Four previous induction ceremonies for the Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame have clearly carved out a niche of their own.
The inaugural program recognized four charter members deemed most worthy after 45 years of athletic endeavors at Rend Lake College and its Warrior predecessors representing Mt. Vernon Community College.
That was followed by even more select company -- a man with a building on-campus named after him, Jim (Hummer) Waugh, in his first year of eligibility following the mandatory five-year wait after retirement from the coaching ranks and one other standout in Year Two; the Warriors’ all-time best basketball player, at least statistically speaking, in a class by himself in 2002, and a trio of firsts just this past spring, including the first two-time All-America honoree who led her team to a first-ever NJCAA Fast-Pitch Women’s Softball Championship appearance, the first team to be inducted and the highest-ranking men’s golf team in a glorious eight-year run and the player who left a legacy that made it all possible over the years.
The Fifth Induction Ceremony scheduled October 18 on the Ina campus hereafter may be remembered as the most emotional. An evening filled with tears of joy. The most heartwarming.
Bringing the elite number of honorees to an even dozen . . .
* Golfer Jace Bugg (1995-97), whose pro career is on temporary hold while recovering from a rare form of leukemia and recent bone marrow surgery. Barring an unforeseen setback, the First-Team All-America honoree (after a third-in-the-nation individual finish) is hoping to be strong enough to make an appearance.
* Cheryl Weis (1987-89), a 6-foot-2 center who ranks No. 1 in number of basketball games played for the Lady Warriors and the No. 2 all-time scorer behind Susie Woodward, one of the Class of 2000 inductees.
In order to switch the annual event from one held each Spring to a more desirable Fall anniversary date, the two latest inductees will be welcomed just six months after First- and Second-Team All-America choice Jaymie Cowell, All-America golfing ace Matt Armstrong and the 1994-95 Men’s Golf Team he guided to a best-ever NJCAA Championship runner-up showing.
Hall-of-Famer Armstrong preceded Bugg, but the facts would support any claim the latter might have as the best golfer in Warrior history,
Bugg finished higher individually as a sophomore than any Warrior before or after him en route to NJCAA Division II All-America status while leading his team to a fifth-place showing overall. He was a six-time medalist in Midwest Tournaments during his Juco career, including three of the first four his freshman campaign. He captured the "Longest Drive Contest" at the NJCAA Championships his freshman year, when RLC took third. A month after his Warrior career concluded, he put the college on the national map by advancing to the quarterfinals of the nationally televised U.S. Amateur Championships. Professional wins on both the Canadian Tour and the Buy.com Tour.
In fact, he was among the Top Ten midway through the Buy.com Tour and headed for an automatic berth on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour the next year before an injury was slow to heal and the devastating news of cancer was revealed.
At his side since high school days -- literally, since she served as his caddy in the early days on tour -- has been his upbeat wife, Misty. They call Henderson, KY, home when not on the road touring America’s golf courses, a lifestyle they hope they can return to eventually.
Life has changed considerably for the former Cheryl Weis, nee Cheryl Piercy.
She is a pastor’s wife these days, married in recent years to the Rev. Duane Piercy. The Mooresville, IN, native now lives in Villa Grove.
Weis was the perfect complement to a veteran team which finished 25-8 her freshman season, second-best in school history. Before departing for two more seasons at the NCAA Division I level, she had played in a record 64 games (44 victories) and ranked behind only Woodward in total points (1,175), single-season points and average (730 / 22.8 as a sophomore).
The Jim Waugh-coached Lady Warriors started 14-0 and 18-1 her freshman season before a critical injury depleted the ranks. Weis was voted tourney "Most Valuable Player" when RLC claimed the first of its two four-team championships at Danville Area. That team still holds records for points scored (2,600 in 32 games), scoring average (81.3), field goals (1,101) and field-goal percentage (.509), with a record 46 fielders versus Shawnee.
Weis netted double-figures in 24 of 32 games as a first-year performer, averaged 13.9 ppg on 60.7 percent accuracy and a team-high 7.9 rebounds. Three of the eight setbacks were to rival John A. Logan, which went on to finish second in the nation; three other losses were by one, two and three points.
Her statistics for a 19-14 quintet the next winter were even more dominant -- 22.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.1 assists, leading scorer 25 times and top rebounder in 19 games. She tallied 20 or more points in 19 games, as many as 30 six times with a high of 33 vs. Shawnee. Included was a 30-point, 17-rebound effort vs. Wabash Valley.
The Lady Warriors repeated as both Danville Area and Lewis & Clark tournament champions her sophomore year.
For her career, the two-time All-Region XXIV and All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference selection averaged 18.4 ppg on 59.5% FG (537-902) and 67.8% FT (101-149), 8.1 rebounds (516), 1.6 recoveries and .8 assists.
Her Hall of Fame classmate, Bugg, arrived as a two-time Kentucky High School All-Stater who had placed ninth in the 1995 Kentucky State Amateur.
He won a scorecard playoff in his collegiate debut to claim the 24-team Highland “36” Invitational and followed with the individual crown at John Wood and a one-under par 141 for the Rock Valley title. The Warriors won seven of nine fall outings.
Bugg then was runner-up in the spring at Western Illinois University’s Beu Classic in a field comprised primarily of four-year opponents.
The next fall, Bugg had to piece together a set of borrowed clubs before going out and winning the College of DuPage Classic. He followed with a 68-69–137 triumph at the Lincoln Invitational and later shot an opening-round 69 en route to medalist honors at the Rend Lake College Invitational. A week later, Bugg tied for second with a teammate when the Warriors nabbed their third of eight consecutive Region XXIV titles which secured berths in the NJCAA Championships in the spring.
Bugg’s stroke average for both seasons was 74.0.
Other members of the RLC Sports Hall of Fame, by induction year . . .
2000 -- Doug Creel (1978-80), Men’s Basketball; Mike McClure, Baseball Coach (1971-81); Susie Woodward (1981-83), Women’s Basketball, and Lee Yearwood (1960-62), Mt. Vernon Community College Men’s Basketball.
2001 -- April Long (1993-95, Softball, and Jim (Hummer) Waugh, Basketball Coach (1966-95).
2002 -- Bryant Lowe (1994-96), Men’s Basketball.
2003 (Spring) -- Matt Armstrong (1994-95), Men’s Golf; Jaymie Cowell (1995-97), Softball, and the 1994-95 Men’s Golf Team.