The Somerset High School Hall of Fame inducted Dr. Willard Keith, Margaret Duff Lindsey, “Miz” Betty Smith, and the 2001 Boys’ Soccer team into its ranks in ceremonies Sunday afternoon.
The Hall of Fame, begun in 2005 to honor the achievements of outstanding Briar Jumpers in the past, features a show room overlooking the Somerset basketball court. Portraits and plaques adorn the wall in respect, admiration, and memory of those whose accomplishments have exceeded the ordinary and made them a part of history.
Each year, three candidates: two athletes and a coach or a “contributor” plus an entire team is inducted. The athletes must be out of school for more than 10 years. The contributors, supporters of the athletic community in a form deemed worthy by the committee, are the ones who make sports possible for all the athletes.
The three individuals are outstanding representatives of what is now known as the Briar Jumper Nation. Alphabetically, they are as follows:
Betty Duff (Lindsey) was a basketball player, track participant, and cheerleader for SHS in the early 1980’s. Graduating in 1984, she participated in what is known as “The Golden Era” of women’s sports at Somerset. She was a four-year starter on the basketball team, was named All-District all four years, and was instrumental in the winning of the CKC title for the Lady Jumpers in 1983.
She was also the representative of the 12th Region in the Kentucky East-West basketball all star game. Incidentally, when there was a double header in basketball, she would wear one uniform---that of a basketball player---in one game, and another---that of a cheerleader---in the next. Duff attended Transylvania University, where she was a cheerleader and played basketball.
Dr. Willard Keith is a 1965 graduate of Somerset High School. He is probably the person most responsible for Somerset getting a track. In 1965, he broke three CKC records, and set the Somerset record for the 440 yard dash at 50.3 seconds. Keith went on to run track at the University of Kentucky, breaking school records in the 660 and 440 dash indoor and outdoor. He was President of the K-Club, UK’s athletic varsity lettermen fraternity, and participated at the Madison Square Garden indoor track meet, finishing third behind Steve Carson, the NCAA Champion, and Lee Evans, the Olympic Gold medalist.
“Miz” Betty Smith is the true Briar Jumper who bleeds Purple and Gold. She has been with the school program since she entered first grade in 1935. In 1980, she began as an aide with the special education department. Her primary job was to assist with students with extreme physical handicaps. She worked at Parker and Memorial elementary schools, then followed her students through Meece Middle and on to Somerset High School. She became a participant in sports activities when the Special Education Department volunteered to work the track concessions in order to earn the money for extra supplies for their classes. This began a 20-year career of managing the concessions. She is a prime example of the maxim, “We also serve who serve the food.”
Finally, the 2001 Soccer team got its place on the wall. Somerset sports has rarely seen a team of such talent that did not go on to win the state championship in its field. The 2001 Boys’ Soccer team scored an incredible 142 goals, shattering the old record set three years earlier by Bethlehem. That record would stand for six years, until it was eclipsed by St. Xavier in 2007. That 2001 team also set the record for most assists at 90. To show just how high that point figure is, the next most prolific scoring team in the region that year was North Laurel at 60: less than half and more than 82 points behind. The 2001 team would go on to win the District and Regional titles, but their run would end---11 years ago tonight---on October 31, 2011 with a 1-0 loss to the ultimate state champion Paul Laurence Dunbar.
The Hall of Fame has now opened its doors to nominations from the public. Organizers invite interested parties to submit nomination forms on those deserving candidates. As the organization is funded entirely by private donations, the group also asked for financial support.