UCM headlines Missouri Sports Hall of Fame: Three Jennies, baseball program inducted

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Sports Editor
(SPRINGFIELD, Mo., digitalBURG) — The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame recognized UCM athletes Ana Dilkes, Emily Eldridge and Heavin Warner at its 2017 induction ceremony Sunday, Jan. 29 in Springfield, Missouri. The MSHOF also inducted the UCM baseball program and former Mules pitcher and owner of the Houston Astros, Jim Crane.
Jennies soccer goalkeeper Ana Dilkes was one of the best goalkeepers in the nation this past season. She led NCAA Division II with her 9.27 goals against and her 9.45 save percentage. She allowed just six goals over her 23 starts, recorded 17 shutouts and made 103 saves.
Dilkes said she is honored by the recognition, but added that the Jennies success was a team-effort and that she was not alone.
“You obviously can’t do it alone,” Dilkes said. “Our team had a really good year these past three years and all of our hard work is paying off.”
Luckily for Dilkes, she didn’t have to do it alone this year. She had the support of the Jennies defense, led by Emily Eldridge. Eldridge was named NCAA Division II first team All-American. She contributed to a defense that allowed just seven goals, tied for the fewest in MIAA history. The defense also posted 17 shutouts.
Dilkes and Eldridge said they would accept the recognition not just for themselves, but also on behalf of every member of the 21-2 Jennies soccer program. The Jennies emerged victorious in the MIAA Tournament and made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Eldridge said although the team dominated their competition this season, they refused to take any game lightly.
“(The MIAA) got a lot better this year so not every game was an easy win,” Eldridge said. “You have to think of every game like the biggest game of your season.”
UCM’s third recognition belongs to track and field thrower Heavin Warner.
The United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association declared Warner the National Athlete of the Year after winning her third-consecutive NCAA Division II hammer throw championship. Warner also took second nationally in the weight throw and shot put and earned five All-American awards.
Not only were UCM athletes recognized, but the university was also represented in the induction portion of the ceremony. The MSHOF inducted the UCM baseball program and former Mules pitcher Jim Crane.
The baseball program was inducted for its unparalleled success since its inception in 1965. Over the last 51 years, the program captured two national championships, 17 regional championships, and 25 MIAA championships. In the process of winning its second national championship in 2003, the Mules became the first NCAA Division II baseball team to record 50 wins in four consecutive seasons.
Mules head coach Kyle Crookes made it clear that the induction was not meant to honor a single team or championship, but rather to cement an entire dynasty.
“I believe it’s not just one year or one decade,” Crookes said. “It’s the entire program… and I think it speaks to the level of play that’s been sustained here, created by coaches and administration and (athletic director) Jerry Hughes.”
UCM’s success was due in part to fellow inductee and former Mules pitcher, Jim Crane.
Crane pitched for the Mules from 1973-1976 and set a series of records that still remain intact. He has the most strikeouts in a single game with 18, and his seven shutouts and 23 complete games mark the most in Mules history.
Crane continued to support the Mules long after his graduation. He was a primary donor in the 1998 renovations that cost $1.2 million, funded the construction of batting cages and a weight room in 2004, and paid for the installation of synthetic turf in 2015.
Crookes emphasized the importance of the batting cages that Crane funded and how they affect the program.
“We’re a cold weather state and we have to play baseball in cold weather,” Crookes said. “He allowed us to (practice in the cold), that’s incredibly important for the development of our players.”
The Mules baseball program and Jim Crane were inducted alongside notable professional athletes such as St. Louis Cardinals Outfielder Vince Coleman, Kansas City Chief Quarterback Bill Kenny, and Kansas City Royal Outfielder Amos Otis.