Vonda Ward

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Basketball

Vonda Ward grew up in a sporting family. Both her parents trained racehorses at Northfield Park. Vonda, however, enjoyed spectacular success in two totally unrelated athletic careers before she was 30.

 The six-foot, six-inch native of Macedonia, Ohio, was a two-time high school All-American in basketball at Trinity High School in Garfield Heights. She led her team to the state championship in 1990. She continued her basketball career at the University of Tennessee, where she played on legendary coach Pat Summitt’s national runnerup in 1995. In the late 1990s she played pro basketball briefly in Germany and later with the Denver Xplosion of the American Basketball League.

 Vonda then turned her attention to women’s professional boxing, which was at the advent of its popularity. Vonda enjoyed a meteroric rise as a heavyweight. She knocked out her first 15 opponents, setting up a showdown for the women’s IBA world heavyweight championship which she won with a hard-fought 10-round decision over Monica McGowan on Aug. 16, 2002, in Canton, Ohio.

 Vonda was still unbeaten, having won 20 fights in a row, when she lost her title to the dangerous Ann Wolfe, who knocked her out in the first round in a nationally televised fight on May 8, 2004, in Biloxi, Miss. Vonda celebrated her return to the ring seven months later in Cleveland with a fourth round knockout in what turned out to be her last fight. Her record stands at 22-1, with 17 wins by knockout. There have been several attempts to match her with Leila Ali, daughter of the all-time great heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, but Ali has rejected every proposal.

 

Although she has not had a fight for almost eight years, Vonda remains in fighting shape. At the age of 39 she is in the gym every day in her job as a personal trainer.

Tim Mack

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Track & Field

There did not appear to be much of an upside in pole vaulting for Tim Mack when he was attending St. Ignatius High School. While obviously dedicated, he never qualified for the state meet. 

But the Westlake resident did not let the ups and downs of his unique event discourage him from achieving a historic goal.  After attending Malone College and the Univesity of Tennessee, Mack put together one of the finest seasons in the sport in 2004. After winning the U.S. Olympic Trials with a Trials-record vault of 19-4 3/4, he won the gold medal at the Athens Olympics with an Olympic record of 19-6 1/4. 

Definitely not resting on his laurels, he capped his season by setting another record at the World Athletics Final with a personal best of 19-8 1/4, the top mark in the world that year. 

Mack established his presence on the national scene when he won the 1995 NCAA indoor title with a 18-4 3/4. However, he did not qualify for Olympic heroics in 1996 or 2000.  He broke the 19-foot barrier as the Goodwill Games champion with a 19-0 1/4 in 2001. He was the USA indoor champion in 2002, finishing second in the outdoor event that year.

 After his Olympic triumph, Mack’s career was slowed when he underwent surgery in October 2006 to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.  The long road back culminated in his winning a second USA indoor title when he went 18-8 1/4 in 2010.

 Graduating from Tennessee with a degree in Education, he went on to earn a masters in Human Performance and Sports Studies. He continues to coach and run clinics at the university.  He is single.

Raymont Harris

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Football

He ran hard and far in six NFL seasons, but Raymont Harris may be best remembered for two evenings of football that saw him dart in and around rivals and directly into a pair of record books. One of the nights came in college, the other in high school.  Harris, a native of Lorain, produced the greatest performance by an Ohio State University running back in a bowl game when he piled up 235 yards in the Buckeyes’ 28-21 victory over Brigham Young in the 1993 Holiday Bowl.

Raymont scored three of OSU’s four touchdowns but more impressive was that not one of his 39 carries resulted in negative yardage. Harris still holds the Holiday Bowl record for rushing yardage. Harris still holds the Holiday Bowl record for rushing yardage.

A few years earlier, as a senior at Admiral King High School, Harris delivered a performance that is still talked about in Lorain County football circles. Facing cross-town rival Lorain High, Harris ran for 332 yards and five touchdowns as the Admirals triumphed.

Harris was selected in the fourth round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, the 114th overall pick and made an immediate impact. The Bears were knocked out of the playoffs in the next game by eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco.

