AZUSA, Calif. -- An Olympic gold medalist and a trio of athletes who led their respective programs to their first national titles highlighted a 10-member Azusa Pacific Athletics Hall of Fame induction class in a ceremony held on campus on Saturday, March 23.
Bryan Clay, whose 2008 decathlon championship in Beijing was the first-ever Olympic gold medal claimed by an athlete from Azusa Pacific, was one of 10 inductees in the 12th induction class of Azusa Pacific’s Hall of Fame. Joining him were Jack Williams (football), the 1998 NAIA Player of the Year who led the Cougars to their first national title in football, as well as Jennifer Babel and Kendra Payne, who led Azusa Pacific to the 1998 NAIA women’s soccer championship for its first national title in that sport.
“This is a significant marker in the history of Azusa Pacific University athletics as we honor these ten extraordinarily gifted alumni who excelled in their sport beyond what was common among their peers,” said Azusa Pacific Director of Athletics Gary Pine. “Each of these individuals shined in their performance, using their God-given talents to create a very unique and memorable stretch in the history of Cougar athletics.”
Other inductees were Gordon Billingsley and Caleb Gervin of men’s basketball, Dawn Castaneda of softball, Josh Henderson of football, Michelle Teodoro of women’s track & field, and Jason Wyatt, a two-sport athlete in football and track & field.
“This year’s induction class contains all the components of a great athlete -- Gordon’s relentless work ethic, Jason’s ability to win on the big stage, Dawn’s attention to detail, Josh’s passion to play, Michelle’s consistency in effort, Jennifer’s selfless nature, Jack’s never-say-die attitude, Kendra’s dogged persistence, Bryan’s desire for excellence, and Caleb’s athletic artistry. This is a marvelous class of celebrated athletes, and we are very proud to induct them.”
The class of 10, selected by the hall of fame committee in conjunction with the Azusa Pacific alumni relations office, was the largest induction group since a 10-member class in 1993. Scott Raftery became the eighth recipient of the Cliff Hamlow Service Award, recognizing him for his contributions to Cougar Athletics as the football public address announcer for the past 20 years before he passed away in February following a battle with cancer.
JENNIFER BABEL (1996-99, women’s soccer)
The highest-scoring defender in Cougar women’s soccer history, Babel was a four year starter who became the program’s first-ever three-time NAIA All-American. She earned second team recognition as a 1997 sophomore followed by back-to-back first team honors her final two seasons. The 1998 GSAC Player of the Year, Babel was instrumental in Azusa Pacific’s unbeaten run to the 1998 NAIA National Championship in the program’s first-ever national tournament appearance. It was her penalty kick that sent the Cougars on to the national title game in a shootout with Mobile (Ala.) in the NAIA semifinals, and she also scored the 87th-minute game-winner that lifted Azusa Pacific to a 2-1 win over Westmont in the GSAC Tournament championship game. Babel led a defense that produced 44 shutouts over her four-year career, including a school-record seven consecutive shutouts during the 1998 season when Azusa Pacific notched a program-record 15 shutouts. She also scored 25 goals over her career, the most ever by a Cougar defender, a scoring total which ranked sixth on the program’s all-time list when she graduated and currently ranks 16th all-time. Babel started in 89 of 91 games over her career, starting 84 consecutive games beginning with the eighth game of her freshman year. She started every game of the Cougars’ program-record 37-game unbeaten streak from 1998-99, a run which included 22 shutouts.
GORDON BILLINGSLEY (1971-73, men’s basketball)
A two-year men’s starter at Azusa Pacific, Billingsley earned NAIA All-District 3 honorable mention his 1973 senior year. That season, he was the third-leading scorer for the Cougars at 14.1 points per game, helping the team to a 28-7 season. He was also third in rebounds (6.2) and assists (1.6) for a team that posted a runner-up finish at the National Christian College Athletic Association Tournament. He shot 52 percent (166-for-319) from the field and 85 percent (149-for-175) from the free throw line his senior year, helping him establish the program’s career free throw percentage record (.811), which has since been broken. Billingsley joined the program his junior year as a transfer from Mt. San Antonio College, and he was an immediate contributor to the 1972 team that claimed the program’s fourth consecutive NCCAA championship. In 66 games over two seasons, he posted career averages of 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
DAWN CASTANEDA (1994-97, softball)
Regarded as the best hitter in Azusa Pacific softball history, Dawn set 10 school records during her four-year career. Fifteen years after her graduation, three of those records are still intact – highest career batting average (.405), most career hits (279), and longest hitting streak (22 games). She was a three-time All-GSAC third baseman who led the team in batting three of her four seasons, and in 1997 she became the first Cougar so ball player designated as NAIA All-American first team. She batted .409 or better in three of her four seasons, including a .410 average her senior year to help Azusa Pacific set the program’s single-season team batting average record (.334). Over her final three seasons, she helped lead Azusa Pacific to a 132-44 overall record, two GSAC championships, and two fifth-place finishes at the NAIA World Series. In 22 games of postseason play, Dawn batted .400 with just one strikeout in 70 career postseason at-bats. At the national tournament, she was even better, batting .462 (12-for-26) with six runs and eight RBIs in eight games over two years at the NAIA national tournament. She registered her career-long 22-game hitting streak during her 1995 sophomore season. After graduation, she served as an assistant coach for Cougar Athletics Hall of Fame softball coach Sharon Lehman and was part of the NFCA NAIA Coaching Staff of the Year.
