CLICK HERE for a larger image.
by Bob Kelley, retired RLC Sports Information Director
INA, Ill. - The doors swing wide open for the 12th time Saturday, November 6, to the Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame, and suffice to say there may never have been a more eclectic contingent of newcomers eagerly welcomed to admittance.
Predecessors of the Class of 2010 include 25 individuals and six teams. Special invited guests to the prestigious club are:
• One-fourth of two sets of the tightest-knit teams imaginable. Justin Kunz, a Lebanon product who made a habit of collecting All-America medals from 2003-05, is representative to a certain extent of twin Jeremy Kunz, a couple of teammate twins in Rey and Ricardo Alvarez and his Coach, Brent McLain, the father of twins.
The distance-running gang helped the Warriors to a pair of National Championships in Cross-Country and early success in both Indoor (NJCAA runner-up) and Outdoor Track and Field. Justin Kunz was a nine-time All-America designee, including Academic, in six seasons and has twice been inducted into the Hall as a member of teams.
In the absence of former Coach McLain, Justin Kunz will be introduced by one of his former teammates, Eric Alberter, now the Warrior Cross-Country and Track/Field Head Coach.
• “Closure,” in the eyes of its veteran coach, for the Lady Warrior Softball Team that claimed a first-ever Region XXIV title and became the only diamond team in school history to advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Finals in Spring 1996.
Pitcher Amanda Perjenski (Mt. Vernon), 1995-97, inducted as a member of that team one year ago, will march in proudly as an individual to be reunited with her own mound “twin,” Angela Robinson (Hall of Fame Class of Spring ’09), and two-time All-America pacesetter Jaymie Cowell (Class of Spring ’03). Perjenski represents the sixth individual from her sport to be so honored.
• A baseball player who, in two short years, came perhaps as close as any Rend Lake College standout to make it to the “bigs.” Warrior Home Run (former) and Runs Batted In record-holder Chad Stombaugh (Quincy) was a defensive stalwart as well during his 1986-88 Juco career, but unfortunately fell victim to his trade as a catcher and was sidelined for good as early as spring training of his third professional season.
Stombaugh, then 23, was on the Kansas City Royals 40-man roster as a hot prospect before a knee injury ended the fun for the NJCAA Second-Team All-America pick and Great Rivers Athletic Conference “Most Valuable Player” who batted .375 during his tenure in Ina before the Royals signed their 26th Round draft pick.
• A four-man team that no doubt faced more adversity en route to Fame and National Championship fortune than any other member of the RLC Hall. The foursome of Robert Duncan, Santos Gonzalez, Rusty Millenbine and Ian Hornabrook literally had to pick itself off the ground to conquer the field in the 2002 Indoor Track and Field 4000M Distance Medley Relay race.
Duncan (Seipio, IN / Jennings County High School) had the Warriors in front after the first 1,200 meters, but as the field typically bunched when the 400M field took over for the second leg, former All-State football player Gonzalez (Pontiac) had the pigskin – oops, baton – unintentionally knocked out of his hand from behind. Both the runner and the baton went sprawling to the indoor track; Gonzalez kept his senses about him, regained his footing and the precious package he was carrying, and got RLC right back into the race.
That left the local boy, 800-Meter Man Millenbine (McLeansboro / Hamilton County Senior H.S.), to make up some of the lost ground and put the Flying Aussie, two-time NJCAA Cross-Country individual champion and Hall-of-Famer Hornabrook (Queensland, Australia), into position to pull away in the final 1600M for the unconventional victory in a school-record time of 10:13.47 over the best of the rest.
• A Warrior Basketball Team that rudely had the door to the coveted 16-team NJCAA National Finals slammed in its face at the conclusion to an ultra-successful, 29-6 campaign in 1988-89 but finally got that sport’s foot in the Hall-way door.
Four former cagers and one coach were among the first 12 to be inducted from Men’s Basketball the first six RLC Sports Hall of Fame ceremonies between 2000 and 2004. Yet there have been no individuals since, and never any teams, from the longest-running sport (53 years, counting Mt. Vernon Community College, 1957-67, and RLC, 1967-present) in Warrior history.
“Coach of the Year” Mitch Haskins guided the Warriors to first-ever Great Rivers Athletic Conference (13-3) and Region XXIV Tournament titles, including an unprecedented 13-0 at home in Hummer Hall and record 12-game winning streak late, thanks to the likes of 6-foot-6, 225-pound NJCAA Third-Team All-America Center Antwan Stallworth (Hammond, IN), All-Region XXIV Tourney “Most Valuable Player” Chad Rushing (Pinckneyville), GRAC “Freshman of the Year” Abdul Muhammad (Ford Heights / Bloom Trail H.S.), GRAC “Sportsmanship Award” recipient Tommy Hayes (Mt. Vernon) and Ernest Hickman (Dyersburg, TN), who shares the career record with Hayes for most games played (70) and wins (52). Other local heroes off the bench frequently were Rob Gaddey (Carmi), Kevin Mitchell (Enfield / McLeansboro H.S.) and Shay Hagel (Pinckneyville).
