by James Coulter
Football. Baseball. Track and Field. Volleyball. These sports were played by the four inductees into this year’s Lake Wales Highlander Hall of Fame. Four Lake Wales athletes and coaches will be honored and accepted into the Hall of Fame during the Highland Booster Club Fundraiser Dinner to be hosted in April.
These four former athletes will be the fourth group of inductees placed into the Highlander Hall of Fame since its inception in 2019. However, despite being around for four years, this will be the third fundraiser dinner due to the 2020 event being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each year, the Highlander Booster Club selection committee considers several nominations and selects three to five to be inducted into the hall of fame. Nominations that are not selected will remain in the running for five years from the date they were nominated.
“They can be past players, coaches, administrators, athletic directors, and community members who have made a significant contribution to Lake Wales High School Athletics,” explained Shelli Jacobs. “If they are a player, they have to be out of school for five years to be nominated.”
This year’s inductees are as follows:
Nathan Minton. A former coach, teacher, and dean at Lake Wales High School who served for 38 years from 1966 to 2004. He had also served as a booster club member. He remained active in athletics since his retirement from coaching at the high school in 2004. He passed away in 2018, so his award will be presented posthumously.
Debbie Knuth. A Lake Wales High School graduate who had served as a multi-sports athlete. She was involved in swimming and volleyball. After graduation, she played at Polk Community College and the University of Tampa on a volleyball scholarship.
She majored in physical education, and went on to teach PE at Hillcrest Elementary for 30 years, Lake Wales High School for 14 years as a coach, and also at Bok Academy South, Vanguard School, and Warner University.
Following her retirement, she would referee club volleyball. She also started the Elementary Charter School Turkey Bowl, a mini tournament among local elementary schools that continues to be hosted each year.
Chad Barnhardt. A true Jack-Of-All-Trades who has touched every aspect of Lake Wales High school athletics imaginable. During his senior year, he became most famous for his US All-Team State championship in baseball and football. He helped his teams win the state baseball championship as a catcher, and as a quarterback for the football state championship.
After high school, he was drafted in the eighth round of the Boston Red Sox and played in the minors. He attended the University of South Florida as a first quarterback when they first started their football program.
Following college, he returned to Lake Wales to teach at the high school and serve as the head coach for the Highlanders and head baseball coach. He currently serves as the president of the Booster Club.
Octavius Freeman. During her whole high school career, she never lost one race as an incredible athlete and runner. She remained undefeated, winning every race she ever ran in. She won the FHSAA 100 and 200-meter state finals every year she was in high school. She was a state winner every year, and she won 10 gold medals at finals over her four years of high school track and field.
She attended the University of Central Florida as a knight on a full scholarship. She attended the NCAA track and field championship in 2013, became a pro athlete in her second year with Adidas as her sponsor, and ran in the world championship in Moscow in the 400 relays.
The Lake Wales Highlanders High School Booster Fundraiser Dinner will be hosted on Sat. Apr. 22 at the Lake Wales Country Club, located at 2925 SR-60 E, Lake Wales, FL 33859. For more information, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LWHighlanderAthletics