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      Spotlight on Sports

      Alumni Inducted into the Widener Athletics Hall of Fame

      hall of fame inductees

      Athletics Hall of Fame

      The third class to enter the Widener Athletics Hall of Fame was honored at a ceremony at the Springfield Country Club and at the homecoming football game.

      Five exemplary former student-athletes and the 1977 Widener football team, which provided the university with its first NCAA championship, were inducted into the Widener Athletics Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Springfield Country Club on Oct. 13.

      The third class to enter the Athletics Hall of Fame consisted of Nick Trainer '64 (football and basketball), Dennis James '78 (men's basketball), Mike Williams '75 (men's track and field), Kenny O'Brien '75 (baseball and football), Gina Gonzalez '95 (women's track and field) and the 1977 Widener football team.

      Nick Trainer, former chair of the Widener University Board of Trustees, has been a strong supporter of the university and its athletics for many years. The 1964 graduate of Pennsylvania Military College was a two-sport athlete in basketball and football. He served as captain of the football team and represented the college on the All-Middle Atlantic Conference Southern Division first team in 1963. Trainer went on to spend more than 30 years as a NCAA Division I football replay official. His support for the university never waned, and in 1985 he won the Outstanding Alumnus Award, followed by the Alumni Association Service Award in 1996. He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Delaware County Chapter in 2005.

      Dennis James' arrival in 1974 marked the beginning of the men's basketball programs most prolific four-year run. The future Philadelphia 76ers draftee helped the team to an 87-29 record, the best over a four-year period, and in the process became the program's first two-time All-American in 1977 and 1978. The Pioneers made the NCAA Tournament all four of James' years, including a magical run to the 1978 NCAA final that included a third straight MAC Southern Division title. He scored 616 points in his 1978 senior season, and graduated as the university's leading scorer with 1,889 points (now third), 795 field goals (now second), 299 free throws (now fourth), 1,112 rebounds (first) and a member of the 1978 NCAA All-Tournament Team. James was named to the MAC 100 Century Team in 2013.

      Mike Williams grabbed the men's track and field's second individual NCAA national title by taking the triple jump in 1975. He was an All-American in 1974 and 1975, a three-time MAC triple jump champion from 1973-75 and won the long jump crown in 1975. Williams still holds the school's outdoor triple jump record of 50-feet, 3-inches, as well as the school's and MAC Conference's outdoor triple jump record of 50-feet, 1.5-inches. In 2013, Williams was named to the MAC 100 Track & Field Century Team.

      Kenny O'Brien was the university's first two-time All-American in 1974 and 1975, in addition to being the MAC Player of the Year both seasons. The 1975 campaign, which paved the way for the success the soon-to-be-renamed Widener College enjoyed in the 1970s, saw the standout shortstop lead the MAC Southern Division by batting .489 to go with 22 hits, three triples and 15 RBIs. O'Brien had 105 hits in 225 at-bats and had a 25-game hitting streak over two years while at Widener University. He was walked 36 times in 18 games. O'Brien was drafted in the 11th round of the 1974 MLB draft by the Texas Rangers and played two seasons in the minor leagues in the Philadelphia Phillies system. He was named to the MAC 100 Century Team in 2013.

      Gina Gonzalez claimed All-American honors in the 55-meter indoor hurdles in 1994, the 100-meter outdoor hurdles later that year and the outdoor long jump in 1995. She graduated first in the school's history in 55-meter hurdle, long jump and 100-meter high hurdles. She also graduated second in the school's history in triple jump and 55-meter dash. Gonzalez received a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship in 1995 and was named to the MAC 100 Century Team in 2013.

      77 football team

      1977 Widener Football

      The 1977 team provided Widener with its first NCAA championship in any sport.

      The 1977 Widener University football team provided more than just Widener University's first NCAA championship in any sport. It was a season filled with memorable moments for an underdog team that stuck together after starting off in less than ideal shape. At the Stagg Bowl in Phoenix City, Alabama, the Pioneers beat Wabash 39-36, and students who witnessed the nationally televised game on a rented seven-foot screen in Alumni Auditorium poured out of the hall and on to nearby Memorial Stadium in jubilation.


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