Bolick, Fox, Gwaltney, Odom, and Thomas join prestigious group
By D.N. PENNELL, Jr.
The Alexander County Public Education Foundation held its Eighth Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Monday night, November 25, at the Alexander Central High School Auditorium in Taylorsville.
A crowd of more than 200 family, friends, and sports lovers converged on ACHS to honor five inductees, who will now be considered Hall of Famers for life.
Johnny Bruce, who serves as the Chairman of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, explained the selection process to the crowd and introduced members of the selection committee.
Each Hall of Famer was presented with a medallion and a Hall of Fame plaque. In addition, the Hall of Fame inductees will be honored with a plaque featuring their individual busts. These plaques will be permanently displayed at the entrance to the Alexander Central High School gymnasium.
Master of Ceremonies Richard C. Gilbert of WACB Radio introduced each inductee. Bruce and selection committee member Anna Ferguson conducted the official induction, presenting each person with a Hall of Fame Medal and a plaque.
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The first new Hall of Famer to take a spot in the prestigious group was former ACHS and Lenoir-Rhyne Softball star Elaine Seter Bolick.
Bolick was a standout women’s basketball and softball player during her prep career at Alexander Central High School. A native of the Bethlehem Community, she was a three-time All-Conference softball performer for Coach Monte Sherrill during her playing days in Taylorsville.
She also played on three state championship winning softball teams while at ACHS. Bolick was a member of the NCHSAA slow pitch state title teams in 1994 and 1995. In her senior season of 1996, she was the pitcher for the Lady Cougars’ first ever fast pitch state title team.
That year, Bolick led Alexander Central to a state title win over Wilmington Laney High School. A standout in the pitching circle, Bolick was voted the Most Valuable Player of the NCHSAA state finals series. She is a member of the ACHS Softball Wall of Fame to recognize standout players.
During her senior year in softball, she earned All-American honors and was voted the Pepsi Scholar Athlete Award winner. She was also selected as the female athlete of the year at Alexander. In addition to her performances on the softball diamond, Bolick was also a leader for the Alexander Central Women’s Basketball program during her four years as a Lady Cougar. She was an All-NWC performer in 1996 and was voted the Lady Cougars’ Co-Most Valuable Player following her senior season.
After graduating from ACHS in 1996, Bolick signed a college scholarship to play softball for Coach Shena Hollar at Lenoir-Rhyne College. While at LR, Bolick played on South Atlantic Conference Tourney title winning teams in 2000, 2001, and 2002. She was a member of the first Lenoir-Rhyne Softball Team to participate in the NCAA Division II playoffs. She also earned All-Tournament Team honors in 2000 and was voted to the All-SAC Second Team in 2002. Most recently, Bolick participated in the USSSA Women’s Softball World Tournament. Her team placed fourth in the event and she was voted to the All-World Tournament Team with a batting average of .667 during the event.
“I want to say thank you to all the people with me on my journey…through the good times and the bad times,” an emotional Bolick commented. “It’s amazing how sports can bring people together…not only on the ball field or court but in all avenues of life.”
Elaine currently resides in Hickory and is employed in the medical field. She has one daughter, Kami Bolick.
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Next to the induction stage was 1987 ACHS graduate and former United States Secret Service agent Jeff Fox.
As a member of the Cougar baseball program, Fox was a leader for Coach Harold Odom’s 1986 and 1987 teams.
Prior to his high school playing career, he was a member of two Babe Ruth Baseball State Championship All-Star Teams for Alexander County. Fox played for the 12-year old state champs in 1981 and the 13-year old state winners in 1982. Fox earned All-Conference honors as a catcher following his junior and senior seasons at Alexander Central. In 1986, Fox was the starting catcher for an ACHS team which reached the state semi-finals. The following year, he was a captain for the Cougars and signed a college baseball scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
While at UNCA, he was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs at catcher and in center field. At the time of his graduation in 1991, he was the school’s career record holder for triples.
He returned to Taylorsville after college and served as a coach for the ACHS and Post 170 baseball teams.
Fox served as a member of the United States Secret Service from 1994 until 2002. He left the Secret Service in 2002 and spent two years as a member of the US Air Marshals. He held a position with the CIA from 2003 until 2015 and has worked for the US Defense Department since 2015.
Through his travels with work, Fox has continued to play the sport he loves in numerous adult baseball divisions. At the age of 50, he continues to play baseball in the MSBL division. He has played on four national championship teams since 2008. His North Virginia Falcons Team won the national title in 2008 and 2009. Fox was voted the tournament MVP during the 2008 event. He was a member of the 50-and-over national championship winners with the Boston Wolfpack in 2017 and 2018. This past October, Fox was part of the 40-and-over and 50-and-over national championship winning clubs in tournaments held in Arizona.
Fox’s current team has been selected to represent the United States in the World Masters Games set for Japan in 2021.
Fox and his wife, Kristina, currently reside in San Jose, California.
