Dick Dechert told about reluctantly running in a relay race.

Bill Wright told about meeting his wife.

It happened at the Millikin University Homecoming dinner for alumni award recipients and athletic Hall of Fame inductees.

A 1954 Millikin graduate from Stonington, Dechert entertained the diners with a tale of pole vaulting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It seems Dechert’s father built a pole vault pit in the front yard. Dechert practiced clearing the bar in grade school and high school. When he arrived at Millikin, he was still pole vaulting along with playing second base on the baseball team.

One day, a baseball game and a track and field meet were going on simultaneously. The baseball game finished and Dechert headed for the showers. En route he noticed the relay group was missing a fourth member. He told himself: “There’s nobody around. I better get out of here.”

As Dechert reached perceived safety, he was stopped by Coach Ralph Allan. “Have you ever ran in the relay race?” Allan asked. Dechert shook his head. “You’re going to do it right now,” Allan responded. Dechert pleaded: “I can’t do it, coach.” The irritated Allan insisted: “Get your shirt off and get out there.”

Bowing to authority, Dechert reported and received hurry-up instruction on how to receive and pass the relay baton.

Wouldn’t you know, Millikin’s veteran runners took the lead as Dechert sweated. Now, it was Dechert’s turn. “I must have been the slowest relay runner of all time,” he said. “Somehow I held the lead. I was glad to get rid of the baton. This is a story I’ve never told. I guess I was saving it for this occasion.”

Dechert received the loyalty award in recognition of his outstanding commitment and service to Millikin and his community. Dechert is Millikin’s unofficial sports historian and cheerleader.

Speaking of cheerleaders, there’s one in Bill Wright’s tale.

Wright also received a loyalty award. A retired information systems manager at Caterpillar Inc. in Morton, Wright is a 1959 Millikin graduate.

He was the captain of the first Millikin cross country team and also participated in basketball and track and field.

“I sat on the bench in basketball,” he confided. “It wasn’t so bad. I got a good look at the cheerleaders and married one of ’em, Maddy Weber.”

Other alumni award recipients:

* Greg Meisenhelter, a 2000 graduate, young alumnus award

* Scott Flora, a 1978 graduate, merit loyalty award

* Kerry Murray, a 1992 graduate, alumni merit award

* Herbert Zuegel, a 1952 graduate, and Barbara Burgis Zuegel, a 1953 graduate, alumnus of the year award.

* Mary Covey Coventry, a 1982 graduate, School of Nursing alumnus of the year award

Athletic Hall of Fame inductees:

* Lance Brooks, 2006, track and field

* Denise Fogle, 1991, softball

* Suzanne Murphy Short, 2000, volleyball

* Lin Stoner, 1973, recruitment and support of athletics and coaching.

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