The Excelsior Spring High School Athletic Hall of Fame inducted its newest class Wednesday evening. The week of activities continued Thursday and Friday at the Excelsior Springs Golf Course with the 2019 Tiger Classic.
Inductees included Golden Era Award winner Maurice Udell; individual award winners Jared Smith, David Grace, Jenny (Simmons) Scherfenberg and Sue Jones; this year’s team award went to the 1996 ESHS Women’s Basketball team.
Gregg Williams emceed the event. He said he appreciated being able to come back to Excelsior Springs. He said he tries to be a life coach for the young men on his team to help them learn the skills that will take them far in life.
“What makes us think that any of those young men can play football if they can’t earn your … our respect,” he said. “Once you do that, you’ll have a chance of being a pretty good football player.”
After introducing the board members, Williams led everyone in attendance in a moment of silence for board member Jeff Woods, who died in May.
“At this time, what I’d like to do is, I’d like to do a moment of silence because I know he’s looking down on us,” he said. “I know he’s watching us and I know he would be gigging me about something when this night was over. So let’s take a moment of silence and honor Jeff Woods.”
GOLDEN ERA AWARD
ESHS Activities Director Joe Greim said the Hall of Fame committee decided a few years ago to create an award intended to recognize the pioneers that led the way for future athletes.
In order to qualify for the Golden Era Award, a Tiger must be at least 70 years removed from graduation. This year’s Golden Era recipient, Maurice Udell, graduated in 1949.
He played on a team who went undefeated in 46 games. He also earned All-State honors and went on to earn All-Conference at the University of Missouri.
Udell also played the trombone and attended the Kansas City Conservatory of Music.
After graduation, he went on to have a distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force where he earned the rank of Second Lt.
While in the military, Udell volunteered for combat duty in Southeast Asia and flew 21 combat sorties over North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
He also earned a slew of military decorations including The Presidential Unit Citation, the Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Star, the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star and The Air Force Reserve Officers Medal.
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO EFFORT
Grace, a 1996 alumnus, stood out in track and field during his career. He still holds the records for the 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and the 1600-meter relay. Grace earned district championship honors three times. He also earned Kansas University championship honors and became an All-American.
Grace ran at the university level for Southwest Missouri State and William Jewell and earned National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American honors.
Grace said he after reflecting on his track and field career, he realized it came down to a culture of success and a great coaching legacy. He quoted three of what he described as the great coaches of Excelsior Springs.
“One is, ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect,’” he said. “Another one is, ‘Expect to win,’ and the third one is, “It’s very simple, it comes down to effort.’”
YOU JUST HAVE TO DO YOUR BEST
Jones worked as a coach and teacher at ESHS for over 30 years. She became a lead sponsor for girls’ athletics and provided competitive athletic opportunities for girls in volleyball, basketball and bowling. She also coached girls’ tennis for 30 years, beginning in 1969.
“We had a lot of fun,” she said. “ I thought it was important to push them to do their best. I had no experience playing sports myself because it didn’t exist. They started sports for women in high school the year after I graduated. They started it at Jewell the year after I graduated ... I just thought it was important that you believe in yourself, that you do the best you can.”
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Scherfenberg, an ESHS class of 1999 alumna, a volleyball and track and field standout, led school records in digs until 2015.
She earned All-Conference in volleyball three-time and All-District and All-Region 1998.
She also earned All-Conference in track for four years in the 4X100 and the 4X200. She earned All-District in the 4X200. She became a State finalist in the 4X200 and 4X400.
Scherfenberg currently holds records in the 4X100 and 4X200. She continued her track and field career at in Northwest Missouri State.
She became the indoor pole vault national champion and an outdoor pole vault All-American.
She said now as the mom to four amazing children, she relies on a village to help mold her children. She expressed her thankfulness her parents did the same for her.
“I was fortunate that about 28 years ago, my parent chose Excelsior Springs to be the village for their children to be raised by,” she said. “As a parent now I see how much time we have with our kids and its not very much time and most of the time that my kids have (will) be in the school.”
Smith from the ESHS class of 2001, played football, basketball, baseball and participated in track.
Six times he earned All-Conference, All-District, All-Metro and All-State in football.
In basketball, he earned All-Conference and All-District three times and became a member of the 1,000 point club.
In track and field, Smith earned All-Conference and All-District nine times and All-State three times. He also was a member of the 1999 State Championship Team.
Wendy’s selected him as their High School Heisman Award.
Smith continued as a multi-sport athlete at the university level At William Jewel, playing football, basketball and track. There, he earned All-Conference honors in basketball and track.
Smith said he wanted to express gratitude for helping him along the way. He said all the people of ESHS inspire him.
“If you think about the great accomplishments of the people that have been to Excelsior Springs, it drives you,” he said.
The 1996 ESHS Women’s Basketball team earned a 20-8 record in the regular season and an 11-3 record in conference.
They won Districts and Sectionals and earned State quarter finalists honors.
Terri Godsey, head coach of the team said she wanted to thank everyone for honoring the only girls’ basketball team in history to make it to the elite eight. She said the culture of Excelsior Springs during football championships inspired her to win.
“I’d see this whole town come together on a Saturday afternoon for a playoff game ... and everybody going crazy and this town is on fire,” she said. “ I felt those football years set the tone for the whole school year ... and I would say to my kids, ‘someday that’s going to be us, someday a girls’ team is going to do it and someday we’re going to cut the nets. Someday, we’re going to do it.’”
Godsey ended by reminding the team they will always be the first team to ever make it to the elite eight and they will always be the first girls’ team to make it to the Hall of Fame.
ONCE A TIGER, ALWAYS A TIGER
Williams said he wonders each year how they will top each class the next year, but he can’t wait to see how the Hall of Fame Committee tried to top this great class this year.
“This is a great class,” he said. It will be tough to beat it, but I can’t wait until the committee ... starts and talks about the next class.”