Editor's note: The following article appeared in the Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 edition of the Wilson Times, and is used here by permission. For a complete profile on each new member, click here
By Paul Durham, Wilson Times
WILSON, N.C. – Former men’s soccer coach and athletic director Gary Hall joked that he felt like “the old man in the group” of inductees in the Barton College Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016.
Indeed, Hall is the elder statesman in the group that ranks as one of the youngest to be enshrined. All five of the others — Dennis Blackmon, Whit Coolbaugh, Brock Godwin, Jamie McFadden Seniuk and Casey Prince — graduated in the 2000s.
For some, the return to campus Friday night for the induction dinner and ceremony, held outside for the first time on a spectacular autumn evening, sparked memories as well as astonishment at the changes.
“It’s amazing to see the campus and how awesome it’s become,” said 2004 graduate Seniuk, who traveled from her home in Ontario, Canada. “It just looks so much more beautiful and welcoming and it’s a great experience to bring my family down here to see it.”
Plenty of memories swirled in the light breeze as two sets of former teammates from Barton conference championship teams reunited for the ceremony that brought the hall of fame membership to 139. Prince and Coolbaugh were key performers on the Bulldogs’ 1998 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference (now Conference Carolinas) championship team coached by Hall while Blackmon and Godwin were baseball teammates.
“Those two guys played such great soccer for us when they were here,” said Hall, himself a standout defender for Bulldogs soccer teams in the late 1970s. “It’s a great honor to be recognized this way, but to be able to share it with those you went into battle with is really special.”
Coolbaugh, a 2002 graduate, echoed his former coach’s sentiments, saying: “They couldn’t have set it up better for that to happen. It’s not just an honor but real cool and something that brings back a lot of memories and you can share them with a teammate and coach and then other teammates that are here as well.”
Prince, (Class of ‘01) quipped that having Coolbaugh as co-inductee brought another reward.
“Whit’s more popular than I am, so Whit brings back other teammates that I get to see and that makes it even more special!” said Prince.
As for being inducted with Hall, of whom Prince reminded is “the biggest reason I was at Barton.”
Blackmon and Godwin began their Barton baseball careers together in the fall of 2001 and were part of some the best Bulldogs teams coached by Todd Wilkinson, now the Barton director of athletics.
“I’m very proud of both them, the careers they’ve had and the men they’ve become in giving back to our society,” Wilkinson said. “Brock and Dennis were the anchors back then of some good teams. You always want to build up the middle and with Dennis at catcher and Brock at shortstop, that was a pretty good middle right from the start.”
Godwin, who had to sit out a season due to injury and graduated in 2006, a year after Blackmon, became the Bulldogs first NCAA Division II First-Team All-American as a senior.
“I just rededicated myself and wanted to be the player I could be for my team and that senior year it all came together,” said Godwin, who was a key part of Fike High’s state 3-A baseball championship in 1999. “Never really had to worry about my arm hurting.”
Godwin went 8-0 as a pitcher in 2006 along with being the best hitter in a loaded Bulldogs lineup.
“I was a competitor. I wanted to be on the field and play every day,” he said of pulling double duty. “You can’t pitch every day so.”
Blackmon hit .426 and a school-record 24 home runs as a junior in 2004, when he earned Div. II Second-Team All-America status.
He agreed that entering the hall of fame with Godwin was a special treat.
“We went through the whole time together — the same degree so we sat in classes together and the workout schedule was the same,” Blackmon said. “Everything went together for us. It all worked all well for us, although it’s probably good that we never roomed together!”
Godwin pronounced his former teammate as “maybe the best player in the history of the program.”
Blackmon pointed out that many of his former teammates from the early 2000s are prominent in the Barton baseball record book.
Seniuk was a model student-athlete as a starter in volleyball and basketball for head coach Wendee Saintsing and a star in the classroom. She earned the CVAC’s Murphy Osborne Award, given to the conference’s top student-athlete, in 2003-04. She even played softball one year.
“I just knew that at the end of the day I wasn’t going pro in either sport so I needed something to fall back on,” she said. “So academics were really important to my parents and they instill that in me really early as a student, that’s what you’re there for first.”