Hall of Honor

Olympic record holder and gold medalist Melaine Walker, a former Longhorn track star, will be inducted into the UT Women’s Athletics Hall of Honor on Nov. 1. 

Walker, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in applied learning and development, became a three-time NCAA and six-time Big 12 Conference champion running in various relays while still an undergraduate. In her professional career, she has raced in the 400-meter hurdles, earning a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. She also recorded the second-fastest time in the world, 52.42 seconds, for the same event in 2009.

Jim Deitrick, an accounting professor who chairs the selection committee for the Hall of Honor, said there were 29 total nominees for the induction, and said through long discussions they decided on Walker, four other athletes and one athletics staffer who will be inducted in the fall.

“In our discussions we always discuss the pros and cons, and we all have different opinions on who merits the Hall of Honor,” Deitrick said. “It’s a difficult process trying to compare all the different sports. Some are team sports and some are individual, like track. But ultimately we choose who we feel deserves to be inducted.”

Jill Sterkel, a co-executive director of the T-Association which also oversees the selection committee, said Walker’s cumulative athletic achievements made her stand out.

“I felt she was one of the top candidates in the pool of nominees,” Sterkel said.

Mario Sategna, Texas head track and field coach, said Walker’s induction is a huge accomplishment on many fronts and said she is well-deserving of the honor.

“In our world of track and field, making a world championship or world team is a feat in itself,” Sategna said. “Winning an Olympic gold medal is an unbelievable feat and one that as a program and as a University we couldn’t be more proud of, so without a doubt there is probably nobody more deserving as she is.”

Sategna said when looking back at the careers of people like Walker, a clear message is sent to the current men and women’s track team. 

“A lot of our athletes have aspirations to train post-collegiately at the highest level,” Sategna said. “So this shows the importance of not only receiving a first-class degree competing at the highest level in the NCAA, but [that] when you do it right you can go above and beyond professionally.”

A Heisman Trophy winner, a nine-year NBA veteran and a MLB Manager of the Year made for a star-studded Class of 2010 Texas Men’s Hall of Honor.

The induction ceremony, which took place at the Austin Four Seasons Hotel on Friday, was the celebration of eight different athletic careers. Football, basketball, baseball, swimming and track and field were all represented — as were four different decades of collegiate athletics.

The jewel of the class is Ricky Williams, the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner. While at Texas, he broke the then all-time rushing record, won the Doak Walker Award twice and finished with a hand in 20 NCAA records.

“My time at Texas seems just like yesterday,” he said. “Being enshrined is a big deal for me. I came to Texas and I saw Earl Campbell’s Heisman Trophy and all the All-Americans, and I said I wanted to be a part of that.”

Chris Mihm, a homegrown talent out of Westlake High School, was dominant on the basketball court as a Longhorn. As the school’s all-time leader in blocks, he was a lottery pick for the pre-LeBron Cleveland Cavaliers in 2000 and went on to play nine seasons in the NBA, including a year with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 in which he started 75 games. A nagging ankle injury forced him to retire from basketball in February, but his life afterward is just getting started.

Mihm is now selling property in California and trying to get roots established back in Austin, where his legacy as a Longhorn is cemented.

“I tried to bring hard work and a focus on the team game here,” Mihm said. “I tried to be a chemistry piece and did my best to carry the team the best I could. The group of guys that I played with here were a bunch of hard-working guys and a group that I was blessed to play with.”

Ron Gardenhire saw most of his success in his post-playing days. After a career as an infielder during his time on the 40 Acres and his five seasons in the pros, Gardenhire traded in his spikes for a pen and notepad ­— launching the beginning of one of the more successful managerial resumes in all of baseball.

He was the third base coach for the Minnesota Twins during their 1991 World Series Championship season, and after 11 years in that position he was promoted to manager in 2002.
Coaching the likes of Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, Gardenhire has led the Twins to six division titles, with only one losing season. He was awarded the AL’s Manager of the Year Award on Nov. 17. A few days later, he was inducted into the Hall of Honor.

“My years at Texas were two really special years,” Gardenhire said. “In professional baseball we do a lot of bragging about our schools, and I’m very proud that I come from the University of Texas.”