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Thursday, May 13, 2021

In a class of their own

Four alumni were inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, bringing the total number of members to 140 over a 115-year history of Western athletics.

Each honoree was recognized individually with speakers on their behalf before coming to the stage and sharing what the award meant to them.

The four members inducted were basketball point guard Grant Dykstra, volleyball libero Nicola Parker, men’s golfer Tim Feenstra and rower Karla Landis.

Grant Dykstra

Silence filled the audience as both presenters, a former coach and childhood best friend, struggled to speak, holding back tears as they attempted to do Dykstra’s journey to the hall of fame justice.

Dykstra’s experience at Western was one that made both national and international news, a story of an elite basketball player breaking Western’s all-time scoring record, and doing so with a disability.

Dykstra said he experienced a life-altering moment at the age of two, when his right hand got caught in a hay mill machine.

“My cousin came down from the hay mill, and he’s yelling to my mom, ‘Grant’s hurt! Grant’s hurt, he needs you!’ She instantly turned to follow him, and then felt the presence of God and angels pulling her back, saying to turn off the [hay mill] switch,” Dykstra said. “She didn’t know what I was stuck in. She’s never turned the switch off before in her life. By the time she caught up to me, and I was being pulled in, a few more seconds and it could have been over.”

That moment almost cost Dykstra his right arm. Over a 10-year period, which included 12 surgeries on the arm and hours of physical therapy, Dykstra was able to recover.

Grant Dykstra speaks at the induction ceremony Saturday, May 20. // Photo by Kirstyn Nyswonger

With his right arm being around 5 inches smaller than his left, Dykstra taught himself how to shoot left-handed and dribble with his right hand.

Dykstra went on to have a very successful career at Western, totaling 1,844 career points, an all-time school record until it was broken this year by senior forward Jeffrey Parker, who reached 1,867 career points.

After redshirting his first year at Western, Dykstra went on to start every game for the basketball team, with the fourth-most assists in school history, as well as sixth-most rebounds and seventh-most steals. He received awards such as the 2005 U.S. Basketball Writers Association Most Courageous Award and the 2006 V Foundation Comeback award, the first non NCAA Division I student to receive the honor.

“I’ve heard people all the time say, ‘He’s a great basketball player with that disability he has.’ They reference that all the time, and I just want them to say, ‘He’s a great basketball player,’” Dykstra said.

Dykstra graduated from Western in 2006 with a degree in business administration and finance, and has since become a commercial loans officer.

Nicola Parker

Parker led Western women’s volleyball team to a 54-game undefeated run from 2001-2003, the fourth longest in NCAA Division II history, while learning the newly installed position at the time called libero.

A libero specializes in defense, wearing a contrasting jersey than her teammates.

She led the nation with an average of 6.16 digs per game, 1,435 career digs and three-straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships.

Parker made it clear in her speech that she felt as if she did not deserve the honor, but rather her entire team deserved it.

“Statistics always tell you a story, but very seldom do they tell you the whole story,” Parker said. “Those stats didn’t tell you how all of my digs were behind amazing blockers. They didn’t talk about our amazing setters that were very skilled, [who] chased my shanks off the court and saved my digs and made me look better. The stats didn’t tell you how our hitters put the opposing team on their heels and made it so the digs that came back at us were much easier.”

Parker was also honored as Western’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2004, and was given Western’s Most Inspirational award, which she won four times while at school.

“When I first received notice that you’d like to induct me I felt sheepish. I don’t really think of myself as a hall of fame athlete,” Parker said. “I wish the plaque didn’t say ‘Nicola Parker,’ I wish it said ‘Nicola Parker’s team.’ Although I have a hard time admitting I’m a hall of fame athlete, I’ll be the first to admit I had a hall of fame team.”

Parker went on to earn her doctorate in mathematics and is now a math teacher.

Tim Feenstra

Feenstra averaged 73 strokes for 135 rounds, was a four-time west regional All-Star and led the scoring average for Western’s golf team all four years he attended.

Feenstra graduated in 2006, and that summer competed in the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.

The winner of this event qualifies for the Masters, and Feenstra made it all the way to the semifinals before losing in the second-extra hole.

Feenstra is now a PGA golf professional at Broadmoor Golf Club, a private golf course in Seattle.

“When I’ve been asked from fellow golfers and friends what it’s like to be inducted into the hall of fame, I’ve struggled with processing what it really means,” Feenstra said. “All I can say right now, is it is a very overwhelming feeling, and it’s given me a chance to reflect on my time at Western.”

He also has competed in the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016 PGA Professional Championships, and has qualified for the 2017 tournament.

Feenstra graduated with a degree in general studies.

Karla Landis

Landis had a prestigious career as both a competitor and teacher, as she was an assistant coach of the Western crew team after her time as a member. 

Landis was the captain of the rowing team her junior and senior year, and helped the team to a No. 1 national ranking. The team also went on to win the unofficial NCAA Division II West Regional title at the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships.

But that was just the beginning.

Landis became the assistant coach for the rowing team the next six years at Western, leading them to four-straight national titles, showing she is just as much of a leader outside the boat as she is in the boat. Landis had such an impact on the team, she was honored by having “Karla L” carved onto one of Western’s boats.

“Nothing gives me more pride, or makes me prouder to know how hard it is to get to [a national championship],” Landis said. “It’s such an honor to watch it, and such an honor to be a part of it.”

Currently, Landis works with a nonprofit organization called The George Pockock Rowing Foundation, managing fundraising events and overseeing youth outreach programs. She received the 2016 Community Leadership Award for her work as deputy director of the program.

Landis graduated from Western with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and science in 2003.

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