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By Bob Kelley, retired RLC Sports Information Director
INA, Ill. (April 15, 2013) - Any Hall of Fame is meant to give recognition to the best of the best.
The Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame must be doing something right. Consider the Class of 2013, comprised of three individuals and one team:
• Rebecca Harris (Mascoutah) was one of the top two scorers in Women’s Basketball history when she played for the Lady Warriors from 2004-06. She ranked No. 3 in the country by scoring 707 points and averaging 23.6 points-per-game as a sophomore, earning All-America Honorable Mention status before becoming the first Juco recruit in six years at the University of Illinois.
• Craig Sands (Highland) established Warrior Baseball records for most single-season and career pitching victories (16 and 31, respectively), complete games (16 and 28) and innings pitched (144 and 258). They erased standards that were established 11 years prior to his arrival, and they remain on a pedestal alone to this day . . . especially impressive since he played from 1987-89.
• Brad Weathers (hometown, Benton) was a reliable contributor to winning RLC Basketball Teams, including 20-6 Southern Illinois College Conference frontrunners, who went on to play for McKendree College (now McKendree University). But it is as an Alumni Coach that he gained entry into the McKendree Hall of Fame in 1999, the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005 and now the RLC Hall of Fame. He was “Coach of the Year” following a 32-3 Carlyle Indian Class A State Championship season in 1988-89 and his teams have won 477 games in 23 seasons at Carlyle and the last four at Nashville Community High School.
• Ho-hum, another NJCAA National Championship Cross-Country Team – more specifically, Fall 2006 – from RLC. Not so fast. Do not dismiss a fourth title - following those of past RLC Sports Hall of Fame Inductees representing Fall 2001, Fall 2002 and Fall 2003 - as mere formality. This one came as a Division I competitor, just three years after the top two NJCAA divisions were combined; i.e., the challenge was even more demanding for the three-time D-II champs, who settled for third the next two years following consolidation before the D-I breakthrough.
Hall of Fame Charter Member Susie Woodward (Class of 2000) is the Lady Warrior record-holder in basketball after scoring 849 points her second year and 1,368 points from 1981-83.
Statistics for seven games her freshman campaign are not available for “Bec” Harris. But she netted 498 points in 22 documented games. Even without those seven “missing” outings, her 1,205 points surpass the 1,110-point total of 2003 Hall of Fame inductee Cheryl Weis (1987-89) to rank No. 2 behind Woodward. And the 22.6-point freshman average for Harris projected over seven more games would put her very close to Woodward’s total.
She formed a potent 1-2 punch with 3-point specialist Courtney Magness. Harris scored 30 points or more at least 10 times. Included were 33 (with four treys), 33 and 30 in a four-game span early in 2004-05 and back-to-back-to-back outbursts of 35 (23-24 FT) versus GRAC champ Southeastern Illinois, 35 in a home win over Vincennes (IN) and 30 (three 3s) versus Olney Central late.
She recorded games of 32, 33 (four treys) and 30 (13-15 FT in her swan song) down the stretch as a sophomore, when she also averaged 5.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.0 steals under first-year Head Coach Glenn Box. The Lady Warriors were 18-13 and 19-12 with Harris earning All-GRAC and All-Region XXIV honors, behind “Player of the Year” and All-American Amber Holt of SIC.
Her 23.6-ppg average trailed only Naelonda Zamudio (28.2) of Kennedy-King College in Chicago and Alberta Auguste (23.7) of Central Florida C.C. in D-I. Her 707 points in 30 games ranked behind Aisha Mohammed (729 / 33) of Central Arizona and Rita Kollo (711 / 34) of Colby C.C. (Kan.). Harris hit 47.4 percent FG (249-525), 39.0 percent 3FG (41-105) and 75.0 percent FT (168-224) as a sophomore.
For the Fighting Illini, she played in 30 games as a junior before starting 25 of 35 games at point guard as a senior. She averaged 10.1 ppg en route to Academic All-Big Ten and an All-Big Ten Tournament berth sparked by a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) in an opening win over Wisconsin, 22 points in a quarterfinal upset of No. 22 Ohio State and 15.3 ppg as her team reached the finals. U of I career statistics – 8.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 36.9 percent 3FG (third-best all-time) and 79.3 percent FT (sixth all-time).
