Every four years when the Summer Olympic Games roll around, East Central University’s Dr. Gerald Williamson likes to make connections with three former ECU standout athletes.
All three of those stars competed for their respective countries – Cherene Hiesl-Castillo in softball for Team Canada and Gina Farmer and Rebecca Cotton in women’s basketball for New Zealand – in the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
Williamson, who has been with the university for around 38 years and is currently advancement professional for the ECU Foundation, Inc., likes to catch up with the trio through email or phone call, especially at this time with the 2016 Rio Olympic Games underway in Brazil.
Williamson owns a 2000 Summer Olympics cap, signed by the trio, and neck tie which reminds him of the connection that the three have with the university.
“(Dr.) Pat Fountain (recently retired from the ECU Stonecipher School of Business) found the hat and brought it to me and Cherene brought me the tie from the Olympics on one of her visits,” said Williamson.
Williamson says he is in contact with Hiesl about eight or nine times a year. Hiesl-Castillo is currently a teacher at A.D. Henderson University School on the campus of Florida Atlantic University. She teaches middle school and coaches at the k-12 school. Williamson tries to remain connected with Farmer and Cotton at least once or twice a year via email. Farmer is a police officer in Christchurch, New Zealand and Cotton is a sergeant detective in Porirua, New Zealand.
“All are doing well,” Williamson said.
During their stay at ECU in the mid-to-late 1990s, all three earned All-America status.
Hiesl-Castillo, who was the starting centerfielder for Team Canada in 2000, still owns Lone Star Conference records for batting average in a season (.517 from 1997-99), triples in a career (35) and triples in a season (17) for the Tigers, who were coached by Ron Miller. Those 17 triples led NCAA Division II that season. She was a three-time LSC North Player of the Year and was named a Louisville Slugger NCAA Division II Third Team All-American in 1999.
Farmer is ECU’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,631 points, despite playing only two seasons, and was voted NAIA Division I Player of the Year for the 1996-97 season. She also achieved First Team All-Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference accolades for the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons. She has held school records for points, rebounds, free throws and blocked shots for the Tigers, under coach Kent Franz.
Cotton, who like Farmer was an NAIA All-American, held and school records for career field goals, career field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, single-game scoring and career points, which was broken by Farmer. Cotton was a two-time First Team All-OIC honoree for the Tigers.