From the Llano Estacado, Valencia County and the Meadow City, with an overnight stay in Albuquerque, comes the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame’s 2018 induction class.
Those so honored:
• Chuck Aragon, a five-time state track and cross country champion from Los Lunas who while at Notre Dame became the first New Mexican to run a sub-4-minute mile and in 1984 missed qualifying for the Olympics by five-hundredths of a second.
• Mike Brown, whose Albuquerque Academy boys basketball teams won 442 games overall and six straight state titles from 1989-1994.
• The late Charles “Humps” Cowan, a late 1950s-early ’60s New Mexico Highlands University football and basketball star who went on to a storied, 15-year career as an offensive lineman with the Los Angeles Rams.
• Susan Craig, whose University of New Mexico softball teams won 676 games and three conference titles during her 26 years with the program (1976-2002).
• Brooks “Bubba” Jennings, a 5-foot-10 basketball sharpshooter who lit up scoreboards for the Clovis Wildcats and the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 1980s.
• Jim Murphy, who, now in his 37th year as boys basketball coach at Hope Christian High School, has won a state-record 16 state championships.
Three of the new inductees, Brown, Craig and Murphy, attended a news conference Saturday morning at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Aragon, Cowan and Jennings were represented by friends, in Aragon’s case by his older brother, Rudy.
In remarks relayed by his brother, Chuck Aragon said, “There’s nothing like being recognized at home by your people.
“As a competitor, especially when you run at the highest of levels and compete at the highest of levels, you have a tendency to look back, maybe, at what you didn’t accomplish. … So, it’s really nice to be recognized for the things that you did do.”
Aragon and his wife, Kathy Pfeifer Aragon, a former UNM middle-distance standout, have three daughters – all former or current track All-Americans. Alexa and Danielle ran for Notre Dame, their father’s alma mater. Christina is a junior at Stanford.
Aragon works as an anesthesiologist in Billings, Mont.
Family legacy is a linchpin of Brown’s story as well. He retired in 2010, but returned early this year as an assistant to his son Greg, the head coach at Volcano Vista. His son Danny was the head coach at Highland from 2003-17.
“There’s a new horde of grandkids,” he said, “which I think is gonna make their mark, too.”
Brown said success in his field should not be measured solely by wins and losses or X’s and O’s.
“One of the things I’ve learned over the years,” he said, “is that you forge a lot of friendships, a lot of relationships, a lot of memories.”
Cowan’s prodigious athletic talent was on display for 15 years in the NFL, producing four Pro Bowl berths and a total of 206 games played – second in Rams history behind Merlin Olsen’s 208.
“He never missed a team plane, never missed a team bus, never missed a block,” said presenter Ron Maestas, himself a 2017 New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame Inductee.
Fun facts: At Highlands in Las Vegas, N.M., Cowan – in addition to his duties on the offensive line – was a defensive terror and at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds dabbled as a quarterback and a wide receiver. On the basketball court, he once hauled in 29 rebounds for the Cowboys in a single game.
Cowan died in 1998 at age 59.
Craig, while proud of what her UNM softball teams accomplished during her tenure, said she was more so of her grass-roots involvement in the sport that continues to pay dividends today.
“When we started the (UNM) program,” she said, “we realized … that New Mexico high school athletes needed a way to get better to compete at the collegiate level.”
The formation of the Albuquerque Sundancers, a traveling age-group program that still thrives, was the result.
Craig also was pleased to note that her former UNM players Cheryl Johnson, Tracy Pargin and Michelle Carter are successful Albuquerque high school coaches. Ron Mims, a hitting coach under Craig at UNM, continues to work with the Sundancers.
Fun fact: Craig worked as an Albuquerque Journal reporter in the early 1970s.
Jennings, presented on Saturday by his friend Mark Sanchez, teamed with fellow guard Nelson Franse in leading Clovis to a big-school state title as a junior in 1979. As a senior, without the benefit of a 3-point line, he averaged 33.8 points per game.
“We always joked,” Sanchez said, “that his (shooting) range was the minute he crossed half court.”
As a senior at Texas Tech, he was the Southwest Conference Player of the Year and the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner as the nation’s most outstanding player standing 6 feet or shorter.
After a 28-year career as a high school and college coach, Jennings now works as a bank executive in Lubbock.
Fun fact: As a senior, Jennings scored 75 points in a game against Roswell Goddard.
Murphy’s astonishing record of success, the Hope Christian coach said, is not why he got into coaching and not why he continues to coach.
“My dad was a pastor,” Murphy said, “and he wanted me to be a preacher, too. But I told him before he passed away … I have 12 kids who have to listen to my sermons every day. (Coaching is) a great way to have an influence on young people.
“It is a great honor just to enjoy and have a difference in young people’s lives for 36 years.” And counting.
Class of six to be inducted
new mexico sports hall of fame