Ned Reynolds and Lily Johnson among MSU Hall of Fame Class of 2024


SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State will induct six former athletes, an iconic media personality and two standout baseball teams as part of its 2024 Athletics Hall of Fame induction class. This year’s Hall of Fame ceremonies will take place the weekend of Feb. 9-10, 2024.

Ned Reynolds, a local media icon and broadcaster is the recipient of this year’s Don Payton Award. In addition to his decades covering Missouri State teams as sports director at KY3-TV, Reynolds has served on the radio and television broadcast teams for Bears basketball, football and baseball games, been the host for various coaches shows and was instrumental in the establishment of the Missouri Valley Conference television network in the 1990’s.

The Payton Award was established in 2017 in conjunction with the Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame to honor those individuals whose accomplishments related to MSU athletics are noteworthy but fall outside the Hall of Fame candidacy of coaches or student-athletes. The late Don Payton was MSU Director of Information from 1956 to 1985 and was given the inaugural award, while long-time faculty athletics representative Dr. Bruce Johnson (2018), former director of bands Jerry Hoover (2019), special contributors Larry Atwood and Paul Mullins (2020), radio announcer Art Hains (2022), and academic achievement center director JoBelle Hopper (2023) have been subsequently honored.

The 1969 and 1970 MSU baseball teams rose to prominence under coach Bill Rowe and established the program on a national stage. In just his sixth season at the helm, Rowe guided the 1969 club to a 27-10 overall record, MIAA title and national runner-up finish. The following season, the Bears were 23-13 under Rowe, repeated their conference championship run and took third place at the Division II World Series. Both clubs got to compete for national championships in Springfield with Meador Park serving as the host for the Division II World Series both years.

The first team to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was in 2020 with the men’s basketball powerhouse clubs of coach Bob Vanatta that culminated in NAIA national titles in 1952 and 1953. In 2022, coach Kay Hunter’s 1974 softball team was honored for its AIAW Women’s College World Series championship that capped a run of World Series appearances over five seasons. Last year, coach Chuck Hunsaker’s 1973-77 men’s cross country teams – including the 1974 NCAA Division II national championship squad – were honored.

The rest of the 2024 Hall of Fame class includes: women’s basketball standout Tahnee Balerio (Buhler, Kan.), baseball outfielder Dante’ Brinkley (East St. Louis, Ill.), swimmer Chelsea Dirks-Ham (Lawrence, Kan.), volleyball sensation Lily Johnson (Wildwood, Mo.), swimmer Paul Le (Moore, Okla.), and football safety Caleb Schaffitzel (Fair Grove, Mo.).

The 48th Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame class will be honored at halftime of the Lady Bears basketball game vs. Belmont on Friday, Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m.; and also the Bears basketball game vs. Indiana State on Saturday, Feb. 10, which is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m., based on forthcoming league game-time assignments.

The induction ceremony and banquet for this year’s class will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 10 at The Old Glass Place (521 E. St. Louis St., Springfield). Tickets for the induction ceremony and banquet are $25 apiece and may be purchased through the Bears Fund by phone (417) 836-4143 or email to

The 2024 induction class brings the total membership of the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame to 419 student-athletes, coaches, administrators, media, teams and support personnel.

Profiles on the 2024 MSU Athletics Hall of Fame induction class (alphabetically) are as follows:

Tahnee Balerio (Women’s Basketball, 2004-08)
Balerio was a two-year starter and four-year letterwinner for the Lady Bears who rolled up 1,239 points over 117 career games for a career scoring average of 10.6 points per game. She currently ranks 22nd on MSU’s career scoring list. She was a key part of the Lady Bears’ WNIT championship team in 2005 as a freshman and in the team’s NCAA Tournament run as a sophomore (2006). Balerio was a two-time All-MVC selection, including a first-team recognition in 2007 and earned MVC All-Tournament Team laurels in 2006. In 2006-07, she posted the second-best junior scoring average (18.5 ppg) in program history and led team in nine statistical categories her junior year. She was also a three-time MVC Scholar-Athlete Team pick.

