Anderson, (McGowan) Lease, Miller honored at ninth Club Sports Hall of Fame ceremony
A passion for their respective sports and love for the Lord are two things in common with all three members of the ninth class of Liberty University’s Club Sports Hall of Fame, inducted Saturday afternoon during a ceremony at The Virginian Hotel in downtown Lynchburg.
This year’s class included its first crew team representative, rower and two-year captain Amy (McGowan) Lease (’12); men’s triathlete Joseph Anderson (’14), currently a Second Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard; and men’s lacrosse attack Ryan Miller (’15), the Flames’ all-time leading scorer who was Liberty’s first inductee into the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) Hall of Fame in 2020.
Mark Furler, Liberty’s founding crew coach, served as Lease’s presenter. He said she pulled double duty, training 20 hours per week, beginning at 5 a.m. weekdays, and coaching newcomers to the sport at night to help them learn the team culture, to help get the program off the ground and into the water.
“Amy shared in that vision to want to … not only learn a new sport, but be as competitive as possible,” he said. “If you put 20 hours of training in per week, you’re going to get ‘Most Improved.’ You’re going to figure out how to get better and she was able to lead by example. She got better and better with each day that she was in the erg room or on the water doing work.”
“I used to tell people that rowing is the single hardest physical activity that I’ve ever done in my life, then I gave birth,” added Lease, who was accompanied by her husband, Jacob (’13), and is seven months pregnant with the couple’s second child. “After having my first child, I realized that the mental and physical toughness that crew brought into my life had prepared me for way more in life than I could ever have known at the time.”
She said she is living proof that God uses flawed people to make Himself known.
“Before Liberty had a crew team, the presence of the school at some of the largest regattas on the East Coast, with the sole purpose of spreading the Gospel and Training Champions for Christ, was non-existent,” Lease said. “Now our students are getting to spread the love of Jesus with other college athletes from all over the nation at these races, and all because of a small little group interested in trying out a new sport 15 years ago.”
Ginny (Mitchell) Anderson (’15, ’17), who met her future husband on the triathlon team, presented him at the ceremony.
“One of the first things I noticed about Joseph was his confidence, his passion, and his love for the sport of triathlon,” she said. “Watching him compete and practice, it was amazing. Every time we would go to a race, we would pray beforehand and then watching him compete, after he would cross the finish line, he would look up and point to the sky to thank our Lord for giving him the ability to race, to just do triathlon, the sport he loves.”
Anderson, who earned his pro card in 2012 and continues to train for an opportunity to represent his Coast Guard base in Pensacola, Fla., at the Armed Forces Games, said one of his fondest memories was helping 2021 Club Sports Hall of Fame inductee Beth Frackleton direct the first on-campus triathlon.
“I remember doing our traditional pre-race prayer and a lot of the guys from the Naval Academy saw that and came over and joined us,” said Anderson, who received the “Performance of the Year” honor at the 2014 Club Sports Awards Banquet for winning that race even after going out of his way to direct a Midshipman who had gone off course during the cycling stage. “Those kind of moments really made my time special, to share the love of Christ with others, and they were really able to see a difference in the school.”
Miller holds both Liberty’s and the SELC scoring records with 201 goals and 136 assists and was a four-time MCLA All-American as well as a four-time All-American Scholar Athlete.
“Ryan was the real deal in college, the embodiment of a student-athlete,” said former defender Tom Girani, Miller’s presenter. “Ryan embodies everything a Liberty student alumnus is and strives to be and that truly is a Champion for Christ. He really does always put himself second and as a university, all of us can agree that is kind of our mission here.”
“I am standing before you against all odds,” said Miller, who is diminutive but dominant on the lacrosse field, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Nate. “I didn’t always have the most confidence in myself in life or in sports. Even up through youth and high school, I was really small, but something that was big for me growing up was watching my older Nate play lacrosse. He was talented, he was pretty fast, but he wasn’t the most talented or the most athletic, really. He just made a decision that he was going to be the best player and I think that’s where I get a lot of my mental toughness in sports.”
He also had the privilege of coaching his younger brother, Jackson, an attackman, during his senior season last year.
Club Sports Senior Associate Athletic Director Jeff Boettger closed the ceremony in prayer and expressed his appreciation for the work the three inductees invested in their programs to take them to the next level.
“Thank you for your time that you’ve given, the sweat to do everything that you did as a team member and Club Sports athlete, and the heart that you brought,” he said. “Not only a heart for the sport and a heart for your teammates, a heart for seeing (the program) grow, but most importantly, a heart for the Lord.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media