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Golden Eagles soar into Hall of Fame

Del Oro inducts its first class of athletes from the 1960s, ’70s
By: Eric Gourley, Gold Country News Service
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Del Oro High honored its first sports stars on Sunday, celebrating the 1960s and 70s at the inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Past and present athletes, students, parents and community members filled the school’s theater for an afternoon of nostalgic memories. “Athletics at Del Oro have always been so important,” former administrator Bob Christiansen told attendees. “This is something that’s been a long time coming.” Del Oro students Carly Allred and Kylie Skupic worked with Christiansen and athletic director Monte White to arrange and host the event for their senior project after multiple attempts to organize the hall of fame failed in the last decade. Groundskeeper Jun Takuma, whose health prevented him from attending the ceremony, was the first inductee. Paul Yokote was honored next. The community member, who spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair after he got polio in a Japanese American internment camp as a teenager, was a football team statistician and photographer at Del Oro. He was laid to rest in his letterman’s jacket. Gary Noy, who spoke of Yokote, brought a tripod adorned with a red cherry many football players wear on their helmets. The sticker, typically awarded for big hits and exceptional plays, was given to Yokote by Christiansen when he was hit by players on the sideline during a football game and broke his leg. The 1966 boys basketball and 1969 boys track teams were inducted, and members from both teams attended the ceremony. Coach John Rankin spoke of his hoops squad, which brought him a bottle of champagne after he started his rookie season 3-0. The team went 19-0 and was invited to a tournament in Yreka, where it went 1-2 to close out one of the most successful seasons in Del Oro basketball history. Rankin also honored David Johnson, who played with the Eagles from 1972 to 1976. “I was 6-2, probably 102, but I loved to play basketball and nobody was going to stop me,” Johnson said. He averaged more than 27 points per game his senior season en route to Sierra Foothill League MVP honors before a successful career at Weber State. Coach Jack Sanchez called his track team one of the best in school history. Without their top high jumper and hurdler, the boys lost to Chico State by two points at the section finals. Runners Randy Hansen and Ed Bonner were also inducted as individual athletes. Hansen, who held the state record in the 800 and anchored a mile relay that didn’t lose until the state meet, also ran cross country. Bonner, whose favorite race was the 400, attended UC Berkeley on a track scholarship and was Hansen’s roommate for four years. Tennis player Kurt Richter won two league championships, a section doubles championship with his brother and a section singles championship while at Del Oro. He went on to play at American River College, Odessa College and Oklahoma City University before coaching at University of Nevada-Reno. Tom Cooper, a four-sport athlete and valedictorian of the school’s first graduating class, also attended Berkeley and played baseball there. Del Oro’s first football quarterback earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and went on to work for the government for many years. Steve March gave a moving speech about Bob Bonner, the “father, grandfather and, to some, great-grandfather of Del Oro football.” Bonner, who touched the lives of hundreds of athletes at the school, was honored with a standing ovation as his wife, Peggy, was presented with a plaque. Ed Bonner is the son of Rob and Peggy Bonner. Butch Enkoji, who starred on the Del Oro gridiron as a senior after attending Placer High for three years, choked up mentioning Bob Bonner. “Wow, I think we’re all humbled,” White told the crowd. “The ship left the harbor and sailed around. That ship is back in the harbor.”