501 Life Magazine | Twelve inaugural inductees for CHS sports hall of fame
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Twelve inaugural inductees for CHS sports hall of fame

The inaugural class for the Conway High School Wampus Cat Sports Hall of Fame will be inducted during a banquet at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16.

The inaugural induction banquet for the Conway High School Wampus Cat Sports Hall of Fame will be held 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Conway High School cafeteria.

Organizers are expecting a sellout crowd.

The Class of 2019 consists of 12 Wampus Cats: Marvin Delph, Henry Hawk, Tim Horton, Julie Jiska Seymour, Greg Lasker, Mike Neuhofel, Mike New, J.B. Pendergraft, Lawson Pilgrim, Ernest Ruple, Kenny Smith and Dandra Thomas.

Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased by contacting Conway High athletic department secretary Beth Fluesmeier at fluesmeb@conwayschools.net or 501.450.6631. Additional information is available on the Wampus Cat Sports Hall of Fame page on Facebook.quet are $50 each. To order, contact CHS athletic secretary Beth Fluesmeier at fluesmeb@conwayschools.net or 501-450-6631. The address to mail a check is: Conway High Athletic Dept, attn Beth, 2300 Prince Street, Conway, AR 72034. If mailing a check, make it payable to: Wampus Cat Booster Club.

Sponsorships are available for $750 that get the sponsor one banquet table (8 tickets), two tickets to a special pre-event reception, a half-page ad in the program, and recognition from the podium and in other communication about the event. Let us know if you are interested in a sponsorship.

Proceeds from the event go to support the booster club and thus Conway High athletics.

Sponsors include Centennial Bank, Conway Corp, Virco, First Security Bank, Smith Ford, Conner & Sartain, Peak Performance Academy, Central Baptist College, Lasker Construction, Drs. Dave Naylor and Brock King, Conway Wealth Management and Steve Strange Sr.

Marvin Delph – CHS Class of 1974

Delph helped the Wampus Cats win state AAA basketball championships in 1973 and 1974. He was voted state tournament MVP both years.

Delph attended the University of Arkansas, where he joined Sidney Moncrief and Ron Brewer as they became known as the famed “Triplets,” leading the Hogs to back-to-back Southwest Conference championships and the 1978 NCAA Final Four.  

Delph was drafted into the NBA in 1978 by the Buffalo Braves and in 1979 by the Boston Celtics. However, he did not play in the NBA, opting to play internationally with Athletes in Action, a Christian-based team out of California.

He has been inducted into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor, the SWC Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Henry Hawk – CHS Class of 1956

Hawk won the Frank E. Robins Award for outstanding senior athlete in 1956. 

He was named all-state in football and basketball, as well as excelling at track for the Wampus Cats. Hawk was also an outstanding Golden Gloves amateur boxer.

He continued his athletic career at the University of Central Arkansas, earning all All-AlC honors in both football and track. 

Hawk signed a contract with the Canadian Football League, but returned to Arkansas to start a coaching career that lasted two decades. He has been a world-class distance runner for decades, in multiple events from 800 meters to 50 miles. He participated in 10 straight Boston Marathons. 

He has won dozens of national titles over the years. His training and exercise programs have been nationally recognized, and he has served on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness.

Hawk has been inducted into seven halls of fame.

Tim Horton – CHS Class of 1986

When Harold Horton took the University of Central Arkansas football job in 1982, Conway got one of the great coaches in Bear history. Conway also got his son, Tim, then in junior high, who became one of the great athletes in Wampus Cat history.

The younger Horton was a football and track star at CHS. He was named all-state tailback in 1984 and 1985. He was also a standout sprinter, setting the school record in the 100-meter dash in 1986.

When he graduated in 1986, he was offered a scholarship to the University of Arkansas. He was a four-year letterman from 1986-1989. He helped the Hogs to back-to-back Southwest Conference championships.

Horton is the running backs coach at Vanderbilt University.

Julie Jiskra Seymour – CHS Class of 1987

Jiskra was a three-time state cross country champion, and a two-time state champion in the 800-meters, 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters.

At the Meet of Champs, Jiskra won the 1,600 three consecutive years, setting the state record of 5:01.1 as a junior in 1986. She helped the Wampus Cats win the 1986 state cross country championship and state track and field titles in 1986 and 1987. She also played basketball and golf.

Jiskra received an athletic scholarship to Rice University. In 1991, she earned NCAA Division I All-American honors in the 10,000 meters, finishing fourth at the outdoor championships. She was also named an Academic All-American.

Still competing, Jiskra was the Cat 2 Women’s South Carolina State Mountain Bike Champion in 2017 and age group Marathon Mountain Bike National Champion in 2018.

Gregory Lasker – CHS Class of 1982

As a junior, Lasker led the Wampus Cats to the 1981 AAAA state track championship, taking first in the 100 and 220-yard dashes and as part of the mile relay. He later won the 100 at the Meet of Champs.

As a senior, Lasker won four events at the state meet – the 100, 200 and 400 meters and as part of the 1,600-meter relay. He then won the 100 and 200 at the Meet of Champs.

