Looking to capitalize on the momentum of last year’s inaugural event, Miami Springs Country Club was the venue once again last week for the Second Annual Miami Springs High School Athletic Hall of Fame Awards Banquet.
At $75 a plate, it not only served as a primary fundraiser for the MSSH athletic department, but turned into an evening of terrific nostalgia and storytelling for anyone who was a Golden Hawks graduate.
Close to 120 seats were sold and at the centerpiece of the evening were a total of eight new inductees into the MSSH HOF as they each were given a souvenir clock with their names engraved and also a large plaque which will go up in the quartered off section of the school reserved for the Hall of Fame inductees.
Leading the way were a couple of ex-football stars at Springs, defensive lineman Reggie Kinlaw and linebacker Jack Fernandez.
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“There’s nothing like your roots and remembering where you came from,” said Kinlaw, who graduated in 1975 and went on to an outstanding collegiate career at Oklahoma and professionally as well helping lead the Oakland Raiders to a pair of Super Bowl titles in 1980 and ‘83. “If it wasn’t this, I would’ve never been at Oklahoma, there would’ve been no Oakland Raiders and there would’ve been no Super Bowls.”
Kinlaw remained out in California after his playing days with the Raiders and still lives in Southern California today.
“I had some great coaches, was surrounded by some great people and the way I look at it, everybody’s a Hall of Famer. Because you have friends around you that make you better and you make them better. I’m flattered by this night and I miss Miami Springs. I chose this school because I knew it would make a difference in my life and it has.”
Fernandez helped lead the Springs football team to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 1978 and 1979 and, along the way was named First-Team All County and Third Team All-State in both seasons before moving on to the University of Miami where he would be named the MVP of the 1983 Orange Bowl when the Hurricanes stunned Nebraska to win the national title.
“This is where I probably had the most fun in my life,” Fernandez said. “Your playing with your friends, you classmates, a whole community. Not just your teammates in football. When I went off to college at UM, I didn’t grow up with those guys. It’s great to be able to participate with your friends, Miami Springs is a great school and always has been and it was great to be able to play there.”
Regina Gray-Rule was by far the greatest girls basketball player and perhaps the greatest female athlete in general, to ever wear Springs colors as she lettered in not only basketball, but volleyball, softball and track as well, from 1976-78, making all-county all three years in every sport but track.
But, as good as she was in everything, basketball was where Gray really excelled as she led the Golden Hawks to back-to-back state championship game appearances in 1977 and ’78 while being named first-team All-State, High School All-American and The Miami Herald’s Female Basketball Player of the Year her senior year.
“Tonight was a great honor and a very exciting evening for me,” Gray said. “I was in the company of great people and feel so blessed. God has been so good to me in my life.”
Charlene Flanagan-Navarro and Maggie Skelton-Paige also went in, Flanagan (Class of 83) for her running talents as a cross country star and Skelton (Class of ‘82) for her outstanding ability in the pool, both in water polo and swimming.
“Unbelievable,” Skelton-Paige said. “Miami Springs is and always has been so much in my heart. Seeing everybody here tonight, so many people that had so much influence on my life and of course all of my friends, it’s just been an unforgettable evening.”
“I was surprised,” said Flanagan-Navarro when asked if the Hall selection had caught her off guard. “I thought maybe one day but not so soon. Because I was nervous I didn’t even have time to recognize everyone like Virginia Gardens Optimist. It was where I grew up and I always could go to people like Doug Orr for donations to me when I was a kid. It was never just about the high school, it was about the whole community.”
Two coaches who went in were long-time golf coach Bruce Walton and basketball coach Mike McDonough. Walton still holds the longest-tenured consecutive season record coach one sport at the school (1965-99) while McDonough, who passed away 12 years ago, was inducted posthumously with his son Matthew and widow Eileen accepting on his behalf.
The best was saved for last though when Wayne Story stepped up to the podium. Story was the school’s highly recognized and decorated athletic director from 1971 to 1991. Story was given a standing ovation when it was announced he was a cancer survivor and then made a very poignant close when he said “I’ve received many awards in my life by my biggest reward is looking out into this crowd tonight and seeing all the lives I had a positive impact on.”