Certainly, all seven new inductees have made contributions to New Mexico sports that merit that adjective.
- Pam Allen, who has coached high school volleyball and track in six New Mexico communities.
- Rick Galles, a former Highland High School and New Mexico Military Institute athlete whose Galles Auto Racing team won an Indianapolis 500 and a Championship Auto Racing Teams title.
- Roy Gerela, a former New Mexico State placekicker who won three Super Bowl rings as the kicker for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- Dr. Ron Maestas, an age-group racquetball champion who coached the New Mexico Highlands University cross-country team to national prominence.
- Dr. Anthony Sandoval, a state cross-country and track champion at Los Alamos High School and a Stanford University All-American who won the 1980 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials — only to be deprived of his trip to Moscow by President Jimmy Carter’s Olympic boycott.
- The late Johnny Tapia, a five-time world professional boxing champion and two-time Golden Gloves amateur champ who earlier this year was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
- John Wooten, a Carlsbad football and basketball star who went on to an All-America football career at Colorado and a nine-year NFL career with the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins.
Wooten was unable to attend, but Allen, Galles, Gerela, Maestas and Sandoval spoke at a news conference at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Tapia was represented by his wife, Teresa.
Teresa Tapia spoke of her late husband’s devotion to his home city and home state during his long and spectacularly successful boxing career and his often troubled life.
“He brought so much happiness,” she said. “Whether you liked him or didn’t, he never let anyone forget that this was where he was from.”
Sandoval, a Los Alamos cardiologist, rose from the northern New Mexico village of Truchas to achieve national and international running success.
“In our busy world these days and certainly in mine in medicine, in cardiology … we don’t have a lot of time or opportunity to reflect,” Sandoval said. “And, most importantly, to be grateful.”
Maestas, a New Mexico Highlands professor, said he thus was programmed to speak for two hours. But in the two minutes he allowed himself Saturday, he thanked his wife and sons for their support, his cross-country athletes for their dedication and NMHU for the opportunities it has provided him.
Gerela was two-time Pro Bowl selection and ranks third on the Steelers’ all-time scoring list.
He was shopping at Albertson’s, Gerela said, when he got the news of his induction from NMSHOF past president Marty Saiz.
“I got goosebumps,” he said. “I was lost for words.
“This is a very special honor, probably the top honor that I’ll receive in my career and my lifetime.”
Galles said that when he entered the Convention Center Saturday morning he walked past the Hall of Fame portrait of his late father, H.L. “Hickum” Galles Jr., who was inducted in 1996.
“I know he’d be very proud,” Galles said. “It’s great to be from Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were born here, and this is what it’s all about.”
In Allen’s 45-year career, she has coached at Dexter, Hobbs, Goddard, Capitan, Artesia, Roswell and Carrizozo high schools. Her volleyball and track teams have won seven state titles.
“When I’m walking down the hall (where the Hall of Fame portraits are displayed) and to see all those portraits of people that I have admired and looked up to for decades, it’s just overwhelming,” Allen said.
“To know that I am part of that group is humbling beyond description.”