May 6, 2006
Cullowhee, N.C. - A total of 31 individuals, including Southern Conference champions and all-league performers, from the Catamount athletics department received their degrees Saturday afternoon during Western Carolina's annual spring graduation exercises at the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Among those were three from baseball, one from men's and women's basketball each, two from cheerleading, seven from football, two from men's golf, one from women's golf, four from soccer, eight from track & field, one from volleyball and one from athletic training.
From baseball, three members of the 2003 Southern Conference regular-season and tournament championship team completed their degrees. Current assistant coach Alan Beck, who was the 2003 SoCon Player of the Year, received his Master of Arts in Education (Two-Year College/Physical Education). Brian Barnes and Clint Ramsey, who completed their eligibility last season, completed their undergraduate work, getting B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism and B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management, respectively. Not included in the list was current pitcher Brian McCullen, who was one of 13 Catamounts who graduated this past December.
From basketball, Corey Muirhead received his B.S. in Sociology. Muirhead finished his four years at Western scoring 1,025 career points. This past season, he was named his team's MVP, ending the season 18th in the SoCon in scoring (12.0 ppg) and 13th in steals (1.5 avg.).
Shaketia Barnes becomes the fifth of five seniors from last year's 2005 Southern Conference women's basketball tournament championship team to graduate. The Wilson, N.C., native received her B.S. in Communication. As a senior, Barnes started 29 of 32 games, ranking fourth on the team in scoring.
Seven members of the football team completed their undergraduate work, including four members of Western's top-ranked defense. Leading the was is Lamar Barnes (B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance). The Clayton, N.C., native was named to both the 2005 All-SoCon teams, as voted by the coaches as well as the media, as well as his team's MVP. This past season, Barnes, James Conklin (B.S. in Criminal Justice) and two-time All-SoCon honoree Primus Glover (B.S. in Sociology) helped Western rank first in the nation in pass defense and first in the SoCon in total defense, while ranking 20th in the nation in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. Joining them are special teams regulars Buck Freeman (B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management) and Joe Patton (B.S. in Parks and Recreation Management); and quarterback Josh Lee (B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Business Administration and Law), who was additionally a SoCon champion in the javelin and three-time, all-conference honoree in the event. O.J. Owens, who began his career at Tennessee, was a senior on the 2004 team and received B.S. in Sociology.
The men's golf team has Keith Tyburski and Brian Hogan graduating. Tyburski, who ranks 17th on the WCU all-time scoring list, received his B.S. in Sociology and Hogan received his B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing.
The women's golf team is losing one of its all-time greats in Ashley Hovda, who received her B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management. Hovda, a member of Western's 2003 SoCon Championship team, was a two-time All-SoCon pick, earning first team honors in 2006 and second team in 2005 despite a second-place finish at the SoCon Championships. During the summer of 2005, she became the first-ever Catamount to qualify for the United States Golf Association Women's Amateur Tournament. Hovda recorded nine top 10 finishes this year, including winning two tournaments. Thanks to shooting a school-record 66 twice in 2005-06 and a two-round record of 134, Hovda finished the season with a school-record stroke average of 74.81.
Four members of the 2005 Southern Conference women's soccer championship squad completed their undergraduate work in four years, including Megan Chambers, Casey Davis, Natasha Moore and Emily Pierce. Chambers, Davis and Moore each received their B.S. in Communication, while Pierce received her B.S. in Biology. Chambers, who graduated cum laude, has been a valued member of the athletics department, especially in the media relations department, over her career. She made the move from center-mid to forward at the SoCon Tournament and played a key role in Western's championship run, including a late, game-tying goal in an eventual overtime win over Charleston. Davis, who has also been a valued member of the athletics department, doubled her career points in her senior season, scoring five goals and dishing out three assists and was named to the SoCon Championship All-Tournament team. The only player to be named SoCon Player of the Week this past season, Davis finished with 10 career goals to rank 10th on the WCU all-time list. Moore earned the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar third team for the second-straight season. She concluded her career at Western ranked in the career top 10 in goals (9th, 12), game-winning goals (t-7th, 4), assists (t-9th, 9) and points (9th, 33), and is just one of two Catamounts to ever record a hat trick in a single game. Pierce, who graduated magna cum laude, was a finalist for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Postgraduate Scholarship and was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District III second team in 2003 and 2005. She ranks as the all-time leading scorer among defenders at Western Carolina and was named second team All-Southern Conference as a senior, being just one of nine Catamounts all-time to earn the honor.
The track & field team had eight members - seven men who were part of the 2004 SoCon Indoor and 2006 SoCon Indoor and Outdoor Championship teams and one woman - receive their degrees. Representing women's track is multiple All-SoCon honoree, member of the WCU record-setting 4x100-meter relay and member of the 2006 SoCon champion 4x400-meter relay Cassie Gentry (B.S. in Sport Management). From the men's team are Charleton Grant (B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance/Accounting), Rod Palmer (B.S. in Biology), Adam Puett (B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Business Administration and Law), Willie Sturgis (B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship), James Barr (B.S. in Sport Management), Milton Bolton (B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship) and Wes Willoughby (B.S. in Criminal Justice). Grant and Bolton were two of five Catamounts to place in the 400-meters at the SoCon Outdoors. Bolton, who placed second in the event, won the 2002 SoCon Outdoor 400-meter dash to be the 2002 SoCon Freshman of the Year and he would earn a total of four All-SoCon honors at the 2006 SoCon Outdoors alone. At the 2006 SoCon Indoors, Bolton won the 400-meters and earned All-SoCon. Over his career, Grant was an All-SoCon performer in the 4x400 and DMR. Puett, who was named the 2004-05 WCU Male Athlete of the Year and 2006 SoCon Outdoor Track Performer of the Year, was named All-SoCon in cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field numerous times in his career. He was key in the most recent outdoor championship, running the 800-meter, 1,500-meter and the 5,000-meter runs almost in succession to help Western score enough points to win. Sturgis was an All-SoCon performer in the weight throw, while Willoughby earned all-conference honors in the pole vault. Palmer scored in multiple events on the 2004 and 2006 championship teams. Barr, who completed his eligibility in 2005 and member of the 2004 SoCon Indoor title team, was an All-SoCon performer in the both the 400-meters and 4x400-meter relay.
From volleyball, the team's MVP, Ellie Talbot, received her B.S. Criminal Justice/Sociology. This past season, she led the Catamounts with 329 kills and ranked second on the team in digs with 465, which is the fourth-best, single-season in WCU history. Talbot concluded her career ranked second on WCU's all-time digs chart (1,668), 15th in service aces (93) and 22nd in kills (591).
Rounding out the list of graduates is athletic trainer Lori Hill, who received her Master of Health Sciences. In addition to assisting with the daily operations of the athletic trainer room, Hill worked primarily with volleyball, baseball and track & field over her two years in Cullowhee.