Eight Enshrined Into
Varsity "K" Hall of Fame
The Kent State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics bestowed its highest honor on the eight-member Varsity “K” Athletics Hall of Fame class on Saturday, Feb. 5.
Comprised of Joshua Cribbs (football, 2001-04), Blanford Fuller (men’s tennis, 1952-59), Martina Gillen (women’s golf, 2001-04), Dirk Hayhurst (baseball, 2000-03), Laing Kennedy (athletic director, 1994-2010), Mike McKibben (football, 1972-75), Beth Obruba (women’s track & field, 1996-00) and Billie Jean Smith-Goldman (women’s basketball, 1994-97), the members of the Class of 2011 were formally inducted during the two-hour ceremony in the Kent Student Center Ballroom.
In addition, Jack Rittichier (Distinguished Alumnus, posthumous) and Mel Mellis (Honorary Varsity “K”) received special recognition for their contributions and accomplishments.
“This special day is always one of the highlights of our year,” said Kent State Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen. “The accomplishments and diversity of this class represent the honor, rich tradition and a constant striving for excellence that are associated with being a member of the Golden Flashes family. This group of former student-athletes, administrators and supporters truly are the best-of-the-best when it comes to Kent State athletics.”
Cribbs, a native of Washington, D.C., became just the second player in NCAA history to record two “double-1,000 yard” seasons (both passing and rushing). For his career, Cribbs ranks first in the Kent State record book for completions (616), passing attempts (1,123), passing yards (7,169), rushing touchdowns (38), total plays (1,755 – 5th in MAC history), total yards (10,839 – 7th in MAC history), points (246) and touchdowns (41). The 2004 honorable mention All-American also ranks third in school annals in rushing yards (3,670) and has gone on to earn a pair of starting Pro Bowl nods with the Cleveland Browns.
Fuller was the MAC champion at No. 1 singles in both 1956 and 1959, while lettering for the Flashes in 1952, ‘53, ‘56 and ‘59. He had a stretch in 1959-60 when he went undefeated for nearly a year-and-a-half en route to claiming titles at the Ohio State Hard Courts, Ohio State Clay Courts, Western Open Clay Courts (now U.S. Open Clay Courts Championship), Western Indoor, Western Hard Courts and Great Lakes Championships.
Gillen was named the MAC Golfer of the Year in 2001 and ‘02, claiming medalist honors at the MAC Championship both years. The Dublin, Ireland native was a four-time All-MAC first team selection and the 2001 MAC and Central Regional Freshman of the Year. An NGCA honorable mention All-American in 2001 and ‘02, she holds the school career records for tournament victories (6), career scoring average versus par (+3.26) and top 10 finishes (25), while setting the season scoring average versus par mark in 2001-02 (+2.32).
A native of Canton, Ohio, Hayhurst earned MAC Pitcher of the Year accolades as senior in 2003. In 2002, Hayhurst was named to the All-MAC First Team and to the MAC All-Tournament Team. A three-time MAC Pitcher of the Week honoree, Hayhurst ranks first in the Kent State career record book for strikeouts (274) and innings pitched (320.2).
Kennedy retired last spring after 16 successful years as Kent State’s 10th director of athletics. During his tenure, the Golden Flashes claimed six Jacoby Trophies for women’s athletic excellence in the MAC and five Reese Trophies on the men’s side — including both awards in 2009-10, a first for the department. Kent State was the top MAC school in the national Director’s Cup standings for 10 of the last 11 years and 13 times overall, while claiming 95 MAC Championships (tournament & regular season) and 66 NCAA postseason berths. Individually, the Golden Flashes boasted 86 All-Americans, 29 Academic All-Americans and 274 MAC champions.
A native of Weston, W. Va., McKibben made 141 tackles on his way to becoming a first-team All-MAC selection at defensive line as a senior captain in 1978. A second-team All-MAC pick in 1976, he was also a two-time first-team Academic All-MAC honoree (1975 & ‘78). During his seven-year professional career, McKibben played for the New York Jets in the NFL and New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Denver in the USFL.
Obruba was a two-time All-American, finishing fourth in javelin (171’-3”) and seventh in discus (168’-11”) at the 2000 NCAA Outdoor Championships. The Greensburg, Pa., native was a three-time MAC Champion that year, claiming the shot (50’-10 3/4”) at the indoor meet, before going on to earn the discus (165’-0”) and shot put (45’-6 1/2”) titles during the outdoor season. A captain in 1998, she still holds the school record in the javelin (181’-7”).
Smith-Goldman earned first-team All-MAC accolades as a senior captain in 1997 after garnering honorable mention honors the previous season. The Hayward, Wis., native was a four-year letterwinner for the Golden Flashes and was named to the MAC All-Tournament Team in 1997. She ranks fourth in school history in assists (426) and sixth in steals (267). Her 1995-96 totals of 104 steals and 164 assists rank third and fifth, respectively, among Kent State season marks.
Rittichier was a two-sport athlete, captaining the football team in 1955 and the track squad the following year. A valuable member of the 1954 gridiron squad that participated in the Refrigerator Bowl, he died on June 9, 1968, in service to his country while flying a helicopter rescue mission in Vietnam. In 2009, the football most valuable player award was renamed in his honor. Meanwhile, Mellis is a long-time supporter of Kent State athletics and is an active member of the department’s National Athletic Development Council where he recently completed a stint as the chairman.
The Varsity “K” Athletics Hall of Fame was started in 1979 with the induction of the original 13-member charter class. The Hall of Fame honors men and women whose exceptional performance on the athletic fields and, in later years on other fields, merits special recognition from their alma mater. With the induction of its 33rd class of honorees, the Hall of Fame ranks now number 269 strong.