Women's Hall of Honor enshrines five new members
AUSTIN, Texas -- On a beautiful fall afternoon in Austin, the setting was perfect to welcome back to the UT campus four of the finest women's athletes in Longhorns history – along with one highly-acclaimed and successful coach – for enshrinement ceremonies into the Texas Women's Athletics Hall of Honor.
The ceremonies took place on Friday, November 3rd, as the seventh year of inductions for the Women's Hall of Honor was held at the Lone Star Room in the Frank Erwin Center.
The seventh class of inductees into the Hall of Honor features these five outstanding individuals:
a talented scholar-athlete who took a great risk and leap of faith to come to UT's startup softball program in 1996 and immediately helped to put the program on the national scene, earning softball All-America and Academic All-America honors along the way (Nikki Cockrell) and who now is a community leader in nearby Smithville, Texas ... Cockrell starred at Texas from 1996-99 ...
a coach who is known for her motivation, passion for teaching and developing young women and molding champions (Beverly Kearney, current UT coach since 1993) - whose track and field teams have brought six NCAA Championship trophies, tremendous national recognition and "great memories to the Forty Acres"
a tennis player driven to excellence who gained All-America honors in both singles and doubles as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior – truly a remarkable feat! – and who continues that drive today doing cutting-edge research in cardiovascular disease (Dr. Susan Gilchrist Lakoski, All-America standout from 1989-93) ...
a former all-level diving national champion who went on to receive her UT degree in architectural engineering as an Academic All-America and NCAA champion (Kelly Jenkins Madden, premier UT diver from 1987-1991) ...
and a swimmer who blossomed into a NCAA champion and Olympic silver medalist and helped the Longhorns gain four consecutive NCAA national titles and who now gives back to her community as a physical therapist and clinical manager in Orlando, Florida (Tracey McFarlane Mirande who stared at UT from 1984-88).
This eclectic and amazing group of five gathered back at the UT campus for a single purpose: to be recognized as the special and outstanding members of the Texas Women's Athletics family that they are.
Annually, this induction ceremony is underwritten by the generous support of the University Co-op Bookstore. In the morning, the Co-op also sponsored a breakfast reception for the inductees, their families and friends and members of the UT Athletics Department.
Among those in attendance were 13 former Hall of Honor inductees: Dr. Donna Lopiano, former UT Women's AD and current executive director of the Womens' Sports Foundation; basketball head coach Jody Conradt and former basketball starts Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, Annette Smith-Knight and Cathy Self-Morgan; Jill Sterkel (swimming); Carlette Guidry (track and field); Sally Schlohohm Tan (volleyball); Cynthia Sampson Shipper (tennis); Dr. Sheila Rice, the first academic coordinator in UT women's athletics; and former coaches Jeff Moore (tennis), Richard Quick (swimming) and Pat Weiss (golf).
The five inductees and their families will be recognized Saturday (Nov. 4) in pre-game ceremonies before the Texas-Oklahoma State football game in Austin.
As they stepped to the Lone Star Room podium in front of the nearly 400 in attendance, they graciously accepted their awards (a bronze statue, sculpted by Royce Gilliland of Horseshoe Bay, Texas) and offered many, many heartfelt thanks, sharing memories along the way. Their remarks revolved around how their time at The University of Texas helped them discover and hone their passions, grow to understand what it a "commitment to excellence" means, and what wonderful opportunities await those who take advantage of them at UT.
Cockrell, a two-time All-America second baseman and two-time Academic All-America scholar-athlete, became the first Texas softball player inducted into the Hall.
"To think I am standing here today with these four other inductees is overwhelming," stated Cockrell, who earned the prestigious State of Texas NCAA Woman of the Year award as a senior in 1999, recognized as the top female scholar-athlete across all division and all sports in the state. "Connie (referring to UT softball head coach Connie Clark), just look how far we've come! Six NCAA Regional appearances, four College World Series, Big 12 Championships, all since 1997. I am so proud to say that I had a part in helping this program grow and succeed, and that so many of you here helped me grow and excel, and I remain a huge supporter of all things UT today."
