Former cross country coach Donna McCollum and former basketball star Murray Duggins Jr. are the members of the latest class of inductees into the Fayetteville Academy Athletic Hall of Fame.
McCollum and Duggins will be honored at a banquet and induction ceremony scheduled for Nov. 21 at the school, the same evening as the annual alumni girls’ and boys’ basket-ball games.
All inductees are enshrined with plaques that include highlights of their athletic career and a picture. The plaques are on display in the lobby of the Fayetteville Academy gym.
McCollum was primarily a cross country and track coach at Fayetteville Academy from 2002-15.
She has an incredible personal story separate from her days at the Academy. She is one of only eight American women to have climbed the tallest peak on each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Denali.
The cousin of former American Olympic running star Mary Decker Slaney, McCollum was a candidate to be a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic swimming team until the boycott of that year’s games was announced by President Jimmy Carter.
When she first attended a Fayetteville Academy cross country meet as a spectator, she saw runners unable to complete the race without walking.
She agreed to coach for one year, but when her players asked her to stay, she challenged them. “There are going to be sacrifices made along the way,’’ she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It will take us about four years to do this.’’
In 2007, her boys’ and girls’ teams at the Academy made N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association history as they were the first school to take both championships at the 2-A level in the same season.
“To take 14 teenagers and have them all be on was more than I had expected,’’ McCollum said. “We were just a little private school where most of the runners couldn’t finish three miles without walking. When they said they wanted this, they kind of woke up the schools in the area.’’
McCollum called working at the Academy a privilege and said her induction into the hall was a fitting way to end a 32-year coaching career.
Duggins Jr., a 1995 graduate of the Academy, was a member of the 1992 state championship boys’ basketball team at the school and was named conference player of the year as a senior in 1995.
He thanked former Eagle coach and current athletic director Chip Bishop for giving him a chance to play on the varsity as a freshman. “He’s one of the most accomplished basketball coaches in the state and an even better person,’’ Duggins Jr. said. “This is something I’m going to treasure.’’
Duggins Jr. said he still misses the faculty at the Academy, along with the competition and the camaraderie with his teammates. “We had four really good teams,’’ he said.
His advice to the players of today is the same that Bishop gave him when he was a player. “Always try as hard as you can,’’ Duggins Jr. said. “Never give up.’’
PHOTO: Murray Duggins Jr. stands in front of some of the plaques recognizing members of the Fayetteville Academy Athletic Hall of Fame.