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A former National Football League player, several former coaches and the man whose name adorns the gymnasium at the Los Alamos High School campus are among the first inductees into the Los Alamos sports Hall of Fame.
New LAHS athletic director Ann Stewart announced the inaugural class of the Hall of Fame Tuesday. In all, 13 nominees were selected for the honor.
LAHS started soliciting for nominees earlier this year. The nomination period closed in June.
The inductees include Walt Arnold, Lynn Bjorklund, Burt Buehrer, Carol Cady, Louie Cernicek, Bob Cox, Steven Craven, Turk Griffith, Bill Hudson, William D. McWilliams, Gene Mortensen, Morrie Pongratz and Anthony Sandoval.
Those honorees are among the most celebrated former athletes, coaches and supporters of Hilltopper sports for the past 50-plus years.
Pongratz, the longtime public address announcer, whose voice can be heard over the loudspeakers at many Hilltopper sporting contests annually, said he nominated a few of those who ended up making it into the first class of honorees, but didn’t think he would be among them.
“I’m just a talker,” Pongratz said. “Most of these other guys are real athletes.”
Pongratz started his PA career in 1983 at the behest of his wife, Cheryl. His first game on the microphone was the Pueblo-Cumbres junior high school game at Sullivan Field.
The Hall of Fame idea was first presented by former athletic director Vicki Nelms. Nelms, however, accepted a similar position in Oregon and left the post before the class was announced.
Among other honorees are Arnold, who, after graduating from Los Alamos and the University of New Mexico, spent eight years in the NFL, playing tight end for the Los Angeles Rams, the Houston Oilers, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs. During his NFL career, which spanned from 1980-1987, he caught 99 passes and 7 touchdowns.
Arnold was the last Los Alamosian to sign with a major professional sports team until this week, when basketball player Alex Kirk signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA.
Also being honored is Louie Cernicek. Cernicek was Los Alamos’ first boys soccer head coach and is perhaps the most important person in establishing soccer as a high school-level sport in New Mexico.
The Hilltopper boys soccer team annually holds the Cernicek Invitational tournament in his honor.
William D. McWilliams was the first football coach of Los Alamos, and Bill Hudson helped establish the swimming program at LAHS.
Griffith, meanwhile, was a standout football player at Los Alamos and was a graduate of West Point, being an All-American selection there. He was among the first Americans killed in Vietnam.
Griffith Gymansium was named in his honor and rededicated with a painting of him earlier this year.
LAHS will recognize the first class of Hall of Famers during the 2014 Homecoming parade, which is scheduled for Sept. 19. There will also be a public ceremony for the class Sept. 21 at Fuller Lodge.
That event is open to the public. Tickets for the event are $25. Information on the ceremony can be obtained by contacting the LAHS atheltic office at 662-2531.