Around 150 people attended the second-annual “friend-raiser” held by the Friends of San Clemente as they inducted nine athletes into the new Sports Hall of Fame at the San Clemente Aquatics Center.
After an hour of dining and mingling, the president of the Friends of San Clemente, Tom Wicks, welcomed the honored guests, friends and families of the community. Councilman Jim Everet took over and continued by warmly introducing each athlete as he stood in front of the wall that would soon carry their names.
The board had 28 nominees to choose from for the first induction ceremony.
“We had an exceptionally difficult time in the task of narrowing down the individuals to be recognized on the wall,” Everet said.
As the induction began, the evening quickly became one of humility and recognition on both sides of the podium. As the committee handed out awards, the honorees thanked the city that set the foundation for their stellar careers.
Sue Enquist, the inspiration behind the wall, was the first, but not last, to thank her teachers, parents and, most importantly, high school coach who propelled her career.
“(He) was the baseball coach that told me that, ‘You can have an opportunity to try out. I’m going to treat you fairly. I’m going to treat you equally. You’re going to have access,’ ” Enquist said.
Each inductee was humbled by the recognition from their hometown and made a point of noting how helpful San Clemente was in providing them with various clubs, programs and activities to find their footing.
Mitch Kahn, Greg Long and Colin McPhillips represented just three of the many surfing and water sport athletes that San Clemente proudly produces. A rare feat, Long defeated 10-time world surf champion Kelly Slater, and Kahn brings an international surf title to his hometown.
“I am a byproduct of this town,” said Long.
McPhillips began surfing in San Clemente at 5 and became pro at the age of 18. He described his gratitude for being a part of the first group in the Sports Hall of Fame.
While each athlete brought San Clemente several titles, awards and even Olympic gold medals, the board’s selection reached beyond the athletes’ physical talent. Each exhibited community outreach in their sport. Many brought their talents back to the city that helped build them. For example, Mary Mulligan Crapo teaches basketball to San Clemente youth and Bob Lutz started the tennis club.
Also inducted was Karch Kiraly. Not only is he a three-time Olympic gold medalist in men’s beach volleyball, but he also played in the first beach volleyball matches of the Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, Bill Kenney and Ryan Sheckler were unable to attend the event honoring them. Kenney, a retired quarterback, played for the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins.
Still active in skateboarding, Sheckler had to be in Barcelona during the event. A video recording of him was scheduled for him to give his thanks, but it wasn’t played due to technical difficulties.
Although they were missed, both Kenney and Sheckler had representatives from their families accept their award and thank the Friends of San Clemente for holding the event.
The wall has space for 128 tiles and the Beach, Parks & Recreation Foundation looks forward to filling the wall and honoring future inductees.