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Club Sports Hall of Fame’s 10th class embodied, trained Champions for Christ

Founding ACHA Division I women’s hockey Head Coach Paul Bloomfield (left) and former triathlon, cycling, and men’s swimming Head Coach Parker Spencer, who now leads USA Triathlon’s Project Podium, were inducted Friday at the Montview Alumni Ballroom. (Photos by Jessie Jordan)

Liberty University celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Club Sports Hall of Fame by inducting the sixth representative of its ACHA Division I women’s hockey team (founding Head Coach Paul Bloomfield) as well as a third former member of its triathlon team (Parker Spencer, ’12) and its third men’s wrestling NCWA Grand National champion (Andrew Wilson, ’13) on Friday afternoon in the Montview Alumni Ballroom.

Spencer, a former track & field student-athlete at Liberty, joined the Flames’ triathlon team as an upperclassman under Head Coach Beth Frackleton and as a teammate of Joseph Anderson, Club Sports Hall of Fame inductees in 2021 and 2022, respectively. He later succeeded Frackleton as head coach in triathlon in 2015 before starting the cycling and men’s swimming teams in 2016 and 2017, respectively. He also served as Club Sports Director of Endurance Programs from 2014-18, coaching all three teams simultaneously the last two years, before becoming the head coach of Project Podium, USA Triathlon’s Olympic development team.

He was presented by Liberty indoor and outdoor track & field Head Coach Lance Bingham, who recruited him as a promising middle-distance runner and determined pole vaulter at Liberty Christian Academy.

Liberty track & field Head Coach Lance Bingham, who recruited Parker Spencer (’12) out of Liberty Christian Academy, served as his presenter for Friday’s Club Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“When I see somebody thriving 10 or 15 years down the road, serving the Lord faithfully, in his family, I see Kristina and Parker raising up kids … I see him impacting people at a very high level for the Kingdom because of his influence,” Bingham said. “His time here was very beneficial. He’s taken the things that he learned from all these different experiences and people that impacted his life — his parents, his teachers, his coaches — and now he’s passing it on. That’s success.”

Spencer recalled how, after serving as a coach with Endorphin Fitness in Richmond for four years, Club Sports Director of Athletics and ACHA DI men’s hockey Head Coach Kirk Handy called him and asked if he would be interested in taking on the reins of the triathlon team.

“I did that remotely and then we decided we were going to start a cycling program, and then we decided to just add one more and start a men’s swimming program, so my wife and I moved here,” Spencer said. “I talked about how I really wanted to bring elite triathletes here from around the world. The training that we have here between the facilities and the trails we have on (Liberty) Mountain, this is a phenomenal place for endurance sports athletes.”

He would strategically conduct recruiting calls via Zoom while standing in the Liberty Indoor Track & Field Complex, and later the Liberty Natatorium, and he and Kristina opened up their house to those student-athletes.

“We had nine elite athletes on our team and during the summers we would take them over to Europe,” Spencer said. “Some of those kids couldn’t afford Liberty, so because we were able to do things differently in Club Sports, we had four of them live in our house with us while they were students here.”

Eventually, USA Triathlon called Spencer in Summer 2018 and said it wanted him to stop developing triathletes from other countries and move to Arizona to develop the next American Olympic triathletes.

Former NCWA Grand National champion Andrew Wilson (’13), a native of Alaska, was unable to attend Friday’s event.

Wilson, from Anchorage, Alaska, was recruited as an NCAA Division I wrestler at Liberty before he became the Flames’ third individual NCWA Grand National champion in Allen, Texas, as a 235-pound senior in 2013, helping the Flames finish third as a team. Wilson followed the lead of Hall of Famers Scott Clymer, who was inducted in 2017, and Aaron Thompson, part of the Class of 2021, who also won individual national championships, helping to set the stage for the team’s first of five grand national titles in 2015.

He was not able to make it to the ceremony, and neither was his presenter, Flames Head Coach Jesse Castro, but both recorded video presentations played during the banquet.

“Andrew set the pace in the (wrestling) room as a very quiet, but yet a very influential leader in the way that he trained, and I have a lot of respect for the example that he left us,” said Castro, who was also able to make a spiritual impression on Wilson. After Wilson lost his first NCWA Grand National championship final as a junior, he came off the mat very upset because he felt he had let his teammates down.

“I told him, ‘This match does not define who you are, not at all,'” Castro recalled. “I said, ‘Your faith in Jesus Christ, first and foremost, defines you.’ And he took that to heart.”

After winning the national title the following season, Wilson kept the match in perspective, rather than letting it go to his head.

“Coming off the mat elated, in a much more upbeat way, he came to me, gave me a hug, and said, ‘Coach, this championship does not define me,'” Castro said. “And he was exactly right. Whether we win, whether we lose, that does not define who we are. I have the utmost respect for Andrew and the way the Lord has been working in his life.”

Former ACHA DI women’s hockey Assistant Coach Justin Forth presented Bloomfield.

As the DI women’s hockey program’s founding head coach, Bloomfield guided the Lady Flames to their first ACHA Division I national championship in 2015, after Final Four appearances in 2013 and 2014. Bloomfield served as the presenter for DI women’s hockey Hall of Fame inductees Patti Smith — a goalie who was his first recruit back in 2006 — in 2016 and Lady Flames’ all-time leading scorer Carrie Jickling last spring.

Bloomfield also coached three other forwards who have been enshrined, 2017 Hall of Fame inductee Kristin Frescura, 2018 inductee Stacy McCombe, and Sarah Stevenson, who was inducted posthumously in 2019.

Justin Forth, who served as Assistant Coach under Bloomfield for five seasons and six more under current Head Coach Chris Lowes, winning five more titles, said that for Bloomfield, coaching was a labor of love.

“Coaching is about the mission above everything else,” Forth said. “Over these last nine seasons, Liberty has won six championships, but it means nothing if you’re not trying to win Champions for Christ.”

He said Bloomfield understood that and cared for his team members as people more than as players, as a father figure to the team, and now, someone Handy considers the “Godfather” of Club Sports.

“He was a mentor to me, not just in coaching, but in life and also in business,” Forth said. “He led with passion and hard work, and to be honest, I don’t think that Paul loves hockey; I think he loves the opportunity to treat hockey as his mission field, and that was something that I witnessed and I got to learn from those five seasons.”

Prior to his 11-year career behind the women’s DI hockey bench where he amassed a 232-88-21 record, Bloomfield served as the head coach for the Flames’ top men’s hockey team, helping to shape the playing and coaching career of Handy, who offered the opening prayer at the ceremony.

Dr. Greg Tilley, Liberty’s Director of Alumni Engagement, also attended the event and DI men’s Associate Head Coach Jeff Boettger gave a powerful benediction and closing prayer.

Spencer had to fly out of Lynchburg immediately after the ceremony to coach his team in the second and third stages of a cycling event in Arizona, but his wife and daughters, Alayna and Lilyana, as well as Bloomfield and his wife, Sharon, received red-carpet treatment as they were introduced before the start of Friday night’s DI men’s hockey game at the LaHaye Ice Center.

Club Sports Director of Athletics Kirk Handy led an opening prayer beside Club Sports Director of Recruitment and Varsity Club Ben Hughes.
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