Three enter NHS Hall of Fame

Chad Frey
Roger Gillispie, left, saw a baseball field named in his honor in 2014. This year he enters the Newton High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He died of cancer in April.

The 2020 Newton High School Hall of Fame induction class includes three members.

Roger Gillispie, who died this year, will enter the hall as a contributor to NHS athletics. Richard Mick will enter the hall as a multi-sport star from the class of 1989. Richard Benninghoff will enter the hall as a multi-sport athlete from the class of 1985.

The three were scheduled to be honored Sept. 4 during and after the Newton High School football game, those ceremonies have been delayed due to COVID-19.

Roger Gillispie

Roger Gillispie, longtime owner of Gillispie Meats and organizer of youth baseball teams in Newton, died April 8 of cancer.

His longtime practice of hiring Newton High School athletes to work in his meat store, and support of summer baseball programs, landed him in the Newton High School Hall of fame.

“(For) 25 years (he) ran American Legion Baseball to develop high school players,” wrote Brent Coffman, himself a member of the NHS Hall of Fame, on Gillispie’s nomination. “(For) 15 years (he) ran Babe Ruth Baseball to develop baseball players. His meat shop hired baseball players to give them summer jobs.”

Roger Gillispie founded his business on East Broadway in 1997. He became known for homemade ham loaf and bierocks — and for hiring high school students while mentoring them at the shop.

Gillispie was also known for baseball, something for which he had a passion. He served as the business manager for the Newton Knights, both the junior and senior division teams of American Legion Baseball, for more than 25 years. He also spent about six years helping with Babe Ruth baseball in Newton.

In 2014, one of the baseball diamonds at Centennial Park was named in his honor.

“Surprised and unexpected,” Roger Gillispie said in 2014. “It’s not something I at all strived for. I am humbled and I almost feel embarrassed.”

Gillispie had a short baseball career, playing in youth leagues.

“I never played high school baseball,” he said in 2014. “I had a job when I was in school. I started playing slow pitch. I learned more about baseball from guys playing slow pitch. I played for more than five decades — ’60s through 2000s.”

Gillispie Field became the fifth named field in the city, joining Curtis Fischer Field (the football-soccer stadium), Klein-Scott Field (the main baseball field in Newton), Kenny Williams Field (the former Centennial diamond 1) and Dwayne Kelsch Field (the softball diamond at Athletic Park).

Gillispie was a 1970 graduate of Newton High School and attended Wichita State University. From 1973 to 1976 he worked as a USDA meat inspector, purchasing Farrell’s Market on W. First Street in Newton in 1976. The community grocery store remained open until 1989. He later served as the manager of YB Meats in Wichita from 1991 to 1997, before opening Gillispie Meats on E. Broadway in Newton.

Gillispie was an active member of the Knights of Columbus for more than 40 years, where he served as secretary and treasurer as well as in other positions.

Dan Benninghoff

Dan Benninghoff graudated from Newton High School in the class of 1985, a multi-sport athlete who went on to play NCAA Division I sports.

“If anything else, I think is letter jacket should be in the hall of fame, all-AVL and all-state patches on the front, back and sleeves,” wrote Gil Solis Jr. on Benninghoff’s hall of fame nomination form.

Benninghoff earned all-state or all-league honors in multiple years for two sports — baseball and football.

“Besides a great athlete, he was a great student,” Solis wrote.

Benninghoff graduated as a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.85 grade point average.

Benninghoff was nominated to play in the Kansas Shrine Bowl after his senior football season — he was named to the Ark Valley League all league football team first team three consecutive years as a tight end, and two consecutive years as a linebacker. He also earned all state honors for his gridiron exploits.

His junior year the Railers collected a league championship.

Benninghoff also saw success on the baseball diamond — earning all-league first team honors as a first baseman three consecutive years. In 1983 he helped Newton finish third overall in the state playoffs.

During his time in a Railer baseball uniform, the team won three league titles. His senior year he was invited to play in a high school all-star game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita.

As if those accomplishments were not enough while wearing the black and gold, he was also a member of the basketball team for two years and helped Newton to a state tournament berth in 1984.

It was baseball, however, that beckoned after high school. He started his post high school career at Allen County Community college and played two seasons of NBC Baseball — one season for Emporia before joining the NBC World Series bound Liberal Bee-Jays, and a second season for the world series qualifying Clarinda, Iowa, A’s.

An outfielder, he joined the University of Kansas baseball team for his last two years in college — leading the team in home runs in 1988.

Richard Mick

Richard Mick enters the hall this fall as an athlete, not a coach.

“Richard moved to Newton following sophomore year at Downs High School. He was a two-year letterman in cross country, basketball at track. He was a dominate cross country (runner) and the distance runs in track,” wrote Brad Anderson when nominating Mick for the Hall of Fame.

A member of the Newton High School class of 1989, Mick was a multi-sport star. He was named to the Ark Valley League all League basketball team his senior year, invited to play in the Mid Kansas All Star Basketball Classic, South Central Kansas vs. Wichita City League All Star Game and the McPherson College All Star Game that year.

He was also a league champion in cross country his senior year. He set the school record in the 3200-meter run with a time of 9 minutes, 44 seconds. That record stood until 2006. He also set the school record for the 5,000 meters at 15:54 his junior year at Great Bend, a record that still stands. In his senior year, he won six individual championships at cross country meets.

Mick collected seven state medals in track and cross country. He finished in the top 10 at the state cross country meet every year of high school.

“I have always been a very competitive person,” Mick said. ”That is what drove me more than anything in running and basketball. I had some natural ability too, but being a competitive person in whatever I did. I wanted to do it well and be successful.“

Despite the success he had running, his passion was basketball.

After Newton High School he pursued that passion at Emporia State, playing on the Hornets team for two years despite being offered a cross country scholarship. In his sophomore year, he walked onto the cross country team.

A scholarship offer again followed, but Mick chose to transfer to Kansas State University.

He tried out for the K-State cross country team and ran in the Big Eight cross country meet at Boulder, Colo.

“After that I got busy with classes and work, and that was the end of my post high school career,“ Mick said.

After college he took a teaching position at in Westmoreland, teaching two years before a position at Newton came open. In 1997 he took the position of track coach at Newton High School, and cross country the following year.

Following a multi-sport career at Newton High School, Dan Benninghoff went on to play baseball for The University of Kansas.