It was sports talk big time.
The Rutherford County Sports Hall of Fame revealed five new names on June 12 that tell remarkable stories.
Carolyn Dewberry Bratton, Venson Hamilton, Tommy Hicks, Tonya Philbeck Hobbs, and Randy Ingle will be celebrated at a dinner on September 26 at The Foundation.
The announcement took place at Fat Tracy's with two former inductees on hand, RS Central's former basketball coach, Stacy Lail and long-time sports doctor, Dr. Bobby England.
Lail will be inducted into the NC Sports Hall of Fame in August.
It was the third class named by the nonprofit organization that hopes within the next few years to build a museum to house memorabilia from the star-studded line up.
Bratton led the alphabetical list. She was a basketball standout at Chase High School, where she graduated in 1978. She was the all-time leading scorer for Chase and named to the all-Southwestern Conference team. She scored over 1,000 career points at Chase. While at Gardner Webb University from 1978 until '82, she scored 1809 points, had 873 rebounds and averaged 25.3 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per game. She had 12 career games over 30 points. She has been inducted into the Chase High School Sports Hall of Fame and the Gardner Webb Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2008 she was named one of Rutherford County's 50 Greatest Basketball Players.
Another basketball standout came next. Venson Hamilton played at East Rutherford and is a member of that school's sports hall of fame. He played for the University of Nebraska and was picked in the NBA draft to play for the Houston Rockets, but ended up with a superlative career in Spain, Poland, and Italy.
He holds East Rutherford records in rebounds with 1,080, and 241 blocked shots and ranked 9th in points scored with 1,416. He was Big 12 player of the year his senior year at Nebraska.
The county Hall of Fame will also honor sportswriter, teacher, coach, and publisher Tommy Hicks on September 26, the second anniversary of Hicks's death at age 63.
Hicks wrote for The Rutherford County News and Enterprise, The Daily Courier, and his own publication, The Amazin' Shopper. Between 1992 and 2004, he published more than 600 columns highlighting local, regional and national sports. In 1969, he predicted the New York Jets would upend the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl, just a few days shy of his 15th birthday. A book celebrating his life is on sale at local bookstores including Hardin's Drugs on South Church Street in Forest City. Ken Hardin of Hardin's Drugs, one of the sponsors for the Hall of Fame, was on hand Thursday for the announcements.
The September 26 celebration will also honor Tonya Philbeck Hobbs, whose uncle Dan Philbeck was on hand for the lunch.
Hobbs at 16, while swimming for the YMCA sports aquatics program in Spartanburg, made first senior national time in the 100 meter backstroke, qualified for national competition where she finished ninth overall. At 17 she ranked with the fourth fastest backstroke in the country, and at 18 held second fastest backstroke in the country and eighth in the world.
In 1988 she was awarded Rutherford County athlete of the year, and in 1989 named athlete of the year in South Carolina. In 1988 she achieved 3 national cuts and 3 Olympic trial cuts, was selected 11th going into Olympic trials. She swam for East Rutherford High School for one season and held the record in the SC 100 backstroke for 26 years. She attended the University of Georgia on a full swimming scholarship 1988-1992, was an NCAA all American 1990-1992, was Southern Conference all conference in 1990-1992.
The 2019 class rounded out with Randy Ingle, who is in both the East Rutherford Athletic Hall of Fame and the Appalachian State University Sports Hall Of Fame. The current development supervisor with the Asheville Tourists, Ingle's stellar baseball career has included being both a college and pro baseball player and many years in baseball management. While at Appalachian, he earned an all-time high batting average of .404 and is second in school history with a record of 11 triples. He was Southern Conference player of the year and has been inducted into the Sally League's Hall of Fame.
A member of the organization's board of directors, Joan King, said her service on the board has made her aware that many outstanding athletes have come from Rutherford County.
Other board members, many of whom were present Thursday, include: Rodney Greene and Jody Wright, co-chairs, Linda Smith, Tony Helton, Max Champion, Ulysses Miller, Larry Ross, Tommy Porter, Jack Huss, Paul Tim Jones, Randy Page, Malcolm Watson, and Phil Luckadoo.
Watson was master of ceremonies for the event and offered praise to Hardin's Drug, CRM Insurance, and Forest City Honda for sponsoring the organization's activities. CRM sponsors the golf tournament which is set for August 23 and Forest City Honda sponsored the eight scholarships awarded by the group to top female and male athlete scholars at Central, Chase, East and Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, the four high schools in the county with sports teams. The golf tournament is the group's main fundraiser.
The Forest City Honda scholar athletes are: from East Rutherford: Quay Logan and Abbey Ranta; from RS Central: Caitlin Dailey and Daniel Luke Ferguson; from Chase: Heath Waldrop and Sidney McCranie; from Thomas Jefferson: Issac Roberson and Lauren Bennett. Each student will receive $500 for books, food, and incidentals once they are enrolled in college.
The 2017 class of inductees was comprised of: Smoky Burgess, Lavonda Davis, Lewis Jolley, Stacy Lail, Robert McNair, Anthony McSwain, Rodney McSwain, Don Padgett, and Belus Smawley. The 2018 class of inductees was comprised of: Justin Todd Coffey, Dr. Bobby England, Vincent Hamilton, Gomer Hodge, Angela Hamilton Jones, Bill Keever, Jimmy Means, and Keyon Whitside.