2018 Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame inductees
2012 Chestatee graduate placed sixth in the 75-kilogram competition at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro
Longtime defensive line coach went to four Rose Bowls and Super Bowl XV before permanently retiring to Flowery Branch in 1991
Lifelong Gainesville resident and business owner won a pair of National Racquetball Singles Championships
Hall County native captured 50 paddling national championships and competed with the U.S. Sprint National Team
Eventual WNBA player helped Gainesville High win three state championships and later became a standout at the University of Georgia
2007 Silver Slugger earned back-to-back state titles with Gainesville High en route to a six-year MLB career
While scanning the room prior to the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony Thursday, May 24, Morgan House paused and chuckled when he spotted 1973 Masters winner Tommy Aaron.
“Guys like Tommy Aaron are in this hall of fame, and he’s a legend,” said House, a former national champion paddler. “I think I’m the least qualified person to ever be part of this.”
Nevertheless, House and five others now have their own spot among the local legends.
House joined Jenny Arthur, Chuck Clausen, Counte Cooley, Tasha Humphrey and Micah Owings as the newest members of the hall in an enshrinement ceremony at the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville.
The club’s first class in nine years is arguably its most diverse, featuring an Olympian weightlifter (Arthur) and a two-time national racquetball champion (Cooley). Clausen — who was inducted posthumously — coached both college and professional football, Humphrey was a basketball standout at the University of Georgia and Owings enjoyed a six-year MLB career.
Then there’s House, who didn’t feel worthy to enter the hall even after an illustrious career in kayaking.
Cooley, the only other inductee present Thursday, shared House’s sentiment.
“I never thought I would ever be in any kind of sports hall of fame, even after I finished playing,” the lifelong Gainesville resident and business owner said. “But I’m still so proud and tickled to be a part of this hall of fame.”
The Northeast Georgia History Center assembled a committee to nominate and vote on the inductees, who formed the fourth class in the hall’s history.
Arthur cemented her place in it by finishing sixth in the 75-kilogram competition at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she set a U.S. Olympic record in the snatch with a lift of about 235 pounds.
The Hall County native and 2012 Chestatee High graduate, who lives and trains in Colorado in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, is a regular competitor in the International Weightlifting Federation who also hosts weightlifting seminars in her spare time.
Owings also resides far from his stomping grounds. After garnering a 2007 Silver Slugger Award during a career that included stops with three major league teams, the former right-handed pitcher currently coaches in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization.
But Owings launched his legacy at Gainesville High, where he helped the Red Elephants win state championships in 2001 and 2002.
He still holds state high school records for most home runs in a single season (25) and career (69), achievements that supported his induction into the hall.
“It’s an honor and blessing to be a part of this,” said Owings’ father Jim, who accepted the honor on his behalf.
Humphrey brought Gainesville High championships as well, leading the Lady Red Elephants to three titles from 2001-04. She went on to become a four-time All-American for the Lady Bulldogs while compiling the second-most points and fourth-most rebounds in program history.
Following a gold-medal showing with the 2007 U.S. Pan American Team, Humphrey was picked 11th overall in the 2008 WNBA Draft, though injuries derailed her professional career.
Humphrey now coaches at The Weber School in Atlanta.
She joined the hall alongside a coaching veteran — Clausen, who went to four Rose Bowls with Ohio State before spending 15 years in the NFL. The longtime defensive line coach also reached Super Bowl XV with the 1980 Philadelphia Eagles squad.
An Iowa native who briefly coached for the Falcons toward the end of his career, Clausen retired to Flowery Branch in 1991 and engaged in commercial real estate. He was a featured columnist in The Times, providing weekly power rankings of Hall County high school football teams until his death in 2015.
House, however, hails from Gainesville, where he still resides despite his new position as director of high performance and competition for the American Canoe Association.
He previously spent 3½ years as manager of the Lake Lanier Olympic Park, where he blossomed into one of the world’s best paddlers with the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club.
The 2005 Gainesville High graduate won 50 national championships, competed at numerous international events and was a member of the U.S. Sprint National Team from 2003-12, yet he was still caught off guard when informed he had been chosen for the hall.
“I never, ever thought I deserved to be a part of anything like this,” House said. “I’m just humbled to be included in this along with all of the people that are already part of it.”
Despite the steady flow of well-wishes from friends and neighbors following the ceremony, Cooley felt the same way.
He began playing racquetball in 1985 simply as a way to stay in shape, but as his skills progressed, friends urged him to compete in tournaments. Eventually, the competitive Cooley earned National Racquetball Singles Championships in 2012 and 2014.
And on Thursday, he found himself in the same group as legendary local athletes like Aaron.
“This is so humbling, and it’s an experience I will cherish for the rest of my lifetime,” Cooley said. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this. Practice, practice, practice. I got the results I wanted, and this is a great way to cap it all off.”