Three former student-athletes representing four varsity sports were welcomed into Western Carolina University’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, Nov. 3, becoming the 23rd induction class in WCU history. Football’s Bill Stanley ’69 MAEd ’72, two-sport star Eric Johnson ’04 and Laura Tieszen Kamarainen ’05 of women’s track and field were honored during a variety of activities.
Stanley, a member of the Catamount football from 1964 until 1969, enjoyed a solid four-year career as both an offensive and defensive lineman under head coach Dan Robinson ’50. Stanley was a part of three consecutive teams from 1964 through 1966 that finished the year with a record above .500. Playing for WCU in the old Carolinas Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, in 1967 he became the first, and only, Catamount to win the Kirkland Blocking Trophy.
The post-season accolades continued in 1967 as Stanley was named to the NAIA District 26 squad and was tabbed All-NAIA along the offensive front. He also received All-Carolinas Conference kudos as a defensive tackle, becoming the last Catamount to earn honors on offense and defense in the same season.
Stanley went on to a career in education, including a 27-year stint at Halifax Community College in Weldon. He began as the evening director in 1973, quickly progressing to serve as the college’s associate dean of evening programs, dean of continuing education and, in 1989, vice president of the college. In 1999, Stanley was honored as the college’s “administrator of the year.”
Under his direction, Halifax Community College established a small business center and industrial training programs. He launched firefighter training programs and provided leadership to the campus in a statewide restructuring and reengineering process mandated by the North Carolina Community College System. One of his most-recognized accomplishments was the organization and successful implementation of the college’s pulp and paper technology program – the only one of its kind in the state community college system.
Johnson was a two-sport athlete at Western Carolina, playing both football and baseball for the Catamounts from 1995 through 1999. A two-time All-America selection, in 1997 and 1998, Johnson is one of just two former Catamount football players to earn consensus first-team All-America accolades, joining Kerry Hayes ’96, who did so in 1993.
Johnson also was a two-time All-Southern Conference first-team selection on defense for the Catamounts, while also garnering first-team league plaudits in baseball. He is one of only five student-athletes in Southern Conference history to be named first-team All-SoCon in football and baseball in the same year. Additionally, as a rookie, the Shallotte native was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team.
Johnson remains tied for third in WCU career history for tackles, amassing 326 total hits including 219 solo stops. He holds two of the top 10 single-season tackle totals, and is fourth with 128 hits in 1997 and ninth with a team-best 118 tackles in 1998. In 2000, he was named a defensive back on WCU’s 20th Century Football Team.
On the diamond, Johnson was a first team All-SoCon selection in 1999, pacing the squad with a school single-season record 83 runs scored on 100 base hits. Once on base, the speedy Johnson remained a threat, collecting a school-record 46 stolen bases in 1999 – sixth in the SoCon record books. Johnson is fifth in program history with 59 combined stolen bags. He was a two-time SoCon All-tournament team honoree, in 1998 and 1999.
He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians following the 1999 season, selected in the third round with 107th overall pick – the highest for a Catamount baseball player since 1993. He remained in the Indians organization for three years, progressing to the Class A Kinston Indians before going back to the gridiron, making the practice squad with the Chicago Bears as a defensive back in 2001. He returned to the diamond in 2003-04 with the Boston Red Sox organization, progressing to the Sox’s Double-A affiliate in Portland.
A track and field standout from 2002 through 2005, Kamarainen captured 13 All-Southern Conference accolades during her four-year career, winning in the pole vault, javelin and the pentathlon/heptathlon events. She was a six-time SoCon champion in the women’s pole vault, including three individual crowns split equally between the indoor and outdoor seasons, also claiming individual championships in the outdoor heptathlon and the indoor pentathlon in 2005.
Kamarainen, who continues to hold both the league and school pole vault record set in the 2004 SoCon outdoor championship, was a three-time SoCon Most Valuable Field Performer, earning the recognition in both the 2004 indoor and outdoor championships and again in the 2005 outdoor championships. Also during the 2004 outdoor championship event, she collected a runner-up finish in the 2004 javelin throw en route to being named field MVP at the meet.
A native of Rapid City, S.D., Kamarainen dominated the SoCon’s indoor pole vault competition from 2003 through 2005, winning the event three consecutive seasons. She additionally competed in the pole vault at the junior national level as a true freshman in 2002. Also, she held WCU’s record in the indoor pentathlon from 2004 until 2010, collecting 3,102 points.
Combined, Kamarainen was a three-time SoCon Athlete of the Week selection between the indoor and outdoor seasons, while also garnering numerous Student-Athlete of the Week honors recognizing her performance both athletically and in the classroom. She was also tabbed the league’s track and field athlete of the month in February of 2005.
“These three former student-athletes are outstanding additions to our Hall of Fame,” said Randy Eaton, director of athletics. “Their accomplishments in the athletic arena, in the academic environment and in society exemplify what it means to be a Catamount.”