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End Zone: Patience reigns for Hall of Fame class



Jim Hartman knows all about waiting for good things to happen in his life.

He spent nearly a decade as an assistant before emerging as Colorado Springs' most successful high school football coach — not just of his era, but ever.

Starting in 1965, Hartman diligently cultivated Mitchell High School's program from scratch, until the Marauders won the 1973, 1977 and 1981 state titles — and came close to three more. In a span of 11 seasons, from 1972-82, his teams put together an incredible record of 102-26-1.

After moving on to more successes at Widefield and Doherty, Hartman retired in 1995 with a career mark of 211-101-4. And now, 14 years later, he finally can relish an honor that he richly deserves: topping the 10th class of members in the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame. The group, announced Wednesday by the Colorado Springs Sports Corp., will be formally inducted in a Nov. 10 banquet at World Arena, and many — like Hartman — have waited patiently many years for this recognition.

A decorated class

Others in the 2009 class include former Sky Sox manager Charlie Manuel, who directed Colorado Springs to the 1992 Pacific Coast League championship and just last year guided the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series title; Doug Palazzari, former Colorado College hockey star and later USA Hockey executive director; Jim Miller, a multi-sport standout at Colorado Springs High School and the University of Colorado; Andrea Melde Hooks, a trailblazing soccer All-American in high school here at Air Academy and in college at Duke University; and the Broadmoor Skating Club, now in its eighth decade of nurturing Olympic, world and national figure skating champions.

Also on the Hall of Fame agenda, as usual, will be the Thayer Tutt Sportman Award, given this year to well-known local sports benefactor Jeff Smith, now board chairman of Classic Homes. The F. Don Miller Award, recognizing a lasting commitment to the local sports community, will go to former longtime Patty Jewett Golf Course pro Paul Ransom.

Everyone's story is worth telling in detail.

Palazzari, for example, came to CC from the hockey hotbed of Eveleth, Minn., and was a two-time All-American between 1970-74 before going on to play in the National Hockey League. He also spent five years in the Central Hockey League at Salt Lake City and later was named the CHL's greatest player ever.

Melde Hooks scored a phenomenal 128 high school goals with 61 assists, leading the Kadets to an overall record of 69-7-3 as well as the 1993 Class 5A state title during her career. That earned her a scholarship at Duke, where she was the Atlantic Coast Conference's Player of the Year in 1997. More recently, she was chosen to the ACC's 50th-anniversary all-time women's soccer team alongside such familiar names as Mia Hamm, April Heinrichs and Kristine Lilly. Melde Hooks now works as a euro dollar options broker on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.

Miller made headlines in football and track for Colorado Springs High School, which became Palmer before his graduation in 1959. He went on to play football at CU, but his biggest accomplishments came on the track, where he won Big 8 titles in hurdles and relay events. For a while, he owned the NCAA and American records in the 330-yard intermediate hurdles (36.2 seconds) before becoming a trial lawyer and then administrative judge for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in Washington, D.C.

Local boy makes good

But as strong as the 10th-year inductees are, Hartman stands out as the first Hall of Famer who not only is a true native but has spent almost his entire 75 years here, having left only for college and the military.

"I don't think there are many natives in the Hall of Fame, which makes it that much more special to me," Hartman says. "But I've got them all beat on one point — even my father was born in Colorado Springs."

While he was going to Colorado Springs High School, CSHS lost two football games in three years (1948-50). He was an all-state football player and all-conference in hockey. He then played football at Colorado A&M (now Colorado State) and was an Air Force pilot in the Korean conflict. He returned from the military in 1958 as a coach at Colorado Springs High, where he also started the city's first high school gymnastics program before moving to Wasson when it opened the next year.

His chance to be a head coach came in 1965 with the opening of Mitchell High School. Hartman patterned much of his offense around the University of Nebraska's I-formation running game, and befriended former Husker head coach Tom Osborne and some of his assistants during visits there. It worked superbly as Mitchell had a run of outstanding tailbacks — Cullen Bryant, Terry Miller, Jim Brooks, Charles Haley and Jeff Legette, to name a few.

Bryant and Miller went on to the NFL, and Legette might have if not for a knee injury that forced him to change positions; he became a standout defensive back at Wyoming. Legette was the workhorse on Hartman's 1981 squad, which went 14-0 and still is the city's last football state champion in Colorado's highest classification. But Hartman had teams just as good that couldn't quite go all the way, such as those that lost in the 1973 state final, the 1974 semifinals and the 1980 semifinals.

In three decades, Hartman had only two losing records, in his first and third seasons at Mitchell. After that, he says, he learned to "be better organized. We prepared exactly the same every week, whether it was the first game or for the state championship game. That way, our teams just got better and better and better. The coaches bought it, the kids bought it, and it really worked well for a lot of years. Then we went to Widefield [in 1985], got them into the same rhythm, and went 7-3, 7-3, 8-2 and 10-0."

He has many special teams to remember, but he probably feels proudest about 1977, when Mitchell was 3-3 in midseason without any highly recruited players and surged to the state title, shocking Cherry Creek and Boulder Fairview, Nos. 1 and 2 respectively, in the semifinals and finals.

"Those last two games were just surreal," Hartman says. "I can still remember a lot of plays in those games. That was a special group."

But, he adds, "There are a lot of great memories. And to get this honor now in my hometown means more than I can say. I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

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