Dante Brinkley (Baseball, 2000-03)
The team captain for the 2003 NCAA College World Series team, Brinkley racked up 279 career hits for coach Keith Guttin from 2000-03, while leading Bears to back-to-back 40-win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2002 and 2003. He was also a two-time NCAA All-Region selection and three-time All-MVC pick, including first-team distinction in 2002 and 2003. His 96 hits in 2003 is still the MSU single-season record, while his 86 hits in 2002 ranks 10th. He smacked 12 triples in 2001 for a club record and batted .345 or better in each of his last three seasons. Brinkley still holds the MSU career stolen bases record (69), while ranking second in triples (19), fourth in runs (188), fifth in hits (279) and fifth in doubles (54).

Chelsea Dirks-Ham (Women’s Swimming, 2007-11)
A four-time All-MVC swimmer and 13-time MVC champion, Chelsea Dirks-Ham helped MSU reel off four straight Valley team titles (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011) during her stellar career in the pool. She served as team captain her senior year and won five individual MVC titles in her career in three different events, including three championship wins in the 100 butterfly. She was also part of eight conference relay titles for the Bears, including four wins in the 200 medley relay. Her 2009 school-record performance (55.34) in the 100 butterfly she set at the 2009 MVC meet held for six years. Dirks-Ham was the 2011 recipient of MSU’s Outstanding Female Athlete Award and is currently the associate head coach for MSU’s men’s and women’s teams.

Lily Johnson (Volleyball, 2014-17)
One of just 10 players in NCAA Division I volleyball history to collect 2,200 kills and 1,500 digs in her career, Johnson was a four-time All-American and four-time All-MVC attacker for coach Melissa Stokes. She became the first four-time All-American in MVC history and the first player to lead the league in kills four times. She earned MVC Freshman of the Year honors in 2014 and Valley Player of the Year honors in 2015, 2016 and 2017. As a senior in 2017, Johnson ranked second nationally in kills (574) and third in total points (646.5). Likewise, the three-time team captain was named the CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year for the sport of volleyball her senior year. Johnson earned MVC Player of the Week a league-record 15 times in her career and set conference records for career kills (2,293) and attacks (6,610), both of which still stand, while finishing second in NCAA history in attacks and 19th in kills. Johnson was a Top 30 finalist for NCAA Division I Woman of the Year in 2017 and a two-time USA Collegiate National Team selection (2016 and 2017).

Paul Le (Men’s Swimming, 2011-15)
A three-time NCAA qualifier and four-time All-MAC first-team selection, Le became the program’s first Division I All-American and first Bears’ swimmer to score at the NCAA meet when he finished 15th in the 200 backstroke at the 2013 national meet. He led the Bears to the 2014 MAC title and runner-up finishes in 2013 and 2015 and was named MAC Senior of the Year in 2015. Le also competed in the 2012 US Olympic Trials where he finished 38th in the 100 backstroke. He completed his career with Mid-American Conference titles in four individual events and seven relays while setting five school records. He still holds the program records in the 100 backstroke (46.73) 200 backstroke (1:41.62).

Caleb Schaffitzel (Football, 2010-14)
A three-time All-American safety and three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, Schaffitzel led the football Bears of coach Terry Allen total tackles in 2012 (109), 2013 (111) and 2014 (96). He was a first-team All-MVFC performer his last three seasons and was also named to the MVFC Scholar-Athlete first teams as a sophomore, junior and senior. Schaffitzel earned MVFC Defensive Player of the Week honors three times in his career and holds MUS season (216) and career (259) career for interception return yardage. During his career, he tallied 386 total tackles (No. 7 in program history), 28 pass break-ups (No. 6) and 10 interceptions in 45 ball games.

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