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Giants' shrine adding new members

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GIANT LEGEND: Gary Atkinson, a 1958 graduate of Marion High School, is one of 23 former Giants’ athletes being inducted into the Marion High School Athletic Hall of Fame during as part of homecoming festivities at the school on Friday.
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GIANT HONOR: 2019 Marion graduate Dre Aguilar is one of 23 individuals that will take a spot in the Marion High School Athletic Hall of Fame during prior to the Giants’ homecoming football game Friday against Anderson.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

After unveiling a large inaugural class for the Marion Giants Athletic Hall of Fame, Mark Fauser knew there still was eligible candidates waiting to be discovered.

Now, a year later, another group is feted for the hall and will be recognized as part of Marion homecoming festivities. The Giants football team entertains Anderson at 7 p.m. Friday and plaques with the new members will be unveiled prior to the game.

The new inductees include 23 individuals and the girls' state champion 440-yard relay team from 1977. Recent graduates such as Dre Aguilar and Kayla Dubuque were recognized along with Gary Atkinson and Steve Holmes from 50 or more years ago.

To be eligible, an athlete must have gained all-state distinction or won a state championship while competing for the Giants, or went on to play at the NCAA Division I or professional levels. Fauser said several of the inductees likely would have been included last year if brought to his attention.

"What happens is we lay the criteria down and it gets out there and suddenly people ask about this person," Fauser said, "... and it adds up and they are right. That's how the process works ... people tell us about a person and we verify it.

"I see this thing leveling off in the next year or two as we find more people from long ago who fit the criteria," he added.

Atkinson, a 1958 graduate, was a standout pitcher who was part of the Giants' first North Central Conference champion baseball team. He went on to pitch professionally in the Milwaukee (now Atlanta) Braves organization.

Holmes, a 1961 graduate, was an all-state fullback for the Giants' first NCC champion football team. The newest inductees include several other football players from the era: Gary Koldyke (1963), John L. Johnston II (1963) and Doug Johnson (1970).

"Gary Koldyke is coming from Colorado," Fauser said. "What I'm proud of is we're drawing alumni back in town and let them know we're proud of them and we care about them and they are inspiring the present and future athletes."

The Marion girls' relay members Yvonne Blackmon, Desi Hartsoe, Vera Thompson and Linda Howard were trailblazers from the beginning days of IHSAA girls' sports. Blackmon was a 2016 inductee in the Grant County Sports Hall of Fame and also is recognized for individual achievements.

Aguilar and Dubuque graduated in June and had gained all-state honors in football and track. Classmates Reubin Brewer and Xavier Gee also were enshrined after achieving all-state honors in football.

Vijay Blackmon makes the hall this time, joining his father and older brother James and James Jr., after he helped lead the Giants boys' basketball team to the 2016 Class 3A state title and then played for Indiana University.

The boys' and girls' tennis teams lead in new inductees with Lezlie Ladwig Winter (1977), Riley Worland (2018), Nithia Chowattukunel (2013), Rusty Gorman (1980), Tejas Srikanth (2015) joining Dubuque in the hall. Winter finished in the top five in the state individual championships three-straight years and now is an administrator for Mississinewa schools.

Former Marion gymnastics coach Vonda Cawthorn and state finalist performer Christi Beams (1989) also were inducted. Rounding out the list are Abby Powell (1999), Ashley Powell (2001) and Carolyn Musser (2000) from girls' golf, and Dion Newton (1979) from football.

"Dre Aguilar was so honored and excited to be in there, and that is part of why we did it," Fauser said. "We did it to honor our past and great history, but we also did it to inspire our present and future athletes.

"It's a way of really, truly appreciating the past and letting them know how important they are," he added.

In addition to the Giants Athletic Hall of Fame, new members will be featured for the Hall of Distinction and the new Arts Hall of Fame.