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13: Rend Lake College Sports Hall ushers in largest class ever
HALL of FAMERS - Members of the Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2012. FROM LEFT, are; Brad Middleton, Chris Rengifo, Tim Clark, Kurt Heimann, Marcus Walton, Bob Kelley, Corey Dowden, Jason Craig and Eric Alberter. NOT PICTURED: Tommy Bryan III, Anthony Flournoy, Shannon Sherrer and Pat Clark. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
INA, Ill. – The Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame inducted its largest class ever on Saturday – five individuals and three relay teams for 13 members overall in its 13th round of inductions since being established in 1999.
It was a great showing with nine inductees able to make the ceremony. Those inducted include Eric Alberter, Tommy Bryan III, Jason Craig, Corey Dowden, Bob Kelley, Tim Clark, Marcus Walton, Anthony Flournoy, Chris Rengifo, Brad Middleton, Shannon Sherrer, Kurt Heimann and Pat Clark.
A specialist in the 800 meter run, Alberter (2004-06), of Belleville, was a four-time National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national champion and nine-time All-American in track and field at Rend Lake. His first national championship came as the outdoor 4x800M anchor in 2005. All at the 2006 indoor finals – Alberter won the 800M individually, scored a championship as the 4x800M anchor, and won his fourth title as the third leg of the DMR. After RLC, he ran at the University of Florida where he was a two-time National Collegiate Athletic Conference (NCAA) Division I All-American and First-Team All-Southeastern Conference Academic selection. He is now the head coach of men’s and women’s cross country, and track and field at RLC. As its coach, he has led the Warriors to third-place national indoor showings in two of his three seasons.
“It’s nice to see a lot of the guys back [on campus],” said Alberter. “When I first came to RLC, I didn’t realize what I was doing when I was doing it. ... I just kept going. I think a lot of that had to do with the guys I trained with. Marcus and Kurt – we had some pretty good workouts together – and guys like Jason Craig who kind of showed me the way. When I got here I had no idea what I was getting into. I ran one year in high school. I thought it was show up on Saturdays and go race. I was in for a rude awakening. ... Thanks to my mom and dad. They made me stick it out and I had a lot of success on the track. A big part of that is due to them ... all the support over the five years I was running. ... And I’d like to thank coach [Mike] McKee and coach [Brent] McLain ... for all the time they put in with us.”
Centralia native Bryan III (2005-07) was the 2006 NJCAA Indoor Track and Field national champion in the pentathlon, and a three-time All-American at RLC. His pentathlete point tally of 3,723 in five events – high jump, long jump, shot put, 60-meter hurdles and 1000M run – rated No. 2 all-time. Bryan was unable to attend the ceremony on Saturday.
Craig (2003-05), of Huber Heights, Ohio, was a two-time NJCAA national champion and six-time All-American for the Warriors in track and field. In between his freshman and sophomore years at RLC, Craig ran the third leg for the record-setting USA 4x400 relay team at the World Junior Championships in Grosetto, Italy. As a world-record-holding sophomore, he won NJCAA titles in the indoor 400 and as a member of the Warriors outdoor 4x800 relay team, both in 2005.
“I just want to thank coach McKee for putting his time and effort into making me who I was at Rend Lake and to the team for supporting me,” Craig said.
Dowden (2002-04), of Matteson, was the first Warrior to capture a track and field national championship. Dowden soared 15.51 meters in the 2004 outdoor triple jump to set a record that still stands at Rend Lake. In addition to being national champion, Dowden was a six-time All-American in the triple-jump, long jump and high jump. Dowden is coaching basketball and track at Kirkwood High School in Missouri.
“I would like to say thank you to Rend Lake for providing me the opportunity to be successful ... and Mike Mckee for instilling a work ethic in me,” said Dowden. “... I was blessed with talent and when I came here. He instilled a genuine work ethic in me that I feel I will carry even outside of athletics, working with youth.”
Kelley (1979-2006), a Mt. Vernon native, retired from RLC in 2006 as director of marketing and public information. He spent 24 years of his career doubling as the sports information director for the college. He was inducted Saturday night as a sports professional. Kelley worked tirelessly to promote Warrior and Lady Warrior athletics during his 27-year tenure at Rend Lake. As a freshman and sophomore – Kelley is a RLC grad, Class of ‘69 – he got his first taste of covering athletics at The Lake for the Mt. Vernon Register-News. Before returning to his alma mater as a director, Kelley was a sportswriter for newspapers in Evansville, Ind. and Owensboro, Ky.
