The 12th annual Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame induction banquet will be held May 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Abilene Civic Center. Tickets are $40 each and tables of 10 can be purchased for $750. For tickets or sponsorship information, call (325) 668-3685 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>.
Selected to this year's class are former Abilene High and Texas Tech track star Jonathan Johnson, Snyder and University of Texas all-American football player Tony DeGrate, former Brownwood and University of Texas all-American pitcher Jerry Don Gleaton, former Breckenridge and University of Oklahoma running back Jakie Sandefer, and former Abilene Cooper and current McMurry track coach Barbara Crousen.
Former Abilene High baseball player Jim Mallon, who won more than 1,000 games as the baseball coach at Southwestern University, will be inducted posthumously. Also going into the Hall of Fame will be Abilene veterinarian Dr. Lynn Lawhon, who will receive the Lifetime Achievement for Officiating, and former Abilene High basketball stars Richard, David and Mike Little, who will receive the Legacy Award from the Hall of Fame.
Here is a short biography on each of the newest inductees:
Jonathan Johnson of Abilene High broke the state high school Class 5A record in the 800 meters when he won the event in 1:48.21 in 2001. He then anchored the mile relay to a gold medal, leading the Eagles to the Class 5A state team championship. At Texas Tech, Johnson won nine all-American honors, four consecutive Big 12 championships in the 800 meters and was NCAA runner-up in 2003 and NCAA champion in 2004. He also won the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2004 and reached the finals of the 800 meters at the Olympics in Athens, Greece. Johnson, who later ran track professionally, had the fastest time by an American of 1:44.7 in 2004.
Tony DeGrate not only played football at Snyder but he also pitched the Tigers to the state baseball tournament in 1981. At the University of Texas, he was named a two-time all-Southwest Conference defensive end, helping the Longhorns win the 1983 SWC title, In 1984, DeGrate was named first team all-American and was selected the winner of the Lombardi Trophy, giving annually to the nation's top lineman. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and played one game that year for the Green Bay Packers.
Jerry Don Gleaton of Brownwood was an all-American pitcher for the University of Texas and was a first-round pick by the Texas Rangers in 1979. The left-handed pitcher spent 12 years in the major leagues with the Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates. He compiled a 15-12 record with a 4.04 earned run average and 26 saves. Gleaton appeared in 307 games, all but 16 out of the bullpen.
Jakie Sandefer played on a state championship football team at Breckenridge and was a member of the Buckaroos' squad that beat Abilene High in 1954, handing the Eagles their last loss before starting a 49-game winning streak. Sandefer then played for a national championship team at the University of Oklahoma. He was a two-year starter at OU and scored the go-ahead touchdown against Texas and scored twice against Duke in the Orange Bowl as a senior. He also ranked third nationally in punt returns in 1958. He is a member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
Barbara Crousen spent 32 years coaching high school track, including a stint at Abilene Cooper, before joining McMurry University in 1998. She still serves as the men's and women's track coach at McMurry. During her time at Cooper, she served as president of the Texas Girls Coaches Association in 1993. In 1995 she was named the Texas Girls Coaches Association track coach of the year and the Abilene Independent School District physical education instructor of the year. At McMurry, her men's teams won 14 straight American Conference Southwest Conference championships and her women's teams won 10 ASC titles. In 2008, she became the first women to coach a men's team to a NCAA championship in any sport when McMurry won the NCAA Division III outdoor track championship, a feat she repeated in 2012. Crousen also becomes the first husband-wife combination to be inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame. Last year, her husband, the late Joe Crousen who was a member of state championship football team at Breckenridge in 1958 and a long-time high school and college football coach, was inducted into the hall of fame.
Jim Mallon, a three-time all-district baseball player at Abilene High from 1960-62, died last year at age 67. He batted .402 at Abilene High and then played two years at Baylor before signing with the San Francisco Giants in 1695. He played five years in the Giants' farm system. He was named the head coach at Southwestern University in 1971, a position he held until his retirement in 2004. His Southwestern teams won 1,197 games against only 601 losses. The Pirates finished third in the 1984 NAIA World Series and advanced to seven NCAA Division III regional championships. Nine times he was named the district or conference baseball coach of the year. Eight of Mallon's players advanced to compete in professional baseball with four reaching the major league level. He is a member of the NAIA and Southwestern University halls of fame.
Dr. Lynn Lawhon, a native of Bronte, is the seventh recipient of the Lifetime Achievement for Officiating. He called high school football for 21 years, all as a member of the Abilene chapter. He was an official in five Texas high school state championship games. He also officiated in the Southwest Conference from 1989-93 and the Western Atheltic Conference from 1995-99. He retired from officiating following the Jan. 1, 2000 Cotton Bowl Classic between Arkansas and Texas before returning to work as an NFL replacement official in both 2001 and again in 2012. He was elected to the Texas Association of Sports Officials Hall of Honor by the Abilene Football Chapter in 2009.
Richard, Mike and David Little were all basketball standouts at Abilene High and comprise the first family of Abilene basketball. Richard was all-Southwest Conference three years at Texas Tech and is a member of the Texas Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Richard's daughter Peyton starred as Wylie won back-to-back state championships, and she is now playing basketball at Texas A&M. David led the Eagles to the state basketball tournament in 1978 and is believed to be the leading scorer in school history. He scored 29 points in the Texas High School Coaches Association All-Star Game, which was a record until recently. David played basketball for two years at Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma. He led the Big Eight in scoring as a junior and was second to teammate Waymon Tisdale as a senior. Mike was all-district twice at Abilene High and started three years at Baylor as point guard, serving as team captain his junior and senior year.