Sports hall of fame class of 2014 announced

November 29, 2013
LUDINGTON — The Mason County Sports Hall of Fame announced its 10th induction class for June 2014, and the class has a distinct flavor for track and field.

Of the six new inductees, four made their names on the track for a time in the past 100 years. The others are remarkable coaches in gymnastics and baseball.

“Each year, it seems a comment is made, ‘Wow, it’s hard to believe but the classes that are selected are of the highest caliber of talent and athletic achievement,” Mason County Sports Hall of Fame Board President Vic Burwell said. “An outstanding class will be the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2014.”

The hall will induct Pat Jensen, Fabian Knizacky, Todd Patulski, Don Stokely, Melissa Thompson Gross and Howard Hoffman, posthumously, in June 2014.

Hoffman is a 1918 graduate of Ludington High School who went on to run track for the University of Michigan. He won a national AAU javelin-throwing championship, and set a collegiate record. He qualified twice for the Olympics, in 1920 and 1924. He went on to a long career as a physician in Ludington and died in 1975.

Jensen guided Ludington’s gymnastics program to school’s state championships from 1975 through 1979. During those years, Jensen lost only three duals and still is the owner of the national record for consecutive victories at 111. She coached 16 all-state gymnasts in 10 years and 14 girls went on to receive full college athletic scholarships.

Knizacky’s athletic achievements were through race-walking. After a standout career at Free Soil, where he graduated in 1978, Knizacky went on to win All-American honors at Aquinas College for race-walking. He nearly qualified for the 1984 Olympics in the 20-kilometer of the event. Knizacky currently is the Mason County Administrator.

Patulski was the Mid-American Conference champion in the high jump both indoors and outdoors while going to Central Michigan. Patulski had a standout prep career with Mason County Central, graduating from there in 1985. He is still very active in athletics, now serving as the executive associate athletic director at Baylor University, a position he’s held since 2003.

Stokely was the longtime coach of the Ludington baseball team, guiding the Orioles from the dugout of the field that now bears his name for 33 seasons. Through those years, Stokely picked up more than 450 victories and 11 league championships. His teams won six district titles and one regional crown.

Gross bookends the class as another track athlete that went to the University of Michigan. Gross, then Thompson, set new school records in the 1,600-meter run and the 1,600-meter relay, both of which remain standing. She parlayed a dazzling prep career into a four-year scholarship at Michigan where she became co-captain of the cross country team while also running indoor and outdoors for the Wolverines.

The Hall of Fame will induct this, its 10th class, in late June with an unveiling ceremony at the location of the hall on the grounds of Historic White Pine Village followed by the induction banquet in the evening. Tickets for the event will be available for purchase in the spring.

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