Bethel University honored three former athletic greats, one team, and two contributors with inductions into the prestigious Bethel Athletic Hall-of-Fame Saturday. The event was held in Crisp Arena.
The two contributors inducted were W. Kent and Charlene Jones.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones have been longtime supporters of Bethel College and Bethel University for many years. The McKenzie natives are graduates of the school, and their support in various ways has never wavered. Part of the fabric of each one of their lives are woven in purple and gold.
Kent is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and has been a licensed and renowned attorney for 56 years.
He is recognized as one of the great all-time voices of West Tennessee athletics covering sports on the radio or as a public address announcer for seven decades.
At the age of 19, he started with WHDM doing tape replays of McKenzie High with his first game being in 1957. He had worked the board prior to that listening to Art Mooney call Tennessee games and was inspired to become a broadcaster in his own right.
He did three different stints with WKTA calling McKenzie High football and Bethel College basketball for a total of seven years. He then worked three years with WCMT and worked on the UTM network doing games all throughout the South. He worked at WVHR for 21 seasons serving as the voice of the Huntingdon Mustangs and broadcasting 270 games including four state championship appearances and the 2003 Mustang title.
The iconic and distinguished voice was already familiar to West Tennessee fans but even more so recently to Bethel Wildcat football fans as the P.A. voice of the football Wildcats for ten seasons.
His dedication to his family and his broadcasting can be summed in a weekend that took place in 2003. That Friday he had lunch with his son and family in Dallas, flew home to do the Huntingdon/ Milan playoff game and then flew back to Dallas to have breakfast to reunite with his family again. He said, “American Airlines was right on schedule.”
Kent is a member of the Carroll County Sports Hall-of-Fame.
Charlene Penick Jones is a graduate of McKenzie High School and Bethel College with majors in Music and English. She also graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in Music Education. She had a great impact and a servant’s heart as a teacher in the McKenzie school system sharing her love of music for 20 years.
As a former student and now Associate Athletic Director Brad Chappell stated, “Charlene was my teacher and a great one. When she held up one finger and told you that was one, you did not want her to say two.”
Charlene is a former church organist and choir director at Huntingdon Methodist Church and is presently choir director at McKenzie First United Methodist Church.
She served on the Bethel University Board of Trustees for three terms.
Charlene and Kent have been married since 1958 and two sons, Richard Kent and Charles David. They have four grandchildren, Justine, Maggie, Bella and Fielding Jones. Charlene shares this night with her sister Jenny Penick Garner.
Bethel Director of Athletics Dale Kelley commented, “Kent and Charlene have both contributed so much to so many. Their love of Carroll County and Bethel is absolutely immeasurable. They care about people and have impacted so many in our area. I am proud to call them dear friends and so happy to share this day with them.”
Bethel Associate Athletic Director Brad Chappell said, “The 2019 Hall-of-Fame class is rich with a tradition of excellence in athletics at Bethel University. This class represents a broad swath of our athletic history and I was proud to be a part of their induction ceremony.”
Chappell served as the MC of the event each year.
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Other 2019 inductees included:
Cliff Barna was raised in Ocala, Florida and it was a football scholarship that brought him to Bethel University in McKenzie. Cliff received his undergrad degree in Computer Information Systems in May of 2008 and a Masters in Education in May of 2010 from Bethel.
After receiving his Masters in Education, Cliff felt called into ministry in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In the summer of 2010 Cliff started his journey to receive a Masters in Divinity from Memphis Theological Seminary. After completing his Masters in Divinity, Cliff was ordained into the Cumberland Presbyterian Church on Bethel’s campus on December 13, 2014.
As a Bethel football player, Cliff held both records for All-Time Sack Leader and All- Time Tackles for Loss Leader at one point. He started every game of his collegiate football career. After college Cliff had the opportunity to play Arena football in Huntsville, Alabama for one season.
After professional football at the Arena level, Cliff became an Assistant Football Coach for Bethel. He coached for seven years while also working as the Chaplain of Athletics for two years.
After Bethel, Cliff served as a teacher, coach, and administrator at Christian Community School, a K-12 private school in the Nashville area. Cliff is now serving as the Senior Pastor at Tusculum Church in Nashville and has held those duties the past two years.
Cliff is married to his beautiful wife, Kasey who is from Paris, Tennessee. She graduated from Bethel with a Bachelors in Science and Nursing degree. Kasey also had a successful softball career under Coach Larry Geraldi at Bethel. Kasey received a Masters in Nursing Education and is currently working as the Facility Professional Development Educator for TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.
