The torch passes tonight but not before nine very deserving people are inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
A journey for them that ends where it was destined, in the spotlight.
A journey for Greg Flesher, the outgoing president, that has had him make phone calls, have meetings and squeeze numbers (something he's exceptional as a certified public accountant at Frost, PLLC) made it happen.
This annual event used to attract around 1,000 but with covid restrictions in place, this year's banquet will be limited to about 250, and that's up from 200 last year when at the last minute Flesher was pressed into his first duties ever as master of ceremonies.
By all accounts, he did an outstanding job and will again if necessary.
Flesher is like every member of the board: He takes the Hall of Fame seriously.
Each of the nine inductees were vetted before being nominated for voting by the membership and the board.
It is a diverse group and in my 32 years -- and this is my swan song -- never thought there would be a class with more basketball players than football, but in the last couple of decades the sport hasn't been considered as much as an athlete's or administrator's accomplishments.
Inductees tonight are Lisa Cornwell, golf; Lance Harter, track and field; Tim Horton and Kevin Kelley, football; Johnny Ray, baseball; and Joe Johnson, Jesse Mason, Billy Joe Murray and Lawson Pilgrim, basketball.
Each is a great story and very deserving.
Cornwell was such a great golfer in high school she played on the boys team because her high school didn't have a girls team.
Harter is in his 30th season as the women's cross country and track and field coach at Arkansas and has won everything.
Horton was a wide receiver and punt returner for the Razorbacks, helping them to a 38-11 record and consecutive Southwest Conference championships.
Kelley has coached Pulaski Academy to nine state championships including seven of the last eight.
Ray was All-SWC in both his years with the Razorbacks and spent 10 years in the major leagues.
Johnson was an All-SEC player for Arkansas and led them to the 2000 SEC Tournament championship. He played 18 seasons in the NBA.
Mason was a sharp-shooter for what is now the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and even though there was no three-point line he averaged more than 20 points each of his three seasons. For his senior year he averaged 25.4 points per game.
Murray was an outstanding player at Morrilton High and a two-time All-AIC player before becoming a coach for 38 years and winning seven state championships.
Pilgrim helped lead Conway High to an 88-5 record and two state championships. He lettered for the Razorbacks before the lure to return home and play for Hendrix. He is the school's only two-time All-American.
Normally, this group would have started their Hall of Fame inductions with a reception at the Hall's museum, but that was not conducive for groups, so Flesher and his wife Dora Jane hosted them for a dinner at their home Thursday night.
As president, Flesher was faced with virus restrictions that ranged from the induction banquet, golf cart seating for the Hall of Fame tournament and Zoom board meetings. Everything has been seamless.
Tonight's banquet starts at 5:30 with a reception that resembles a family reunion and dinner starts at 6:30.
At the end of tonight's banquet, sometime around 9 o'clock, Flesher will pass the gavel to Greg Hatcher who has served as a vice president for the past four years and will have a two-year term.