My name is Dawn Hilburn and I was very blessed and honored to be a Flying Queen from 1990-1994. I grew up in Stephenville, Texas but attended two different small country schools from third grade until graduation. My mom was first a high school teacher and then eventually taught kindergarten. My brother and I always went to the school in which she taught. Both of the schools I attended had small student populations of around 200 students K-12. We started attending Lingleville when I was in the 6th grade. I eventually graduated from there with only 13 students in my graduating class! We loved small schools and their communities because they are big supporters of athletics and always come out to support their teams on competition nights. Throughout school, I was fortunate and blessed to have received a solid foundation that emphasized the value of hard work. On top of that, both my parents had bachelor’s degrees, so education was also emphasized as an important groundwork. These qualities, strong education and hard work, were integral pieces of my growing up that carried me academically and athletically.
For me, basketball started at an early age. I was awarded my first all-tournament plaque in third grade! This was my earliest remembrance and start for the love of basketball. From that point forward, I was always involved in any and all athletic activities (basketball, soccer, softball, and track) with the school, the rec hall, or sponsored by other organizations. When it was time for junior high, both seventh and eighth grade teams were combined in small schools so you could make one team. In seventh grade, I was a starter and never looked back from that point forward all the way through high school.
During my playing days, basketball rules went through many changes. If my memory serves me correctly, in 1984-85 the basketball’s size was reduced for women. Previously we played with the same ball as men. The men’s ball was 29.5 inches in circumference and weighed 22 ounces. The new ball for us was 28.5 inches and weighed 20 ounces. Then around 1987, the 3-point field goal line was incorporated changing the style and strategic play of the game. During the 1980’s, we had “jump balls” around the circle either at half court or on each side of the court. This was for every jump ball opportunity including the start of a new quarter. By the time I got to Wayland, colleges were using possession arrows for every jump ball situation except for at the very beginning of the game. In high school, we had to learn how to manage the 28-foot line. This was a hash mark on the side of the court that we had to go past every five seconds, after we brought the ball across the center court line. This was so we could not just stand there and stall the ball near end of the game. In College, the 30-second clock made it a faster game and also made it harder to stall for the win. These are just a few things that changed in the game over the course of my playing time.
Growing up my parents taught me there was no substitute for hard work. Throughout high school not only did I play basketball and track, I worked at a local pizza restaurant, and maintained my grades academically. As a 5’6 guard, I was able to earn the respect of my opponents with my quickness and shooting ability. My senior year we won our first 29 games in a row and were ranked 4th in the state before hitting a slump at the end of the season and finishing 30-2. High school brought many highlights both academically and athletically. I graduated from Lingleville High School in 1990 as the salutatorian. I was also fortunate to score just shy of 3000 points ending my high school career at 2939. To this day, 30 years later, I still hold the school record.
One of my many highlights in high school was scoring 49 points in a game followed by shooting 30 free throws in another game and making 27 of them. During my high school career, I was four-times an All-District selection, two-times the District MVP, and two-times All-Region. My senior year, I was TABC first team All-State and a Texas Sports Writers All-State selection with a scoring average of 30.9 points per game. I also earned Academic All-State honors and played in numerous All-Star games.
When it came to college, I was recruited by around 25 colleges/universities. Honestly, even though I grew up in north-central Texas, I was unaware of the rich tradition of the Flying Queens. Coach Sheryl Estes contacted me, in the spring of 1990, about a recruiting visit to Plainview. Upon that visit, I knew immediately that I was destined to attend Wayland Baptist University and join the Hutcherson Flying Queen basketball program.
When I packed the car to head for Wayland Baptist, for the first time by myself, my dad took out a paper map and highlighted the roads that I needed to follow. For me, the distance from home to school was 300 miles. Back in the day the speed limit was 55 mph, so this was a 5-hour drive. Trips home on weekends were few and far between because with travel time and the need to be back for our weight training on Sunday night, there was little weekend left.
I didn’t go home over the Thanksgiving either because of the Queens Classic. This never really proved to be much of an issue because this holiday was such a special time for us on the Wayland campus. The Plainview Chamber of Commerce would bring in some of the top college teams in the nation and also the best high school teams from the area. This was a jammed packed weekend and top-rated basketball was played in the “Hutch.” One of my memorable highlights from my days as a Flying Queen was during the Queens Classic. We were able to clinch the 1100 win in Flying Queen history! Not only did we accomplish a milestone, we beat the number one ranked NAIA team in the nation, Southwestern Oklahoma, in doing so.
My memories of my time as a Flying Queen are so deep and rich that I could definitely write a book. Some of the best times were our trips to the NAIA National Championship Tournament in Jackson, Tennessee. We played in the Oman Arena and always seemed to have a following who supported us. Not only that, we always had the best local sponsors that hosted us while at the tournament. One of the most exhilarating times was in 1992 when we played for a National Championship against Arkansas Tech. We were definitely not picked to be in the Championship as we were the #8 seed in the tournament. As you know, all cylinders have to click at that point of your season to make it all the way to the championship game. While we were not crowned National Champions, we had every right to be proud for earning the title of NAIA National Runner-Up.