Harris spent the past season as a Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach for Chipola College (Fla.).
Sands, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound hard-throwing righthander, completed all seven starts with a 6-1 record as a freshman in Fall 1987 and never let up during a sterling career, capped by All-GRAC and All-Region XXIV recognition.
He set combined Fall-Spring single-season records as a newcomer with 16 wins (16-6, including two fall losses in relief and 10-3 in the spring) and 16 complete games in 19 starts and the 144 IP. He departed with career marks in the same categories – a 31-11 record, 28 CG in 37 starts and the workmanlike 258 innings.
Coach Paul Evans & Co., captured a GRAC title – 23-8 overall in the fall – thanks to freshman Sands and his 2.83 earned run average. His decisions included a 10-0 blanking of Kaskaskia and a pair of 4-1 verdicts over John A. Logan. Evans called his four-hit, 3-1 win in 10 innings over Lincoln Land that spring (unearned run) “probably the best pitched game I’ve seen here” in his two years as a Pitching Coach and third year as the Head Coach.
An effective breaking pitch and the ability to throw strikes helped Sands to a 3.13 ERA for a squad that finished 69-31-1 overall that first year. His batterymate was sophomore Chad Stombaugh, a Kansas City Royals draft pick named to the RLC Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
As a sophomore, he was 9-2 in the fall for a 24-8 team, 15-5 overall (62-29 team) for Head Coach Jim McGuire. Career stats – 45 appearances, seven shutouts, 3.66 ERA and 200:122 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Sands continued his RLC connection at Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State U.), where he played for Coach Keith Guttin, a Warrior Assistant in 1982, and Pitching Coach Evans. His three shutouts in Spring 1990 tied a Bears record he still shares. A 1.60 ERA, also as a junior, ranks third all-time.
Before hanging up his baseball uniform, Sands returned to RLC as an Assistant Coach one season under McGuire (1991-92) and two seasons with Rich Campbell (1992-94).
Weathers emerges from two classes of former Warriors (1971-72 and 1972-73) which produced at least eight future coaches. His playing credentials were steady-but-less-than-spectacular (4.5 points and 4.8 rebounds as a freshman, 6.4 and 5.5, respectively, as a sophomore) but were more than enough to qualify him as an Alumni Coach, the first to be inducted in that niche of the RLC Sports Hall of Fame.
In addition to the 1989 Class A State crown, Weathers guided five other Carlyle teams to 20-win seasons; the school’s first Regional title in 1985-86 and two others besides the championship season (1987-88 and 1999-2000), and overall mark of 391-288 (.576) between 1981-2004.
Led by University of Illinois signees Phil Kunz and Tom Michael, the Indians were 132-23 during five seasons capped by the Class A crown. All-State Tournament pick Jason Peters played two seasons for RLC and was an Academic All-American.
Weathers left the bench after 2003-04 to become Nashville Community High School Principal. He would return as a Volunteer Assistant for RLC product Darin Lee, then retired as an administrator after 35 years in education to succeed Lee as NCHS Head Coach in 2009. He has led the Hornets to a record of 86-36 (.705) and the 2013 Regional title.
His record as a Head Coach is 477-324 (.596), with 10 league titles.
When he was welcomed into the McKendree Sports Hall of Fame, he was deemed “an outstanding credit to McKendree College and his community. Not only has he led winning teams, but his teams always exhibit respect for opponents, dignity in victory or defeat and good sportsmanship. His influence on his players extends beyond their high school years.”
Weathers was District 19 Class A “Coach of the Year” in 1988 and both IBCA and Southern Illinois Coaches Association Class A “Coach of the Year” in 1989. He is a Past President of the SICA and serves on the IBCA Board of Directors and the IHSA Basketball Advisory Committee.
