Four Hilltopper Greats Selected for Induction Into WKU Athletic Hall of Fame

July 18, 2001

Bowling Green, Ky. - Four former Western Kentucky University athletes have been elected as the 11th class for induction into the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame.

The 2001 class includes Leo Peckenpaugh (football-baseball), Chris Turner (baseball), Henry Wadsworth (track) and Rick Whitfield (golf).

The selection of the 2001 class brings to 89 the number of former Western Kentucky athletes and coaches who have earned berths in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame since its founding in 1991.

The 2001 class will be inducted at the annual Hall of Fame Luncheon, set for 12 noon (CDT), Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Garrett Conference Center on the WKU campus. Hall of Fame Luncheon tickets are priced at $25 each (or, individuals may purchase an eight-seat table for $175). And, corporate tables will be available for $300 each. Tickets can be purchased at the WKU Ticket Office in E.A. Diddle Arena -- 270-745-5222 or 1-800-5-BIG-RED (VISA, Master Card and Discover welcome).

The inductees will also be honored in ceremonies during the annual Hall of Fame Football Game, set for a 5 p.m. kickoff that evening. Coach Jack Harbaugh's Hilltoppers host Elon that night at L.T. Smith Stadium / Jimmy Feix Field.

Now, more about the members of the 2001 WKU Athletic Hall of Fame class.

* Leo Peckenpaugh, a product of Henderson County High School in nearby Henderson, Ky., lettered four seasons (1970-73) for the Hilltoppers on the gridiron and three times with the Topper baseballers ('71-73). A four-year starter at quarterback, Peckenpaugh guided the Toppers to some of their greatest successes -- a 35-7-1 (an 82.6 winning percentage) overall record (23-4-1 -- 83.9% -- in Ohio Valley Conference play), three OVC championships, and a berth in the first-ever NCAA national championship playoffs (1973). He completed his career on the Hill with school records for career TD passes (35 -- still second among all Hilltoppers), career total offensive plays (940 -- now second on the list), career passes attempted (619 -- now second) and TD passes in a game (four -- now second). His 4,107 yards in career total offense ranked second in the Western books (and are still fifth) and his 283 career pass completions were the second highest for a Topper (still fourth on that list). He was named All-OVC as a sophomore and earned a reputation as the leader on a team of leaders! Peckenpaugh was also a catcher on the Topper baseball team and tied for the team lead in triples in 1972. He is now an assistant principal at the Central Learning Center in Henderson.

* Chris Turner, out of Warren Central High School in Bowling Green, was the 1991 Sun Belt Conference Player-of-the-Year after hitting .394 with 48 RBIs, 7 homers, 25 stolen bases and a .633 slugging percentage. He lettered four seasons with the Hilltoppers (1988-91), completing his career with six school records to his credit -- single season doubles (24 as a senior) and career standards for hits (271), runs scored (215), doubles (68), at-bats (842) and base-on-balls (186). He led the Sun Belt in batting as a sophomore (.387) and in doubles both his sophomore ('89 -- 21) and senior (24) seasons, and, he still ranks among the league's Top 10 in four career categories -- hits, runs scored, doubles and home runs (35). He earned Baseball America Freshman All-America honors as a rookie in '88 and was an All-South Region selection as a catcher his senior season. Turner was a seventh round draft choice of the California Angels and went on to spend 10 seasons in professional baseball, playing in the major leagues in eight of those years -- five ('93-97) with the Angels, one ('98) with Kansas City, one ('99) with Cleveland and the last with the 2000 World Series champion New York Yankees. Turner, who retired from professional baseball following the 2000 season, lives in Bowling Green.

* Henry Wadsworth, a world-class pole vaulter in the early and mid-1960s, won three OVC titles in his two years at Western (1965-66), two in his specialty and one in the high jump (6-6 in the '66 meet, making him only the second league athlete in the first 18 years of the OVC to clear that height). But, it was in the pole vault that Wadsworth truly shined. He won the '65 OVC crown a vault of 15-6.5 -- a full two feet higher than any league athlete had reached previously in the conference meet. That mark has was bettered only 11 times in the next 36 years in the OVC meet! Then, he took the league vaulting title again as a senior in 1966. And, his 16-0.5 vault as a junior in 1965 remains (here 37 years later) a WKU school record! Wadsworth originally left his home in Coral Gables, Fla., and was on the track team at the University of Florida. However, he left there and joined the U.S. Army. During his stint in the military, Wadsworth won a berth as an alternate on the U.S. Olympic Team in 1960 and then was the runner-up at the 1963 Pan American Games. Wadsworth lives in St. Martinville, La., where he is the environmental coordinator at the Fruit of the Loom manufacturing facility in that community.

* Rick Whitfield, who came to the Hill from Vero Beach, Fla., is one of only seven athletes in OVC history (two of those Hilltoppers) to win the league's individual golf crown on more than one occasion. He lettered four years on the Hill (1967-70), taking top honors in the conference tournament in both 1968 and '69 (with sharp two-under-par totals on both occasions). The Toppers were runners-up in the OVC tournament his rookie year and finished third in '70. During his career at Western, Whitfield helped lead Coach Frank Griffin's Toppers to two OVC championships ('68 and '69) and a sparkling 30-3 mark in dual match competition, including perfect 7-0 and 9-0 marks his junior and senior campaigns, respectively. Whitfield, who has made a career for himself in the sport, lives in Hobe Sound, Fla, where he is director of golf at Loblolly Pines Country Club. Listed among golf's "Top 100 Teachers for 2001-02" by Golf Magazine, he also serves as tournament director of the Golden Bear Tournament.