On April 25th, Bushnell celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Title IX with an All-Female induction class into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame were the 1975 Volleyball team, the 2011 Women’s Cross Country team and longtime cross country and track coach Dr. Heike McNeil.
Pre-dating the start of the “Title IX Era”, the Northwest Christian College volleyball team was created in 1971 and in just the fourth year as a varsity program, the Crusaders would win the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Conference Championship.
The 1975 team went undefeated with a 12-0 record, including an 8-0 mark in the PNCC. Played in a best two-out-of-three format at the time, the Crusaders only needed to play the full three sets one time throughout the year.
Head Coach Tim Stewart was on hand to induct the team. He said, “The 1975 team had a physical agility and athleticism that was unparalleled. Any coach would have been proud to work with them. They had a competitive commitment to be the best they could be and they grasped the opportunity with both hands.
“There was a mutual respect and they were always encouraging each other which was wonderful to watch. There was an openness to feedback and a patient encouragement that took us through the entire season.”
Coached by Tim Stewart, the team was led on the field by 2019 Hall of Fame Inductee Jeanette (Scofield) McHarness, who earned MVP honors.
McHarness said, “Tim was an amazing coach. He says we were always so encouraging, but I remember times when we weren’t so great with each other. He would set us straight on what a team is, and how we are to take care of each other and he was awesome.”
Other members of the team in attendance were team manager Denise (McCoy) Wyrick Davis, Kris (Black) Kronmiller, Dondra Correll-Blood. Emily Dewey was in attendance, accepting the award on behalf of her sister, Becky (Thorton) Boyle, who has passed away in October of 2020.
Members of the team who were unable to be at the event were Suzanne (Gerg) Bigelow, Laurie (Beckham) Bradley, Sue (Kendall) Ellis, Jean (Gelder) Sheperd, Lois Smith, and Angie Tretnoff.
The pioneering spirit of the 1970’s returned in the late 2000’s as the Beacons moved into a new era with membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) in 2006.
Five years later, the women’s cross country team became the first team for NCU to qualify for the NAIA post-season. Ranked in the NAIA Coaches Poll for the entire season, the Beacons climbed as high as No. 3. They went on to finish in third-place at the Cascade Conference Championship and they were the top finishers from the CCC at the NAIA Championship, claiming fourth-place.
McNeil, who served as the head coach for the team, had the honor of inducting the team. She said, “This was a team of some true pioneers for this program, and I am so proud to have been their coach.”
Those in attendance alongside McNeil included Riley (Swanson) Bell, Heidi Gori, All-American Stephanie (Hescock) Green, Sierra (Schorer-Noll) Holmly, Ashley Kinney, Ally Manley, All-American Brittany (Arch) Petersen, and Katie Peterson.
Brittany Petersen said, “My time with this team taught me how important it is to support each other. Now that I am a coach as well, I have been able to reflect on all of the things Heike taught us, about the value of every teammate from top to bottom, and how growth is not linear.”
Allison (Duvenez) Booth was not in attendance, having given birth to her first child earlier in the day. Also unable to be at the event were assistant coach Dan Jackson, Emily (Svendsen-McLean) Bear, Anita Fernandez, and Patty (Martinez) Ramirez.
Coach McNeil was the inaugural running coach for the Beacons, leading the men’s and women’s cross country program for 13 years and the men’s and women’s distance track teams for 11. She was the third-longest serving coach of any sport in school history before her retirement in 2019.
The Beacon Cup, given each year to the team that best represents Bushnell athletics on the field, in the classroom, and though their character, was renamed the Dr. Heike McNeil Cup in 2019. Her teams won the trophy nine times in 13 years.
During her career, McNeil developed Bushnell into one of the premier distance running programs in the NAIA. Her teams were consistently ranked in the top-25 nationally and from 2011 to 2018 at least one gender qualified for seven straight NAIA National Championships. McNeil was the architect for Bushnell’s first Cascade Collegiate Conference Championship in any sport, winning the 2014 title. It was the first of three straight for the Beacons, with McNeil being voted the CCC Coach of the Year three times.
Under her guidance the Beacons finished fourth in the NAIA in 2011, third in 2014, and second in 2016. The 2015 season will go down as the best ever with Bushnell collecting their first ever NAIA National Championship with McNeil being named the NAIA Coach of the Year.
During her career she recruited and coached 59 All-Cascade Conference athletes and 11 Individual CCC Champions, along with an incredible 30 All-American performances and over 60 NAIA Scholar Athletes.
On hand to induct McNeil was Bushnell Athletic Director Corey Anderson. He said, “Heike’s humility, her work ethic, her resiliency, and her drive to succeed are above and beyond. When we hired her, she brought to the table the ability to combine all of her strengths as a professor and a coach, and ran with it. What she was able to do on our campus, not only with our runners, but any of her students was to make them better.
“What she has done at Bushnell, building and sustaining success are nothing short of amazing. Her team reached the pinnacle of sport with the 2015 national championship, but the foundational success of her program have been evident with strong conference and national results before and after that accomplishment.
“Bushnell’s cross country and track teams have always represented Heike’s foundation of hard work, discipline and sportsmanship while always displaying their Christian faith in the community and in competition. The respect and admiration that the Bushnell cross country and track program has developed is unprecedented during this NAIA era of Beacon athletics.”
McNeil said, “Coaching has been one of the most humbling and challenging experiences of my life. Coaching is about people, getting to know your athletes and getting to know what makes them tick, to get them to perform well and unlock their full potential. Coaching is a privilege and I have been blessed to stand on the sidelines and watch your athletes literally chase their dreams is incredible.
McNeil became the fifth individual woman to be inducted into the Bushnell Athletics Hall of Fame, joining Cassie (Bishop) Ahrens, Brooke (Stribling) Crow, Kasey (Sconce) Cutsforth, and Jeanette (Scofield) McHarness.