Four softball standouts who played on back-to-back NCAA champion teams are among 13 highly-accomplished former student-athletes in the 2013 induction class for the University of St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame.
The on-campus ceremony is set for Sept. 19.
The new additions, who represent 10 of UST’s 20 varsity sports, bring the the Tommies' Athletic Hall membership to 184 individuals and one team since the first inductions in 1974.
Tommie women’s athletics has grown rapidly since its debut in 1977-78. There are a record eight females being inducted this year -– the first time one class has more women than men inductees. That brings the total of women in the Athletic Hall to 37.
The newcomers include softball standouts Nikki Conway, Janet Nagle, Carrie Embree and Michelle Wong, who helped the Tommies win national crowns in 2004 and 2005. All but Wong also played on the NCAA runner-up team in 2006.
Past inductions to the UST Hall were held every three years, although this is the first group added since 2007.
2013 St. Thomas Athletics Hall of Fame inductees:
Jake Barkley 2003 Football
Nicole Conway 2006 Softball
Roman Cress 2003 Track & Field
Carrie Embree 2007 Softball, Basketball
Jane Gibbs-Becker 2004 Volleyball
Kristal Grigsby 2006 Track & Field
Andrew Hilliard 2003 Track & Field, Football
Diane Loughlin Urick 1989 Track & Field, Cross Country
Janet Nagle 2006 Softball
Steve Pignato 1997 Baseball
Isaac Rosefelt 2007 Basketball
Tessie Thompson 2003 Soccer
Michelle Wong 2005 Softball
A rare three-time first-team Academic All-America and a three-time All-Region player, Barkley started just three seasons at running back but surpassed 100 rushing yards in 20 games. His career rushing total of 3,969 yards broke St. Thomas and MIAC records at the time. He currently ranks fourth on the MIAC list and second on the Tommies’ career list. He scored 33 touchdowns, all in his final 29 games, and finished with 4,644 all-purpose yards.
A two-time All-America and an Academic All-America, Conway was just the second player in Division III softball history to surpass 40 HRs, 200 runs and 200 hits on her career. She went on to play professionally with the Michigan Ice, and she was among 37 players selected to be on the national ballot for the Division III Softball 25th Anniversary Team. She led Tommie softball to a 169-20 record as four-year starter, including NCAA team titles in 2004 and 2005 and a national runner-up placing in 2006. She was chosen conference Player of the Year and national Catcher of the Year as a senior, and still holds MIAC records for career home runs (48), runs (229), extra-base hits (117), walks (86) and slugging percentage (.789). She broke the Division III career record for runs scored (229 in 189 games) and now ranks second in D-III history in runs, seventh in home runs, and 10th in doubles. In 189 career games she batted .404 with 229 runs, 230 hits, 159 RBI, 48 HRs, 62 doubles, 86 walks, 62 steals, 450 total bases and a .789 slugging percentage. She made the Division III College World Series All-Tournament Team three times, and in 23 career NCAA postseason games against elite pitching she helped the Tommies post a 21-2 record as she batted .492 with 38 hits, 32 RBI, 31 runs, eight doubles, two triples, nine HRs and a 1.000 slugging percentage.
A national runner-up and a five-time All-America sprinter at St. Thomas (2000-2003), Cress still shares the NCAA Division III all-time best time in the indoor 55 meters (6.20). He was a nine-time All-MIAC champion in six conference meets indoors and outdoors, and his St. Thomas teams never lost the team crown indoors or outdoors in his era. He represented his home nation, the Marshall Islands, in the 2008 Olympic Games and also in the 2003 World Games. In the 2000 NCAA indoor meet, Cress helped the Tommies to a seventh-place team finish as he placed second in the 55 meters in a photo finish with Lincoln's Dayne Ross. Both clocked 6.25, but Ross was awarded the gold medal. Cress also placed on two 4x100 relays, took seventh in the 2000 outdoor 100 meters, and seventh in the 2002 indoor 55. His best times of 6.20 (55 meters) and 10.53 (100 meters) still are MIAC championship meet records.
