Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO athletes make history as record- breakers, mentors, major leaguers

Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Record breaking senior Geno Hess scores the third touchdown of the OVC Champion game on Saturday, Nov. 19. Hess ran 317 yards and scored four touchdowns to help secure the win for the Redhawks.
Photo by Kyrié Padberg

SEMO has had its share of athletes who have broken records, played in professional leagues or even returned to their alma mater as a coach.

Gymnastics head coach Ashley Lawson still holds records from 2000 to 2004. Lawson said she is grateful for coaching because it allows her to still be involved with the gymnastics team.

Before the current mascot Rowdy, the SEMO Redhawks mascot was Chief Sagamore. The men's athletic teams were the Indians, and the women’s team were Otahkians.

Head gymnastics coach Ashley Lawson is in her element during a gymnastics team practice. Lawson still holds many records including having a perfect 10 on a floor routine during her time as an Otahkian.
Photo by Kyrié Padberg

During her time as an Otahkian, Lawson scored a perfect 10 in a floor routine. She remains one of the only three athletes to achieve this feat. She said the team started her record-setting meet off strong and she continued the momentum into her performance and routine.

Now as a coach, Lawson’s main goal is to have her current gymnastics team break her records. “I think that would be just as rewarding, if not more rewarding, to have one of my athletes break them,” she said.

Lawson said her parents were her biggest fans during her athletic career, and they remain supportive of the teams she coaches. They have time to spare as a retired couple, she said, and this allows them to attend meets and share their love of the sport.

The SEMO community is heavily involved with the SEMO athletic department. One event SEMO holds for sports fans is Homecoming, which brings many people back to their college home to celebrate one of the biggest college football games of the year.

“Going to a football game now and seeing the amount of people that are out there tailgating or just truly soaking in every moment of being on a college campus on game day is way different 20 years later,” Lawson said.

SEMO’s Hall of Fame member Walter Smallwood held the record of 36 rushing touchdowns until Fall 2022 when senior running back Geno Hess scored his 37th touchdown against Lindenwood.

Hess, who will return next fall to play a final season after losing a season during the COVID-19 pandemic, described breaking Smallwood’s record as being surreal.

“I have to give COVID a lot of credit. I feel like it gave me a lot of time to actually work on my craft and work on different parts of football and also the mental aspect of things,” Hess said.

Like Hess, women’s basketball alumna Pat Colon also saw her collegiate career disrupted. Colon, who also is a SEMO Hall of Famer, had to stop playing due to a pregnancy, but this did not stop her from coming back stronger and completing college.

According to the Southeast Missouri Hall of Fame, Colon finished her Southeast career with 2,034 points and 1,003 rebounds. She was the first women’s athlete at SEMO to have her number retired.

“I loved all my time at SEMO, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Colon said.

Pat Colon poses for her senior photo during her time as a Otahkian. Colon was the first woman to have her number retired in 2002.
Photo by SEMO Archives