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Crazy Things Happen in D-III

November 18, 2013 - Al Stephenson
I first heard about Heidelberg University's Cartel Brooks setting a rushing record on Sportscenter. When a local athlete makes it on ESPN that's a little crazy, but very cool. I have to admit though, that a red flag went up as I saw the gaudy number. 465 rushing yards in a single game? That's crazy. Then again we are talking about Division III athletics where unusual things do happen.

I was concerned that the number was not legitimate. Was it a blowout? Did they give him the ball on every play? I couldn't help but think about Jack Taylor from Grinnell College (D-3 of course) who scored 138 points in a basketball game last season. The game was all about setting the record as even the other team played the role of the helpless Globetrotter opponent. That did not sit well with me. The man can shoot a basketball however. He scored 109 just yesterday!

Brooks record seems legit. He did carry the ball 38 times. I was hoping it was not 78. The game was not particularly close, but certainly not a total blowout where a record could be considered hollow. It was an athletic accomplishment to be proud of.

I am not a stranger to astonishing D-III athletic feats. I played baseball and basketball at Hiram College and witnessed two of those. No, it wasn't me doing the extraordinary. If I wanted to "toot" my own horn it would be for flubs like losing a fly ball in the sun that cost us a chance to play in a post season tournament. I also let a ground ball go through my legs that prevented Hiram from winning the conference my senior year. I do however, vividly remember two nights on the basketball floor that fall in the same category as Brooks' Saturday afternoon.

The first was a game against Youngstown State and a player named John McElroy. He torched us for 72 points in a 93-43 YSU win. After he missed only one field goal try in the first half, our coach must have repeated the phrase "I told you he could shoot" some 25 times during his halftime speech. It wasn't like we didn't believe him. When McElroy went up from the corner for a jump shot, we sent him sprawling into the cheerleaders. No call. Not needed. Nothing but net.

What I don't understand about his performance is the fact that YSU claims he scored the 72 against Wayne State not Hiram. I played in the game. I watched the awesome performance. Hiram should get credit for being the Washington Generals in this one. It reminds me of the time we beat Jacksonville University on our annual spring break baseball trip to Florida. After years of trying, we finally got their number only to have the papers the next day state that in a scrimmage game with Hiram no score was kept. Bull feathers!

As impressive as McElroy was that night, my most memorable moment in college hoops came in my sophomore year in a game at Kenyon College. Hiram lost to Kenyon 116-110 as John Rinka played in his last home game for the Lords. A 5'9' sharpshooter from Milwaukee, Rinka poured in 52 that night. He is still the leading scorer in Ohio Conference history by a wide margin. I believe he scored over 3,200 points in his career. When he was removed from the game with just a few seconds left, our entire coaching staff and players went to the Kenyon bench to congratulate him as the crowd roared. It was a moment I will never forget.

This past summer I ran into a fellow who had John Rinka as a high school English teacher and was a real close friend of one of Rinka's sons. It is, as they say, a small world. Speaking of small, Division III schools are just that. Don't think for a minute that they do not produce some great athletes however. Crazy, outstanding feats can occur at the smallest levels of the sporting world.

The view from my seat suggests that Cartel Brooks should be congratulated on an awesome performance. Stay tuned for the next great moment in Division III athletics. It is almost guaranteed to happen at an athletic venue near you.

 
 

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