Harris retired from pro football in 2001. He joined The Ohio State University Department of Athletics in March 2010 as director of development and resides in New Albany with his wife, Leslie, and children Shakia, Elijah, and Olivia.   

Preston Powell

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Softball

Preston Powell was an athletic superstar at Grambling University in Louisiana and recently was inducted into its Hall of Fame. The Cleveland Browns picked him in the seventh round of the 1961 college draft as a fullback to play behind the great Jim Brown, but Powell became a local legend in quite a different sport — slow pitch softball.

 The Browns released him after one season because Preston suffered a knee injury. He spent the next year with the Dallas Cowboys and a year with the Chicago Bears, but his knee never healed and his football career was over.

 He continued to live in Cleveland where he quickly became hooked on slow pitch softball. While playing in a Sunday morning league he was discovered by Joe Nato, who sponsored and managed a team called Star Motel in the old PD-Major Slow Pitch League at Morgana Park, one of the top softball leagues in the country. Preston couldn’t run but he compensated. He hit the ball out of the park. Soon Preston was the premier slugger in the league and one of the best in the world. Preston moved on to play for Erie Sheet Steel, Non-Ferrous Metal and Ohio Sealants, teams that were perennial contenders for national championships.

 In the 1960s and ’70s both The Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Press picked all-city softball teams and Preston made all-city 10 straight years. He played in 10 world tournaments. His teams won one world championship and others finished third and fourth in the world.

Mary Joe Fernandez Godsick

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Tennis

Mary Joe Fernandez Godsick enjoyed a golden career on the tennis courts of the world.

In the midst of an outstanding run as a professional that included three Grand Slam finals, Fernandez Godsick won two Olympic gold medals representing the United States.

Teamed with Gigi Fernandez (no relation), Mary Joe first prevailed in the women’s doubles at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Team Fernandez reprised their championship performance on U.S. soil, winning gold at the 1996 0lympics in Atlanta.

Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Miami, Fernandez Godsick is the fourth woman inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame. She joins Mary K. Browne, Edna Shalala and Gwyneth Thomas.

Mary Joe’s accomplishments on the pro circuit make her one of the game’s all-time greats. In 1990, after winning the Tokyo Indoor Championship and reaching the finals of the Australian Open where she was defeated  by Steffi Graf, Fernandez Godsick ranked a career-high World No. 4 in singles.

Twice more, Mary Joe would reach the finals of Grand Slam events. She was topped by Monica Seles in the 1992 Australian Open and by Graf in the 1993 French Open.

Fernandez Godsick did reach the winner’s circle in both tournaments, teaming with Patty Fendick to win the women’s doubles championship at the 1991 Australian Open, and partnering with Lindsay Davenport to capture the doubles title at the 1996 French Open.

Mary Joe was a tenacious rival and no better illustration of her fight can be found than the quarterfinals of the 1993 French Open. She saved five match points against Gabriela Sabatini before winning a match that lasted more than three and a half hours.       

She also was the youngest player to win a main draw match at the U.S. Open when at 14 years and 8 days, she defeated Sara Gomer in first round play in 1985.

Fernandez Godsick was a star soon after picking up a racket for the first time. She won four straight Orange Bowl junior titles and turned pro at 15.

Mary Joe lives in Chagrin Falls with her husband, sports agent Anthony Lewisohn Godsick, and their children, Isabella Maria and Nicholas Cooper.

Larry Chernauskas

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Basketball

After playing varsity basketball at St. Francis College of Pennsylvania and serving two years of active duty in the United States Army, Larry Chernauskas moved to Cleveland where he became a revered high school basketball coach and math teacher.

At the age of 26, after only two years as an assistant coach (Gilmour Academy and John Marshall), Larry was named head coach at West Tech, where he stayed for the next 26 years (1956-82), accumulating a long list of championships and honors coaching the boys teams.

 That was barely half of his coaching resume, however. He then made a seamless transition to coaching girls. He coached the girls teams at St. Joseph Academy (1982-85), Gilmour Academy (1985-91) and Magnificat High School (1991-97).