The Creed of a Hutcherson Flying Queen is something I remember dearly and cherish to this day. Being a Flying Queen is not a rite of passage but rather something earned. Wearing a Queens’ uniform is not taken lightly. We wore it with pride because the uniform signified excellence, sacrifice, dedication and hard work. The Flying Queen legacy is a historic and deep-rooted tradition carried down from generations of ladies who exemplified excellence in the Flying Queen program. Our Creed challenges players to live with integrity while glorifying God in all the benefits and honors earned along the way. Our Creed has carried over to my adult life and into my career.
The support for the Flying Queen program was amazing and like no other fan club in the nation! During my era, Mike, Suzy, Abby and Taylor Hutcherson were our biggest supporters! Mike led the way in flying us to our games. Marsha Hutcherson George also supported us in every way possible and was our biggest fan. Then there were Tom and Bobby Hall who announced our game and were ALWAYS cheering us on. Harley Redin and Wilda Hutcherson Redin were at every game, sitting in their special seats in Hutcherson Center, supporting us and congratulating us on our accomplishments. We also had former Flying Queens who were there for us throughout the year and who served as role models. Our Wayland professors were the absolute best! They too were some of our biggest fans and supported our athletic endeavors while at the same time challenging us, always holding us responsible academically. All of these amazing people were there for us. We were family!
Then each summer, for an entire month, we had 150 plus basketball campers coming to the Wayland campus and dreaming of being a Flying Queen. This was a special time when we could help teach them the game of basketball and be role models. They always were overcome with joy when we signed autographs on our team poster. As a player, I have to admit that it was something very special that these young players would want our autographs! It was truly a feel good for both sides.
Two key Flying Queen traditions really set us apart from other teams. The first key tradition was flying to our away games. No other women’s basketball team could say they took three twin engine Beechcraft Barons to their basketball game! My freshman year, however, the plane I was assigned was only a single engine plane (Beechcraft Bonanza). This meant we could not fly at night. Thus, we had to get up very early the next morning so we could get back for class. As the “lightweight,” I always had to sit in the very back so the plane could take off! And oh, how about the tricks we used to do in the plane! I can remember the pilot would do some stunts during which you could take off your seat belt and then would just float in the air. Not to mention the time the backdoor hatch came open in flight one trip! Wow, our trips were definitely entertaining!
The second key tradition was our pre-game warm-up tricks. Our warm-up consisted of individual basketball tricks along with a football formation kick-off leading into tip drill. These created a confident vibe for us, and we would immediately draw the attention of the crowd. Fans were always amazed at some of the things we could do with a basketball.
My experiences as a Flying Queen are definitely unforgettable. Like members of any great team, we were focused and determined to carry on the traditions. Coach Estes and the coaching staff instilled in us a winning attitude. She always had us prepared mentally and physically. She made sure that we wore the uniform with pride and were focused on winning a National Championship. I can say with great confidence that her practices were tough! We were never out hustled or out worked on the basketball court. Those are many of the same characteristics I carry with me today in my career.
I was able to finish my playing days earning a spot in the Queens 1000-point club scoring list with 1035 points. As a team, we had a four-year record of 100-34 with a winning percentage of 75%. While records are made to be broken, at one time I held the steals record with 12! Along the journey I was able to enjoy numerous all tournament selections, All-District/Region selections, newcomer of the year award, coaches award, John and Joyce Pennington Award, and the HOGPAS award (Hand of God Pure and Simple) for playing in all 134 collegiate basketball games.
After graduating from Wayland Baptist with a degree in Business and a minor both in Biology and Education, I moved back to Stephenville and used my business degree managing a restaurant. Then one day, I was talking to a former Flying Queen who was coaching and teaching in Waxahachie ISD. She was leaving so there was a job opening and I decided to apply.
The next thing I knew, I was moving to Waxahachie and starting a teaching and coaching career. I have been blessed with my career as I am finishing up my 24th year in public school education. As a coach in Waxahachie, I had the opportunity to be on the coaching staff when we took the Lady Indians to their first ever state appearance in 2001. Then just five years later in 2006, the Waxahachie Lady Indians won the 4A State Championship. I transitioned from coaching into administration after earning my Masters’ in Education degree in 2008. I’ve served as an Assistant Principal at the junior level, the Associate Principal at the high school level, and currently serve in a district administrator role as the Director of Assessment and Accountability. Athletics still plays an active role in my life as I officiate basketball, announce at high school volleyball games, keep the clock/book at the high school basketball games and work the computer system at track meets.
I owe so much to my experiences at Wayland. As I have gotten older, I cherish even more the honor of being part of the Flying Queen tradition and the opportunities which that made possible. I always gleam with pride and joy when people ask me where I played basketball. As an adult, I realize not only the impact that the college experience had in my life, but also the financial and career jump start I was given after receiving a full scholarship to play a game I loved! I have always wondered what kind of player I would be if I could combine my life experiences of today with the body I had as an 18-22-year-old. It always amazes me how when I meet up with old teammates that we are able to relive special memories and carry on like it was just yesterday. I have met some amazing people, traveled to some incredible places, gained a college degree, played a lot of outstanding basketball with some fantastic teammates and coaches, and along the way, I made some life-long friends. With that, I would tell current and future Flying Queens to cherish every moment! We are an elite group of ladies blessed to play in a program with such rich tradition. I truly believe once a Flying Queen always a Flying Queen.
Wayland Grad 1994
Flying Queens Forever!