An over-the-back tip-in with :03 showing enabled Cleveland State (TN) to overcome Rend Lake College, 62-61, in a controversial Inter-Region showdown which propelled the survivors to Hutchinson, KS, for the elusive NJCAA Championships.
The RLC Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1999-2000 to recognize those individuals and/ or teams who, through leadership and character, have made exceptional contributions to the honor and prestige of Rend Lake College in the field of athletics and who have continued to demonstrate values learned through participation in intercollegiate athletics in their daily lives.
McLain remembers the DMR title “very vividly. You don’t forget something like that. It was our first National Championship in Track and Field.”
“I think the dropped baton probably helped us out in the long run. It seemed to give us that extra motivation we needed. Maybe it was poetic justice that we won.”
As for Kunz, “He was not blessed with a huge amount of athletic talent like some kids . . . He had to work at it, and he did. An outstanding gentleman; he is just a really nice, humble guy,” McLain said.
Stombaugh matched his number – 17 – in home runs as a sophomore and finished with 27. He knocked in 113 RBIs his second season and produced 200 RBIs in 182 games total.
“My two years at Rend Lake were two of the best years of my life. The overall atmosphere . . . my teammates, including a variety of crazy characters . . . and two of the best coaches I could have ever played for in ‘Lump’ (Paul Evans) and Jim McGuire. Of all the coaches I played for, the ones I have the fondest memories of are ‘Lump’ and Jimmy.”
Why? “It was their coaching philosophies, their laid-back styles. That was the best baseball of my life. They knew when to get serious, but they made it fun and enjoyable.”
Perjenski demoralized opposing batters with swinging strikes in the dirt. “She threw everything down . . . down, down, down,” said Coach Dave Ellingsworth.
She graduated with a career best 285 strikeouts and No. 2 in wins (44-25) in 75 appearances over 449 1/3 innings. She ranked second with 62 complete games and 14 shutouts, with a 1.48 ERA for teams that were 46-21 and 61-21.
“If we don’t have both (pitchers), we don’t have the record we had and we don’t have the post-season success we had. They just complemented each other so well. That’s a career deal, to have those two on the same team.”
The 1988-89 Warrior cagers were No. 19 in NJCAA Division I preseason rankings and climbed to a high of 12th. In addition to “far and away, the best true post player we ever had” in Stallworth and four other outstanding starters. “We had great depth, interchangeable parts and were very unselfish,” said Haskins, who won his 500th game.
The team was 22-2 against Illinois foes, 3-0 against Logan, Olney Central and Wabash Valley, including a 104-70 pounding in the Region XXIV finale.
“It was a great group of guys,” Haskins added. “Very deserving.”
Previous inductees include Charter Members Doug Creel (Men’s Basketball, 1978-80), Mike McClure (Baseball Coach, ’71-81), Susie Woodward (Women’s Basketball, ’81-83) and Lee Yearwood (Men’s Basketball, Mt. Vernon Community College, ’60-62) in 2000; April Long (Softball, ’93-95) and James “Hummer” Waugh (Basketball Coach, ’66-95) in 2001, and Bryant Lowe (Men’s Basketball, ’94-96) in 2002.
Also, the 1994-95 Men’s Golf Team, Matt Armstrong (Men’s Golf, ’94-95) and Cowell (Softball, ’95-97) in Spring 2003; the late Jace Bugg (Men’s Golf, ’95-97) and Cheryl Weis (Women’s Basketball, ’87-89) in Fall 2003, and Curtis Smith (Men’s Basketball, ’80-82) in 2004.
Also, the 1985-86 Baseball Team, Randy Lemay (Baseball/Basketball, ’72-74) and Rick Gaebe (Baseball, ’84-86) in 2006; Jennifer Calandrilla (Softball, ’97-99) and Cliff McIntosh (Baseball, ’84-86) in 2007; Wayne Arnold (Coach/Sports Professional, 1963-Present), Elizabeth Kasey (Women’s Golf, 1999-2001, Mark S. Kern (RLC President, 1991-2008) and the ’01-02 Men’s Cross-Country Team in 2008.
Dan DeMent (Baseball, ’96-98) and Angela Robinson (Softball, ’95-97) were added to the ranks in Spring 2009. That November, the largest class in Hall History was admitted and consisted of four individuals and three teams – Mike Breyman (Baseball, 2000-02); Todd Green (Track and Field, 2001-03); Ian Hornabrook (Cross-Country and Track/Field, ’01-03); Meredith Ramsey (Softball, 1999-2001); the ’95-96 Softball Team; the 2002 Cross-Country Team, and the 2003 Cross-Country Team.
Visit the RLC Sports Hall of Fame online at www.rlc.edu/warriors/hof.