A legend lends his support

About a month ago, the varsity team for the Mount Union Vikings entry in the Huntingdon County Pee Wee League held its annual postseason banquet.

Head coach Don Fortson had a special surprise for the players and parents attending the event when legendary John Helton was the guest speaker. Helton was a 1965 graduate of Captain Jack High School and went on to have an outstanding career in football and life.

“This was a memorable moment for John and for the folks attending the banquet,” said Fortson. “These folks have seen John’s photo above the trophy case at the school, but they didn’t really know who he is. Now, they’ve met him.

“It was a special moment for me and I admit is was emotional. It was so great to have a legend to come over the mountain and spend some time with these young people.”

For those who don’t remember or don’t know, Helton was an outstanding wrestler and football player at Captain Jack (now Mount Union Area High School). He was named a Big 33 all-star and played in the Big 33 Classic All-Star game in Hershey.

After high school, Helton headed went and played four years at Arizona State University. He was a fullback and tight end in his first three season, them moved into the defensive line in his final campaign.

He was drafted in the seventh round by the American Football League’s Buffalo Bills (before the merger with the NFL), but opted to go north and play in the Canadian Football League.

Helton played 10 years for the Calgary Stampeders, then finished his career playing four seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

During his career, Helton won a number of awards, including the Schenley Award for the league’s outstanding defensive player on two occasions.

He retired from football in 1983 and, in 1986, received the ultimate award when he was voted into the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame. He returned to Calgary, then later moved farther went to central British Columbia, about 90 minutes from the Washington border.

At the age of 71, he still works in the insurance industry.

In 1998, he was a charter member of the Huntingdon County Sports Hall of Fame.

“My message to the kids was to remind them of how much their parents are doing for them,” Helton recalled in an interview earlier this week. “My parents didn’t have a lot, but did everything they could to support a childs’ life.

“My parents supported me throughout my life, but only saw me play once when I was in college. They left on a Friday and drove all night to seem me play at Wisconsin. I was still a tight end at the team and they saw me score a touchdown.”

“I get to tell kids how what there parents are doing for them really is. It’s neat to help people going through life. There is nothing more important than family. The foundations that parents can build for their children is more important than making money.”

Helton also pointed out that his attendance at the banquet was a personal thank you to Fortson, a teammate during their high school years. It turned out very well. It is an important thing to me to support Don and the kids.

“Life goes by quickly, but this was such a great environment we grew up in. It was the best home I could have been born in.”

Garner adds more honors

Elizabethtown College senior Mackenzie Garner was selected as the Landmark Conference Volleyball Senior Scholar Athlete on Thursday, capping a standout career with the Blue Jays.

One of the conference’s most distinguished awards, Landmark Senior Scholar Athletes exhibit excellence in their respective sports, in the classroom and in the community.

Garner, a three-time All-Landmark Conference First Team pick at middle hitter (2016, ‘17, ‘18) and four-time all-league honoree, set new career-highs in kills (391), service aces (11), total blocks (105), solo blocks (29) and block assists (76) in 35 matches this season. She led the conference in solo blocks, while ranking second in hitting percentage (.352) and blocks per set, third in kills and total blocks, and fourth in kills per set. Garner is also among the top 50 players nationally in Division III in hitting percentage, kills and blocks.

Garner eclipsed 1,000 career kills back on Sept. 21 in a match against Marietta and wrapped up her career fifth on Elizabethtown’s all-time list with 1,236. The Huntingdon, Pennsylvania native also ranks second in career kills per set (3.24) and fifth in career hitting percentage (.327).

Off the court, Garner, an actuarial science major with a 3.82 grade point average, has been equally impressive. She was named an emergent scholar by Elizabethtown College in March, 2017, and has been part of the Dean’s List in each of her six previous semesters on campus. Garner was also invited into the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society during her freshman year after maintaining a 3.5 or higher GPA and ranking in the top 20% of her class.

Garner is the first Elizabethtown women’s volleyball player to earn the award since the Blue Jays joined the Landmark Conference prior to the 2014 season. Recent Ira R. Herr Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Kelly Downs ‘08 was the program’s last student-athlete to earn a similar award when she was named Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Senior Scholar Athlete following the 2007 season.

McMullen set records

Southern Huntingdon field hockey goalkeeper Brittney McMullen, a four-year starter for the Rockets, set a number of school records during her career and is also in the top-10 in a number of categories nationally.

As a junior, she set the school record for saves in a single game with 36. In her senior campaign, the set a season mark with 243 saves and ended her career with a school record 727 stops.

She is listed in the National Federation of High School field hockey record books in three categories. Her career total of 727 saves ranks third national, while the 36 in a game is tied for third. Her 243 saves this fall is in 10th place nationally.

McMullen plans to continue her career at Juniata College.

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