Memories fade, even those of the state championship reign of the Mansfield High School girls basketball teams, a run that ended more than 12 years ago.
No one has been more concerned about that erosion of time than Athletics Director Debbie Weems.
“My goal mainly has been to get this thing etched somewhere,” said Weems, a district employee of more than 26 years. “I don’t want us to lose our history.”
Her proposal – to preserve the school district’s great sports moments by permanently honoring those who create them – came to fruition last year as the Mansfield ISD Athletics Hall of Honor inducted its first class.
The district is taking nominations for the second group of inductees through May 15. They will be announced in June and recognized at a banquet at the Center for the Performing Arts in August, said Weems.
She said she hopes to have a 2014 class of about eight individuals and a team.
The Lady Tigers were well represented in the inaugural Hall of Honor class, which included, individually, Coach Samantha Morrow, center Brie Madden Rodmon and point guard Erin Grant as well as the entire 1998-99 team, which compiled a 38-0 record en route to winning the first of those four straight 5A championships.
Also inducted were James L. Coble and Royce Womble, Mansfield High football players in the 1940s who went on to be inducted into their colleges’ halls of fame, and tireless volunteer Michele Purgason.
Vernon Newsom, who retired as superintendent in 2009 and died a month later in a motorcycle accident, was awarded the first and only Cornerstone Inductee Award, citing his distinguished service to the district as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent.
A wall was dedicated in the community room at Vernon Newsom Stadium for plaques and photos of the first and future inductees, Weems said.
Morrow, after ringing up a 413-77 record during 14 years of coaching at Mansfield, went to the University of Texas at Arlington as head women’s basketball coach for six seasons and now is the girls basketball coach and assistant campus coordinator at South Grand Prairie High School.
Morrow said she was happy to hear that the Hall of Honor had been finally established after several years of prioritizing, and humbled to make the inaugural class.
She said those high school basketball championships are still the highlight of her career.
“It has had a huge impact on my life, not just in coaching, but in meeting people, and the different avenues that it has opened for me career-wise,” Morrow said, whose Hall of Honor designation makes her mark indelible. “I’m always going to be attached to that, which is phenomenal.”
Rodmon said she was surprised to learn of her selection for the Hall of Honor.
“When I first heard about the Hall of Honor and that they were taking nominations, there were like 15 women I wanted to nominate,” she said. “I was really floored to be chosen.”
Rodmon, who went on to play basketball at Kansas State and now is a real estate attorney in Dallas, said she has a more mature perspective now on those magical championship years, when she and her teammates were engrossed in training and winning, and at times enjoying the celebrity. Most went straight from high school to becoming immersed in college sports and working toward other championships.
“It took a couple of years being out of sports, when you slow down and look back,” she said. “We really didn’t realize how special that was, how much it was lightning in a bottle. I kind of think that the greatest thing at the time was how the community rallied around us.”
The Hall of Honor banquet in August gave her an opportunity to show her appreciation. She recommended the 2014 inductees make similar use of their moment in the spotlight.
“There are lots of great women’s basketball programs out there, but I really can’t think there was any community more supportive than the Mansfield community was,” Rodmon said. “Look at this as an opportunity to really thank everybody who helped you accomplish what you accomplished.”