7 Picked for Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame

Seven athletes will be inducted into the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame this month.

Robb Smith

Smith, a graduate of Scott High School, started his sports career with seven years of knothole baseball in Taylor Mill. His team won the 1980 Cincinnati Area Knothole championship.

At Scott, Smith was a three-year baseball letterman and the Eagles won the 1988 district and regional titles, and were sectional runners-up. In 1989, the team won the district again and finished second in the region.

In 1989, Smith batted .489, and held the school record at the time for doubles (19). He was voted all-region in 1988 and 1999.

Smith also lettered four years in basketball at Scott, and was part of the 1989 Eagles squad that captured the district and regional championships en route to the school’s first (and until 2017, only) appearance in the Kentucky Sweet 16. In 1989, he set the school record for varsity games played, at 105.

Smith played soccer for four years at Scott, and the team was the 1985 regional runner-up. In 1988, he was named to the all-region team and graduated with more than 40 goals scored.

In coaching, Smith led the Comair Jets 18-under select teams from 1994 to 1997, winning 142 games and losing 42. He coached Scott baseball from 1996 to 2000 where his teams went 73-60, were 2000 district champs and regional runners-up. He was Northern Kentucky Baseball Coaches Association coach of the year in 2000.

Smith is currently superintendent of Bellevue Independent Schools.

Steve “Mase” Mason

Mason graduated from Newport Central Catholic in 1970 and was a three-sport athlete, playing football, basketball, and baseball. He earned nine varsity letters.

In 1968, Mason was named to the All Greater Cincinnati League for football as a quarterback. That same year, he was named to the KHSAA state tournament team for baseball.

Mason attended Indiana University and walked on the Hoosiers football team, earning a starting position at quarterback his freshman year. As a sophomore, he was given a scholarship and the starting quarterback job.

After college, he played handball and won a few tournaments. In 1974, he played softball for Moser in Silver Grove.

In 2004, Mason was inducted into the Newport Central Catholic Hall of Fame.

Jack Menninger

Menninger graduated from Highlands High School but there isn’t a lot of available information about his playing days there.

According to the NKY Sports Hall of Fame, he was the captain and leading rebounder on the basketball team, and selected by his peers to be captain of the baseball team.

Most of Menninger’s sports memories come from bowling. He has ten sanctioned 300 games, one sanctioned 299 game, one 298 game, and three sanctioned 800 series.

He is the four-time singles champ in the Tri-City (Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis) tournaments. His awards include two-time doubles champion, two-time member of team champions, and five-time all-event champion.

On the national federal employees tournament he has been singles runner-up, doubles runner-up, and runner-up in all events.

He was a member of the team that finished 37th out of 7,500 entrants in the American Bowling Congress Tournament in Niagara Falls.

One of his best memories was the first time his dad witnessed him throw a perfect game, he presented his dad with the ring, awarded by the American Bowling Congress.

While playing softball he has been on the “All Northern Kentucky” first team and or second team several times. He has won several tournament MVP awards and named to the all-tournament team several times.

Menninger has umpired and officiated youth leagues for decades and was once head umpire for the state softball finals.

Mia (Bradford) Cooper

Cooper graduated from Notre Dame Academy in 2000 where she ran track and played basketball.

Her 100m relay team won the regional and she was a three-year starter for the varsity basketball team.

During the 1997-98 season she won the varsity best defensive player award and the most valuable player award.

In the 1998-99 season she was the varsity rebound leader and lead the team in shots blocked.

During her senior year, Cooper won the Boone County Recorder Classic All-Tournament team. The Boone County recorder classic best defensive player award and was named to the Northern Kentucky Basketball Classic All-Tournament Team.

Cooper was selected to the 35th District All-Tournament Team, the 9th Regional All-Tournament Team, and the Senior All-Star Team Most Valuable Player.

She holds the current school record for points scored in a game with 36.

Now, Cooper coaches basketball. She has been coaching for three years. In 2014-15, she led Heritage to KCAC state championship. In 2015-16, while coaching at Ludlow, her junior varsity girls were division III co-champions. She is now the varsity coach at Notre Dame.

Wilbur Herrmann

Herrmann spent twenty-two years as a Highlands Bluebirds football coach, with three as freshman coach, and thirteen as varsity assistant before leading the program as head coach for seven seasons.
During his tenure, Highlands won three state championships (1977, 1981, and 1982). His teams went 71-18 during that time.
Herrmann also coached eighth grade basketball for four seasons, and was assistant coach and then head coach of the baseball team, too. One team won the regionals. He also spent four years as an assistant track coach.
David James Epplen
Epplen graduated from Covington Catholic High School in 1987 and grew up playing knothole baseball. He played at Blessed Sacrament School and Hut A.C. He started four years for the Cov Cath Colonels and in 1987 was selected for the all-regional tournament team. That year, the Colonels made it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
Epplen was named as an honorable mention for the all-state tournament team.
He went on to play baseball for Thomas More College. In 1992, he lead the nation in batting average. One of his greatest thrills was starting all four years, while at Thomas More.
For the past fifteen years, Epplen has hosted a pre-season and Memorial Day youth baseball tournament and has worked as an umpire in local knothole baseball for the past twenty-five years.
He was picked to umpire the 2015 All-A baseball tournament at Lexington Legends Field.
Shawn Garnett
Garnett graduated from Boone County High School in 1987 and played three years of varsity basketball. He was All-9th Region in 1987, averaging 17 points per game.
He was named an honorable mention for the All-State team in 1987.
In 1985, the Rebels won the 9th Region, squeaking past Newport, 52-51, and faced a mighty Clay County team and lost, 60-49, finishing the season at 24-6.
Garnett started coaching in 1993 at Boone Co. as freshman coach. The team went to the regional finals in 1994, finishing as runners-up.
In 1997 he accepted a job at Newport as the junior varsity basketball coach.
In 2003 he moved to Conner as the freshman coach, and led his team to the finals again. After a few years he accepted the assignment as junior varsity coach. In 2009, his team was in the JV finals, with a runner-up finish.
Conner return to the JV finals in 2010, winning it.
As an assistant coach at the varsity level, he was part of three district titles at Conner.
Currently, Garnett is head coach of the boys golf team at Conner. He is also the longest-tenured tennis coach currently active in Northern Kentucky. His son’s doubles team made it to the state quarterfinals in 2014 and 2015.
Garnett also coaches basketball in the Covington Turners League, leading the 7th and 8th grade squad to the championship in 2015.