Panthers to induct new Hall of Fame class this week

Submitted photos – The 2021 McKinleyville Hall of Fame class, from left to right, Frank Sanchez, Kaila Johnson and Jamie Ham.

The McKinleyville Panthers will induct three new members into the school’s athletic hall of fame this week, including Jamie Ham, Kaila Johnson and longtime boys and girls tennis coach Frank Sanchez.

Sanchez began a 36-year coaching career with the Panthers in 1984 and won multiple league titles with both the boys and girls teams, most recently in 2015, when the Mack girls won.

Coach Sanchez stepped down as tennis coach in February of this year and sadly passed away in May, leaving behind a tremendous coaching legacy at McKinleyville High School.

He is remembered as a patient and positive person who focused on academics and sportsmanship, with many of his teams earning North Coast Section scholastic team awards.

Ham, who graduated in 1999, competed for the Panthers in baseball and basketball and was a four-year varsity starter in the latter, winning Dick Niclai Championships in 1996 and 1997.

He was also a member of the school’s first-ever league championship team in boys basketball in 1996/97.

He also excelled on the baseball diamond, playing three seasons at MHS, and earning all-league honors.

Playing shortstop, outfield and pitcher, Ham hit .350 over three seasons at MHS and slugged eight home runs.

Following his high school career, he played baseball at College of the Redwoods and spent two summers with the Humboldt Crabs.

He currently holds the CR record for highest lifetime batting average with a .374 average.

Johnson, who graduated in 2011 played volleyball, basketball and softball for the Panthers, earning all-league honors three times on the volleyball court.

As a senior, she played a key role in the Panthers’ Big 5 title, which ended Del Norte’s 21-year run as league champions.

She was also a Big 5 MVP in basketball her senior year and known as a hard-nosed player who embraced the challenge of drawing the toughest defensive assignment.

The Panthers never lost a league contest in the four years that Johnson was on the team.

In softball, Johnson was named all-league three times and completed her high school athletic career with a Big 5 championship.

Following her high school career, Johnson played four years of college basketball at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.

The inductees will be honored at the hall of fame reception on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the school’s multi-purpose room.

They will also serve as Grand Marshalls for the homecoming parade at noon on Friday and will be introduced before Friday night’s football game against Ferndale.

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