The Top 40 Moments in Women's Athletics at the University of Nevada
2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the federal law which prohibits discrimination in all educational programs and activities that receive federal funding. In celebration of the anniversary of Title IX, Wolf Pack Athletics has compiled the top 40 moments in women's athletics history at the University of Nevada. From the first victory by any Wolf team male or female in 1899 to the 10 Western Athletic Conference championships Nevada's women’s teams have won, women's athletics has a rich and successful history at the University of Nevada thanks to the contributions of thousands of student-athletes, coaches and administrators over the past 100-plus years.
1. The University of Nevada was ranked best in the country for its commitment to providing opportunities for women in sports in 2006 and 2007 by the Gender Equity Scorecard. The study was developed by Charles L. Kennedy, a senior political science instructor at Penn State University-York and is designed to rank schools based on their compliance with the spirit and intent of Title IX, the 1972 federal law designed to provide women with equal opportunity in sports. The University of Nevada ranked first in the nation among 113 NCAA Division I-A schools from 11 conferences included in the study. The report graded schools in five criteria using data from the 2004-05 academic year, including participation, scholarships, coaching salaries, recruitment budget and operating expenses.
2. The Nevada women’s swimming and diving team became the first Wolf Pack women’s team to win a national title, capturing the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women national title in 1979. The team roster included Anne Belikow, Paige Bryant, Janette Jackson, Mary Mirch, Karen Petterson, Gale Reeder, Teresa Roth and Cathy Trachok as well as head coach Jerry Ballew, assistant coach Loren Cordain and diving coach Clyde Devine. The 1979 squad was the first Wolf Pack women’s team to win a national title and the first team in school history inducted into the Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame.
3A. Nevada Athletics made history when Cary Groth was hired in the spring of 2004 as the seventh director of athletics in school history and the first woman to earn the position at Nevada. In her eighth year at Nevada, Groth is one of just five women to be heading up the athletics department at an NCAA Football Subdivision school around the country.
3B. Nevada’s athletics program earned its first victory over a varsity team with the women’s basketball team, coached by Ada Edwards, defeated Stanford in the winter of 1899.
4. Limin Liu won three NCAA individual championships during her prolific career, winning the 200 butterfly at the NCAA Championships in 1999 and the 100 and 200 fly in 2000. She still holds school and Big West Conference records in the 100 and 200 fly. A three-time All-American, Liu was named the Big West Swimmer of the Year in 2000. Liu captured the silver medal in the 100 fly while representing her native China at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and also competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. She held the world short-course record in the 100 fly and also won a gold medal at the World Championships.
5. Katarina Hanusova became just the second skier in school history to win a national title and the first woman when she won the 15k freestyle and the 5k classical races at the NCAA Championship in 2001. A four-time All-American, Hanusova defended her 15k freestyle title at the NCAA meet the following year. After her Nevada career was done, she went on to become a three-time Olympian for the Czech Republic, competing in mountain biking in 1996 and 2002 and cross country skiing in 1998.
6. Women’s basketball player Tahnee Robinson was named one of five finalists for the 2011 Sullivan Award, the country’s most prestigious award for amateur athletes. A two-time All-WAC selection and one of the best players in Nevada history, she was also drafted by the Connecticut Sun in the 2011 WNBA Draft, becoming the first Wolf Pack women’s basketball player to be drafted by the WNBA and just the second Native American to play at that level. Robinson, who earned her degree in 2012, is now playing basketball professionally and serves as an athlete ambassador for the Nike N7 program.
7. Pack PAWS was founded in 1995 as a membership organization committed to Promoting and Advancing Women in Sports at the University of Nevada. Founded by Nevada’s senior woman administrator Angie Taylor as well as a host of prominent women in the community, the group helped to expand women’s athletics at Nevada by helping provide funding for championship rings, letterman jackets and scholarships to the women’s programs as well as helping to put on the Salute to Champions Dinner.
8. The Wolf Pack women’s swimming and diving team became its dominance in 1996 when Nevada won the first of five consecutive Big West Conference championships. The team also became the first women’s program at Nevada to win a Big West title that year.
9. The early 1990s marked one of the most exciting eras in Nevada history as the entire program moved from NCAA Division I-AA to I-A in 1991. That was also the same year that Nevada first determined to be compliance with Title IX. Nevada’s women’s teams also got a big boost in 1992 when the Wolf Pack men’s and women’s programs all joined the Big West Conference. The women had been in the Mountain West Athletic Conference, an all-women’s league in 1987 which had then merged with the Big Sky Conference with which the Wolf Pack were a member. In 1994, the Wolf Pack women’s basketball team also moved into Lawlor Events Center, the same venue as the men’s basketball team. Prior to that, the women had played in the Virginia Street Gym.
10. The Wolf Pack rifle team turned in a second-place finish at the 2004 NCAA Championships. Holly Caraway became the first woman on Nevada’s rifle team to earn All-America honors that year. Rifle is the only sport in the NCAA where men and women compete directly against each other. Since Caraway, Nevada has had six more women on its rifle team earn All-America honors, including Meghann Morrill who was a two-time All-American in 2006 and 2008.
