Monett’s highest honor

Saturday, September 11, 2021
The Monett Sports Hall of Fame inaugural class includes, from left: coach Jackie Bolton, athlete Angela Johnson, contributor Mike McClure, coach Cleo Elbert, athlete Sarah Bowling Hamlet, athlete Jim Klousia and athlete Dennis Heim. Athlete Kelley Curbow is not pictured. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

8 officially inducted into Monett Sports Hall of Fame

It was a great day to be a Monett Cub.

Surrounded by their families, friends, teammates and coaches, the eight inaugural members of the Monett Sports Hall of Fame shared smiles and tears as they were inducted into the newly minted Hall.

Monett Sports Hall of Fame inductee Cleo Elbert speaks at the induction luncheon on Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

Coaches Jackie Bolton and Cleo Elbert; athletes Sarah Bowling Hamlet, Kelley Curbow, Dennis Heim, Angela Johnson and James Klousia; and contributor Mike McClure all received plaques on behalf of the Monett Sports Hall of Fame.

Daryl Bradley, Monett athletic director, said the day was about seven years in the making, the product of an idea, many discussions and working with the Monett school district’s Board of Education. He also thanked Michael Calhoun, middle school athletic director and varsity baseball coach, for spearheading much of the effort, saying no one would be there without him.

Ralph Scott, Monett superintendent from 1966-1986 who saw the athletes play and worked with the coaches, opened the festivities with a speech.

Monett Sports Hall of Fame inductee Jackie Bolton speaks at the induction luncheon on Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

“I have long stories I could tell about each one of you,” he said to the inductees. “In 1951, I was hired as an assistant coach with Kenley Richardson, and the athletic program at Monett schools, and in the community, have been a marvelous driving force for how we all feel for one another.”

Scott talked of how the oldest members of his Sunday school group have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that participate in Monett sports, and likewise, most elementary school students have a relative or know a Monett athlete.

“Day in and day out, week by week, athletics has a positive effect on how kids feel at school and how people in the community feel about each other,” Scott said. “Sports are a positive influence, and you honorees represent the best of our coaches and participants, and I am so proud of all of you.

Monett Sports Hall of Fame inductee Sarah Bowling Hamlet speaks at the induction luncheon on Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

“I challenge you to [take some time alone] and think about the impact sports have had on your life and all you associate with athletics. Each of you that do that will come away with a good feeling.”

Elbert, the Monett girls basketball coach from 1981-2000 and 7-time undefeated Big 8 Conference champion, was the first inducted. He thanked his family for their support, and his wife of 50 years.

“She kept things in perspective for me that it’s just a game and I’m dealing with kids,” he said. “I had great players, parents and assistant coaches in my time. We were not always the most athletic, but we were dedicated and hardworking, and we sacrificed individual goals for good of the team.”

Monett Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Heim, right, speaks at the induction luncheon on Friday. Listening were former Monett Superintendent Ralph Scott, left, and Monett Athletic Director Daryl Bradley Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

Bolton, Monett volleyball coach from 1984-1996 who amassed a record of 231-72, won seven district titles and made two Final Fours, said she was surprised for the honor because she has been out of the area for so long.

“I appreciate the opportunity and Monett taking a chance on small-town girl,” she said. “I learned a lot and had great kids, and I always felt we did a great job representing the school and the community.”

Hamlet, a 2003 alumnus known for her track accomplishments, was noted for one of her team’s conference titles. Not normally a 100-meter sprinter, one year, she asked her coach to put her in the event, as two Aurora runners could pose a threat to Monett’s Big 8 title. Despite sprinting not being her specialty, she beat both Lady Houn’ Dawgs and sealed the championship.

Monett Sports Hall of Fame inductee Angela Johnson speaks at the induction luncheon on Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

“I come from a highly athletic family and I always wanted to be like my brother,” she said. “I wouldn’t be in love with track if not for my mom, and my dad gave me my sense of humor and smarts. I will always be a proponent of Monett athletics.”

Heim did not play organized football until his freshman year, and he went on to play in the NFL and Canadian Football League. He spoke about his growth spurt in high school and how great an opportunity it was to be a Cub and 1974 graduate.

“Coach Burl Fowler got the team together at the start of my junior year after we had won state,” he said. “Coach was naming all the players he thought would contribute, and he named ‘big Dennis.’ I had grown 4 inches that summer and didn’t recognize my size yet, and I was like, “Wow, who’s big Dennis?’

Monett Sports Hall of Fame inductee James Klousia speaks at the induction luncheon on Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

“It was great to have the opportunity to play for quality coaches at Monett that held us accountable and [taught us about life through sports].”

Johnson, one of the most decorated Monett athletes ever, excelled in track, but also ran cross country and played basketball. Leonard Bauer, her track coach in high school, told a gripping tale of how the Lady Cubs won the 4x800 relay state title, partly thanks to Johnson.

He said they had the 11th-best time out of the 16 qualifying teams, but the girls set their sights on a top-6 finish. The first three legs ran personal record times, keeping Monett in 6th place when Johnson got the baton.

Monett Sports Hall of Fame inductee Mike McClure speaks at the induction luncheon on Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

“She took off, I thought too fast,” Bauer said. “After the first lap, she had passed two of them to get into fourth, and I thought she would slow and get re-passed, but she moved to third, second, and with about 20 meters to go, passed into first to win our only state relay title ever. She’s said that was her proudest moment as an athlete, and it’s also my proudest moment as a coach.”

Johnson said she’s truly among greatness and honored to be in the inaugural Hall of Fame class.

“You can’t get here by yourself, so I want to thank my teammates,” she said. “It takes them passing me the basketball and it takes four runners to win a relay. And, every time I came home from meets, my dad sewed my medals on my letter jacket. He was my biggest fan, and I think he and [late cross country coach Whitey Mettlach] are looking down on us and smiling.”

A tennis player and 1971 Monett graduate, Klousia said it was an honor to be included in the group, and he read a poem in thanks.

“Most of my success came after I left Monett, but this where I fell in love with tennis and that love was nourished,” he said. “It does not matter if you are No. 1 or a sub, it’s always great to say you are a Monett Cub.”

The final inductee was broadcaster Mike McClure, who has broadcast multiple Monett events since 1985 and has worked for ESPN and at the collegiate level.

“What an honor to be in the inaugural class,” he said. “When I was told the luncheon would be today, I had to pause and reflect. I saw many of you 20 years ago to this day at mom’s funeral on Sept. 10, 2001, so now, I can recall that sadness of my mom’s funeral along with the happiness of today. It’s an honor and privilege to be involved in Monett athletics since 1985, but it’s a greater honor to call Monett my hometown.”

Kelley Curbow, a 1969 graduate who played football and basketball, going on to play football at the University of Missouri, was unable to attend but was recognized by Bradley.

All eight honorees were also presented to the community on Friday before the home football game against East Newton.

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