BRYAN CLAY (1999-2002, men’s track & field)
After rewriting history with a stellar four-year collegiate career at Azusa Pacific, Clay went on to earn the “World’s Greatest Athlete” moniker after winning Olympic gold in the decathlon at the 2008 Beijing Games. At Azusa Pacific, he became a 23-time NAIA All-American, a record amount for any individual NAIA athlete, and he claimed seven individual national titles while leading the Cougars to three team titles. While an undergrad, Clay placed third in the decathlon at the 2001 U.S. Outdoor Nationals with a score of 8,169 points; the fourth-best total by an American that year. At age 21, he was the U.S. Championship Bronze Medalist in his fi¬rst U.S. Championship competition. As a senior in 2002, Clay led Azusa Pacific to national indoor and outdoor championships, the first time such a team double had ever been accomplished. He was recognized as an NAIA “Outstanding Performer” after winning the pentathlon and the long jump in the 2002 NAIA Outdoor Championships. In all, he won three national titles in the pentathlon, another three in the long jump, and one decathlon national championship during his career. He set school records in the decathlon with 8,230 points and the pentathlon with 4,056 points, both which still stand, and he still ranks among the program’s all-time top 10 in the long jump, 100 meter dash, 110 meter hurdles, discus throw, and javelin throw. After graduation, Clay won the silver medal in the decathlon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Four years later he claimed Olympic gold in Beijing, leading the decathlon from start (achieving the best time in the 100m) to finish (when he crossed the finish line in the 1500m). He won with a 240-point margin, the largest winning margin since 1972, and finished with 8,791 points.
CALEB GERVIN (2000-03, men’s basketball)
A three-time All-GSAC guard who played for NAIA Hall of Fame Coach Bill Odell, Gervin was the GSAC Player of the Year as a 2003 senior, and that year he also became just the third Cougar ever to earn first team NAIA All-American recognition. He led his team in scoring all three years he played at Azusa Pacific, posting the highest three-year scoring total (1,651 points) in program history. In his 108-game career, Gervin averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.1 steals, leading the Cougars to two GSAC championships and an appearance in the NAIA national semifinals during his 2002 junior year. He set the program’s single-season three-point percentage record (.512) his senior year and he ranks in the all-time top-10 in four career categories. He ranks fifth in career scoring, sixth in career free throws, seventh in career three-pointers made, and eighth in career assists. In 2001, his first season with the team after transferring from Louisville, he earned NAIA All-American honorable mention.
JOSH HENDERSON (1993, 95-96, football)
One of the most athletic linebackers Azusa Pacific has had on the defensive side of the ball, Henderson twice led the team in tackles during his three seasons with the program. As a 1996 senior, he set the program’s single-season tackles record with 137 tackles in just 10 games, a mark which has since been broken. He led the team in tackles for two of his three seasons, and he registered 22 career tackles for loss including four sacks. Henderson recorded 10 or more tackles in 10 of the 28 games he played in his career, and he had six games with a dozen or more tackles. He started 18 of 19 games his final two years to help lead the Cougars to a 7-3 season in 1996, and he finished with a career-high 17 tackles against Chapman in the final game of his career, one of six games of 10-plus tackles during his senior year.
KENDRA PAYNE (1997-2000, women’s soccer)
Th¬e program’s all-time leading scorer, Payne was the Cougars’ first-ever four-time NAIA All-American and was also the program’s first-ever NAIA Player of the Year. She is the only three-time winner of the GSAC Player of the Year award in conference history, and twice she set the Cougars’ single-season scoring record. Her career records for goals (90), assists (52), and points (232) still stand, along with her single-season marks for assists (18) and points (68). Payne opened her collegiate career with a hat trick, scoring all three goals in a 3-0 victory over Cal State L.A. to kick off the Cougars’ 16-6 campaign in 1997. She set the program’s single-season scoring record with 22 goals that year, earning NAIA All-American third team recognition. A year later, she scored 21 goals while leading Azusa Pacific to its first women’s soccer national championship with an unbeaten season (24-0-1). That year, the Cougars set the program’s single-season scoring record with 119 goals, and the national title started a run of 14 consecutive NAIA Tournament appearances. Payne was named to the NAIA All-Tournament team in each of her three trips to the national tournament and was twice named tournament MVP. In 1999, she scored 22 goals as Azusa Pacific returned to the national semifinals, and as a 2000 senior she graduated with new single-season scoring records for goals (25), assists (18), and points (68) along with another national semifinals appearance.
