The L.C. Bird High School Athletic Hall of Fame added six new members at a ceremony held last Saturday at The Country Club at the Highlands. Friends, family and faith continue to mark the theme of the annual ceremonies that have now recognized forty-five players, coaches and supporters of the Skyhawk nation.
Master of Ceremonies and former Bird principal, Aubrey Lindsay kicked-off the evening by sharing what all Bird supporters already know; that the common thread found in all great schools is a dynamic athletic program.
Leading-off the evening was the induction of wrestler Keith Dixon. On his way to two state championships, Dixon lost only four matches in four years. Teammate Dan Beasley introduced Dixon by sharing just how difficult it was wrestling against Keith every day. “He made it look so easy.” Beasley thanked Dixon for dropping a weight-class allowing the two of them to win state championships together. “I was coming off a football season at about 220 pounds. There was no way I was getting to 176. Keith didn’t hesitate in sacrificing for his teammate.” Dixon seemed humbled by his inclusion. “I can’t thank my teammates and coaches enough for showing me the right way, allowing me to become the man I am today.”
“I started playing football in third grade and found early success,” recounted Jamie Lovern, who is now a football coach in Texas. He continued, “When I got to Bird, I realized I wasn’t very good.” Two full seasons of reps on the freshman and junior varsity teams prepared Lovern for a great career at Bird. Opening holes on offense and creating havoc on defense, Jamie became one of the best players in the state. He went on to play at Appalachian State as a four-year starter. He spent one year with the Dallas Cowboys and four more in the Arena League. “At Bird, thanks to coaches like Matt Bland, we learned from our mistakes and failures. I’m sorry that our kids today are being denied that opportunity.”
“When Anthony Reese stepped on the basketball court at Bird, he was about 5 feet 5 inches and weighed about 115 pounds,” explained Coach Chuck Tester. “But there is no doubt we wanted the ball in his hands at the end.” All-state in both basketball and track and field, Reese expressed his gratitude to all of his coaches and teachers at Bird.
The diminutive Brian Tingen struck little fear in the hearts of opponents, but became the consummate winner at Bird. As a quarterback, he led the Skyhawks to victory in all nineteen games that he started. In baseball, the confident ace of the staff established school records in every pitching category. As a senior, he led a sophomore dominated team all the way to the state tournament. Tingen thanked his parents and his older brother Scott for their influence in his life.
“He knows all the statistics and details of virtually every player to ever play at Bird,” so says Chuck Tester, of tireless volunteer assistant coach and statistician Kelly McMillin. McMillin shared with the audience five individuals that have molded his career in athletics. “My dad taught me the importance of putting others first. My mom impressed upon me the necessity of always doing my best. In a rollercoaster period of just a couple years, I learned from Coach Thomas to never get too high or too low. Chevette Waller has taught me perseverance; that no obstacle is insurmountable. And finally, Coach Tester taught me that it was never about wins and losses, but instead about the relationships.”
The night’s final inductee was Ms. Wiz, Virginia Wisneski. Ms. Wiz’s coaching career spanned five decades. Recognized as one of the finest cheer coaches in America, she was instrumental in elevating competitive cheering to a sanctioned sport under VHSL. “She created the highest expectations for cheerleaders; making them aware they were the ambassadors of the whole school,” explained presenter and current cheer coach Clark Andrs. “I am most proud that so much we established has become tradition at Bird,” exclaimed a happy Wisneski.