He earned a football scholarship to the University of Arkansas where he was a four-year starter at safety for the Razorbacks from 1982-1985. As a freshman, he also did a little fill-in work for John McDonnell’s track team, running a few 1600-meter relays.

The New York Giants selected him in the second round of the 1986 draft. He played three seasons in the NFL and was a member of the Super Bowl XXI championship team.

Mike Neuhofel – CHS Class of 1985

Like many kids growing up in Conway, Neuhofel played a multitude of sports, but it was in the pool where he achieved a level of success that few can match.  

He began swimming with Bob Courtway and the Hendrix Aquakids at the relatively late age of 14. He also swam for the Little Rock Racquet Club Dolphins, travelling throughout the United States to compete. 

Standing 6’6”, Neuhofel became a high school All-American swimmer at Conway High and a four-time junior national champion. 

After weighing several scholarship offers, Neuhofel signed to swim for the University of Arkansas. He became a 10-time All-American and was named the Razorback’s most valuable swimmer from 1986-1988. 

He was a member of the United States National Team from 1986-1988 and was internationally ranked in 1987 and 1988. He was a finalist at the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Neuhofel has been inducted into the Arkansas Swimming Hall of Fame.

Mike New – CHS Class of 1969

New quarterbacked the Wampus Cats to 20 wins over two seasons, going 10-1 in 1967 and 10-2 in 1968. The 1967 squad won the Region 3AA West conference championship. New was twice an all-state selection in football and played in the 1969 all-star game. He also earned All-American honors as a senior.

New was an all-state basketball player and also ran track. As a senior, his teammates selected him as co-captain in both football and basketball.

New was recruited by colleges from all over the country, but chose the University of Arkansas. As a freshman, New was moved to defensive back. Wanting to play quarterback, he transferred to the University of Central Arkansas where he lettered in 1971.

New served as an assistant coach at Conway High from 1975-1979.  

He had a long and distinguished career as a football referee and has been inducted into the Arkansas Officials Association Hall of Fame.

J.B. Pendergraft – CHS Class of 1966

Pendergraft was one of the best all-around athletes to ever come out of Conway High School.

An all-state basketball player, he was also an outstanding sprinter on the track team. In football, he was a key member of the most celebrated team in Wampus Cat history. As a junior in 1964, Pendergraft was a two-way starter for the undefeated state champions.

Pendegraft originally signed with the University of Arkansas and played for their freshman team, the Shoats, in 1966. He transferred to UCA, where he lettered from 1968-1970.

Pendergraft later served as a coach in the Conway School District. 

Lawson Pilgrim – CHS Class of 1976

Pilgrim was simply a winner on the basketball court. From the seventh through 12th grades, his teams went a combined 141-11.

As a sophomore, he was a starter on Conway’s 1974 AAA state championship squad. As a senior, he was a part of one of the greatest teams in state history.

The 1976 Wampus Cats captured the AAA state championship, with Pilgrim earning tournament MVP honors. The Cats then won the school’s only overall title, finishing the season a perfect 36-0. 

Pilgrim went to the University of Arkansas, where he lettered as a freshman. He then transferred back home to Hendrix College. Hendrix coach Cliff Garrison said Pilgrim was one of the greatest competitors he ever saw in his 41 years of coaching. 

Pilgrim went on play internationally for Athletes in Action. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Hendrix Sports Hall of Honor.                                                                              

Ernest Ruple – CHS Class of 1963

Ruple was an all-state football player in 1962 and a standout on the track team, where he set a school record in the discus while helping the Wampus Cats win the 1963 state championship.

He accepted a football scholarship to the University of Arkansas. Freshmen were ineligible to play with the varsity in those days, but Ruple was a member of the team when the Razorbacks won the 1964 national championship.

Pittsburgh drafted Ruple in the second round of the 1968 NFL draft with the 36th overall selection. He played two seasons with the Steelers. Ruple later got into coaching and returned to his alma mater as an assistant. He was named head football coach of the Wampus Cats in 1975. 

Kenny Smith – CHS Class of 1967

As a football player, Smith was a member of Conway High School’s 1964 state championship team and was a co-captain as a senior in 1966. He also played basketball for the Cats.

He later played football at the University of Central Arkansas, where he lettered for the Bears as a lineman in 1970.

Smith then began a coaching career that took him to stops in North Little Rock, Cabot and Magnolia. He returned to his alma mater as an assistant football coach in 1984 and got his dream job in 1991 when he was named head football coach of the Conway High School Wampus Cats. 

He is the longest tenured coach in school history, serving 18 years from 1991-2008. 

Dandra Thomas – CHS Class of 1994

Thomas was a basketball, volleyball and track star at Conway High and was honored in 1994 with the inaugural Ruth Doyle Award for outstanding female senior athlete.  

Her ninth grade basketball team at Conway Junior High began the program’s remarkable 140-game winning streak. As a sophomore, she led the Lady Cats to their first state final appearance.

She also earned all-state honors in volleyball. Her versatility was further showcased in track & field, where she ran the 400, high jumped and threw the discus.

After high school, Thomas signed to play basketball at Oral Roberts University and later transferred to UCA, where she played both basketball and volleyball for the Sugar Bears.  

She passed away in 2003 at age 27.