Four former Hilltopper student-athletes inducted into KHSAA Hall of Fame
Four former Hilltoppers are among the 11 members of the 2017 Class of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. Michelle Clark-Heard (’90), Betty Jo Cook Gibson (’48), Anna Jo Cook Pickens (’48), and Jesse Stuart (’78) will be inducted during a March 18, 2017, ceremony in Lexington, Ky. Though the recipients were chosen for their contributions as high school athletes, all four of the former Hilltoppers also left a strong mark on WKU during their collegiate careers.
Prior to her time on the Hill, Michelle Clark-Heard (’90) was a three-year starter at Atherton High School, where she earned All-District, All-Region and All-State honors each of those three seasons for the Lady Rebels. At WKU, she was a part of four consecutive NCAA Tournament teams. She helped the Lady Toppers to a pair of Sun Belt Conference Tournament titles, two regular season Sun Belt championships and 89 victories during her collegiate career, while totaling 790 points and 615 rebounds. Clark-Heard made the transition to coaching after her playing days came to an end, with coaching stops at Cincinnati, Nebraska, Kentucky State and Louisville. Bowling Green, Ky., once again became her home when she was named Head Coach at WKU in 2012, and she went on to earn Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year honors in her first season with the Lady Toppers.
Betty Jo Cook Gibson (’48) and Anna Jo Cook Pickens (’48) were the first cheerleaders to receive athletic scholarships to WKU, after being recruited personally by legendary Coach E.A. Diddle. The duo, who began cheering when they were seventh graders, wrote and performed their own cheers at London High School. “The Twins” were flooded with attention by Lexington and Louisville media members after performing at the 1944 KHSAA state tournament, with glowing reviews appearing in the city newspapers following their routines. Their popularity at WKU grew to the point that the duo had their own twice-weekly radio show, and when the Hilltoppers traveled to New York and Indianapolis, the Twins went with them. On Christmas night in 1944, the Twins performed between games of a basketball doubleheader at New York’s Madison Square Garden before 18,500 fans and received six encores – a feat noted by The New York Times. Anna Jo Cook Pickens passed away in 2012 at the age of 85, and Betty Jo Cook Gibson resides in Louisville, Ky.
Jesse Stuart (’78) was a dominant track and field athlete at Glasgow High School, winning three-consecutive state titles in the shot put, while setting a state record that still stands 47 years later. His dominance as a high school athlete paved the way for an NCAA Championship and three Silver medals as a member of Team USA. After starting his collegiate career at the University of Kentucky, Stuart transferred to WKU, earning five All-America honors over the course of his NCAA career. Ranked in the top-10 nationally on 13 occasions, he was a member of 13 USA National Teams and competed in the 1975 and 1983 Pan American Games. Stuart currently makes his home in Reeds Spring, Mo.