GOLD RUSH: Entering the Pantheon
Nov. 4, 2013
This article was originally published in the October 2013 edition of Gold Rush
By Jay Reddick, Gold Rush
On Sept. 13, five more names were added to an exclusive list -- the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame. Four of them were stars in the early 2000s, while one has stayed close to WFU sports after first making his mark in the 1950s.
During her stellar women's tennis career at Wake Forest, Bea Bielik said she learned many lessons, but none were as important as how to be a good teammate.
The women's tennis standout from 1999-2002, who won the NCAA singles championship and almost every athletic honor available to her in her final season, said during her upbringing in Valley Stream, N.Y., tennis was always an individual sport -- workouts by yourself or with a partner, matches and tournament as a singles or doubles competitor. She didn't know what it was like to play for something bigger than herself.
"I realized later what an impact that had," Bielik said. "It was good for my future, working with people in a close-knit environment. Being with those teammates was really special. We went to battle every day in practice, but we were sisters off the court.
"I couldn't have been happier to win the NCAA title, not just for myself, but for the chance to represent this university."
Bielik's NCAA title is only one of eight for an individual athlete at Wake Forest, joining golfers Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange, Jay Haas and Gary Hallberg, and track and field athletes Andy Bloom, Michelle Sikes and Michael Bingham.
After Bielik left Wake Forest, she found success on the WTA Tour, including two upset victories at the 2002 U.S. Open, but during her acceptance speech, she said her best memories and most profound moments as a tennis player came as a Wake Forest student.
Bielik's longtime doubles partner, Janet Bergman, was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.
"Half of my success on the tennis court is on her," Bielik said.
"President Hearn was a tremendous supporter of women's tennis," Bielik said. "We saw him on the courts all the time. It was a very, very special moment for me to have his support at the U.S. Open."
When Jenny Everett got her Hall of Fame call, her life was in the midst of a major transition. After several years as an accountant with a private-equity firm in Charlotte, the former two-time field-hockey All-American decided to leave the world of high finance behind -- far, far behind.
In May, Everett signed on as president and CEO of the Walter T. Kelley Company, a Clarkson, Ky., firm that specializes in beekeeping supplies. Beekeeping had become a beloved hobby for Everett, and when she realized she was tired of a job that always kept her behind a desk, this opportunity seemed like the right one.
"I took a long road to get here," Everett said. "I get to combine my two passions, business and the outdoors, and I feel like I'm finally in a place where my personal values and my professional values match up."
Everett was a member of the U.S. national team after she graduated with a business degree in 2001. She got her master's in accounting from UNC-Chapel Hill, but don't hold that against her, she said.
"I got one good thing from UNC, and that's my husband," Everett said. "I told him everyone makes mistakes, and I forgive him. I have two nephews (ages 1 and 3), and they're not allowed to go to any school but Wake Forest. My husband isn't even allowed to talk to them about it."
Everett was WFU's leader in career goals and points when she left, and she was part of building the program's storied history, which has since resulted in three national championships. She is the first field-hockey player in the WFU Sports Hall of Fame.
"When (coach Jen Averill) mentioned that to me, it didn't really sink in," Everett said. "I'm really happy to be a part of the gold standard of the program. I was just the start, and the people before me, but since then, a tradition and a legacy have been built."
Winston-Salem will always be home for Josh Howard. He was born and raised here, became a star at Glenn High School in Kernersville, and of course, became an All-American and ACC men's basketball Player of the Year with the Deacons in 2003.
But now, he says Dallas also feels like home to him. He spent his first 6½ NBA seasons with the Mavericks and has kept a home in town even as his travels have taken him through three other franchises.
"People here treat me just like home," Howard said from his home in north Dallas. "I built a fan base here when I played, but now I just love the people and the area. With my kids getting older, I wanted to settle down."