“You hate to admit you’re getting old, but it’s nice to be retired. And usually they go together,” Kelley said. “Congratulations to all of you. When I look through this program ... the thing that stands out is, my gosh, do I look out of place here! Look at these guys! They’re all athletes. They’re all accomplished. They’re all nationals champions. And then there’s this old guy in here. ... I feel honored to be in your presence. ... I’m just thrilled to death to be one of you. ... You have made me feel like a national champion tonight and I thank you.
“I don’t know a single one of you individually, but I lived through you, writing about it, talking to Brent after the big meets. And that’s what my job was. ... There are so many things I could talk about. ... It’s amazing what Rend Lake College people have accomplished academically, athletically and ... in life.”
The 2005 outdoor 4x800 relay team of Walton (Potosi, Mo.), Craig, Tim Clark (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Alberter – they ran in that order – won the national championship in 7:37.64, which was a record at the time. Members Walton and Clark concluded their careers as six- and 11-time All-Americans, respectively.
“When I first came here, I came from a bigger city. It was a lot to handle. It’s a lot smaller and ... I was kind of lost. I was really young,” said Tim Clark. “Coach McLain, all the coaches, people in the fitness center and everybody were so nice. ... When we were at track meets, we were expected to be at a higher level. Even though we were [from] a smaller school ... when we went to cross country and track races, other teams looked up at us. ... We had a nice tent and always had nice clothes, and those things mattered. ... It was a big deal to us and I think a little bit of that carried over whenever we were competing. ... It was a really great experience.”
The 2006 indoor 4x800 relay team of Sherrer (Vineland, N.J.), Heimann (Germantown), Pat Clark (Virginia Beach, Va.) and Alberter, respectively, was the combination of four, very competitive, 800M runners who pushed each other all season long. With 200 meters left in the race, the anchor, Alberter, made his move and secured the relay team’s national championship by 3.5 seconds and a record time of 7:52.74.
“I want to thank my parents, for their love and support, and the coaches. Heck of a job,” said Heimann. “And [I thank] Rend Lake College for giving me this great opportunity to be here.”
RLC’s 2006 indoor distance medley relay started with Rengifo (Woodbridge, Ontario) and – 1200 meters later – continued with Flournoy (Gary, Ind.) in a 400 meter dash. He handed off to Alberter, who provided the 800 meter leg before passing to 1600M-man Middleton (Edwardsville). Their winning time of 10:17.50 gave the Warriors its second DMR national crown in five years. Middleton merited All-America distinction six times in all, Rengifo five times. Middleton is now serving in the U.S. Air Force.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to run at Rend Lake and pursue a degree here,” said Middleton. “Coach McLain and coach McKee are definitely two people I will always remember and talk about still to this day.”
“It is a privilege and an honor for me to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Rengifo added. “I came from Toronto, Canada. A big city. Coming to Ina, Illinois was a big change ... big corn fields. I really felt at home with coach McKee and coach McLain. They really brought us around as a big group and ... united as a family. It wasn’t just the coaches. [It was] the professors here and the whole community. [The] ... program was developing into a ... big powerhouse ... which made our name known throughout this country, not just as a junior college ... but also in [NCAA] division one, NAIA sections and all that. To be part of Rend Lake and the community of Rend Lake is unbelievable.”
RLC’s Sports Hall of Fame has grown to 28 individual student athletes, four track relay teams, two coaches, three sports professionals, and teams representing men’s cross-country (three national champions), men’s golf (NJCAA runner-up), softball, baseball and men’s basketball.
The Hall’s inaugural Class of 2000 included Doug Creel, Mike McClure, Susan Woodward and Lee Yearwood. April Long and James “Hummer” Waugh were inducted in 2001, Bryant Lowe in 2002; the 1995 men’s golf team, Matt Armstrong, Jace Bugg, Jaymie Cowell and Cheryl Weis in 2003; and Curtis Smith in 2004. The 1985-86 baseball team, Randy Lemay and Rick Gaebe became members in 2006; Jennifer Calandrilla and Cliff McIntosh in 2007; Mark S. Kern, Wayne Arnold, Elizabeth Kasey and the 2001 men’s cross country team in 2008; and Dan DeMent and Angela Robinson in Spring 2009. The Fall 2009 class included Mike Breyman, Todd Green, Ian Hornabrook, Meredith Ramsey, the 1995-1996 softball team, and 2002 and 2003 men’s cross country teams. In 2010, those joining the Hall were Justin Kunz, Amanda Perjenski, Chad Stombaugh, the 1988-1989 men’s basketball team, and 2002 track and field distance medley relay team.
More images from the 2012 RLC Sports Hall of Fame Inductions can be found online at RLC's flickr page.