Current Hall of Famers include former professional athletes such as Gino Marchetti, Jeff Pico, Butch Rounsaville and Ron Pritchard. This year’s crop, to be inducted Saturday, features an array of athletes who made contributions to various sports, including tireless Antioch High athletic advocate Jill Joseph and the 1984 Panthers softball team, which claimed the North Coast Section title.
This is the fifth class inducted into the museum’s Hall of Fame, on display at 1500 W. Fourth St. in Antioch, and according to Operations Coordinator Eddie Beaudin, “This is one of the best classes ever.”
Much research goes into choosing who will be immortalized in the hallowed halls, and an open 15-member committee screens the candidates for each year’s class. Antioch Sports Legends volunteers and past inductees pick the chosen few. The Class of 2011 will be formalized at a sold-out event at the Lone Tree Golf Course on Saturday, in the presence of community leaders and two dozen past inductees who have flown in from around the nation.
The Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame will welcome more than a dozen new inductees in ceremonies this weekend. The Class of 2011 includes:
Curtis Casey – track and field
The first athlete from Antioch High to medal at the state level set a school record in the 880-yard run that lasted for 12 years and was the eighth-fastest prep time in the nation in 1949. During his senior year, Curtis Casey ran a 1:59.0 in the 880 at the Contra Costa Athletic League meet, breaking the previous record set in 1934 and earning All-League status. Casey would make two trips to the California Interscholastic Federation state meet, as a junior and a senior. At the Cal Aggie Invitational, his 2:01.4 in the 880 broke a 16-year meet record. In 1949 he took first at the North Coast Section meet and earned a bronze at the CIF championship, running the 880 in 1:58.8 on a badly blistered foot.
Karen Christianson – all-around athlete
The standout catcher, along with her twin, Sharon, led the Antioch High 1984 softball team to an unprecedented 28-1 season and North Coast Section title. Christianson’s clutch two-run hit sent the Panthers into the NCS championship. Her performance in the final four games of the playoffs earned an All-North Coast Tourney honor. She also captained the AHS volleyball team to a 21-7-3 record and earned Second Team All-DVAL. Christianson was chosen for the All-State softball team while playing for Sacramento City College and later received a full scholarship to play at California State University, Sacramento. She was named co-captain, led the Hornets to NCAA regional finals for two years and was selected as a Second Team Division II All-American.
Marion Gelhaus – diving
This champion diver is the only known Antioch athlete to be an All-American in high school, community college and at a four-year university. The Antioch High three-year diving MVP won the North Coast Section crown between 1980-82 as a sophomore, junior and senior, the school’s first consecutive-three-year champion. During her final NCS meet against 77 competitors, Gelhaus set a record score of 467.00 points, 83 points ahead of the second-place finisher, while breaking the record she set as a junior of 434.15. In 1982, she was the only NorCal diver to be named to the high school All-America diving squad. Swimming since infancy, Gelhaus won the national AAU diving championship in her age group every year since age 9.
Doug Gosnell – football
The imposing 6-foot-5-inch lineman was the only Antioch player in 1963-64 to earn a spot on the Contra Costa County All-Star squad and was chosen by the Daily Ledger for its All-Decade Team, between 1960 and ’70. The two-way starter earned First Team All-DVAL honors and received the MVP award at AHS as well as the Gino Marchetti Award. He earned a full-ride football scholarship to Utah State University, and distinguished himself on the Aggie team. The San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Cardinals and Green Bay Packers all sent draft inquiry letters, but Gosnell signed in the eighth round of the 1969 draft with Green Bay. He was released in the pre-season and picked up by the semi-pro Spokane Shockers, where he played for a season.
Joe Harlan – football
The Oklahoma-born “Tulsa Kid” wowed Antioch High fans during his three-year varsity prep career, but tragically lost his life in an industrial accident in 1950 at the age of 20. Harlan propelled the Panthers to two undefeated football seasons and league titles. His junior season was plagued by injuries, but he managed to rush for six touchdowns and earn All-Contra Costa County Athletic League First Team honors as a fullback. During the 1947-48 season, the AHS Co-MVP was unanimously chosen First Team All-CCCAL again for his eight touchdowns, 13 kicked points and 61 points scored. Harlan occupies a special place in Antioch athletic history: he scored a touchdown in each of three consecutive victories over Pittsburg High in the storied Big Little Game match-ups between the rival teams.
Ray Harrington – football
The Most Outstanding Athlete and Student Body President of Antioch High in 1956 was captain of the football team and played tackle, fullback, middle linebacker and quarterback. Harrington was named by a local sportswriter as “the best lineman in the county.” Years later the Daily Ledger selected him as part of the Cream of the Crop team made up of the best players between 1950 and ’67. Among Harrington’s achievements were playing offense and defense in two all-star games in 1956; the North-South Shrine Game played in the L.A. Coliseum before more than 56,000 spectators, and the East Bay-West Bay Game, held in Kezar Stadium. Harrington went on to play three years at Stanford between 1957 and ’59.
Mike Hurd – coach
More than a thousand Antioch High students became successful athletes under the tutelage of this 1964 AHS alumnus. Hurd created a winning dynasty by coaching AHS teams to 16 league and division championships in track and field and cross country, and three North Coast Division II championships during the 1970s. The 1973 varsity DVAL title was the first league track championship in Antioch’s history. Hurd began his first year as head track coach at AHS with a 30-athlete roster and later quintupled the size of the program. His varsity boys’ track and field teams never finished below second in the DVAL and amassed an overall record of 68-10-1. He was named DVAL Coach of the Year in 1973 and was founder of the Chuck Stapleton Relays.