Carrie Embree, a four-year standout in softball, twice received All-America and Academic All-America honors. She helped Tommie softball to a 179-18 record as a four-year starter, including NCAA team titles in 2004 and 2005 and a national runner-up placing in 2006. Embree became the first MIAC female in any sport to play on two NCAA title teams and twice make All-America and Academic All-America. She went on to play pro softball with the New England Riptide. She also gave Tommie basketball a boost as she played on an MIAC co-champion team in her only season competing, as a fifth-year senior in 2007-08. A career .466 hitter, she set the MIAC softball record for hits in a season (80), and ranks in the top five among all conference players in career hits with 218. She also broke the conference record for career steals (109); was named national Base Runner of the Year; and scored 160 runs in 172 games. As a pitcher, she had a 5.8-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio and built a 1.03 ERA and 20-3 record on her career. Embree became the first conference basketball player -- male or female -- to win Player of the Year in their first season of competition. Embree’s Tommie softball and basketball teams built a combined 117-7 record vs. conference opponents (98-2 softball, 19-5 basketball). She was named to the College World Series All-Tournament team as a freshman in 2004. She played on MIAC champion teams in all five of her seasons in softball and basketball. She now works as a coach and teacher in her hometown of Waukee, Iowa.
Jane Gibbs Becker
A two-time All-America and four-time All-MIAC honoree in volleyball as a setter, she was named MIAC Player of the Year as a senior in 2003, and set four school records for assists during her tenure. Teams Gibbs played on finished 97-31 in her career, winning regular-season conference titles in 2002 and 2003. She is starting her 10th season is coaching this fall including year four as head coach at Augsburg College.
A rare three-time NCAA champion in the long jump, a nine-time All-America, and 13-time conference champ, Grigsby is the most accomplished female field-event athlete in UST history. Grigsby won the long jump in the 2004 and 2006 outdoor and 2005 indoor national meets. She was among 18 athletes named in 2006 to the NCAA Silver Anniversary team for the best track and field performances of the first 25 years of women’s national meets. Her 2004 NCAA winning long jump of 19-10 3-4 set an all-time conference best. She still holds four conference championship meet records (indoor triple jump; indoor and outdoor long jump; outdoor high jump). As a senior she broke a 16-year-old O'Shaughnessy Stadium record in the long jump (19-9 1-2). The old record 19-7 by Jane Mattke, who at the time held the Minnesota Gopher record of 20-2. A late bloomer, Kristal didn't score a single point as a freshman in the conference indoor meet, then scored 213 points in her final seven MIAC indoor and outdoor competitions. She also contributed to another 40 relay points and helped the Tommies win seven of a possible eight MIAC team titles in her era. She combined with her twin sister, Carthage College's Shea'na Grigsby, to win 11 NCAA Division III track and field championships for their institutions. The twins ran against each other on the 4x100 relay at the 2004 Division III national meet. In the prelims Carthage 48.14 (Shea'na leadoff leg) edged UST 48.16 (Kristal second leg) but both made finals. In the finals, both sisters ran head-to-head on the second leg but UST was disqualified and Carthage placed seventh.
A six-time All-America relay runner in track and field, Hilliard also was four-year starter in football as a receiver. He received five prestigious national awards for academics and athletics: the NCAA Top VIII Award; the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award; the Woody Hayes National Scholar-Athlete Award; Track/CC Academic All-American of the Year; and was a rare five-time Academic All-America honoree in both football and track and field. In track, his 4×400 relay placed in the top five at nationals in each of the four years of his career. The 2003 relay placed third in a conference-record time of 3:11.12 — just .04 out of first place. He also qualified for nationals twice in the 400 hurdles; ran on a top-five placing 4×100 relay in 2002; and ran on a top-five 4×400 relay in the 2003 indoor national meet. Hilliard also won four events at the MIAC outdoor championships and finished his career with 16 conference titles in relay and individual races. Outdoors, he ran on MIAC champion 4×400 relays all four years and was a three-time 400 hurdles champion. He helped St. Thomas win all eight MIAC team championships (indoors and outdoors) in his four-year era. In football, Hilliard twice was voted All-MIAC and started 38 of 40 career football games (missing two with injuries), with 147 receptions for 2,547 yards (17.3 ypc) and 23 touchdowns. He’s currently the head coach of girls’ track and field at Lakeville South High, where he guided the Cougars to the 2012 Minnesota state championship.
Diane Loughlin Urick
A seven-time Division III All-America distance runner, Loughlin competed in her final two seasons at St. Thomas after starting her college career at Division I Missouri. In cross country, she ran on the Tommies’ NCAA co-champion squad in 1987 and placed 41st individually, then was the national runner-up as a senior in 1988 to help St. Thomas take second as a team. As a junior in 1988 in the indoor track and field nationals, she placed fourth in the 1,500 meters. She came back to take second place at indoor nationals in the 1,500 as a senior. At outdoor nationals she placed fifth in both the 1,500 and 800 as a junior, and as a senior took third in the 3,000 and fifth in the 1,500. She competed on five conference champion teams in CC and track in her two seasons. Loughlin’s MIAC outdoor track meet record of 4:33 for the 1,500 stood from 1988 until 2008.