Cliff and Kasey have two children. Daughter Ellie Anne is four years old and Lincoln Josiah will be two years old tomorrow (November 3rd). Cliff is immensely grateful for the beautiful family God has blessed him with.
Cliff’s quote that he clings on to comes from the prophet Isaiah, “Behold God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song and he has become my salvation” (Isaiah12:2).
Leah O’Grady Blackburn
Leah O’Grady Blackburn, a 5’10” senior forward from Mt. Pearl, Netherlands in Canada was a key member of the Lady Wildcat Women’s Soccer program from 2004-2007.
She was a four year 1st Team All-Conference and four year 1st Team All-Region performer for the Lady Wildcats. She was named Offensive Player of the Year all four years at Bethel. She was also named Honorable Mention All-American during her tenure at Bethel.
She scored six goals and had two assists for 14 points in an 11-1 non-conference win over Trevecca her senior season and finished her career with 97 goals. Leah was a key performer on the 04 team which is being inducted into the Hall-of-Fame today.
Growing up, she played soccer at the club, provincial, and international level. She played with the U17 Canadian National team, and after her collegiate career at Bethel she played semi-professionally in Tampa, Florida in the W League.
She is married to Clint Blackburn who played basketball at Bethel. They have been married for 10 years, and have two beautiful children, Brice, four years, and Rainey, two years.
They live in Jackson, Tennessee and Leah just recently started a personal fitness training business, LB Fitness. She is working on her soccer coaching license and will be coaching girls’ soccer with the Jackson Wolves.
Coach Malang Jarju
Coach Malang J.J. Jarju is in fourth season as head coach of the Bethel Wildcats and 12th overall at the school. He was a member of the Wildcats from 2003-2007 and then was a longtime assistant with the program.
Coach Jarju was named as interim head coach in July of 2016 after the resignation of his longtime mentor Melvin Belong. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Bethel University in 2008 and his Master’s Degree in Education this past year.
He is a native of Banjul, Gambia in West Africa, where he attended Nusrat High School. Jarju played for both the junior and senior national teams of Gambia.
He owns the record for goals scored in a career at Bethel College at 56. He also holds the record for points in a career at 151 and assists in a career at 39. He was named All-TranSouth Conference first team, All-Region first team, and NAIA All-American Honorable Mention. He is the first ever Bethel men’s soccer player to have his jersey retired and hung in Bethel’s Baker Fieldhouse.
As a coach, Jarju holds a U.S.S.F. C Certificate and a member of NSCAA. He is involved in a soccer Club with Jackson Wolves and player development in Jackson Tennessee and the surrounding communities. He conducts several soccer camps every summer which are recognized as some of the best in the South.
The Wildcats were 15-4-1 last year. They finished 7-1 in the SSAC.
Bethel has been ranked in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll this year.
Coach Malang resides in McKenzie.
2004-05 Women’s Soccer Team
The 2004-05 Bethel Women’s Soccer team was the first women’s squad in school history to make it to a national tournament quarter-final berth. They finished the season 20-4-1 after falling in the national tournament in two overtimes 2-1 to Concordia in Santa Barbara, California. They had earlier beat Park University and Azusa Pacific. Highlighting the APU match was the Lady Cats winning on a goal by All-American Alicia James. Bethel won and the 40-yard shot is still recalled by Bethel soccer fans to this day.
The Lady Cats were the KIAC Champions. They won the NAIA Region Xll championship. Bethel completed the season ranked No. 16 in the nation.
Coach Misty Aird was named conference and regional coach of the year.
Coach Aird commented on the team and season. “To win the conference and regional championships were big accomplishments for our team and each of us. We were thrilled to be going to the national tournament and we played well enough to win it. We fought some adversity but never lost our focus and confidence. This was and is a great group of ladies and we were honored then and now to represent our school and this program.”
One of the highlights of the trip to the national tournament occurred off the playing field. The team visited the TV set of the “Price is Right.” Bethel player, Morgan Giles Butler was chosen to play and won a car in the Showcase Showdown.
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Prior to this year, 91 people and three teams had been enshrined into the hall. The 2008 National Championship soccer team was the first team to be inducted at the 2013 ceremonies. The 1970-1971 Men’s Basketball Team was enshrined in 2016. The 1982 Men’s Basketball squad was inducted in 2017.
It was the 39th Hall-of-Fame Ceremonies celebrated by the school.