Hall of Fame weekend spurs memories for former athletes

Sunday, November 5, 2006
Among those inducted into Southeast's Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday were, from left, Gray C. Harris, Charlie Brune and John Schwepker.

All the smiles creasing the faces of the people making up Southeast Missouri State's fifth Athletic Hall of Fame class pretty well told the story.

The group expressed great pride that the university they still hold dear to their hearts deemed them fit for induction into such an exclusive club.

"This is awesome," John Schwepker said. "SEMO was really good to me, and it's an honor to be chosen."

1919 to 1996 -- and the 1976 baseball team were honored during Saturday's reception and induction ceremony at the Show Me Center, bringing the number of individual members to 45 and the team list to nine since the Hall of Fame was started in 2002.

Individuals inducted were Royal Tibe, who played five sports at the university from 1919 to 1923; Schwepker, a track athlete from 1984 to 1988; Gray C. Harris, a women's basketball player from 1992 to 1996; and Charlie Brune, a lifetime booster.

Tibi is believed to be the only athlete at Southeast to earn varsity letters in five sports. He lettered in football, basketball, baseball, track and tennis. A punter in football, he served as captain of the track team and was described as an outstanding defensive player in basketball.

Tibi, who was recognized posthumously, was represented Saturday by his daughter, Judy Alexander, and his grandson, R.J. Alexander. They live in St. Louis.

"He was an outstanding athlete," said Rich Eichhorst, Hall of Fame committee chairman.

Schwepker won two individual Division II national championships at Southeast while earning seven All-America awards. He won the indoor pole vault championship in 1985 and was the decathlon champion in 1988. The Southeast record-holder in the decathlon with 7,881 points, he participated in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Trials.

"I have so many great memories of my time at SEMO," said Schwepker, who works in private business in the St. Louis area. "I was shocked when I heard I was going in."

Harris is the all-time leading basketball scorer at Southeast with 2,176 career points. She still holds 14 school records, among the more notable being points in a game (49), season scoring average (26.4), career scoring average (20.5), rebounds in a game (25) and season rebound average (10.7). She was a three-time all-Ohio Valley Conference first-team selection and was the 1996 OVC player of the year.

"I take a lot of pride in this university and it's a big thrill," said Harris, who works as a deputy sherriff in Memphis, Tenn. "In my opinion, this is the best award I have ever received in my life."

Perhaps nobody took more pride in his induction than Brune, who is the patriarch of what is regarded as the first family of Southeast football.

Brune, one of the original founders of the Southeast Athletic Booster Club in 1955, served as Booster Club president from 1976 to 1982. He played football at Southeast in 1940 and 1941 and has two sons (Greg and Lance) and three grandsons (Brent, Brian and Bobby) who all played football at Southeast.

"I'm real proud. It's a great honor," said Brune, a lifelong Cape Girardeau resident. He added with a laugh, "They waited long enough. I had to be 85 before I got in."

Seventeen members of the 1976 baseball team that advanced to the Division II College World Series attended, including current Southeast baseball coach Mark Hogan, a Cape Girardeau native.

"This whole weekend has been tremendous, seeing some guys you haven't seen in 30 years," Hogan said. "It's a wonderful honor."

The squad won the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association title, the NCAA Midwest Regional title and played in the College World Series in Springfield, Ill., finishing third in the nation. It was coached by the late Joe Uhls, who was one of the inductees into the Southeast Athletic Hall of Fame during its inaugural class in 2002.

"The thing I remember most is the chemistry of the team," said All-American center fielder Mark Amick, a Scott City native who still resides there. "Everybody got along so good and we had depth 1 through 9. It reminds me a lot of this year's Cardinals, where everybody picked everybody up.

"To be the first baseball team going in [to the Hall of Fame] makes you proud. And this is the 30-year anniversary, so that's kind of neat."

Amick was one of three All-Americans on that team, the others being shortstop Dan Wieser and pitcher Trae Hastings, a Cape Girardeau native who still resides here.

"We had a tremendous compassion for competing and we all wanted to win," said squad member Dave Jorn, who is now the pitching coach at the University of Arkansas. "It was a fun ride and a tremendous time."

The 1976 team also included Al Alberter, Larry Basta, Don Buechting, Bill Criscione, Grant Dambach, Mark Doerr, Rick Eisenbach, Jeff Hunt, Gary Juenger, Tony Korando, Ralph Kuehn, Bob Ligon, Skip Morgan, Marie Myers, Bryan Parker, Dave Pilla, Bood Sauter, Mike Schwartz, Butch Smiley, Tim Smith, Jesse Stewart, Bill Stillman, Mike Wieser, Rick Wieser and assistant coach Bill Lang.

The three Wieser brothers -- Kansas natives -- also all played football at Southeast, and Rick currently serves as analyst for radio broadcasts of Southeast home games.

"This is really a neat honor," Rick Wieser said. "That was a special team and it's great to be able to get together again."

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