Howard has had some bad luck with injuries since he left the Mavericks in 2010. He tore the ACL in his knee in February of that year, a month after joining the Washington Wizards. In December 2012, playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, he tore the ligament again. So when he got the call from Ron Wellman, congratulating him on his Hall of Fame selection, Howard was hard at work rehabilitating his knee.
"It's still a surreal moment," Howard said. "Wellman has kept in touch, so when he called I thought he was just checking on me. Then he told me about the Hall of Fame, and I was like, `Whaaaat? Ten years went by that fast?' It got me to sit back and reminisce."
Howard was cleared for full workouts in late summer and was looking forward to tryouts with NBA teams, hoping to get back in the game.
"The good thing about that first injury is, it gave me some time to not put miles on my body at age 29, 30. Now I'm 33, but I can play like a younger player. The game is still in my heart."
Bob McCreary's name has been all over Wake Forest athletic facilities for years. The Bob McCreary Strength Complex inside Manchester Athletic Center was completely renovated in 2008. Bob McCreary Plaza outside BB&T Field was dedicated that same year, and the Bob McCreary Video Board was installed in 2011.
And now, McCreary's name and likeness will appear in one more spot, with a Hall of Fame plaque at Bridger Field House.
"It was a call I was surprised and honored to get," McCreary said. "Getting a Wake Forest scholarship actually launched my life. Without it, I couldn't have afforded to go to college. Wake Forest has opened a lot of doors for me, and I take great pride in that."
McCreary, who lives in Newton, was a star lineman for coaches Paul Amen and Billy Hildebrand from 1958-60 before moving on to a season and a half in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, plus a stint with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.
He left the sport after getting injured and moved into furniture sales, eventually becoming successful enough to start his own home-furnishings business, McCreary Modern, in 1986. The company now employs 800 and operates six manufacturing plants in Caldwell and Catawba counties.
Now in his 70s, McCreary said he still enjoys getting up and going to work every day.
"I enjoy it," McCreary said. "I have a passion for it. I like having something to do that's exciting and rewarding. It's not work work. We have a huge obligation to our employees and our customers, and there's a lot of pleasure in that."
But of course, he also gets pleasure from watching Wake Forest sports. As much as he has contributed to the program through the years, he said he always feels like a fan first.
"I enjoy the benefits of the new facilities at Wake Forest," McCreary said. "Deacon Tower, the video board -- I'm proud to have been a part of them, but I enjoy using them as much as anyone."
Retirement has suited Cory Sullivan just fine.
After spending 12 seasons playing professional baseball, including six at the major-league level, Sullivan decided it was time to leave the game behind and spend more time with his family in Denver. At 34 years old, Sullivan is obviously not your average retiree, but he's enjoying time the way a lot of retirees do: taking it easy.
"I wanted to spend more time with my daughter (Riley, 6)," Sullivan said. "And I've done that. I take her to school, we go to the park, we're having lots of fun."
Sullivan earned his time off. With the Deacons, he hit .382 over his two-year career, becoming one of only three players in school history to get 100 hits in a season. When called upon to pitch as a senior, he excelled there as well, compiling a 7-0 record in 11 starts.
After he was signed by the Colorado Rockies organization in 2001, he rose to the big-league level and hit .294 as a rookie in 2005 while playing all three outfield positions.
He spent four years with the Rockies, including a magical World Series run in 2007, and much like his time at Wake Forest, he said the relationships he had with his teammates provided some of his best memories.
"A lot of the guys I started with in the minors in 2001 were still with me when I got to the majors," Sullivan said. "We all came up at the same time. So that was really special. I'm still close with a lot of the guys and go see them when they play in Colorado."
Sullivan's "retirement" may not last too long -- he's getting involved with a new venture, Capacity Performance, producing sports-specific mobile applications -- but his baseball memories and the Hall of Fame honor, will stick with him.
"I had a speech prepared for the Hall of Fame, but I threw it out, went on the fly and had some fun," Sullivan said. "My picture's on the wall with Brian Piccolo and Arnold Palmer. How can I be nervous? If I mess up the speech, I'm among friends, and my name is still up there."
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