By David Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — I know I’m getting older — aren’t we all? — when I see more and more former athletes that I covered “back in the day” going into their college halls of fame.
It happened again Saturday at Rose-Hulman when the eastside engineering institute inducted five men into its Athletic Hall of Fame, boosting its membership to 147.
An induction ceremony took place in Rose’s Sports and Recreation Center, then the five were introduced to the Cook Stadium crowd at halftime of the Engineers’ football game against Greenville College.
One of the inductees was two-time NCAA Division III men’s pole-vault champion Ryan Loftus. Now 32, he lives in Riley with his wife, also a former Rose athlete, who went by Mandy Smith when she competed in track and women’s basketball.
Loftus, a process engineer for Danisco Sweetners in Terre Haute, enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane with well-wishers this weekend.
“I decided to go with Rose-Hulman [out of high school] because of the small classroom size and also the opportunity to participate in sports,” recalled Loftus, a 1998 Rose graduate who said he also considered enrolling at the University of Illinois.
“Looking back, I’m very pleased with my decision. I don’t think I would have accomplished quite as much if I had joined the University of Illinois team.”
Loftus said his favorite athletic memory was the 1997 Division III indoor national title he won at Oshkosh, Wis., where he cleared a school-record 16 feet, 8 inches.
“It was the first one that I won,” he explained. “That was the highest I vaulted during my whole career and my mom was there. I really had the adrenaline going. My coach [Bill Welch] could tell by looking at me that I was in the zone and totally focused on vaulting that day.”
Academics also played an important part in Loftus’ college experience.
“It was a great school and I had great professors,” he emphasized. “I learned a lot. It was very technically challenging. It was a good environment to be in to be challenged, both academically and athletically.”
Rose-Hulman informed Loftus in March that it wanted to induct him into its Hall of Fame this year and he gladly accepted the honor.
“I knew the requirement was that you had to be out of school for 10 years,” he said. “I barely meet that… It was definitely a good feeling to know that I was being inducted.”
A chemical-engineering major, Loftus captured the 1998 indoor national title in the men’s pole vault. A four-time All-American, which included a second-place national outdoors finish in 1998, he was CoSIDA Track and Field Academic All-American of the Year in 1998 and a second-team Academic All-American in track and field in 1997. He also was a four-time conference champion in the pole vault.
Below is a list of the other 2008 inductees and a summary of what they accomplished athletically at Rose-Hulman. If you know any of them, be sure to congratulate them in the next few weeks.
• Arvont Hill, who sprinted in track and field and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1998, was a two-time conference champion (1996 and 1997). He also was the Indiana Collegiate Athletic Conference men’s 100-meter champion in 1996 and part of the ICAC 400-meter relay team championship in 1997. He became the school’s 55-meter indoor record holder with a time of 6.56 seconds in 1996 and became its 100-meter outdoor record holder with a time of 10.94 in 1994.
• Ernie Jones, a 1973 graduate who competed in track and field and football and majored in mechanical engineering, helped lead the Engineers’ track and field team to a perfect season in 1973. He also established a school record in the triple jump (46 feet, 11 3/4 inches) that still ranks second all-time. He set a school record in the pole vault with a leap of 14-3 1/2. In 1973, he was high-point scorer and named Most Valuable in Field Events and team captain. In 1972, he was the team’s high-point scorer and named Most Valuable in Field Events. He won the Ruel Fox Burns Blanket as the college’s top athlete in 1973.
• Matt Sims, a 1998 graduate who pitched for the baseball team and majored in electrical engineering, ranks third in school history with 25 wins. He also stands third in Rose history with 51 appearances and he’s tied for second with seven career shutouts. He ranks fourth all-time in innings pitched (224) and eighth in strikeouts (157). In 1996, he finished 10-3 with a 2.56 earned-run average to lead the team to the NCAA Division III tournament. He compiled a 6-3 record and a 3.04 ERA as a junior and finished 7-2 as a senior. After graduation, he signed a contract in the Frontier League.
• Nathan Subbert, a 1998 graduate who specialized in track and field and football and majored in computer engineering, earned All-American status in the outdoor hammer throw in 1998. He also finished eighth in the hammer in the NCAA Division III outdoor championships with a school-record throw of 172 feet, 8 inches, still owns the school record in the 35-pound weight throw (53-7), won two Indiana Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in the hammer, started as a guard on the football team all four years, earned CoSIDA Academic All-District status three times and won the Sam Hulbert Award for team spirit, sportsmanship and a desire to succeed in 1998.
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4276; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.