Women in Columbia’s recreational basketball league better be ready to play this season. They might be lining up against a Hall of Famer.
Columbia’s Debbie Chavez-Newby will be inducted into Central Methodist College’s Hairston Hall of Fame on Saturday. Chavez-Newby will be honored for her athletic achievement on the basketball court and the track.
She attributes her success to those who aided her development.
“Sometimes I wasn’t the best athlete on my team,” Chavez-Newby said. “But I had great coaches who encouraged me to work harder and keep going.”
Chavez-Newby’s legacy at CMC includes four consecutive Heart of America Conference championships in the 400-meter hurdles. She dominated the high jump as well, winning three conference championships. In 1994, she earned NAIA All-American honors in track and was named CMC’s Outstanding Female Athlete.
She also lettered four times in basketball, and was All-Conference once.
Although Chavez-Newby never played for a team that contended for a national basketball title, former Eagles coach Mike Davis said she was instrumental in building a program that produced the 1999 NAIA Final Four team.
“She came in when the program was just getting started,” Davis said. “Her athleticism made a big difference in turning us around.”
Davis, who left CMC to coach at Columbia College in 2000, said Chavez-Newby’s athleticism matches a desire to excel in all facets of life.
“She has a huge heart,’’ Davis said. “She was a great competitor and it was just easy to see. I could not be more proud of what she has done on and off the court. She’s a quality person, not just a quality athlete.”
Chavez-Newby graduated from CMC in 1995. She works as the superintendent of Finger Lakes State Park and as an aerobics instructor at Columbia’s Activity and Recreation Center. Much of her spare time is spent on the basketball court, playing in the Parks and Recreation women’s league.
Athletics are an intrinsic part of Chavez-Newby’s life story. Her sports career has shaped her path to Columbia.
Chavez-Newby was raised in the inner city of Little Rock, Ark. From an early age, she used sports as a means of escaping the more negative aspects of that environment.
“I just got involved because it kept you out of trouble and off the streets,” Chavez-Newby said. “I ended up having good coaches and I just stuck with it.”
She initially planned to attend nursing school in Little Rock but an athletic scholarship lured her to CMC and mid-Missouri.