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Beautiful sunny, warm days and fall foliage provided the atmosphere for a fun and exciting Homecoming Weekend at Benedictine College on October 20 and 21, 2023. The annual Homecoming Parade, the Bed Race competition, and exciting athletic competition were all part of the event that culminated in the induction of the 2023 Raven Athletic Hall of Fame Class on Saturday night.
“It was an incredible weekend,” said Catherine Kluempers, Director of Student Activities at Benedictine. “The traditions we cherish have continued to bring joy to students and nostalgia to alumni and friends. It’s always special to remember our history and welcome Ravens back home.”
Homecoming Highlights Video:
It was an undefeated weekend in sports, with volleyball, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and football all winning their events and men’s soccer fighting to a draw in theirs. The highlight of the weekend was the Raven Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet during which three individuals and one team entered the Hall of Fame. Truman Ashby ’08, entered for football; Abigail “Abby” Winder ’09, entered for women’s basketball; Rex Lane (posthumously), entered for coaching; and the 1963 Men’s Soccer Team entered as the pioneers of the sport at Benedictine College.
“I have a special place in my heart for linemen, those are my guys,” said Larry Wilcox, former head football coach, who introduced Truman Ashby. “From approximately 100 schools, Truman was selected as the Rimington Award winner as the best center in the NAIA in 2007. But what I appreciated about him was his work ethic, his weightroom demeanor, and how that influenced other players. Truman was best at that through his team leadership, his off the field example, and his dominance as a player.”
During his acceptance speech, Ashby thanked his coaches, his family, and his teammates. He said one memory and bit of advice he remembered from his last game at Benedictine came from Coach George Papageorgiou, the line coach.
“He (Papageorgiou) said, ‘Someday you’ll pull up in a minivan with a wife and kids and you don’t want to look back and regret anything. So, give it all you’ve got. It’s your last game,’” said Ashby with a smile. “Yesterday, I drove onto campus in a minivan, with my beautiful wife and my son, Barrett, and there were no regrets. And to have them on the field with me today is something I’ll never forget.”
Coach Chad Folsom introduced Abby Winder. He was her coach while she was in college, and he remains the head women’s basketball coach today. He said she was a great power forward who could hit 3-point shots but was most dangerous when attacking the basket.
“She had a move around the basket that she used quite often, and her teammates called that move ‘the Winder,’” he said. “But as great a player as she is, she is an even greater person, as you can tell by all the support she has from her teammates who have come here tonight. She was extremely humble and very soft spoken, but when she did have something to say, everybody listened. She was that kind of leader.”
Winder thanked all her coaches from her early club teams and high school team, as well as those around her for her college career.
“This is such an honor,” she said. “I am so grateful for the women that are here today that I played with. They helped shape the person I am today. The things I remember most are the laughter that we shared and the challenges that we faced and I’m grateful for their encouragement, their camaraderie, and their friendship.”
Rex Lane entered the hall as a very successful coach for the Raven cross country and track teams. He had been named Heart Conference Coach of the Year six times in his career and coached the 2016 Women’s 4×800 Relay Team to the NAIA National Championship. He passed away earlier in the year and his family and those student athletes he had coached were present to remember him and accept the award on his behalf. Jacob Connealy, a Benedictine alumnus and the current track and cross-country director, was coached by Lane while in college. He handled the introduction.
“Rex was a man I looked up to,” Connealy said. “In many ways he was a father to the team and we knew he was always there for us. I think it is appropriate to say that his distance legacy lives on, as the men’s and women’s cross-country teams won at the Midstate Classic down in Winfield (Kansas) today.”
Laura Lane, Rex’s daughter, spoke about her father and reiterated that the student athletes he coached were part of the family and she felt like she always had dozens of brothers and sisters from all around the country.
“His generosity toward the kids was without fail,” she said. “He wanted them to feel cared for, and loved, and taken care of.”
At the same time, she said he also had very high expectations for his athletes.
“He believed in the very best of each one and knew they could achieve great things,” she said.
Shawn Kelly, a 1978 Benedictine alumnus and former soccer player who had nominated the 1963 Men’s Soccer team for the Hall of Fame, gave the introduction for the team. He said that not only was this the first varsity soccer team in the history of the college, it is also the only team to go undefeated through the season, the only team to defeat arch-rival Rockhurst twice, and one of the few teams in history to be invited to the National Championships.
“With this information, I could think of no better way to celebrate the Men’s Soccer Program’s 60th Anniversary than by nominating our very first team to be included in the Benedictine College Athletic Hall of Fame,” Kelly said. “I have gotten to know many of the team members during this nomination process and I am grateful for the great stories and memories they shared with me. I also know that the team members who are not here with us are beaming with pride from this recognition and are watching over us tonight.”
Pete Rubinelli, one of the 1963 players, accepted the award on behalf of the team.
“It is a great honor and privilege to represent the 1963 soccer team,” he said. “It was in 1963 that soccer became a varsity sport, and this was the beginning of a grand and glorious tradition. I would like to thank the college for recognizing the team for their accomplishments in that magical season. I’m sure my teammates and I would love one more wonderful fall day in Atchison, with a cloudless sky and the gentle Kansas breeze against our faces, wearing the Raven colors. We may be old, but we can still dream.”
Prior to 1963, soccer had been a club sport, sponsored by Dr. Richard Wittman, a humanities professor at the college. The Men’s Soccer team introduced the Dr. Richard Wittman MVP Award that night, recognizing his contributions in building the soccer team to the point when it was ready to become a varsity program. The award recognizes a young man who is a model of leadership on the field, in the locker room, in the classroom, on campus, and in the community. The honoree demonstrates the values of the team, department, and Benedictine College and supports his team in all aspects of community, faith and scholarship. The inaugural Dr. Richard Wittman MVP Award went to Matthew Lachowitzer, a senior midfielder from Kansas City, Missouri.
Charlie Gartenmayer, the Benedictine Athletic Director who served as the master of ceremonies for the night, said it best, “As some of you in this room know, at Benedictine College we arrive as strangers, grow as friends, and leave as one. We think about that each and every day.”