By Harvey M. Kahn
Special to the News Mirror
It's not easy getting selected into the Yucaipa High School Athletic Hall of Fame, however the 2015 class of honorees made it with flying colors. Dave Essman, Bill Mierzwik, Mark Teahen, Jessica Marksbury and Lou Hitter were formally inducted last Saturday. The ceremonial banquet occurred in the YHS multi-purpose room before a group of 125 family members and well wishers.
The 2015 class of inductees brings the total to 47 members of the Yucaipa HOF. Obviously, each had to perform at an extremely high level considering there's more than 30,000 athletes who have attended YHS since opening in 1958.
YHS Athletic Director Mark Anderson told the crowd there were 1,035 athletic participants last year out of a student population of 2,600. Of those, 40 percent were scholar athletes.
Anderson pointed out that YHS has produced three of the five national championship prep sports teams in San Bernardino County history. He talked of the tradition and overall support the school has received throughout the community.
Essman, Marksbury and Teahen each traveled from out of state to attend the seventh Hall of Fame dinner. Hall of Fame basketball coach Kent Hayden presented Essman with his plaque by saying his former high school All-American led YHS in scoring in 1972 and 1973, and continued to average 18 points a game at San Bernardino Valley College. He then earned a scholarship to Sacramento State.
Essman traveled to Yucaipa from Edmond, Oklahoma, with wife Janet and one of his three sons, Justin. Essman said Yucaipa remains a small town atmosphere. He and his four sisters all graduated from YHS. He said Hayden never gave up on him even when there were times when he could have. Essman works with Coil Chem LLC in Oklahoma, which sells a water treatment process for oil exploration.
Bill Mierzwik was presented by childhood friend and former YHS teammate Andy Anderson, who both played on Jeff Stout's first baseball team in 1977. Anderson said his friend does not promote that he is one of the winningest junior college baseball coaches in IE history, nor of the respect he earns from disenfranchised youth at San Andreas High School.
Mierzwik was an All-League pitcher at YHS, then for Steve Smith at SBVC and then to the 1982 D-2 national champions at UCR under College HOF coach Jack Smitheran. He played football at YHS for two more HOF coaches - Jim Taylor and Ken Miller.
Mierzwik called his mom, Wanda, his #1 fan. He recalled that pro baseball players from YHS Danny Davidsmeier and Lance Halberg always were kind to him as a kid. He said Stout created an atmosphere for his future success and that Stout stepped in when his father passed away during his sophomore year.
Mierzwik acknowledged he employs the coaching philosophies of Stout and Taylor in his own coaching career. Mierzwik has 593 wins at SBVC, the most in school history. Mierzwik remembered that he was thrilled to be hired in the early 1980s as an assistant to Stout and Taylor. Stout even introduced Mierzwik to his wife, Diane. Their son Wesley ran cross country at YHS.
After seven years playing Major League Baseball, Mark Teahen has not forgot his YHS defeat to Mater Dei in the 1998 CIF-semifinals. Teahen was presented into the Hall of Fame by his father and long time youth baseball coach, Mike Teahen. He said Mark's tee ball team was the Royals and the family watched as he advanced to the big league KC Royals. Mike Teahen told of all-day back yard whiffle ball games where there was strong competition between Mark and brother's Matt and Mike.
Mike Teahen explained the proud moment when he and family watched Mark make his pro debut in 2005 in front of 55,000 fans at Detroit. He agreed with his son that he was seldom the best player but was stubborn, persistent and had a good work ethic.
Mark Teahen admitted to working with a chip on his shoulder, that his attitude fended off the practical jokes attempts by KC manager Tony Pena and coach George Brett.
Ironically, his YHS baseball coach Jeff Stout also played in the Kansas City organization. He detailed events where he literally had to beg for playing time at YHS and finally got some in his junior year.
"I always kept my goal in mind," said Mark Teahen. Both he and his father credited Yucaipa and Stout with propelling him onto the next level. Teahen and his wife Lauren have raised and contributed over $3 million for domestic humanitarian causes.
YHS golf coach Scott Adams presented Jessica Marksbury. who he called a person with all the qualities of Hall of Fame greatness. Adams described Marksbury as a high school student who possessed pure eloquence as a speaker, who could impress even the most hardened adult.
Marksbury graduated in 2003 as one of the most decorated YHS girl athletes. As a freshman, she excelled in three varsity sports and overall was a league champion in four sports. She was a four-time CIF golf finalist, who shot an amazing 76 over 18 holes as a sophomore to qualify for the Southern California finals. Marksbury is currently Golf Magazine's featured webcast news anchor, covering most of the major PGA and LPGA events.
"Yucaipa was the foundation for the rest of my life," said Marksbury. "I had exceptional coaches and teammates." She played soccer with current YHS coach Sarai Stamper. She was in Matt Carpenter's class when 9/11 happened and said he calmed the students with his demeanor. She considered Adams the perfect golf coach due to his temperament. She swan as a pre-teen for Lou Hitter and later at YHS.
Marksbury credited her father with teaching her golf at age six, which she was able to turn into her livelihood. Her husband, Paul Griffin, is a golf pro who puts up with her "crazy work schedule." Marksbury's ultimate goal is to "make my parents proud."
YHS Hall of fame member Matt Carpenter presented his former swim coach Lou Hitter, who he called the first name in Yucaipa High School swimming. Carpenter said his former coach transformed local swim onto the next level.
Hitter was called a positive roll model who was innovative in his teaching. During Hitter's 15-year tenure at YHS, he compiled a 336-8 combined record for both boys and girls.
Hitter provided the News Mirror a list of his standout swimmers that went four paragraphs, including many who became teachers and coaches. He was proud to have coached his children Lacey and Mark as they reached the CIF finals twice. Lacey was inducted into the YHS Hall of Fame in 2009 as part the 1997 national championship girls cross country team. As a science teacher, he applied physics with struggling swimmers in an effort to gain "maximum thrust and minimum drag."
Hitter credited his tolerant wife Debra, helpful parents, great assistants and strong Yucaipa Flying Fish feeder program. Hitter was inspired by his Upland High School swim coach Dave Radcliff who swam in the 1956 Olympics. "It was truly unsuspected when I found out about my selection. The sport has given me more than I gave it."
YHS alumnus Eric Memory concluded the ceremony by being one of many acknowledging former math teacher Mr. Morgan as someone who influenced him. Memory has served as the YHS Hall of Fame committee chair since its 2008 inception. He told of an incident when he played baseball at YHS when he had to be pulled aside by a coach and was told "there is a Yucaipa way" you are expected to act.