Winthrop softball legend and Hall of Famer Janiva Willis died in a car accident Tuesday night, April 12, in the state of Texas. The vehicle she was traveling in was struck by a tractor-trailer, killing Willis and the driver of the vehicle she occupied.
Willis, a member of the Eagles' class of 2005, was in the midst of a 3,700+ mile journey across the United States, from San Diego to Charlotte, North Carolina. Biking the entire way cross-country, Willis was completing the journey as a fundraiser for the "I Dream in Colors Tour", a nonprofit endeavor raising money for mentoring initiatives in several cities. The journey was supposed to cover eleven states and sixty cities in fifty-seven days; Willis departed San Diego on March 26th, due to arrive in Charlotte in mid-June.
A four-time all-Big South selection, Willis is one of the finest female athletes to grace a Winthrop uniform. She holds four of the program's career records, including the Eagles' all-time home run mark.
In 2005, after her senior season, Willis was named the NCAA's Woman of the Year and was a top-ten finalist for the National Woman of the Year award. She was inducted into the Winthrop Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
Following her collegiate career, she was a member of the Canadian National Team in 2005 and 2007 and won a silver medal at the 2007 Pan Am Games.
Our thoughts, prayers, and best wishes are with her family and loved ones as they go through this tragic and difficult time.