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Bethel hosting 2022 Athletic Hall-of-Fame induction & alumni awards

HALL OF FAME – Bethel University will honor two former athletic greats with inductions into the prestigious Bethel Athletic Hall-of-Fame Saturday October 22. Bethel will also present the Bethel University’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Alumni Awards and Athletic Hall-of-Fame Inductions will be held in the board room of the Vera Low Center for Student Enrichment, Crisp Wing. The awards brunch will begin at 9 a.m. with reservations required.

It will mark the 42nd class to be honored. Six teams and 104 individuals have been enshrined since 1980.

Here is a look at the 2022 Athletic Hall-of Fame Class:

Alicia James-Women’s Soccer (2006)

Alicia James is regarded by all who have ever followed the women’s sport of soccer at Bethel as one of the greatest to ever set foot on the pitch. 

Alicia grew up in Kingston Jamaica and was the last of five children of Patrick Michael James and Hyacinth. 

James began playing soccer competitively at age 12 for Dunrobin Primary where she played into the primary soccer league. She was invited to train with the Jamaica National Senior team months after and went on to captain the team just four years and four months after she turned 16. Alicia became the youngest ever Senior National team Captain to date. She went to Meadowbrook High School and played for two years. James then attended St. Jago High School in sixth form where the team won the soccer competition.

Upon graduating from high school Alicia received multiple scholarship offers from Universities and Colleges in the United States and Canada. In 2002 she received a call from Bethel Coach Misty Aird and the rest is history. 

Coach Aird had this to say about James. “Alicia was one of the best midfielders I ever coached. She was a game changer as well as being a special player and person. You could tell her what you wanted, and she would make it happen. Alicia was a star but was extremely humble. She would give the ball to her teammates and would always give her team the credit. It was an honor to coach and now call her my friend.”  

James’s accolades are various and impressive. She was a Jamaican National team player. She holds the record for assists at Bethel. The NAIA All-American made the National All-Tournament team and was a 1st team all-conference and all-region performer for four years. Alicia was named the conference MVP two years and was a two-time NAIA Academic All-American. 

James continues to have a passion for the sport. She played for a couple of years upon returning home then decided to make the transition into coaching. She coaches both male and female squads. In December 2021 Alicia was appointed the assistant coach for the female National U17 team and the U15 team in May 2022.

James lives by this quote, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”

James resides in Kingston, Jamaica and works for the Bank of Nova Scotia Limited (BNS). 

Leah Hensley Cripps- Softball (2011)

Leah Hensley Cripps was a standout pitcher for the Bethel softball team from 2007-11. Recognized as one of the great softball pitchers in the history of the school, Leah dominates the program record book in various categories. 

Leah is the first softball player in the history of the school to be inducted into the hall. She holds the following records:

Season Records:

No. 1 in appearances in a season – 33 (2010)

No. 1 in starts in a season-27 (2010)

No. 1 in wins in a season- 19 (2009)

No. 2 in ERA in a season- 1.68 (2009)

No. 1 in complete games in a season- 22 (2010)

No. 1 in shutouts in a season- 8 (2009)

No. 1 in innings pitched in a season- 189.1 (2010)

Career records:

No. 1 in career ERA- 2.54 (2009-11)

No. 2 in career appearances- 83 (2009-11)

No. 2 in games started- 68 (2009-11)

No.1 in wins-42 (2009-11)

No. 1 in complete games 60 (2009-11)

No. 1 in shutouts – 14 (2009-11)

No. 1 in innings pitched- 99 (2009-11)

No. 2 in strikeouts- 232 (2009-11)  

Leah’s 19 wins, eight shutouts and her 1.68 ERA in 2009, helped lead the Lady Wildcats to a 34-14 record and an appearance in the NAIA Championship Opening Round. 

Leah was named to the TranSouth All-Conference squad in 2011. She was named to the NAIA All-Academic team from 2009-11.

Husband Will and Leah both graduated from Bethel with Bachelors in Education and Masters of Education degrees in 2011. They were married in December of 2012 and lived in McKenzie for two years while she taught 3rd grade at McKenzie Elementary. While at McKenzie she also coached softball. Leah was the assistant softball coach to the high school team and the assistant coach for McKenzie Junior High her first year. In Leah’s second year she was the head softball coach for the junior high program. The couple had their first child that year when Calltn was born. 

Wishing to move closer to their family, they accepted jobs in Humphreys County. Leah took a Waverly Elementary School position   teaching 3rd grade. Leah taught at WES for seven years. The couple had their second child in August 2018, son Will Cripps IV. They kept the family tradition going, with real name being Willie Cripps. 

In 2021, Leah decided to switch to Waverly Central High School as their new school counselor. The first year at the school, the couple endured the flood that went through Humphreys County which destroyed two schools and affected the high school including Will’s baseball field. 

Leah stated, “As a family we love to travel and see new places. Our goal is to see every MLB stadium in the US. We have seen many but had to pause due to young children. Our children keep us busy now that they are at the ages of four and eight. Our lives are surrounded by our children, helping children in our school, and playing sports.”  She added, “I must thank God and my amazing family that helped get me to where I am today. I have always had a great support system. I started pitching when I was nine in my front yard with my dad. My parents, two sisters (Sandi Purcell and Lindsey Hensley), and my grandparents (Roger and Jean Hensley) were always at my games. I also want to thank Coach Larry Geraldi for the opportunity to play at Bethel University and his continued support in all my endeavors.” She concluded, “Work hard for what you want in life. Enjoy the little moments. No regrets. Trust in God”

Coach Geraldi shared his thoughts, “It was an honor and pleasure to have coached Leah as a member of the Bethel softball family. Leah made an immediate impact on our program as soon as she stepped on campus. Her presence and calmness in the circle were things of beauty, even under the most difficult pressure situations. Leah had one of the best changeups of any pitcher I have ever seen, and she would throw it on any count as well as consecutively if needed. As important as her play on the field was, her value to our program and her teammates was evident each day at practice, in the classroom, on campus, at team events and by the character she displayed. Leah was (is) a hard worker, coachable, a team player, easy to get along with, punctual, and always willing to step up and help where needed. All of Leah’s traits and character have continued to make her a success in her adult life as a wife, mom, and educator. Leah Hensley Cripps has made a major impact on Bethel University and on everyone she comes in contact with and is very deserving of this honor.”

For more information and reservations contact: Kristy Dunn at (731) 352-6428 or [email protected].

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