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HELENA — The Helena Sports Hall of Fame has released its list of members for the Class of 2019.

The latest class of HSHOF inductees is composed of 12 individuals, including six contemporary athletes (must be out of high school for 10 years and have attended high school fewer than 50 years ago), three golden athletes (attended high school 50 or more years ago), two coaches and one special category.

There are also seven teams being inducted, consisting of six contemporary teams and one golden team.

There were over 90 nominations in the pool of individual candidates, which were voted on separately by a 20-person anonymous selection committee, based on a points system. State championship high school teams have been admitted in chronological order since 2011.

The biannual induction ceremony and banquet will take place in July at the Best Western Helena Great Northern Hotel.

Contemporary athletes

J. Daly, Capital High (1975), was CHS’ first collegiate football all-American. As a senior during the 1974 Bruin-Bengal crosstown, Daly was part of an "immaculate reception" touchdown in the 18-12 victory. He was selected an all-stater at tight end and defensive end, and was also a two-year starter for Capital basketball.

At Montana State, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder was a member the Bobcats’ 1976 national championship and 1979 Big Sky crown. Daly was a two-time first team all-Conference selection at offensive tackle, and a 1979 HM Little All-American. He had a chance to play in the USFL, but instead returned home as an assistant coach with Capital for 25 years.

Karen (Eggan) Jacobson, Helena High (1976), is one of four local girls to win a state AA prep singles tennis championship. In 1976, she captured both the MHSA and Montana State Tournament 18-21 titles. In the Helena City tourneys from 1975-83, Karen garnered 16 Open crowns including seven singles, five women's doubles and four mixed doubles.

Eggan played for MSU, qualifying for the 1980 NCAA national doubles championships. As Karen Jacobson, in Havre, she claimed seven State Open racquetball championships. After moving to Whitefish in 1997 and taking up golf, she finished runner-up twice in the Women's State Seniors tourneys, before winning the 2015 MSWGA title.

Dan Downs, Helena High (1990), was a three-time first team All-Big Sky (Division I) football selection at the University of Montana. As a sophomore outside linebacker, the 6-4, 222-pound Downs amassed 82 tackles in 1992 and garnered the first of three All-Conference citations. His senior year, the Griz repeated as Big Sky champions, reaching the 1994 NCAA playoff semis. Downs finished with 241 career tackles, ranking 13th on UM’s all-time list.

For the HHS Bengals, Downs made 1989 first team all-state LB and the Western AA's defensive MVP, setting a school season record of four forced fumbles, while his 82 solo tackles still rank No. 4.

Kyle Samson, Capital High (2003), was a football High School Gatorade Player of the Year and a collegiate All-American. He earned 10 letters for the Bruins, and a senior he made All-State in football, basketball and track in the same school year. Samson quarterbacked the 2002 Bruins to an undefeated state grid championship, set several school records and was named the Class AA’s offensive MVP.

At Montana Northern, in 2006 he speaheaded the Lights to their first ever NAIA playoff appearance and was named the Frontier’s Offensive Player of the Year. Samson led the league in several passing categories, and was a two-time first team All-Conference selection.

Liz Meyer, Capital High (2001), led the Lady Bruins in hitting her final three seasons, highlighted by a .412 batting average her senior year. Meyer finished with a career average of .374, and in 249 lifetime at-bats she struck out only 14 times. She was a 2000 first team All-State selection, while collecting three All-Conference citations at center field.

At NCAA Division II Seattle University, Meyer was a three-time All-Great Northern Athletic Conference selectee, and the Lady Redhawks 2002 Player of the Year. She earned two GNAC Player of the Week awards, served as team captain in 2005 and left with several school records.

Ann (Simpson) Gilbert, Greenville, Pennsylvania (1975), played prep hoops and swam for Syracuse University before continuing her athletic career in Montana, where she holds several Masters division state records. She took up distance running, and is also an accomplished triathlete, having competed in over 40 triathlons, while qualifying for two Ironman Hawaiis.

Among her career highlights are a 10th-place finish (40-44 age group) at the 1997 Ironman Hawaii; a runner-up in her age-group at the 2002 Ironman Canada; and the age-group championship at the 2005 PuCon Half Ironman in Chile. Gilbert has captured multiple Spring Meadow Lake Triathlon age-group championships, as well.

