Spartanburg, S.C. - The USC Upstate Athletics Department held its annual Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday afternoon and welcomed five new inductees into the shrine. Joining the Athletics Hall of Fame this year wereKrista Altom, Kelly Cummings Bowden, Matthew Browne, Elbert Jones and Erin Kopec.
Altom is the fourth member of the USC Upstate softball program to be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Altom, a native of Portage, Mich., is the program's all-time hits leader with 281 and played for Upstate from 2002-05 as a four-year starter. She began her career at third base in 2002 before moving to center field where she spent the final three years of her career. A highly decorated player, she is the only softball player in the history of the program to earn NFCA First Team All-America honors. She was also a three-time NFCA First Team All-Region pick, a three-time Peach Belt All-Conference selection and the 2002 Peach Belt Freshman of the Year.
Altom had quite a first season for the Spartans, then the USC Spartanburg Lady Rifles, in 2002. She ranked third on the team in hitting and finished the season with a .368 batting average en route to being named the Peach Belt Freshman of the Year. She topped the team with 152 at bats, 46 runs, four triples, 17 walks and a Peach Belt best and school-record 42 stolen bases. She continued her strong play as a sophomore, hitting .377 with 66 hits, 41 runs, nine doubles, six triples and a Peach Belt best 40 stolen bases. As a junior, Altom led Upstate to its first appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament in 12 seasons in 2004. She hit .369 with a school record 72 hits, 44 runs, 19 doubles and 22 stolen bases.
Her senior year, though, was her best. She was the leader on the team that established a new school record with 46 wins. She led the Spartans and the Peach Belt with a .460 batting average. She set a new school record with 87 hits and topped the club with a school record 20 doubles en route to earning first team All-America honors. She also led Upstate into the championship game of the South Atlantic Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
Altom's career numbers speak for itself. She finished her four years with a .395 batting average, 281 hits, 182 runs, 57 doubles, 17 triples, two home runs, 99 RBI and 127 stolen bases. When she finished her career, she held seven career school records and three single-season school records. She also led the team 27 times in several different yearly statistical categories. She currently ranks second all-time in runs, doubles, triples, total bases and stolen bases and ranks in the top five in an amazing nine statistical categories.
A strong student as well as a biology major at Upstate, she was a two-time Peach Belt Conference Presidential Academic Honor Roll selection. She left Upstate to return to native state of Michigan in 2005 and finished the requirements for a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Science from Western Michigan in 2008.
In addition to her studies, Altom enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2006 and currently serves in active duty as an administrative clerk with the National Guard in Olivet, Mich. She has received several commendations while in the service.
Bowden holds the distinction of being the first member of the women's cross country program to be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Bowden (1994-97) was a founding member of the women's program as the program began in 1994. She set a school-record time of 19:13.00 at the 1995 Peach Belt Championships. She owned the top spot for 12 years. Entering the 2009 season, the former Lady Rifle owned 10 of the top 50 times in school history.
Bowden earned several awards during her time in Spartanburg. She was a three-time All-Peach Belt Conference member (1994, '95, '97). She was also named to the Peach Belt Presidential Honor Roll four times.
In 1995, Bowden competed at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regionals. She turned in a performance of 19:47.59, which was her second fastest time and the 25th fastest in school-history entering the 2009 season.
Bowden graduated from Upstate with a bachelor's degree in Spanish in 1999. She stayed in the Spartanburg area as a teacher and assistant cross country and track coach at Broome High School. She moved to Wilmington, N.C., and began teaching at Ashley High School. She is currently the Department Chair for Foreign Languages at the school. She has remained active in running, participating in various road races throughout the years since leaving Upstate.
Bowden is originally from Buffalo, N.Y., and graduated from Sweet Home High School.
Browne is the 14th person affiliated with the men's soccer program to be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Browne was a standout defender on the then-USC Spartanburg Rifles teams from 1985-88. As a freshman, he helped lead the team to 15-5 record and a third straight third-place finish in the NAIA National Tournament. He was part of a unit that recorded seven shutouts and a 0.75 goals against average. He also produced offensively, finishing the year with five goals and an assist for 11 points.
In four years, he led Upstate to a 57-23-2 record and a dominant 20-1-0 mark in the NAIA District Six. His Rifle teams also recorded 32 shutouts in his four seasons playing on the back line. Despite being a dominant defender, he also had the ability to produce offensively. He finished his career with 19 points on eight goals and three assists.
Browne was a two-time All-District Six selection and was named an NSCAA and NAIA All-American in 1985. He was an honorable mention All-America selection in 1986.