“I have lived a great life, have a great family and friends, and have enjoyed a great career,” Fox said as he wrapped up his induction speech. “But, the memories that were made and shared on the ball fields at Ellendale Elementary School, West Junior High School, Alexander Central, and UNCA are the moments I will cherish most.”
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Following Fox to the stage was retired Taylorsville Attorney Richard Gwaltney.
Gwaltney was a standout high school and college athlete before beginning a prestigious career as an Alexander County attorney after college.
A graduate of Taylorsville High School, Gwaltney did a little bit of everything during his playing career as a Bear athlete. While at Taylorsville High, Gwaltney was a three-sport star. He was a leader and captain of the Bears football and basketball teams and an All-Conference performer in baseball.
After his high school career was complete, Gwaltney headed north to Boone to play for the ASU Mountaineers in two additional sports. As a member of the ASU Men’s Soccer Team, Gwaltney was the school’s leading scorer. He was also a productive member of the Mountaineer Tennis Team.
In addition to shining at numerous team sports, Gwaltney is known locally as one of the top golfers in the immediate area. He has played golf on the local, state, and national level and has earned numerous recognitions and awards for stellar play.
In 1998, Gwaltney was the North Carolina Senior Amateur Champion. Ten years later, in 2008, he claimed the National Hall of Fame Super Senior Championship.
In team play, he represented North and South Carolina against Virginia and West Virginia in the Carolinas-Virginias Cup on two different occasions. In six events, Gwaltney compiled an individual record of four wins, one loss, and one tie.
Locally, he is recognized as one of the top performers in Brushy Mountain Golf Club history. He is a four-time winner of the Brushy Mountain Golf Club Championship.
Gwaltney quipped, “The Good Lord has kept me healthy. I think if he keeps you here and keeps you healthy he has a plan for you. Everyone has a gift. I encourage you all to determine what that gift is in you, and use it.”
Now retired from his law practice, Gwaltney continues to reside in Alexander County.
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Former ACHS Baseball Coach Gary Comer, who took over the program following Odom’s retirement from coaching, and David Odom, the youngest of Coach Odom’s three sons, accepted the Hall of Fame plaque in memory of the late coach and county commissioner Harold M. Odom, Sr.
Odom, Sr., spent 14 seasons in the ACHS baseball dugout as the Head Baseball Coach for the Cougars. In his illustrious career as the Cougar skipper, Odom led the Cougars to a 231-90 record.
His Alexander Central teams earned 10 trips to the state playoffs and advanced to the NC state semifinals three times (1986, 1992, and 1993). The 1993 Cougars captured the Western NC title and advanced to the school’s lone state finals appearance against the Trot Nixon and Wilmington New Hanover High School. New Hanover defeated the Cougars in the finals series.
Prior to his stellar baseball coaching career at ACHS, Odom served as a coach at Stony Point High School. He also coached basketball and women’s softball during his tenure at Alexander Central.
In all, Odom coached high school baseball for 22 total seasons and earned 297 total wins with just 110 losses.
“I learned a lot about the game of baseball from ‘Big O’,” Comer said. “I also learned a lot about life from ‘Big O’.”
Coach Odom, who was born in Scotland County in 1937, and his wife, Linda, lived in Alexander County at the time of his death in 2011. The Odoms are the parents of three sons, Harold, Jr., Mark, and David.
A retired teacher in the Alexander County School System, Odom also served his community as an Alexander County Commissioner.
“I want to thank the selection committee for recognizing our father with this honor,” Odom commented. “I also want to thank this community for always loving our dad, our mom, and our family.”
Odom provided several of his father’s favorite quotes and rules to live by during his moment on stage. He said his father, a native of the sand hills community of Laurinburg, always said, “Taylorsville is my home…free of fire ants, sand fleas, and pine trees.”
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The final inductee of the evening was Stan Thomas.
An appreciative Thomas opened his remarks saying, “I want to thank this selection committee for even considering me for this honor.”
Thomas is known across Alexander County as one of the top all-around athletes in the county’s history.
Thomas enjoyed a prolific athletic career at Alexander Central High School as a standout athlete in three sports…football, basketball, and baseball.
During his senior campaign at ACHS in 1975-76, Thomas earned All-League honors in football, basketball, and baseball. In the spring of 1976, he was voted the NWC Baseball Player of the Year, the ACHS Team Most Valuable Player, and the WTLK Radio Most Valuable Player in baseball.
His talents earned him a chance to play collegiately following high school.
He played college baseball at Pfeiffer College and Lenoir-Rhyne College, and was eventually drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the Major League Baseball amateur draft.
Despite his exploits as a three-sport high school star, Thomas may be known more for his local dominance on the golf course. As a member of Brushy Mountain Golf Club, Thomas has captured the club championship title a whopping nine times overall.
A lifelong resident of Taylorsville, Thomas is the fourth member of his family to be inducted into the Alexander County Sports Hall of Fame. He joins his late father, Raeford, and late sister, Laura Laws, and his uncle the late Edwin Thomas in the prestigious hall.
Stan and his wife, Kathy, reside in Taylorsville. They have three children, Paul, Dale, Denise.