Most would think that when you’re done playing four years of a sport at Linfield, you’re truly done. Many athletes do not continue competing in their sport beyond college, and most do not receive any recognition for their involvement in Linfield athletics.
This is not the case, however, for the eight former athletes who were inducted into the Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame on Nov. 10 at the 15th Annual AT&T Hall of Fame Banquet. The Ted Wilson Gymnasium was dressed up to host the banquet and those attending.
“Established in 1998 to honor outstanding athletes, teams, coaches, staff and contributors, and to preserve the memory of their achievements,” are the words written in the Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame and Hall of Champions display in the Paul Durham Foyer. Those words effectively convey the importance of the athletes who are inducted.
To be inducted, “not only do you have to have great accolades, as they did on the field, you have to be a good citizen and be of good character,” said Kelly Bird, director of sports information.
There are currently eight teams and 113 athletes in the Hall of Fame, but with the addition of the Hall of Fame class of 2012, the number of athletes will jump to 121.
Russ Thurman, class of ’59, is the first former Wildcat to be inducted solely for his wrestling achievements. He was a Northwest Conference champion in wrestling and also took part in track and field. Thurman was a successful high school wrestling coach, which earned him a spot in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Thurman passed away in May of 2012, but was represented at the banquet by his son, Lance Thurman.
Drake Conti, class of ’77, was a part of three conference championship football teams. He is Linfield’s second all-time leading rusher and was named an all-Northwest Conference tailback twice.
Also from the class of ’77, Roderick Ingram played on three conference championship baseball teams and was awarded an all-league honor three times. Ingram went on to coach at the high school and collegiate levels.
Lea Sloan, class of ’80, is one of only eight Linfield football players to rush for 1,000 yards or more in one season. He was an honorable mention All-American twice and also competed in track and field and won a conference championship for the 4X100 relay.
Representing the class of ’97, Ben Sapp was a two-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics swimming champion in the 100 backstroke and swam for two conference championship teams.
Sapp set three individual records, as well as four relay records while swimming for Linfield. He also claimed four consecutive conference titles in the 100-yard backstroke.
Travis Olson, class of ’98, was an NAIA All-American in track and field six times. He also competed in football and basketball, and currently leads the cross-country and track teams at Linfield.
There are two athletes from the class of ’01 who were inducted. Amber Larsen was the 2001 NCAA champion in the 400-meter hurdles and was a three-time All-American and Academic All-American. Larsen was also a conference champion in the hurdles four times.
Also an athlete from the class of ’01, Grant Ebright was named the Northwest Conference Player of the Year twice and led his team to two conference titles. Ebright still holds the program record for the most career three-point shots made.
The importance of the Hall of Fame athletes may mean more to a school like Linfield that prides itself on past accomplishments.
“This school especially is built on our past. We embrace what has gone on in the past. We embrace all of the fundamentals, ethics and qualities that previous coaches and athletes have carried forward,” Bird said.
Remembering the success of previous athletes and coaches is an important part of the current athletic programs at Linfield, and being inducted into the Hall of Fame is an honor that college athletes are rarely endowed.
This is the 15th class inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame banquet is an event important not only to past Linfield athletes, but also to the future of all Linfield athletic programs.
Carrie Skuzeski can be reached at
Joel Ray/Senior photographer
Drake Conti receives his award from former Linfield football coach Ad Rutschman at the Hall of Fame ceremony Nov. 10.