Cockrell, who has been the Parks and Recreation Director in Smithville (Texas) since 1999, lavished thanks to her family as well. "To my parents, who were always there, driving to games, sitting, watching, cheering, and to my brother Steven, who was my harshest critic and biggest fan and who gave up all your weekends to help me succeed in softball. Today is for you, too."
As she dominated on the tennis courts during her four-year UT career, so now does Dr. Gilchrist Lakoski dominate and excel in her chosen field – epidemiology and cardiology research. Lakoski, who played pro tennis prior to getting her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School (San Antonio), was effusive in her praise for the role models she encountered at Texas.
"There are certain people I want to recognize with one characteristic to describe them and what they meant to me," Gilchrist Lakoski noted. "I saw 'strength' through Dr. Lopiano and what she has done to create awareness for women's sports. When I think of Dr. (Sheila) Rice, I think of 'priorities' and how much she helped me with mine. With 'dedication', I think of Jody Conradt and all that she means to this university. She probably doesn't remember, but I met with her a few years after graduating while I was playing tennis, and we talked about option and goals. I walked away from that meeting with a much clearer picture of what I wanted to do with my life."
McFarlane Mirande, a 14-time All-American and seven-time NCAA champion while a Longhorn, remarked how "flattered and honored I am to be one of the very first swimmers inducted into the Hall of Honor". The 1988 U.S. Olympic silver medalist went on to give thanks to her coaches, Richard Quick and Jill Sterkel, both of them in attendance and both of them Hall of Honor inductees as well.
"Twenty-two years ago, I was a no-name, skinny swimmer on my recruiting trip, and when I watched the swimmers go up and back at practice, I said that there was no way I could go here. Yet, Richard assured me, along with Jill, that I could succeed here, and they encouraged and led me, and for that, I love them both."
Jenkins Madden, who was an 11-time national age group champion prior to diving for the Longhorns and coach Mike Brown, became the first UT diver to earn an individual national title when she was crowned the 1989 3-meter champion. An Academic All-American as well (Kelly earned three of those honors as an engineering school honors student and was named the National Academic All-American of the Year three times as well), she devoted her early career days to being a structural engineer. Now, her time is spent in full devotion to her family and four children.
"Getting notified of this induction was a true gift," Jenkins Madden recalled, "because it made my appreciate where I've come from. It re-kindled my gratitude for all things, and I have been reflecting on how much UT shaped me as a young lady. Coming here gave me great opportunities, academically and athletically, a safety net and strong fundamentals. As I reflect now, I know that coming to UT was a present in my life and has helped me reflect on all the things which are special to me, the treasures in my life. To my mother and father, for whom I have no words to describe my thanks, this honor is yours. Thanks for letting me be who I wanted to be."
Kearney, who went to Auburn University and had very successful coaching stints at Tennessee and Florida prior to coming to UT, gave a moving tribute to being honored at her University. Kearney, who is inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame and was just named a "Sports Legend" last month in New York City during the Annual Great Sports Legend Dinner to benefit the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, talked about how special it was for her to be inducted into the UT Hall of Honor.
"It's been a true blessing to have been honored all across the country, but there is no way to explain how special it is to be honored at home. This is validation that I am officially a Texan!," she laughingly told the media assembled during interviews. "In all seriousness, you can never top the honor of being honored by your family, and that's what makes today so special."
Kearney spoke about her student-athletes, praising them and saying that "it has been my honor to coach some of the most terrific young ladies in America while here at Texas." Kearney added that "I don't know where the trophies and medals may be, but I do remember every one of their performances, the disappointments and the highs we've gone through together, and all that they brought to our program. They've accomplished some phenomenal things here at Texas and after Texas, and they all are very special to me."
As special, among those gathered Friday were a large group of possible Longhorns-in-the-making: middle-school girls in grades 6-8 from Paragon Prep Middle School, an independent school located in central Austin. The founder and headmaster of Paragon, Dr. David McGrath, played football at UT and was a former academic advisor in women's athletics. The girls interacted and dined with other guests, including members of the Longhorns basketball, swimming and diving and track and field teams.
As McGrath simply said about his excited group, "We came today to be inspired."
And, after learning about the great feats and great accomplishments of the five inductees, the Paragon Prep students certainly came away with a deep appreciation for hard work, passion and persistence, which indeed, is inspiration for us all.