RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Under the guidance of veteran head coach Bob Willey, the University of Rio Grande Track & Field program has had its fair share of success over the years.
The men’s and women’s programs have combined to produce countless NAIA All-Americans over the years, including Rio Athletic Hall of Famer Bernie Tilley.
A new record board to showcase the top performances in URG Track & Field history was recently dedicated in honor of Tilley and his late sons, Kyle and Josh, just outside the entrance of the Newt Oliver Arena in the Lyne Center.
“The new Track & Field Record Boards are a fantastic addition to the lobby in Lyne Center,” said Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham. “It’s a tremendous way to honor former, current and future track & field student-athletes.”
The boards were donated by Don and Barb Conaway of Lucasville, Ohio, the parents of Rio women’s basketball sophomore forward Kamryn Conaway.
Tilley is the pastor of the church which the Conaways attend.
“The Conaways saw Bernie’s name on the old record boards and, because they know him and attend his church, they wanted to do something to honor him,” Willey said. “Even if his records do get broken, his name will still be on these new boards.”
Tilley, a 1977 graduate of Rio Grande and the current holder of four school records, said he was honored by the recognition.
“There have been a lot of great athletes come through Rio, so I was really humbled to learn these were going to be in my name and I’m grateful to Rio and the Conaways for this. Having my name and my sons’ names on the board together is an honor. I’m still walking on a cloud,” said Tilley, who was inducted into the Rio Athletic Hall in 1983.
“I went to Rio because I wanted to continue my track career and see what I could do at the college level,” Tilley continued. “The country and the family atmosphere made Rio a perfect fit for me, and it was a great four years. I’m surprised that 41 years later those records haven’t been broken, but I hope having these boards motivate current and future track athletes to work to break them.”
Willey said the new display will serve as motivation to his current – and future – student-athletes.
“A lot of the people on this board were national champions and All-American athletes,” he said. “Seeing these records displayed gives our current athletes a goal to shoot for, and it works because three of those records were broken at our first indoor meet this season.”
“This Record Board will serve as a constant reminder of the commitment and dedication Bernie Tilley portrayed as an athlete at Rio and as an educator for 35 years,” Lanham added. “He’s an inspiration for all athletes to overcome the odds against them and find a way to succeed. We thank the Conaway family for their gracious contribution to make this Record Board possible.”
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.