11. On March 29, 2007, the Nevada softball team defeated Sacramento State by a score of 3-2 in the first game at the Christina M. Hixson Softball Park. Just 16 days later, Hixson Park played host to the first no-hitter in school history when Jordan McPherson walked the first batter she faced and then retired 15 straight in a 10-0 win over San Jose State on April 14, 2007. The Wolf Pack also went undefeated at Hixson Park in 2009, turning in a perfect 11-0 home record that year.
12. Wolf Pack skier Katie Lyons was named one of 10 NCAA Division I finalists for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award in 2010. Lyons was a three-time NCAA qualifier and earned All-America honors in the slalom in 2008, and she did it all despite being diagnosed with scoliosis and having back surgery when she was 15. An academic all-district selection, Lyons was president of Nevada's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is currently attending medical school at the University of Nevada.
13. In 1998, then senior woman administrator Angie Taylor secured two $1 million gifts to Nevada's women's athletics program, one from the Wilbur May Foundation and another from the E.L. Wiegand Foundation. Taylor, who played basketball at Nevada and then started her athletics career as sports information and promotions director before moving into administration, helped Nevada increase its women's athletics budget from about $700,000 to over $2 million in the 1990s.
14. The Wolf Pack women's swimming and diving team is one of the most successful programs in school history and the 1990s and early 2000s marked an era of unprecedented national success. In 1999 and 2000, Nevada turned in back-to-back top 15 finishes at the NCAA Championships, finishing 14th in the nation in 1999 and 13th in the nation in 2000. The Wolf Pack won three individual national championships and collected 40 All-America certificates at those two national meets.
15. After earning its first NCAA Regional appearance by winning the WAC Tournament in 2006, the Wolf Pack softball team continued its dominance with two more conference regular-season titles and NCAA Regional invitations in 2008 and 2009. Nevada was a perennial presence in the national rankings those two years, climbing as high as 17th in the nation in 2009.
16. Nevada's volleyball team earned the first of five NCAA appearances in 1998. The Wolf Pack also earned NCAA invitations in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005. Two notables during the late 1990s were Suzanne Stonebarger and Michelle More. Dubbed "Team Gorgeous," Stonebarger and More teamed up to have a successful career on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour after their collegiate careers ended.
17. The Wolf Pack women's basketball team made school history when it won a school-record 22 games and advanced to the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. That marked the first postseason victory in school history for the women's basketball program. Nevada has earned three invitations to the WNIT with the first coming in 2007.
18. The Nevada swimming and diving team become a dominant force in the Western Athletic Conference, winning three consecutive conference titles from 2006-08. In those three years, Nevada had the WAC Swimmer of the Year in Margaret Doolittle in 2008, two Coaches of the Year (Mike Shrader in 2007 and Mike Richmond in 2008) and three straight Freshmen of the Year (Doolittle in 2007, Jeannette Tour in 2007 and Kim Kabesh in 2008).
19. In 1992, Nevada saw three of its current or future swimmers as well as its future volleyball head coach Ruth Lawanson compete at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Natalia Pulido, who swam for the Wolf Pack, represented Spain in the 100, 200 and 400 freestyle events, while May Ooi (1993-97) represented Singapore in the 200 breaststroke. Lisé Mackie, who would go on to be a three-time Big West Swimmer of the Year at Nevada from 1995-98, represented Australia that year in Spain. Nevada volleyball coach Ruth Lawanson also went to Barcelona that year as a member of the United States' volleyball team and came home with a bronze medal.
20. Ruth Russell arrived on the University of Nevada campus in 1939. Russell went on to become an adviser to the Gothic N, Nevada's letter organization recognizing women's athletics, and served as the director of women's athletics from 1948-69. To this day, Nevada's highest honor awarded to the top female senior student-athlete is named the Ruth Russell Award.
21. Cross country standout Abigail McAllister set the school record for the 5,000 meters to win the 2003 Western Athletic Conference individual championship. It was Nevada's first championship in women's cross country and the Wolf Pack's first WAC team title in any sport.
22. Nevada added its women's soccer in 2000, and it didn't take the Wolf Pack long to climb to the top of the WAC. In 2006, just six years after its first season, Nevada won the Western Athletic Conference tournament and earned the program's first visit to the NCAA Championship.
23. Jenni Ashcroft was a three-time conference champion in the pole vault, winning the Big West championship in 2000 and WAC titles in 2001 and 2002. Ashcroft helped the Wolf Pack to the Big West outdoor track championship in 2000 and second-place finishes at the WAC championships in 2001 and 2002.
24. Swimmers Ann Belikow and Pam Gordon both earned All-America honors in 1978, becoming the first women in school history to earn that distinction. Belikow was a three-time All-American that year in the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke, while Gordon earned the accolade in the 1650 freestyle. Since Belikow and Gordon set the bar, Nevada women have earned 142 All-America accolades in the history of Wolf Pack Athletics, most recently Chelsie Hata in small bore rifle and LaTijera Avery in the indoor high jump in 2011-12.
