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Four Former Blue Eagle Athletes To Be Enshrined

By Staff | Jul 30, 2014

Keith Thornton

Four former Blue Eagle student-athletes who left their marks in football, track, and baseball are among seven honorees at the 29th annual Magnolia Athletic Boosters Life Achievement Awards.

The honorees, with graduation year and hometown, are: Keith Thornton (1971) of Gainesville, Fla.; Thomas Jones (1972) of Morgantown; Larry Lemon (1974) of New Martinsville; and Kent Pilant (1991) of New Martinsville.

They will join David Mullett, James Burgbacher, and Debby Book Stewart at the public event this Saturday, Aug. 2, at Magnolia High School. A social hour starts at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at Witschey’s in New Martinsville or from Banquet Chairman Brent Gamble at 304-455-3234.

Capsule summaries of the honorees follow:

Thornton: At Magnolia, he not only set the current school pole vault record, but became the first 14-foot vaulter in the Ohio Valley and West Virginia.

Thomas Jones

He broke records in two state Class-AA meets with marks of 13-5 1/2 and 13-8 and also won two OVAC titles plus the prestigious Bellaire Relays with a 13-6 clearance that was featured on the cover of “West Virginia Sports Extra” publication. He also competed in football as a senior.

A 1976 graduate of West Virginia University in mechanical engineering, he also competed in track for two years.

He retired in February 2014 after 26 years with PCS Phosphate, including his final year as vice president of operations based in Chicago, Ill. From 2010-13, he was general manager and CEO of Arab Potash in Jordan, following a 2005-10 stint as general manager of White Springs Agricultural in Florida.

From 2004-05, he was general manager of PCS Nitrogen in Augusta, Ga., after a 1988-2004 tenure as operations manager of PCS Phosphate in Aurora, N.C.

The Texas native, who spent his first two high school years in Corpus Christi before moving to New Martinsville, was active in Kiwanis and United Way programs over the years.

Larry Lemon

Now splitting time at homes in Horseshoe Beach, Fla., and Wilmington, N.C., he and wife, Judy, are parents to two children: Eric and Shelley.

Jones: At Magnolia, he competed in football and track for four years and was a football team co-captain as a senior when he also earned the Gerald Hammel Sportsmanship Award.

At Bethany College, he was a two-year football letterman and earned a Mining Engineering Degree Cum Laude from WVU in 1978.

He has worked in the mining industry for 36 years and is licensed in W.Va., Ohio, Maryland, and Indiana. Since 2004, he has served as manager of engineering and environmental affairs for Arch Coal. From 2001-04, he was director of engineering for Zeni Drilling Co., where he was a project manager from 1985-86. He was engineering and production manager for Amax Coal from 1986-2001. He started his career with Chesapeake Energy as a manager of industrial engineering from 1978-85.

He’s been an active volunteer for Scouts and has coached youth soccer. In addition, he has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, his church, and high school booster projects.

Kent Pilant

He and wife, Vyvian, are parents to three children, Brian, Jessica, and Daniel.

Lemon: He was a three-year Blue Eagle first baseman and also competed one year in basketball.

A 1978 graduate of the former West Liberty State College in political science, he was a dean’s list scholar.

From 1988-2012, he served as 25-county northern area coordinator for U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller with a regional office in Fairmont, W.Va. Earlier, he was an administrative assistant at the New Martinsville Campus of West Virginia Northern Community College for eight years. He was appointed to the Wetzel County Commission in 2013 and is a member of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Active in community and church projects, he’s a member of the Board of Directors for the Wetzel County Committee on Aging, the Wetzel County Emergency Ambulance Authority, and the Wetzel County Coalition Against Drug Abuse. He’s also a former administrative board chairman at St. John U.M.C. From 1987-88, he served as chairman of the Wetzel County Democrat Executive Committee.

Additionally, he also was a four-year coach in the New Martinsville Babe Ruth Baseball League.

He and wife Anita are parents to son Adam.

Pilant: He was a four-year Blue Eagle track and football competitor and led Magnolia to its first of 10 state Class-AA track titles in 1991.

As a senior, he was the state meet’s top all-class scorer with 31 points. He won three events, two in hurdles in a record time for 400 meters and the 200 meter sprint. In school, he was senior class vice-president and member of the Varsity Club and Coachmen.

He graduated from Glenville State College in health and accounting in 1997 and was inducted into the Pioneers’ Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this year.

At Glenville, the four-year track standout was the 1995 West Virginia Conference Track Athlete of the Year and earned NAIA All-America honors. He also received the school’s 1997 Frank Montrose Award.

He set Glenville records in five events, including the 110 meter high hurdles. He was undefeated in that event for his WVC career and set a conference record with a 14.66 second time.

Pilant was a teacher and track and assistant football coach at Magnolia from 1997-2006. During that period, the Blue Eagles won four state Class-AA track titles. Currently, he is a plant operator for Mark West Energy. He and wife, Meredith, are parents to two children, Kyndra and Koen.