Linfield Wildcats


Travis Olson
Russ Thurman
Roderick Ingram
Leo Sloan
Grant Ebright
Drake Conti
Ben Sapp
Amber Larsen

For Athletics Hall of Fame inductees Leo Sloan and Ben Sapp, their return to Linfield after too many years away was an eye-opening experience. And an emotional one, for sure.

Sapp and Sloan were among eight former Wildcats inducted Nov. 10 into the Hall of Fame, the 15th class so enshrined.

“This is my first time back in 32 years,” said Sloan, a football all-star living these days in Las Vegas after serving a decade in the armed forces. “I walked across campus and got lost.”

“What I realized today about Linfield is how much I miss it,” said Sapp, a two-time national champion who is raising a family in New Mexico and hasn’t stepped foot on Linfield soil since graduating in 1997.

Though the college’s spatial boundaries have expanded, its buildings bigger and more numerous, Linfield has not changed, said director of athletics Scott Carnahan.

“Linfield is still the same place, teaching the same ideals. It’s a friendly place, where people say hello regardless of who you are or what part of campus you are on.”

And through to technological innovation, the Hall of Fame itself has evolved, but remains a focal point in the athletic department’s living room, the Paul Durham Foyer. A fresh, interactive electronic display greeted the newest Hall of Fame members and their families.

A world traveler who has visited 21 countries during his career as a fashion designer, former football all-star Drake Conti noted that Linfield’s reach extends far beyond its boundaries.

“No matter where I go in the world, I always run into someone from Linfield,” he said. “Attending Linfield was a great experience and one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Though he was recruited to play basketball by several rival schools, two-time NWC Player of the Year Grant Ebright has never regretted his college choice.

“No decision I ever made had a bigger impact on me than coming to Linfield,” he said. “Thinking back to the teams I played with is a great reminder of what it is like to be fully committed toward a common goal. Our team’s selflessness was very special.”

Hall of Famer Roderick Ingram, who went on to a career as a college baseball head coach, fought through tears as he accepted his induction. “Linfield flows through my veins. It’s a place where I met a lot of wonderful people. Playing baseball was a great experience.”

One Wildcat who carries forward the ideals she learned at Linfield is national track and field champion Amber Larsen, now a fulltime assistant track coach at High Point University in North Carolina. Larsen termed her athletic and academic experiences “a template for the kind of environment I want to work in. Linfield has the qualities I was fond of as an athlete. It has a great community feeling and people who are genuinely friendly.”

Travis Olson is another graduated Wildcat giving back to college-age student-athletes by serving as a coach. “Linfield has given me so much and I feel very privileged to be able to give something back,” the six-time track and field All-American and current Linfield track and cross country head coach said. A three-sport athlete, Olson “really understood the value of consistent messages coaches delivered to their athletes.”

Disciplined, hard-working and a never-quit attitude were qualities most prominent in the late Russ Thurman, whose son, Lance, described as a “proud graduate of Linfield and part of the Wildcat community.” Thurman, who joined the Hall of Fame posthumously based on his achievements in the sport of wrestling, played the role of strong, silent type, “but when he did speak, everyone listened and respected him.”

Sapp quoted Theodore Roosevelt when recalling his own spoils of victory and anguish during defeat:

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory
nor defeat."

Sloan described in one word the significance of being inducted into the Hall of Fame “Fantastic,” he said. “I’m proud to be a Linfield Wildcat.”

About 100 supporters attended the catered banquet inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium. Representatives of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee served as table stewards and baseball team members assisted with the event’s setup and teardown.