25. In 1996, swimmer Lise Mackie earned her third consecutive Big West Swimmer of the Year honor, becoming the first student-athlete in Nevada to become a three-time conference athlete of the year. The feat has only been accomplished one other time since when men's basketball player Nick Fazekas was named the WAC Player of the Year each year from 2005-07. A seven-time All-American, Mackie helped the Wolf Pack to three Big West titles represented Australia at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, winning a bronze medal as part of the Aussies' 800 meter freestyle relay team in 1996.
27. Angie Yoon was a two-time Big West Golfer of the Year, earning the award in 1999 as a sophomore and 2000 as a junior. A four-time all-conference honoree, Yoon won nine tournaments in her collegiate career and was featured in Sports Illustrated after winning four consecutive tournaments in the fall of 1999.
28. 1986 was a banner year for Wolf Pack women in the classroom as Nevada has two women earned Academic All-America honors. Chris Starr (women's basketball) and Theresa Sims (softball) were both named first-team Academic All-Americans by the College Sports Information Directors of America that year.
29. Nevada added women's golf to its varsity lineup in 1997, and like all of the recent additions, the Wolf Pack program climbed quickly. Just four years later, the Wolf Pack made the first NCAA Regional appearance in program history in 2001.
30. Ali McKnight earned All-America honors in the heptathlon at the 1995 NCAA Track and Field Championships. Her second-place finish in the event marked the highest a female Wolf Pack track and field competitor had ever placed in the national competition. She competed in both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Trials in the heptathlon and later earned a spot on the 2000 U.S. Women's World Cup Bobsled team. A two-time Big West Conference Athlete of the Year in 1994 and 1995, McKnight captured back-to-back conference titles in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 100 meter hurdles.
33. Olympic track and field medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee was the keynote speaker in 1996 when Nevada held its first Salute to Champions dinner. The event was held by Pack PAWS, a membership organization committed to Promoting and Advancing Women in Sports at the University of Nevada, and presented by Drs. Nazir and Mary Ansari. The dinner, which was held annually from 1996 to 2006, was a fundraiser and celebration the achievements of women in sports at Nevada and throughout the community. Nevada will reprise the Salute to Champions Dinner this fall in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX with details to be released later this summer.
34. Nevada's Women's Athletics Association went "national" in 1919 when it was admitted into the National Women's Athletic Association. From 1913 to 1921, the Gothic N Society was the letter organization recognizing women's athletics at Nevada. But intercollegiate competition was short-lived for Wolf Pack women when it was banned in 1921. For the next 40 years or so, college women across the country were only allowed to compete in athletics for enjoyment and sportsmanship, and Nevada had women's athletics clubs ranging from volleyball and basketball to saddle and spurs, tobogganing and skiing.
35. Women's basketball star Chris Starr scored 53 points in a game against Sacramento State on Feb. 8, 1983, which set the school record and is the most points ever scored by a Wolf Pack basketball player - male or female. She hit 21 of her 33 field-goal attempts and all 11 of her free throws against the Hornets. A 2007 inductee into the Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame, Starr is the owner of 16 records in the Nevada history book, more than any other women's basketball player.
36. In 1978, Nevada hired its first athletics trainer to work specifically with its female student-athletes.
37. LPGA Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan started her collegiate career at the University of Nevada, forming a one-woman golf team for the Wolf Pack in 1978. She transferred to San Jose State in 1979 and reached the pinnacle of her college career by winning the AIAW national championship in 1980. Sheehan was inducted into the Nevada Hall of Fame in 1994 and has had a brilliant professional career as a member of the LPGA Tour.
38. In 2003, Nevada reinstated its softball program, its 10th women's team, after a 14-year hiatus. Nevada had fielded a softball team from 1973-1988 but dropped the sport after the 1989 season. It didn't take long for the Wolf Pack to get going with Nevada winning the Western Athletic Conference Tournament and earning the Wolf Pack's first bid to the NCAA Championship in 2006.
39. Women's gymnast Candy Oliver Borda received an athletics scholarship in 1969, becoming the first female student-athlete in the history of Wolf Pack Athletics to receive an athletics scholarship. Borda, who competed for the Wolf Pack from 1969-73, finished in the top six in the country in tryouts for the University World Team in 1970 and led Nevada to a regional championship in 1971. She was inducted in the Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988. Things have changed since Borda's time with Nevada Athletics with the Wolf Pack now awarding 99 scholarships in 10 women's sports.
40. In 2011, the University of Nevada's Oral History program and Wolf Pack Athletics published the book, We Were All Athletes: Women's Athletics and Title IX at the University of Nevada. The book documents the successes and struggles of women's athletics at the University of Nevada through interviews with former student athletes, coaches, university administrators and others. Copies of We Were All Athletes can be purchased at the bookstore at the Joe Crowley Student Union, online at http://oralhistory.unr.edu/books_detail_wwaa.asp or by calling or emailing (775) 784-6932 or firstname.lastname@example.org.