 Larry’s combined overall record is 508 wins and 280 losses. At West Tech his boys teams won five West Senate championships. His girls teams at Gilmour advanced to the regional tournament four times. His Magnificat girls reached the regional four times and the state final four twice. He was named Cleveland area coach of the year four times — twice at West Tech and once each at Gilmour and Magnificat. In a Plain Dealer contest he was voted “Favorite Coach” by the readers in 1968.

 In retirement he was honored by St. Edward High School with its “Most Respected Opponent” award. He was inducted into the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame and halls of fame of St. Francis College, West Tech, Gilmour and Magnificat. He and his wife, Janet, have been married for 55 years and still live on Cleveland’s west side.

Jim Tressel

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Football

 Jim Tressel‘s college football legacy was forged on eight crisp autumn afternoons.

Before packed houses in Columbus and Ann Arbor, Tressel coached the Ohio State Buckeyes to an octet of victories over the University of Michigan. He lost just once to the arch-rival to the north.

Tressel is the only OSU head coach to win seven consecutive games against the Wolverines. The eight victories over Michigan are more than any Ohio State coach other than Woody Hayes (16 wins).

While the most die-hard OSU fans believe nothing can top a victory over Michigan, Tressel led the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship with a double overtime victory over the University of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

The dramatic victory completed a perfect 14-0 season, the first such campaign in college football history and gave the Buckeyes their first national crown in 34 years.

 It also earned Tressel the American College Football Association Coach of the Year award, making him the first coach in NCAA history to collect the honor in two divisions. Tressel had won it in 1991 and 1994 as the head coach at Youngstown State, a Division I-AA member school. 

In nine seasons at Ohio State, Tressel won eight Big Ten championships and had two 19-game winning streaks. He won 94 of 126 games, a success rate of 81 percent. 

Tressel’s roots are deep into Greater Cleveland. He was born in Mentor, graduated from Berea High School, and played quarterback at Baldwin-Wallace under the watchful eye of his father, head coach Lee Tressel.

Before taking his first head coaching position at Youngstown State in 1985, Tressel served assistant coach roles at Akron, Miami of Ohio, Syracuse, and Ohio State.

At YSU, Tressel dominated Division I-AA football, winning four national championships. The first one, in 1991, allowed him to join his dad as the first father and son duo to capture national crowns. Lee Tressel coached Baldwin-Wallace to the 1978 Division III title.

Tressel is currently serving as Vice-President of Strategic Engagement at the University of Akron.

Clinton Jones

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Football

 Clinton Jones made track’s loss, football’s gain.

 A standout hurdler at Cathedral Latin School, the powerful Jones scored only three touchdowns for the Lions during a three-year career shortened by injuries. But a self-commmitment to excel on the gridiron transformed Jones into a powerful force during his collegiate career at Michigan State and with the Minnesota Vikings.

 As a three-year letterman from 1964 to 1966 under MSU coach Duffy Daugherty, Jones accounted for 2,549 career all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns. He led the Spartans in rushing and all-purpose yards his final two seasons while helping the Spartans to a combined record of 19-1-1, winning consecutive Big Ten championships in 1965 and 1966. 

He led the Big Ten in scoring in 1965 when he scored 11 touchdowns and 68 points. As co-captain in 1966, he helped the Spartans go 9-0-1 and a No. 2 national ranking after the controversial 10-10 tie with Notre Dame. He earned All-Big Ten and All-American honors those years, finishing sixth in Heisman Trophy voting as a senior.  He continued to run track in the spring for the Spartans, earning conference honors in hurdling events.

Jones was selected No. 2 overall by Minnesota in the 1967 National Football League Draft, MSU teammate Charles “Bubba” Smith going No. 1 to the Baltimore Colts. In seven NFL seasons, six with the Vikings, he accounted for 5,035 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns.   The Vikings won three division titles and he played in the 1970 Super Bowl against Kansas City. He finished his career with San Diego in 1973.

He went on to become a licensed chiropractic doctor in 1981 and has practiced with his wife, Rosielee, in California for more than 30 years.