MICHELLE TEODORO (1995-98, women’s track & field)
A 12-time NAIA All-American who set the standard for Azusa Pacific women’s distance runners, Teodoro was the program’s first-ever NAIA national champion in the 1,000 meters and its first-ever All-American in women’s cross country. She claimed five of her 12 NAIA All-American honors in her senior year in 1998, posting top-three finishes in the 1,000 meters (indoor season) and 1,500 meters (outdoor season) along with three All-American relay teams (distance medley plus indoor and outdoor 4x800 meter relays). Teodoro established school records for 1,000 meters (2:52.38), 1,500 meters (4:28.90), and the mile run (5:05.94), and she remains in the all-time top ten in each of those as well as the 800 meters and the 3,000 meters. In cross country, she helped lead the Cougars to their first-ever GSAC championship in 1994 when she finished second as a true freshman. A year later, Teodoro became Azusa Pacific’s first-ever NAIA All-American in cross country with a 12th-place finish at the 1995 national meet, leading the Cougars to fifth place, their best showing ever to that point.
JACK WILLIAMS (1998-99, football)
Undoubtedly the best two-way player in Cougar football history, Williams was a two-time NAIA All-American whose impact was immediately felt when he transferred to Azusa Pacific as a junior in 1998. Offensively, he rushed 278 times for 1,647 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and 126.7 yards per game as the featured running back, and on the defensive side of the ball he registered 21 tackles and three interceptions to lead the Cougars to the NAIA title game in the program’s first-ever NAIA playoff appearance. Williams, who was named the program’s first-ever NAIA Player of the Year, rushed for 108 yards and the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of the 17-14 win over Olivet Nazarene, and he also registered a fourth-quarter interception to earn game MVP honors as he helped clinch the school’s first-ever football national championship. As a 1999 senior, Williams played primarily at defensive back until late in the season when he returned to the offensive backfield and still rushed for 1,090 yards, giving him back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Williams registered 15 100-yard rushing games in his 25-game Cougar career, including a career-best 232-yard effort against Chapman. He also finished his career with six interceptions, and he went on to play in the 2000 Hula Bowl college football all-star game in Maui. In just two seasons, Williams set the program’s career record for all-purpose yards (3,826), and he finished second to Christian Okoye in career rushing yards with 2,737 yards.
JASON WYATT (1990-93, track & field/football)
A two-sport standout, Wyatt was a member of two NAIA outdoor track & field national championship teams. He dominated the NAIA shot put event for three consecutive years, claiming six NAIA titles as he swept the event at both indoor and outdoor nationals for three consecutive seasons (1991-93). He threw a career-best 58-feet, 8-inches at the 1992 championship meet, a mark which ranked fourth in Azusa Pacific history at the time and remains the fifth-best shot put in school history. In football, Wyatt was a two-year starter at linebacker, leading the Cougars in both tackles and tackles for loss in 1990 and 1991. He recorded 171 career tackles, including 14 tackles for loss and eight sacks, and he also recorded two interceptions during his two-year football career.
SCOTT RAFTERY (Cliff Hamlow Service Award)
Scott Raftery, who played three seasons of baseball (1977-79) at Azusa Pacific still ranks in the Cougar baseball program’s top-10 in hits, doubles, total bases, walks, and at bats. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1979 and a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific in 1988. While working on his Master’s, he was the director of alumni from 1987-1989. After graduating, Raftery worked for Linfield Christian High School for 16 years where he served as athletic director, teacher, and softball, football, and baseball coach. During his years there, his softball teams won four section championships, he was named CIF-SS Coach of the Year four times, and he and his assistant coaches were named Coaching Staff of the Year by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. In 2004-05, he was named the Southern Section’s Athletic Director of the Year by the California State Athletic Director Association and he was enshrined into the Citrus Belt Athletic Directors Association Hall of Fame in 2010. In 1993, Raftery returned to Azusa Pacific as the football public address announcer, calling Cougar football games for the past 20 years. He passed away in his home in Arcadia, Calif., on February 23, 2013 after a battle with cancer. Raftery’s devotion to Azusa Pacific has resulted in his selection to be honored as the recipient of the Cliff Hamlow Service Award.