El Monte Athletic HOF Honors New Members

  • The 1985 CIF Champion El Monte Lions softball team. (photos by Joe Torosian )
  • The 1986 CIF Champion Arroyo Knights softball team. (photos by Joe Torosian )
  • (photos by Joe Torosian )

by Sports Staff Writer

El Monte

The El Monte Athletic Hall of Fame held its annual luncheon on Saturday at Grace Black Auditorium to honor its eleven new inductees which include Olympians, coaches, administrators, and two very special softball teams.
“It’s great to be back doing this,” said master of ceremonies El Monte Union High School Superintendent Nick Salerno. “It went away for a long time and there was some question before we started it back about who would be willing to participate, but this has been terrific.”
With the auditorium full Salerno introduced the new inductees. Some of the names were very familiar to El Monte residents; multiple Olympic gold medalist Kim Rhode (shooting), 1960 Rome gold medalist Lance Larson (swimming), Olympian Janet Dykman (archery), and Olympic swim coach Don LaMont.
Sandy Neilson-Bell, a previous inductee in 1994, was on hand for the ceremonies and to see her former coach, LaMont, honored.
Also inducted were longtime area coaches and administrators; George Allison (El Monte VP), Don Cawthon (wrestling), Frank Clayton (Arroyo VP), Fernando Ledesma (track & field), and Harry Nissley (tennis).
The hall of fame committee also honored two CIF championship softball teams; the 1985 El Monte Lions softball team, coached by Debbie Melker, and the 1986 Arroyo Knights softball team, coached by the late Dick Barnes.
The El Monte team, the first to win a school title since girls were allowed to compete in the athletic arena, went 25-1 and won the 2A title with a 3-2 victory over Chino. Members of the team included: Monica Ramirez, Jodi Campbell, Stacey Campbell, Yvette Zendejas, Letty Caudillo, Giesle Flores, Sheila Floyd, Janice Hall, Sally Navarro, Veronica Ramirez Pelayo, Carmen Perez, Michelle Vargas, and Sandy Diaz. Dick Barnes was the assistant coach and Jimmy Williamson the scorekeeper.
The Arroyo team, which became the school’s first softball championship team after 31 years, compiled a 22-1 record under the leadership of former El Monte assistant Dick Barnes. The Knights took the 2A title with a 2-1 victory over El Toro: Members of the team included: Gina Bosques, Heidi Chambers, Jeanette Livesay, Vanessa Norman, Julie Todd, Chela Castano, Suzanne Durazo, Wendy McLellan, Julie Nelson, Teena Vasquez, Donna Wilkerson, Marcela Castano, Laura Lewis, Lisa Miranda, Missy Phillips, and Kathy Van Valkenburgh. Eddie Durazo served as the assistant coach.
Previous Hall of Fame inductees are: Dr. Eugene Platz and Bruce Snyder (1991), Fred Lynn (1992), Albie Pearson (1993), Sandy Neilson-Bell (1994), Don Johnson (1995), Bruce Bennett and Charles Wiggins (1996), Jack Barton and Tom Morgan (1997), Robert Settle, Rich Rodriguez, 1957 El Monte CIF Basketball Championship team, and 1987 Arroyo National Champion Cross Country team (2012).

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