A two-time All-America pitcher, Nagle was named the 2004 Honda Division III Softball Player of the Year and was profiled in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd. She went on to play professionally with the Michigan Ice, and she was among 10 players selected for the Division III Softball 25th Anniversary team. She led Tommie softball to a 169-20 record as a four-year starter, including NCAA team titles in 2004 and 2005 and a national runner-up placing in 2006. She ranks third in Division III career winning percentage at .923 with 84-7 record, including 81 victories over her last three seasons, and also ranks 12th in shutouts with 45. She was a three-time MIAC Pitcher of the Year and compiled a 44-1 all-time record against conference opponents. She won her last 31 pitching decisions of 2004 as part of UST’s Division III-record 43-game winning streak. She was a member of the Division III College World Series All-Tournament Team all three seasons from 2004-06. She broke the Division III record for consecutive victories with 34 set in 2006 and finished her career ranked in the top 20 in both strikeouts (696 in 555 innings) and strikeout-to-walk ratio. She finished 25-1 in career NCAA postseason games with a 1.03 earned-run average, 163 strikeouts and 48 walks. Her 24 home runs as a batter rank in the top seven in MIAC history; she also had 150 hits, 115 RBI, 36 doubles, two triples, 62 extra-base hits, 65 runs and 50 walks while batting .348 (.603 slug%) in 171 games.
An All-America and a rare four-time All-MIAC baseball honoree, Pignato ranks in the top 10 in conference history in career hits with 208. He helped the Tommies win back-to-back MIAC crowns -- 1996 and 1997, the program’s first repeat titles since 1982 and 1983 – and advance to three consecutive NCAA playoffs. In his final three seasons, UST posted a 101-27 record. He ranks first at UST in several career categories --batting average (four-year players), .402; doubles, 42; home runs, 29; and RBI, 169. He also had 62 walks and nine triples.
He became the first conference player selected as a two-time, first-team All-America by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Rosefelt was also a two-time MIAC Player of the Year and two-time West Region Player of the Year. After playing his first season at Division I Bowling Green, Rosefelt played the next three winters with the Tommies and helped them post a 62-18 overall record, with conference regular-season and playoff titles in each of his last two seasons. He was the first player in 20-plus years to lead the MIAC in rebounding for three consecutive seasons. In his 80-game career he posted 44 double-doubles in points and rebounds and closed with 1,367 points, 859 rebounds and 177 blocked shots. In nine career postseason games he averaged 16.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per contest. Despite playing only three seasons here, Rosefelt ranks 12th in career scoring and fourth in career rebounding. He just completed his sixth year playing professionally in Israel.
A two-time All-America and an Academic All-America, Thompson was chosen as Minnesota’s representative for the 2003 NCAA Woman of the Year competition. She’s one of just two St. Thomas soccer players to receive multiple All-America honors. She was a second-team honoree in 2001 and a first-team pick in 2002. A two-time captain and four-year starter, Thompson was a two-time All-Region pick and three-time all-conference honoree. She was voted conference MVP as a senior in 2002 after she led the MIAC in scoring with 25 points (including 10 goals) in 11 games en route to her team’s conference co-championship. St. Thomas reached the NCAA playoff quarterfinals and battled eventual NCAA champion Ohio Wesleyan to a 0-0 tie through two overtimes before losing in a shootout. St. Thomas went 51-17-8 in her era, including a 26-2-2 record in MIAC play over her final three seasons. Thompson’s 84 career points (35 goals, 14 assists) were the fifth most in St. Thomas history when she graduated. She graduated from dental school at the University of Minnesota and now has her own dental practice.
A two-time All-America, she was named Honda National Player of the Year in softball as a senior. Wong also was twice named MIAC Player of the Year after she led the conference in batting average and stolen bases. She broke the conference career hits record (241 in 181 games) and now ranks No. 2 behind UST’s Allison Wright. Wong led the Tommies to a 159-25 record in her four-year era as a starter (90-4 vs. conference foes), including a Division III record 43-game winning streak in 2004 and early 2005. In her final two seasons, she helped UST capture back-to-back national championships and post a 20-0 postseason record. In conference play in her era, the Toms also won three of four regular-season and both postseason titles contested. As a senior in 2005, she had no errors in her last 61 defensive chances of the season at second base and struck out just twice in 170 plate appearances. On her career, she played in 181 games and had 241 hits, batted .410, had 102 stolen bases, 173 runs, 90 RBI and 33 extra-base hits. A right-handed hitter in high school, Wong incurred a shoulder injury that prompted her to learn to bat from the left side, and she continued that at UST.