Longhorn Honors: Women's Athletics
April 24, 2012
Liz Mannis, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- On a beautiful Texas spring night, the burnt orange carpet was out, the lights were bright and the cameras were focused on The University of Texas' 257 esteemed female student-athletes as they arrived at the Texas Performing Arts Center for the 38th annual Women's Athletics Awards Presentation.
The event, which honored the athletics excellence of the 2011-12 student-athletes and teams, was televised live by Longhorn Network for the first time as "Longhorn Honors: Women's Athletics," Monday night at Bass Concert Hall.
"It's nice having all the girls come together. We're all really close with one another, so we like to support and hang out with each other," said Krista Damico, a women's tennis senior. "It's a time to bond with your other fellow student-athletes, to really recognize what everyone else has done in sports."
The student-athletes began arriving at 5:15 p.m. and showcased their very best outfits as they walked the carpet and posed in front of an Austin cityscape backdrop for assembled media.
"The one thing we really aspire to here at Texas is excellence. Tonight is about that. It's about the excellence in the performances of our 11 sports teams -- collectively as teams, as well as individuals," Women's Athletics Director Chris Plonsky said. "The added spice is that it's being televised live, and we've all dressed for the part."
The common theme throughout the evening was paying homage to the passion and hard work of the Longhorns, as well as the excellence they exhibit as representatives of UT.
"I think it's fun to celebrate any women's athletics and display our success together," said Haley Eckerman, Outstanding Rookie Performance winner and member of the Big 12 championship volleyball team.
The distinguished group of guests made their way into Bass Concert Hall, greeted by a spectacular stage and hosts Lowell Galindo and Samantha Steele from Longhorn Network. Achievements, awards, senior testimonial videos and highlight reels made the one-hour live broadcast event a special night for all in attendance.
"I think it's really awesome that they take time to put on something like this for us. We have a chance to get together, get all dressed up and celebrate each other's accomplishments," said Athlete of the Year winner and Olympic swimming hopeful Karlee Bispo.
In honor of the 40thanniversary of Title IX -- the pivotal legislation that propelled women's fight for equality and recognition in athletics -- Longhorn greats came to the stage. Legendary women's basketball coach Jody Conradt, former tennis All-American Beverly Bowes Hackney, track Olympian Cynthea Rhodes Patterson and softball Olympic gold medalist Cat Osterman highlighted the impact of Title IX on their own lives.
"From 1975-92, Texas women's athletics won 18 National Championships and grew into a national model of excellence," Plonsky said. "Because of Title IX, today we are all Longhorns."
Jamie Carey, the resilient point guard who led UT to the 2003 NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four, returned to Austin to present the Jamie Carey Comeback Award, which is bestowed to a female student-athlete who has battled through adversity to return to competition. This year's honoree, Big 12 Player of the Year Bailey Webster, returned to action for the 2011 volleyball season after suffering a devastating knee injury in 2010.
"This award means a lot to me because after an injury, you never know what is going to happen," said a teary-eyed Webster. "I want to thank my teammates for always having faith in me. I want to thank my coaches for never giving up on me."
The sentiment continued as women's track and field head coach Beverly Kearney took the stage to present the Beverly Kearney Texas Tough Award, honoring a student-athlete who possesses a fighter's spirit and courageous heart.
"One thing I know about Texas is that you always have to be up for a fight. Texas is not for the weak or the timid," Kearney said. "I am honored to present the Texas Tough Award to Kylie Doniak, with so much pride and so much respect."
After being the victim of a pedestrian-auto accident in downtown Austin in early February, senior soccer midfielder Doniak has continued be the essence of Texas tough. Doniak is currently rehabilitating back at home in California, determined to progress through each step of her recovery process.
A video featuring Doniak then lit up the stage. Doniak's recorded acceptance speech moved many in the audience to tears, in what was the most memorable and touching moment of the night.
"I'm working hard, getting better and will be back soon," said a smiling Doniak. "Hook'em!"
The celebrated senior class, which racked up 10 conference championships, nine NCAA top-five finishes and 39 All-America honors during their era, took the stage one last time to close out the show and lead everybody in "The Eyes of Texas."
"I'm thankful for celebrating the excellence and high standards that it means to be Texas," Plonsky said. "I'm happy to celebrate our seniors. We owe a lot to our seniors and wish them luck as they move forward to the next chapter."
38th ANNUAL WOMEN'S ATHLETICS AWARDS PRESENTATION