruthko) Hann and Holly Benac.

HILLMAN–On the basketball court and on the football field, there was little that Rick Hamilton couldn’t do.

Hamilton’s abilities as a dual-sport star earned him a slew of accolades during his time as a Hillman High School athlete and on Saturday, Hamilton took his place among the school’s all-time greats.

Hamilton was inducted as part of the sixth class of the Hillman Sports Hall of Fame at Hillman High School, along with Tom Kennard and the 1996 softball team.

Donald Orm was also honored by the Hall of Fame with the Richard Brown Trailblazer Award.

Hamilton graduated in 1966 with an accomplished resume and letters in four different sports. Basketball and football were his strong suits however and had a decorated career in both of them. In football, Hamilton was a member of the 1965 football team, which went undefeated at 8-0. He earned all-state honors in both 1965 and 1966, while playing with a group that went 14-1 in that span.

News Photo by James Andersen Members of the 1996 softball team who attended the ceremony included: front: Diane Cordes, Kelley Smith, Sara Jones, Natalie Jones, Janill (Nicholas) Edwards, Julie (Shiffer) Shepherd, Jenny (Brandon) Brandt and Lydia Walker; back: Erin (McDonald) Andrews, Sara (Davis) Vanderveer, Sarah (Ruthko) Hann and Holly Benac.

“It’s a great honor and 53 years later, it feels good to be up here,” Hamilton said. “I couldn’t have done any of that without the support of a great football team.”

On the hardwood, Hamilton was a star and earned all-state honors during the 1965-66 season. He was also named to the North Star League’s first team after averaging 24 points a game. Another high point of that season came in a loss to Posen, where he scored 38 points, a mark that’s still among the top 10 single-game performances in program history.

Kennard, a 1977 graduate, was a star wrestler for the Tigers and finished with a career record of 106-6. During his junior and senior seasons, he was a regional champion and state finals qualifier in Class D.

In his junior season, Kennard finished second at the finals, losing in the finals 2-0 in the 98-pound division. In his senior year, Kennard was 26-1 and finished third at the finals, losing his only match of the season to the eventual state champion in the 105-pound division.

“When I was wrestling for Hillman High School, I wrestled hard,” Kennard said. “Not just for my own pride, but for my school, my family, my coach, the whole community really.”

The 1996 Hillman softball team remains the only team from a Hillman girls program to reach a state finals. The 1996 Tigers went 24-6 and advanced to the Class D final, where they lost 3-1 to Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.

Ten members of the team were on hand for Saturday’s induction including Julie (Shiffer) Shepherd and Sara (Davis) Vanderveer, who were previously inducted individually. Also on hand were assistant coach Diane Cordes and head coach Lydia Walker, who told her team they could be proud of what they accomplished.

“Even though this team didn’t end up with a championship trophy, they can be proud of the season they had,” Walker said. “They were state runners-up and if you think that’s not a great accomplishment, ask the other members of teams that have never been in a state championship and are still dreaming of getting there.”

Orm, a 1948 Hillman graduate, was presented with the Richard Brown Trailblazer Award, which honors former Hillman athletes and supporters who played from about 1920-1950, during a time when modern stats weren’t always kept.

Orm received a catcher’s mitt as a gift in his teenage years and eventually became known as one of the best catchers in the area and a fierce competitor.

“He used to go after the ball pretty hard and he wound up losing his fingernails during the game. His hands would get all bloody, but he never stopped,” Orm’s son Ernie said. “He was like that in life, that’s the way he went after everything.”


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