A native of Monrovia, Liberia, Browne was a standout youth soccer player. He was a four-year letterwinner at the Booker Washington Institute where he was named the National High School Best Defender. In addition, he was a National Team member for four years as a starter on the defense and played for the Mighty Barrolle in the First Division prior to coming to the United States.
Browne entered the military and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army. He spent eight months on tour in Iraq and Kuwait. He was a highly decorated soldier in the Army, receiving the Army Commendation medal, two Army Achievement Medals, four Battalion Certificates of Achievement, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Army Expeditionary Medal.
Browne and his wife, Nettie, have five children; two daughters and three sons. The family lives in Charlotte, N.C., where he works in a management position on a production line. He has stayed active in soccer and is the Chair of the Carolinas Oldtimers Sports Association.
Jones is the 11th person affiliated with the men's basketball program to be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Jones is widely considered the first great athlete to play sports at USC Upstate. He joined the men's basketball program in 1968, the second year of athletics at the University, when the school was a two-year institution. He played for two seasons and set the standard for future athletes at the University.
Jones, who grew up in Spartanburg and graduated from Dorman High School, was simply outstanding on the court. He averaged a double-double for his career, scoring 19.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. He finished his career with 585 points and 354 rebounds. He ranks in the top 50 all-time in scoring and in the top 20 all-time in rebounding, taking individuals more than five years to surpass his totals in both categories.
After a 4-10 inaugural season, head coach Paul Mack brought in a group of players who he believed would transform the program. Jones was the central figure in building the foundation for the basketball and athletics program at Upstate. Though the team struggled to a 3-8 record in Jones' first season in 1968-69, the team looked poised for success.
Success came a year later when Jones led Upstate, known then as the USC Spartanburg Fighting Bantams, to a nine-win season under first-year head coach and Athletics Hall of Fame member Dr. Joe Bowman. Jones earned all-conference honors in the Carolina League and was voted the team Most Valuable Player after leading the Bantams to a second-place finish in the regular season and conference tournament. He averaged 21.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
After spending two years at Upstate, Jones transferred to the Columbia campus and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business in 1972. He went on to have a successful business career in sales, working for RJR Foods, Lever Brothers Co., and Sturm Foods. He rose to the level of Vice President of Sales for Sturm Foods. He left Sturm and formed a real estate and property management company. Though currently semi-retired, he has continued to stay involved in the business world through several projects, most recently in investment property.
Jones lives in Greensboro, Ga., with his wife of 40 years, Vicki. The couple has two children and two grandchildren with a third grandchild expected in May. He has not lost touch with the Spartanburg area and returns often to visit his mother who still lives in the city and his two brothers and sister, who remain in the area.
Kopec is the ninth person affiliated with the volleyball program to be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Kopec was a highly decorated player for Upstate from 2000-03 and helped lead the Spartans to the program's top performances in the Division II era. By the time she graduated, she broke the school's all-time assists record, a record she continues to hold with 5,262 assists.
It didn't take long for Kopec to make her mark at Upstate. She was named the Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year in 2000 after leading the Spartans, then the USC Spartanburg Lady Rifles, to a 24-win season, a 12-3 mark in the conference, and the program's first trip to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. She finished the year with 1,321 assists.
With Kopec as the floor general, the Spartans made a return trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament in 2001. Upstate finished the year with a 25-8 overall record and a 10-2 mark in the conference. She earned her first of three all-conference honors from the Peach Belt after totaling a single-season school record 1,466 assists, topping the single-season record of 1,463 set by her head coach, Jennifer Calloway, in 1994.
The West Chicago, Ill., native led Upstate to 96 wins in four seasons as the Spartans' setter. She currently tops Upstate's career assists per game list at 11.05 per set. She ranks third all-time with 191 aces and seventh all-time with 1,036 digs. She tops the single-season assists list and has three of the top four single-season totals in school history. Her 68 assists against Eckard in 2001 is the second-most assists in a match in program history.
A standout on the court, she was also a standout in the classroom. She was a three-time honoree on the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Honor Roll. She was named the USC Upstate Female Student-Athlete of the Year in 2004.
While Kopec finished her collegiate playing career in 2003, she has remained active in volleyball. She is currently an assistant coach at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, Ill., a team ranked in the top 10 nationally throughout the fall. She is working on a teaching degree and will receive her teaching certificate in the spring of 2011 fro Aurora University. She currently lives in West Chicago, Ill.
Prior to her work at St. Francis, she served as assistant coach at Mater Dei High School for two years under Fred Rakers, father of Upstate coach Jennifer Calloway, while serving as a substitute teacher. She also coached club volleyball in St. Louis and worked for Hertz Rental Car and EverBank World Markets.