Six inducted into UT Women’s Athletics Hall of Honor
AUSTIN, Texas -- In front of an overflow crowd of family, friends and fans, the eighth class of inductees was honored and enshrined into The University of Texas Women's Athletics Hall of Honor on Friday, Nov. 9.
The luncheon ceremonies took place at the Lone Star Room in the Frank Erwin Center.
The eighth class of inductees features these six outstanding individuals:
· Terry Crawford, a distinguished head coach and former Olympic coach who built the UT track and field “tradition of excellence,” winning five NCAA titles while the Longhorns' mentor;
· Fran Harris, USA Basketball standout and leading scorer for the Longhorns women’s basketball team (1982-86) who helped Jody Conradt’s squads earn three consecutive year-end No. 1 national rankings her final three years, capped off by UT’s 34-0 undefeated and NCAA championship campaign in 1986;
· Olympic swimming great Whitney Hedgepeth who earned 21 All-America honors and was a three-time NCAA champion in her three years on the Forty Acres;
· International diving sensation and scholar-athlete Vera Ilyina, who came to America from Russia, mastering the English language in less than half a year before enrolling at UT and earning NCAA Diver of the Year honors in both of her years as a Longhorns diver (1996-97, 1997-98);
· Demetria “Dee” Sance, the powerful volleyball All-American and 2000 USA Olympian who had a remarkable four-year career from 1995-98 and led UT to an NCAA second-place finish and to an NCAA final eight berth as well; and
· Christa Williams, a high school softball pitching sensation who made the 1996 USA Olympic Team at age 16 and who then took a great risk and leap of faith, transferring to UT as a college sophomore to jumpstart UT's startup softball program; she immediately put the program on the national scene with her All-America pitching exploits.
This eclectic group has journeyed back to the UT campus for a special weekend of recognition. Friday, they were first feted with a special breakfast reception at the University Co-op Bookstore, joined by family, friends and coaches and staff members of the UT Athletics Department.
Annually, the University Co-op generously provides support to underwrite the Women’s Hall of Honor luncheon. This year, the inductees were treated to a special exhibit at the University Co-op, as a new UT Women’s Athletics “Championship Center” was unveiled with a ribbon-cutting ceremony prior to the breakfast reception. The “Championship Center” features memorabilia, trophies and a colorful montage of photos celebrating the successes of UT female athletes and the Longhorns women’s programs.
On Saturday, Nov. 10, with the new UT Men’s Hall of Honor inductees, these six will be recognized at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in pregame ceremonies prior to the 2:30 p.m. kickoff of the Texas-Texas Tech football game.
As the Class of 2007 stepped to the Lone Star Room podium in front of the nearly 500 in attendance, each inductee graciously accepted her award -- a bronze statue, sculpted by Royce Gilliland of Horseshoe Bay, Texas -- and offered heartfelt thanks and some tears and smiles, sharing memories along the way.
“The best of what I am today, I received from this university,” noted Harris, who has gone on to a successful career as business entrepreneur, author and multimedia programmer who heads her own company, Fran Harris Enterprises, LLC, based in Culver City, Calif. “I thank everyone here today, first, for taking a chance on me and second, for the wonderful opportunities you gave me. Everything I now do -- as an author, as a motivational speaker, as a TV host -- took root here at UT.”
“I knew before I came here that UT produced the top student-athletes in the nation, and having the opportunity to coach here was like walking into paradise,” noted Crawford, who achieved the only “trifecta” in Division I track and field history while at Texas when her teams captured the “Triple Crown,” earning national titles in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track in the same year.
“At Texas, I walked into an environment where there was truly a braintrust of coaches with Richard Quick, Mick Haley, Jody Conradt and the like,” said Crawford.
“Coaches do great things in their careers because of the resources they have and because of the people -- colleagues and student-athletes -- that they surround themselves with. I wanted to be a coach because I wanted to affect change in young people, and as I look around this room and see so many of my former student-athletes, now all successful, I know I’ve fulfilled my mission in life.”
Other remarks centered around the inductees looking back at their time and giving thanks for the people at Texas who helped them discover and hone their passions.
“No Russian diver has ever come to the United States to dive in college, and I thank Matt (Scoggin, UT’s diving coach) for being so very persistent in recruiting me,” said Ilyina, a former National Academic All-American and NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship recipient as an international business major in addition to her NCAA diving achievements.
“The University of Texas gave me a second chance at life and a future after diving with the opportunity to be successful in the business world,” finished Ilyina, who currently is pursuing her master’s degree in international business at the University of Houston.
“I am so thankful for my time here at Texas,” said an emotional Sance, a high school teacher and volleyball coach in her hometown of San Antonio.
“For me to be standing here today in the Hall of Honor company of people like Coach Conradt, Dr. Sheila Rice, and this year’s other honorees, is so hard for me to grasp. I cannot believe the opportunities I had here at Texas. I grew up with a single parent, and the way everyone at UT embraced me is something that stays with me forever. So much about UT is family. It’s also about commitment and passion. This all stays with me every day.”
Sance, Williams and Ilyina all competed as Longhorns during the same period in the late 1990s, and it was Williams who gave the best example of “Texas family” and Texas tradition.
“I now know that as student-athletes, we don’t come close to giving to The University what The University gives to us,” said Williams, who is teaching at Manvel High School in the Alvin, Texas, area and coaching Manvel’s startup softball program.
“When I was at the 2000 Olympics with the softball team, we watched other sports,” Williams noted. “And, while we were watching diving, I looked closely at the pool and thought, ‘Hey, that looks like Vera (Ilyina)’ -- and it was. I really got excited and started cheering for her, and my teammates looked at me and said, ‘Are you nuts -- she is Russian and you’re cheering?’ And I quickly said, 'No, she’s not Russian -- she’s a Longhorn!' It was at that moment that I realized how deep the tradition is at this University.”
“As I look back at my time here,” noted Hedgepeth, who earned a gold medal and two silvers at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and who now coaches master’s swimmers with Longhorn Aquatics, “what stands out the most are the numbers of amazing women I met. They taught me about leadership, courage and power, and showed me how powerful women truly can be. The people at this University continue to help other people’s dreams come true.”