Ridgeland officially opened its doors in the fall of 1989 and in the nearly three decades that have followed, many athletes, coaches and contributors have left their marks on the school.
Beginning in April, the school will start to permanently honor those trailblazers and their accomplishments.
The first class of the new Ridgeland High School Athletic Hall of Fame will be inducted with a banquet on April 14. The event will begin at 6 p.m. at Ridgeland High School.
First-year principal and Ridgeland alum Karen Hughes called the addition of a Hall of Fame "important".
"We have a great heritage here at Ridgeland for coaches and former players that have really had some great accomplishments," she explained. "Rossville and Chattanooga Valley High Schools both had Hall of Fame recognitions and we wanted to start it here and recognize the accomplishments of the Panthers that have come through here. It's a great way to honor past players, as well as current players and some of the great coaches we've had here over the years."
Members of Ridgeland’s first Hall of Fame class were nominated by the community and selected by the newly-formed Hall of Fame committee, which is made up of current coaches, teachers and administrators, along with alumni.
"We tried to go with people (on the committee) that had been around for a long time and knew the communities of Rossville and Chattanooga Valley, as well as Ridgeland," said committee member and RHS alum Lindsay Tahler. "(Athletic Director) Robert Stinson and (head cheerleading coach) Abby Manus kind of came up with the idea, modeling it after other schools' Halls of Fame. We just thought it was kind of an overdue thing to celebrate our community, our athletes, our former coaches and all these people who have had some great accomplishments coming out of Ridgeland."
The inaugural Hall of Fame class will include Bill Sandberg, Arnold Eaves, Connie Buchanan, Nick Price, Cindy Ross, Bryan Richardson, Latrice McLin, James Turner, Tyrone Davis, Sharon Vantrease, Wink Baker, Pete Summers and Martha "Bama" Smith.
Nominations in several different categories will continue to be taken yearly and will be active for a period of three years. Tahler said the plan is to induct around 10 new members in each subsequent year. Nominations can be made by anyone in the community and the decisions will be made by the Hall of Fame committee.
Also new to Ridgeland this year is the formation of the Student-Athlete of the Month program, which was also put together by the Hall of Fame committee. Monthly winners of the award will all be eligible to win the Athlete of the Year Award, named for Ridgeland grad and current New Orleans Saints standout Vonn Bell. Bell himself is scheduled to be at the ceremony to present the award to winner.
Finalists for this year’s Vonn Bell Award are Markeith Montgomery, Jalyn Shelton, Jacob Mariakis, Whitney Boehm, Haley Sandridge and Katie Carruth.
"I think (the Vonn Bell Award) is going to be a great thing," Hughes added. "It will be like the Ridgeland Heisman (Trophy) for male and female athletes and that will be very special as well."
Tickets and tables for the Hall of Fame banquet will be sold to the public beginning on Wednesday, Mar. 14. Individual tickets will be $30 or whole tables of eight can be purchased for $275.
To purchase tickets to the banquet, contact Tahler at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the school's front office at (706) 820-3109.