Golden athletes

Dennis Meyer, Helena High (1962) was the Capital City’s first two-time state wrestling champion, at 165-pounds, in 1961-62. Meyer lost just once as a senior, posting a 21-3 record over his final two seasons. He was also a two-year, two-way starter on the line in football. In 1961, he was the Bengals co-captain and selected first team All-State.

Meyer — a Green Beret in Vietnam — received a scholarship in both wrestling and football to the University of Montana. On the gridiron, he started at O-guard his final three seasons, despite being outweighed by 30-40 pounds. Meyer also competed for the Griz’s mat team, garnering a pair of third-place medals at the Big Sky Championships.

Jim Walczak, Helena High (1967), was a four-sport athlete at HHS from 1964-67, earning three All-State sections — two in football and one in basketball. On the gridiron, he set eight school records, including career marks of 82 catches for 1,307 yards. On the hardcourt, the 6-6 Walczak established four Bengal rebounding records, highlighted by over 600 lifetime boards.

Jim played two years college hoops for the College of Great Falls Argonauts, where in a double OT 94-92 loss to No. 4 Wisconsin Eau-Claire, the GF Tribune stated, “Jim Walczak scored 22 points, led the game in rebounding, and played one of the greatest games in Argonauts’ history.”

Ken Leland, Helena High (1961), shined in basketball and baseball. As the starting center for the 1960-61 Bengal cagers, the 6-4 Leland was the fourth-leading scorer in the state with 333 points and averaged 16.65 ppg. He poured in 28 points versus Butte Central.

Leland was the ace of Helena Legion’s pitching staff in 1958-59, compiling a two-year mark of 17-5, with 16 complete games. His final season he went 9-4 and set the team record of 141 strikeouts, and tied the standard for wins. In a one-hitter over Havre, he struck out 17 batsmen. Leland went on to a stellar hoops career for Division I Idaho State.

Coaches

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John Hollow was the Helena High boys’ first soccer coach, from 1991-2005, highlighted by back-to-back state championships that produced a two-year combined record of 24-1-5. In 2002, HHS went an undefeated 12-0-3 and beat Bozeman 2-1 in overtime for the title, followed by a 12-1-2 mark and a 3-2 OT victory over Flathead for the repeat in 2003.

During Hollow’s 14 seasons at the helm, the Bengal kickers experienced just two losing seasons, while compiling an overall record of 113-59-22 (.657 winning percentage), with five top-four placings at the state tournaments.

Walt Chancy coached three sports at Capital High for 25 years, winning three state championships in two sports as head coach. In football, he was a Bruin assistant from 1975-94 and part of three state crowns (1978, 1987, 1993). As head coach in 1996, Chancy directed CHS to an undefeated state grid championship.

As the Bruin boys head gymnastics coach from 1976-88, his teams captured a pair of AA crowns, in 1983 and 1988, along with three other top-3 placings. And as an assistant with boys track and field from 1978-2000, Chancy was part of two CHS titles (1998-99).

Special category

Gene McMahon spent a total of 48 years as a referee and director of officials. From 1959-87, McMahon started by refereeing prep hoops and then Carroll College in the mid-1960s, before being elevated to the Big Sky Conference. In 1965, McMahon took up officiating football, and worked about two games a week for the next 26 years — mostly Helena and Capital High, Carroll, Montana Tech and Rocky Mountain.

As director of Frontier hoops referees from 1987-2006, some of McMahon’s responsibilities included assigning the best officials for the men’s and women’s seasons, scheduling game assignments, and rating the referees performances.

Contemporary teams

The 1990 Capital High girls cross country, 1991 Helena High boys basketball, 1992 Helena High boys track and field, 1993 Capital High football and 1996-97 Capital High girls track and field.

Golden team

The 1968 Helena Senators Legion baseball.

NOTE: This will be the HSHOF’s 10th class of inductees, and since the charter class of 2003, the Hall has enshrined 121 individuals and 65 teams. To visit the Hall's web site, go to helenasportshalloffame.com.

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Curt Synness can be reached at curt52synness@gmail.com or 406-594-2878. He’s also on Twitter @curtsynness_IR.

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