James Bradley Weathers and wife Cindi are the parents of three adult children – Lindsay Fark, who has worked at Carlyle Jr. High five years; Patrick, who has been NCHS Sophomore Coach four seasons, and Holly, a senior at McKendree who coaches the high school Dance Team.
As a player, he learned from three of the best – Hall-of-Famers Rich Herrin (BCHS), Jim Waugh (RLC) and Harry Statham (McKendree). The Warriors were 18-11 his first season, 20-6 (7-1 Southern Illinois College Conference champs) the second year.
Among teammates – 2011 RLCF “Alumnus of the Year” Ron Smith, SIUC Associate Head Coach at the time and a former Ranger as well, and GRAC Basketball Official Steve Morris, MVTHS Softball Coach.
Other coaching alums/Weathers teammates include John Kretz, who returned to RLC early in his coaching career and is now a member of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee; Greg Hale, Executive Director of the Southern Illinois Jr. High School Athletic Association after retiring as Pinckneyville Community H.S. Softball Coach; David Loucks; Don Smith; Mike Guthrie, and Mike Hayes.
Marked improvement in Fall 2006 did not seem likely for the Winged Warriors when individual champion Tyson David (Kenya) burst through the finish line first for Central Arizona C.C. Close behind were CACC teammates in fifth- and sixth-place.
But fellow African Elkanah Kibet (Eldoret, Kenya), despite a tactical error during the race, managed to finish third as RLC’s expected frontrunner. Freshman Kibet, who paced himself initially with a frontrunner who was unable to maintain the speed, was timed in 22:44, behind the 22:36 of David and the 22:41 of runner-up Daniel Maina of Cowley County (Kan.) over the flat, 8K El Paso, Texas, course.
Don’t jump to conclusions. First-Team All-American Kibet had some friends of his own not too far behind. Teammates Steeve Gabart (Miami Shores, FL) and Cory Currie (Ontario, Canada) were Second-Team All-America and All-America Honorable Mention, respectively. Gabart was ninth in 24:07 and Currie was 11th in 24:24.
And Kibet had more of them. More friends, that is. Fast friends forever. Better balance from Kyle Cash (Greenup), 19th in 24:55, and Ahmed Mohamed (Carol Stream), 26th in 25:16. The latter two were acknowledged as NJCAA Cross-Country Coaches Association All-America for being in the Top 15 American-born participants.
Every Rend Lake College entrant set his season PR (personal record).
Discounting any placements of top runners competing as individuals rather than members of a team, Coach Brent McLain’s five-man Warrior contingent racked up a low total of 64 points – 3-9-11-19-26, minus four independent runners – to 74 for second-place Central Arizona, whose last two runners could do no better than a combined 62 points. Let’s hear it for Cash and Mohamed. Butler County (KS) C.C. was a distant third with 107 points. There were 26 teams vying for honors.
Also competing for Team RLC were Jeremy Whitaker (Granite City) in 67th-place (26:12) and Trevor Popravak (Ft. Myers, FL), 77th in 26:26.
McLain indicated this victory “was the sweetest of all four” earned by his program. No doubt, in part, because it had Division I distinction.
“Regarding his team’s reaction,” Rend Lake College Sports Information Director Narthan Wheeler reported, “McLain said it was the most exciting running achievement for (the Warriors) to date. However, the pride runs deeper than the seven runners who brought home a championship.
“ ‘This isn’t just for the team or the Athletics program,’ ” Wheeler quoted McLain. “ ‘This one is for the entire Rend Lake College family. It’s for everyone who has supported us.’ ”
The expanded 2006-07 Cross-Country Team also counted Assistant Coach Mark McCall, Phil Mevert (Steeleville), Robert Kapsoiyo (Eldoret, Kenya), Chris Rengifo (Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada), Alphonso Shepherd (Dayton, OH), Stephen Williams (Marion), Andrew Acuna (Indianapolis, IN), John Kennedy (Pittsboro, IN) and Ty Williams (Panama City, FL) among its ranks.
Kibet was back in Fall 2007, repeating as a First-Team All-American in fifth. The Warriors were fourth as a team. Team members also included Whitaker and Kapsoiyo.