Three Hilltopper Greats To Be Inducted Into WKU Athletic Hall Of Fame

Bowling Green, Ky. — Three former Western Kentucky University athletes will be inducted as the 16th class into the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame in ceremonies set for Homecoming Weekend this fall.

The 2006 class includes Breeda Dennehy Willis (track and cross-country), Ashley Johnson (track and cross-country) and Craig McCormick (basketball).

The induction of the 2006 class brings to 104 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 2006 class will be inducted in ceremonies during the annual W-Club Homecoming Brunch (sponsored by Meyer Mortgage Corp.), set for 10 a.m. (CDT), Saturday, Oct. 28, on the Main Floor of E.A. Diddle Arena on the WKU campus. Tickets for the event, which is open to the general public, are $15 each and can be purchased and/or reserved: online at www.wku.edu/Alumni (then click on “Events Calendar”); by calling 1-888-WKU-ALUM (1-888-958-2586); or by contacting either W-Club Treasurer Bill Edwards (270-745-6026; bill.edwards@wku.edu) or W-Club Secretary Paul Just (270-745-5379; paul.just@wku.edu).

Each W-Club member who has paid his/her ’06-07 dues is entitled to claim two complimentary tickets to the event; however, reservations MUST be made — either online, or with Edwards or Just — to ensure seating is available. Non-member letterwinners are required to purchase tickets. Letterwinners who have not yet paid their ’06-07 dues may do so online via credit card or at the door with a prior reservation.

The inductees will also be honored in ceremonies during the annual Homecoming football game, which is set to kickoff at 4 p.m. that day. Head coach David Elson will pit his Hilltoppers against Gateway Football Conference rival Indiana State at L.T. Smith Stadium/Jimmy Feix Field.

Now, more about the members of the 2006 WKU Athletic Hall of Fame class.

• Breeda Dennehy Willis (Track ’90-93 & Cross-Country ’89-92) came to WKU from her native County Cork in Ireland and earned eight letters on The Hill. Her 16th place finish in the 1991 NCAA Cross-Country Championships made her the first — and, to date the only — WKU (and Sun Belt Conference) woman to earn All-America honors in that sport. She also won all-Sun Belt honors in both ’90 and ’91 (on the strength of winning the league individual title in cross-country each year), ’92 (track) and ’93 (track). Her school records in both the indoor and outdoor 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters still stand 13 years after she completed her career at WKU. Dennehy Willis’ Sun Belt record in the 5,000-meter run also remains a league record. She ran in the 2000 Sydney Olympics representing her native Ireland; and, she competed for Ireland in the ’92 and ’93 World Cross-Country Championships. As a senior at WKU, she won five meets, including NCAA District III title. And, she was the Irish Junior 1,500-meter champion in ’89 before coming to The Hill. On the occasion of the Sun Belt Conference’s 30th anniversary last year, she was named the All-Time SBC Women’s Cross-Country Runner, heading up the league’s All-Time Women’s Cross-Country Team which featured nine Toppers on the 30-woman list. And, she was also named to the 30-woman SBC All-Time Women’s Track Team as well. Willis resides in Tallahassee, Fla., with her husband, Dr. Lee Willis (who teaches history at Florida State), and their two-year-old daughter, Roisin.

• Ashley Johnson (Track ’81-84 & Cross-Country ’80-83) came to The Hill from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in the early 1980s and was a two-time Hilltopper All-American (in cross-country in ’83 after finishing 13th at NCAA championships and in the indoor mile in ’84 when he finished seventh in the NCAAs). He also took all-OVC honors on the track in each of his first two years on The Hill. In 1982, he finished second behind All-America teammate Simon Cahill (both breaking the course record) at Tampa, Fla., in winning WKU’s first Sun Belt Conference championship. He earned all-Sun Belt honors both his junior and senior seasons after being named College Harriers magazine’s Most Outstanding Athlete in 1980. A key member of the 1980 cross-country team that was runner-up at the NCAA District and sixth at the national championships, he went on to set school records in the indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500 meters (both in 1984) that still stand. He was also a member of WKU’s school record-holding indoor distance medley and two-mile relay teams (those records also still stand two decades-plus later). He won the Sun Belt individual title in cross-country as a senior in ’83 (after finishing as the runner-up the year before) and helped his Topper distancemen win three league titles in four years — the ’82 and ’83 SBC crowns after taking top honors in the OVC in ’80. Johnson was also the first Sun Belt Conference runner ever to earn NCAA Cross-Country All-America laurels (’83). When the Sun Belt celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, Johnson was one of nine Topper runners named to the league’s 30-man All-Time Men’s Cross-Country Team. He was ranked in the Top 25 by Runners’ World from 1985-90, twice in the Top 10; and, he was also ranked 10th by Track & Field News in 1985. Since leaving The Hill, he has won seven road races across the U.S. Johnson resides in Indianapolis, Ind., with his wife, the former Andrea Webster of Madisonville, who was a standout on the Lady Topper track and cross-country teams during her tenure at WKU.

• Craig McCormick (Basketball ’79-82) came to The Hill from Ottawa, Ill., and developed into a three-time all-Ohio Valley Conference selection on his way to earning Associated Press All-America honors as a senior in 1982. He completed his career at WKU with 1,354 points, at the time ranking him eighth in school history (his total is still 13th on the Hilltoppers’ all-time scoring leaders list). The 6-foot-10 center led the Toppers in rebounding and blocked shots each of his last three seasons and was WKU’s top scorer as a sophomore (14.6 ppg) and a senior (14.3 ppg). In an 86-79 home win over Morehead State on Jan. 31, 1980, McCormick made good on 12 of 13 field-goal attempts, a Hilltopper shooting accuracy record (92.3%) that still stands 26 years later. Always a reliable shooter, he completed his career on The Hill with a 57.0% field goal percentage, the second best in Topper history at the time and still third on that list. And, his 62.5% accuracy mark as a sophomore remains the fourth highest season percentage ever for a Hilltopper. He is the only WKU cager on record to lead the team in scoring as a freshman in his first college game (he totaled 18 points in the Toppers’ season-opening loss to number-one ranked Duke — and All-America center Mike Gminski — in 1978). His career blocked shots total (71) was a school standard when he finished his career and still ranks ninth among all Hilltoppers. McCormick’s four WKU teams were a combined 78-37 (67.8%) and won three OVC championships and two conference tournaments, earning post-season tournament berths three times — two in the NCAA (’80 and ’81) and one in the NIT (’82). Following his career at WKU, McCormick played two years of professional basketball in Israel and Spain before returning to Bowling Green where he has been a member of the commercial real estate and banking staff at U.S. Bank since 1985. He also handles the color commentary for the Big Red Radio Network’s live radio coverage of Hilltopper basketball games. McCormick and his wife, the former Debbie Gregory (a former member of the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation staff), reside in Bowling Green.

— WKU —