Chuck Hutchinson – baseball
The ace southpaw led the Panthers to back-to-back league championships following the team’s return from hiatus during World War II. As a junior, the power hurler threw a four-hit, 1-0 victory, clinching the Contra Costa Athletic League title in 1949. The Panthers’ top pitcher earned six victories in almost 53 innings pitched, allowing only 37 hits and 13 runs. As a senior, the 6-foot-2-inch hurler pitched a no-hitter, a one-hitter and a two-hitter during the 1950 season. Hutchinson was the only Antioch player chosen for the Prep Baseball Classic All-Star Game, in which he pitched two innings. Three MLB teams sought him, but he signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians in 1951. Hutchinson played with the D League Pittsburg Diamonds, an Indians affiliate, before the team disbanded.
Rich Jones – all-around athlete
Jones’ multiple talents earned nine varsity letters throughout his AHS prep career between 1972 and ’75, in which he played on five league champion teams. He was the top rebounder and scorer on the basketball squad and earned All-DVAL honors three consecutive years in football and two years in track. At the end of his senior year, the speedy Panther track captain broke four records: the high hurdles, 180-yard low hurdles, 330-yard low hurdles, and the high jump, clearing his height of 6 feet, 6¼ inches, a record that lasted until 1996. His 120-yard high hurdles time qualified for the CIF Championships. He was MVP in both track and field and basketball in 1975. In football, Jones was a three-time All-East Bay member and earned a full football scholarship to Utah State University.
Jill Joseph – community leader
Joseph served as the unofficial Cheerleader No. 1 to thousands of athletes who wore black and gold for the Panthers over the 34 years she worked on campus. She was a tireless behind-the-scenes worker and coordinator of hundreds of AHS events and community fundraisers beginning in the 1970s. Joseph provided loving support and encouragement to three decades of students until her death in 2010. Antioch’s Chamber of Commerce named her Citizen of the Year in 1994; AHS selected her as one of the first honorees on its Walk of Fame and dedicated the Antioch High choir room in her name.
Mike Kelly – track and field
This track star recorded career performances of 4:19.74 in the 1600 meters and 9:34.84 in the 3200 meters, and ran a league championship 9.39 in the two-mile event in 1972-73. The AHS Track and Field MVP was named First Team All-DVAL and AHS MVP as a junior, and Second Team All-East Bay as a senior. Kelly also earned area sportswriters’ Sportsman of the Week honors. In 1970-71, he was the fastest sophomore cross-country runner in Northern California, recording the fastest 3-mile cross-country time – 15:34 – ever run at a North Coast Section meet by any Antioch junior. He was offered scholarships by four colleges and accepted a full-ride to Utah State University, where in 1979 he set a record in the 3000-meter steeplechase that stood for 30 years.
Tony Lang – football
In his first varsity start at halfback as a sophomore in 1976, Lang exploded across the gridiron for 240 yards on 18 carries. In the next game, the 1976 season finale, he rushed for 154 yards on 16 carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run. Lang was voted Most Valuable Senior Athlete at AHS in 1979 and was awarded the Flecto Sports award twice as the outstanding prep athlete of the week in Contra Costa County. The fleet-footed 5-foot-9-inch 175-pound halfback was voted First Team All-DVAL as a junior, amassing 1,596 rushing yards over a three-year AHS varsity career. In the Big-Little Game match-up in 1978, Lang rushed for 177 yards on 18 carries to beat Pitt 18-16. He later played for the University of the Pacific on a football scholarship.
Steve Ornellas – baseball
“The Executioner” was known for his line drives that nearly took the heads off pitchers during his decade in Antioch baseball leagues. In 1959, Ornellas socked two grand slams for the Campbell Comets in one game. The teen hitting prodigy batted .547 for the Reghitto Motors team that led the Babe Ruth League’s Delta Division in 1961. As a three-year varsity starter at Antioch High between 1963 and ’65, Ornellas put the Panthers at the top of the Contra Costa Athletic League. He was named Antioch’s MVP and First Team All-CCAL as a senior and was co-league batting champion hitting .432. He earned a First Team All-Golden Gate Conference berth in 1967 while posting a .393 average at DVC and later played for San Jose State.
1984 Antioch High softball team
May 26, 1984 was a historic day for local prep sports when the Panthers brought home their first North Coast Section Championship in softball for Antioch High School. The girls capped a record 28-1 mark – including six shutouts – by defeating Montgomery High of Santa Rosa 1-0 for the North Coast crown. Pitcher Dawn Hilgenberg was named the North Coast Tournament’s MVP and Player of the Year for both the DVAL and East Bay. Tabitha Roth and Sharon Christianson were chosen First Team All-DVAL. Co-Captained by Joanne Mills and Karen Christianson, the Panthers racked up 123 runs for the 1984 season, holding their opponents to a mere 34. Coach Andria Edwards was honored as DVAL Coach of the Year.
Jason Verduzco – wrestling
The 1988 California state champion wrestling team’s shining star was Jason Verduzco, the individual California Interscholastic Federation champion of the 165-pound class. Verduzco was named to the ASICS Tiger All-America First Team roster in 1988, effectively crowning him as the best high school wrestler in the United States for his weight class and the only All-America wrestler from the West Coast. Amateur Wrestling News also placed him on its High School All-America Dream Team. Verduzco’s 41-1 senior record put him in a class by himself; his career record over four years of varsity prep wrestling competition was 160-12. He was the Antioch High Male Athlete of the Year and Outstanding Wrestler of the DVAL in 1988.
– Contributed by Tracy Nelson