Sunday night marked the 14th annual Illinois State Walk of Champions for the Redbird athletes. Over 150 new athletes spanning 88 countries were inducted into the Illinois State athletics family in front of Redbird Arena. The ceremony began in front of the Old Main bell located on the Quad where athletes had the opportunity to enjoy food and socialize with fellow athletes.
Veteran athletes who had witnessed the event before like Senior Women’s basketball player Lindsay Smith gave an explanation into what the ceremony was all about.
“It’s a cool event because we get to recognize all of the new athletes and initiate them into what Illinois State is all about,” Smith explained.
Men’s Basketball sophomore Reggie Lynch also added what he likes about the event.
“Just bringing all of the athletes together and having a little food for us, a walk and bringing all of the coaches together to light the torch.”
Festivities began with an opening ceremony from Illinois State President Larry Dietz welcoming the incoming athletes for the upcoming seasons. Larry Lyons, Athletic Director also spoke to the athletes. Torch bearers, who were athletes selected for the honor, took the incoming athletes on a torch-guided tour throughout the campus to explain the history of the university.
Associate athletic director Paul Downey explained what the Walk of Champions is as a whole.
“The walk of champions is basically a history lesson for student athletes, why does Abraham Lincoln matter? Where was the first gym?”
The first stop of the tour was Hovey Hall. Athletes learned how the hall was named after United States Naval Officer Charles Hovey. Next, the group was taken to Cook Hall which is the home to the music department of Illinois State. Dean of Applied Sciences Jeff Wood greeted the athletes with the playing of the school song. The Big Red Marching Machine accompanied the athletes in the song.
“We are the home of the champions,” Dean Wood stated.
The ’Birds migrated to the home of the football team, Hancock Stadium, where legendary women’s basketball coach Jill Hutchinson had a message for the incoming female athletes.
“Pave the way for future female athletes.” Coach Hutchinson wanted to make that clear to the new birds.
At last the journey ended in front of Redbird Arena, where all of the new athletes from each sport received their half-medallion to put in the Chalice of Champions. These athletes will earn back their medallion once their career has come to an end. After putting the medallion in the chalice, athletes also had the opportunity to touch the Redbird stone for their first time after exiting the stage.
Illinois State athletes will now begin their four-year journey into their respective sport and will always remember how and where their Redbird athletic career began.