In just its second year, the Indian Hills Athletic Hall-of-Fame is definitely becoming something special.
In its second year, the activities of Hall-of-Fame weekend are also becoming very special.
Saturday night, old friends and teammates reunited along with former players and coaches at “Warrior Junction” after six new members of the IHCC Hall-of-Fame were inducted at the Hellyer Student Life Center. Former Warrior softball coach Jeff Kelley joined one his former players, Karen (Smith) Malloy, in the hall along with former baseball star Kevin Ritz, volleyball star Jill Hoeck, football star Tony Galbreath and basketball star C.J. Bruton.
Kelley had more than just Malloy alongside to revel in the memories of 11 successful years at the helm of the softball program. The reception following IHCC’s basketball game with Marshalltown included visits from former assistant coach Kevin Brennanmen, former players like Lindsey Diehl, Angie Strain, Bobbi Rose, Jennifer Sabourin and, of course, Malloy’s sister Cindy Smith.
“That’s pretty special. It means a lot that some of those girls would take a Saturday to travel down here to see me,” Kelley said. “It definitely brings back a lot of great memories.”
With Malloy joining her former head coach in the IHCC hall-of-fame, several members of the Smith family made the trip from the western area of Marshall County to join in the reunion. It was a night full of smiles, laughs, stories and appreciation for the Warrior softball coach that meant so much to a pair of sisters.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Kelley and I couldn’t have picked a more opportune group to be inducted with,” Malloy said. “We feel so blessed to be a part of Indian Hills. I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Kelley got the chance to truly take in the work of 11 years that produced more success than just 10 regional title and 10 national tournament berths. Being able to reconnect with so many young women that spent two of their formative years learning from the former Warrior softball coach put things in perspective.
“It’s pretty easy to get caught up where you don’t appreciate things enough,” Kelley said. “I look back from time to time on the time that I was here and I probably didn’t enjoy it all as much as I should have. That’s probably the biggest regret I have. I wasn’t always able to take myself out of the moment and just enjoy what was going on.”
Kelley has taken those lessons to heart in his post-IHCC career. The current Iowa City West head coach, who just led the Women of Troy to the Class 5A State Softball Tournament, admits now he enjoys the success his players are enjoying these days.
“I tended to get a lot of tunnel vision and getting to the end result to get where we wanted to be when I was here at Indian Hills,” Kelley said. “I catch myself from time to time doing that today (at Iowa City West). I block everything out and think two or three moves ahead sometimes, but I do enjoy practice more. The girls that played for me here wouldn’t recognize me now during practices.”
It was also a special night Jill Hoeck, who joined former teammate Jebet Sang as the second volleyball player to be inducted in the IHCC Athletic Hall-of-Fame. The Ankeny native and current Indian Hills recruiter talked the special relationship she’s developed with the school over the years.
“This really brings you back to the reality and reminds you of all the people that work behind the scenes that I don’t get to see on a daily basis that make things like this possible,” Hoeck said. “There’s a lot that’s changed at the campus since I first came here, but being on the different ends of things from my time here as student athlete is really eye-opening.”
Hoeck has also used her experiences as a former IHCC student athlete to help bring plenty of high school students to the Ottumwa school.
“I always show them things like the Hellyer Center and the Hall-of-Fame wall so they can see just how many people have had success here,” Hoeck said.
Hoeck’s induction made this year’s ceremonies even more significant for Bianca Myers, one of the co-chairs on the school’s foundation. Besides playing a key role in putting together the second hall-of-fame weekend, Myers also watched Hoeck go into the hall-of-fame after being an assistant coach on the two Warrior volleyball teams Hoeck played on.
“I’m really proud of all of our inductees, but Jill holds a special place in my heart because I coached her,” Myers said. “I’m thrilled to her on staff. I would say she’s a great kid, but she’s not a kid anymore. She’ll always be a kid to me.”
Despite some of the nasty winter weather that blew through the Midwest, former Colorado Rockies ace and Bloomfield native Kevin Ritz made it to Ottumwa to becomes the second IHCC baseball player to be inducted. It was Ritz’s first time on the Ottumwa campus of the school after playing for two years for the Centerville-based baseball program.
“I’d never even been over to the Hellyer Center. It’s a nice facility and a nice campus overall,” said Ritz, who currently resides in Ohio with his family. “On our way here, we did run into some of the snowstorm in Champaign, Illinois, but we stayed over and traveled the rest of the way on Friday. It was nice to get back here to see my family and friends.”
Only Galbreath and Bruton were not in attendance this weekend. Galbreath was under the weather while Bruton is continuing his NBL season in Brisbane, Australia.
IHCC is planning on honoring both Galbreath and Bruton later this year. As the last two years have shown, honoring former athletes and coaches of Indian Hills is also going to continue being a great yearly tradition.
“We’ve now had two Olympians, two former professional football players and two former professional baseball players among the first two classes,” Myers said. “Indian Hills has a rich athletic tradition and it’s only going to get richer with future inductees.”