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A New Class for the Hall

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Published
June 5, 2009
By
Gary Pine

AZUSA, Calif. -- A pair of longtime, nationally-honored coaches and 6 NAIA storied athletes highlight the 11th induction class of the Azusa Pacific Athletics of Hall of Fame.

Bill Odell of men’s basketball and Sharon Lehman of softball, both whom were named NAIA national coaches of the year during their long tenures at the Cougar helm, head the hall of fame parade that includes Major League Baseball draftee Justin Duarte, NAIA track & field champion Tage Peterson, tennis’ Dan Ray, 2-sport standout April Reed of soccer and softball, 3-time soccer All-American Chris Stempson and 2-time Golden State Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year T.J. Walker.

The class of 8 was selected by the 11-member hall of fame committee in conjunction with the Azusa Pacific alumni relations office.

“This is certainly one of the most gifted and accomplished induction classes in the 18-year history of the hall,” said Craig Wallace, Azusa Pacific’s Executive Director of Alumni Relations and a member of the hall of fame committee. “The university began to emerge on the national level in a variety of sports in the 1990s, and those athletes are now eligible for the hall. When I step back and look at this class, I’m impressed with talents and achievements of these people and their teams.”

The official induction ceremony is set for Saturday, Oct. 31, in the Upper Turner Campus Center at Azusa Pacific.

Tickets are $15 for adult and $10 for children age 12 and under and can be purchased through the Alumni Relations Office at 626-812-3097.

JUSTIN DUARTE (1996-99)
After 3 years in the program, including a redshirt season, Duarte put together 2 of the finest back-to-back seasons in Cougar baseball history with 38 home runs and 132 RBIs over the final 98 games of his career. He was named 1999 NAIA All-American first team as a senior after batting .358 with 18 home runs and 63 RBIs. However, it was his junior year that caught the initial attention of Major League Baseball scouts when he batted .420 with 20 home runs and school record-tying 69 RBIs. For his effort, he was a 2-time All-GSAC pick. He also played 2 seasons of football and was the starting tight end on the Cougars’ 1998 NAIA national championship team. For his 22-game football career he had 68 receptions with 3 TDs. Duarte was taken in by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 22nd round of the 1999 MLB draft.

SHARON LEHMAN (1995-2005)
Lehman took over a middle-of-the-road softball program in the mid-1990s and quickly turned it into a national power, taking the Cougars to their first-ever NAIA championship tournament in just her second year as the head coach. In fact, 3 times in her first 6 years at the helm she put the Cougars in the NAIA national championship tournament. She fashioned a 428-195 (.687) record during her 11 years leading Azusa Pacific softball, which included a pair of 50-win campaigns. In 2000, she guided the Cougars to a program best 53-13 record that resulted in an appearance in the NAIA championship game, the first ever for a GSAC school. In 1996 and again in 1997 she navigated Azusa Pacific to fifth-place finishes in the NAIA tournament. She was named the NAIA Coach of the Year by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association in 1997 and 2000. Additionally, she was selected as the GSAC Coach of the Year 3 times. Lehman coached 9 All-Americans, including 4 first-team selections and coached 8 GSAC player/pitchers of the year.

BILL ODELL (1991-2007)
Odell was Azusa Pacific’s head coach for men’s basketball for 16 years, and in that time he led the Cougars to 13 GSAC championships, including a record 9 straight (1993-01), and 14 NAIA Tournament appearances. He put together a 454-112 (.802) record which included 5 30-win seasons. His teams averaged 28 victories a year, aided by a program-best 35-3 in 2001. He led the Cougars to the 2005 NAIA championship game, a first in program history, and had the Cougars in the NAIA “Final Four” 3 other times. Seven of his teams advanced to at least the “Elite Eight” including his final 3 squads. He was named the 2005 NAIA Coach of the Year and 6 other times he was the GSAC Coach of the Year. He coached 20 NAIA All-Americans, including 3 first-team selections, and coached 6 GSAC Players of the Year.

TAGE PETERSON (1994-98)
One of the finest decathletes in a long line of great decathletes who have competed for Azusa Pacific, Peterson was a 5-time NAIA track & field champion and a 17-time All-American. At the 1995 Mt. SAC Relays, he set the school-record in the decathlon at 7,788 points and qualified for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials in Atlanta, where he finished 16th as a 21-year old. Peterson won the NAIA individual championships in the decathlon (1998), pentathlon (1995 & 1998) and the long jump (1994 & 1998), and he set the NAIA decathlon record in the long jump (24’ 8½”). He was a member of Azusa Pacific’s 1995 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field national championship team.

DAN RAY (1992-94)
Ray was named NAIA All-American second team in 1991 and in the process signaled the beginning of Azusa Pacific’s eventual emergence as a national power. A 3-year Cougar, Ray was Azusa Pacific’s No. 1 player every season, winning All-GSAC recognition each year. As a sophomore in 1991, he was a member of the NAIA regional championship doubles team. After an injury-plagued 1992 junior campaign, he returned in 1993 to close his college career by advancing to the final of the NAIA regional singles tournament. He becomes the first Cougar tennis player to be inducted into the Azusa Pacific Athletics Hall of Fame.

APRIL REED (1991-94)
One of the finest 2-sport female athletes in Azusa Pacific history, Reed was the first Cougar female to earn all-conference honors in 2 different team sports. Arguably the greatest goalie in Cougar soccer history, Reed was a 4-year starter who set 10 school records, 6 of which still stand today, 15 years after her playing career ended. Among those records are most saves in a game (24 vs. Chico State) and most saves in a season (169 in 1993). Reed also excelled in softball where she lettered 4 years as a first baseman, compiling a .328 career batting average while recording 102 RBIs (second on Azusa Pacific career list when she graduated). Reed was a 3-time All-GSAC pick in softball and a 2-time honor in soccer. She was also named All-NAIA District 3 in 1993.

CHRIS STEMPSON (1989-92)
Considered by many to be the finest defender in Azusa Pacific men’s soccer history, Stempson was a 4-year starter and the program’s first 3-time NAIA All-American, earning first-team honors in 1991 and again in 1992. He spearheaded a Cougar defense that allowed on average just 1.7 goals per game during his 4-year career, which included 13 shutouts. Though he was a key piece on the Cougar defense, he did enjoy some offensive moments, scoring 6 goals to go along with 10 assists for 22 points. Stempson was also a 3-time NAIA All-District 3 selection. He went on to become the first Cougar to play in the Umbro/NAIA Senior Bowl in Springfield, Ill., in 1993.

T.J. WALKER (1997-99)
A do-everything point guard on 2 of Azusa Pacific’s finest men’s basketball teams ever, T.J. Walker was the first Cougar to be twice named NAIA All-American first team. He is also the only player in Golden State Athletic Conference history to be selected twice the conference player of the year. During his 74-game Cougar career, the 6-foot point guard averaged 15.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.9 steals a game. He led the Cougars to a 63-11 record over the course of 2 seasons, which included a 25-3 GSAC record and 2 conference titles. He also guided Azusa Pacific to its first NAIA Final Four appearance in 1998 and did it again in 1999, when he was the runner-up for NAIA Player of the Year. His finest statistical game came in a 113-87 victory over Concordia when as a 1999 senior had tallied 38 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists 5 steals and a blocked shot in 32 minutes of play.