EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (blugolds.com) - Six athletes who helped their teams advance to the highest level of national competition make up the UW-Eau Claire Blugold Hall of Fame class of 2018.
The new class, which will be inducted during homecoming weekend, includes football players Sean Hoolihan and Jay Hoyord, hockey player Steve Blodgett, basketball player Kristi Channing, tennis player Alison (Hover) Khan and softball player Karri (Meinen) Bareksten. This group represents the 42nd class of men's inductees and the 29th class of women's inductees and brings the number of athletes, coaches and administrators who have been honored to 228.
The Blugold Hall of Fame was established 45 years ago in 1973 to pay tribute, to give deserved recognition and to enhance school tradition by honoring former athletic letterwinners, coaches or administrators who demonstrated distinctive, unique or exceptional ability while on the campus at Eau Claire and have distinguished themselves in their profession or personally since leaving the institution.
There must be a lapse of 15 years from their final season of eligibility before an athlete can be considered for induction.
The class will be inducted Friday, October 5 and then honored by riding in the homecoming parade Saturday morning and introduced at halftime of the football game vs. UW-Stevens Point Saturday afternoon, October 6. The induction banquet will take place in the Dakota Ballroom of the Davies Center on campus with a social hour at 4:30 p.m., dinner at 5:30 p.m. and program at 6:30 p.m. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and the football game at 1:10 p.m. Tickets for the banquet are $25 and can be obtained by contacting the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association at (715) 836-3266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Former WEAU TV 13 sports director and current UW-Eau Claire Foundation Associate Director of Major Gifts Rick Foy will present the 2018 Hall of Fame inductees.
Besides outstanding athletic credentials for this year's class, the six have distinguished themselves professionally, personally or in community service since leaving the institution, according to Tim Petermann, Blugold Hall of Fame Executive Director.
Hoolihan was the senior quarterback on Bob Nielson's 1998 football squad that advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division III football playoffs. Hoyord was a freshman defensive back on that squad and culminated his brilliant career by being selected to participate in the Aztec Bowl after the Blugolds won a conference championship in 2001. Blodgett earned NAIA first team All-American honors and was a prolific scorer on Wally Akervik's 1984 national championship hockey team. Channing was the WIAC player of the year and a WBCA first team All-American on Tonja Englund's 2003 basketball squad which took third place in the NCAA tournament. Khan was a six-time WIAC singles and doubles champion and played on the first three Blugold tennis teams to qualify for the NCAA team tournament including the 2000 squad which reached the NCAA quarterfinals. Meinen started 195 of 196 games during a brilliant four-year career that saw her earn NFCA third team All-American honors as a freshman and play on two teams that finished fourth in the NCAA tournament.
A great coach and a great leader arrived at UW-Eau Claire in 1996 and the success of the Blugold football team took off after a 1-9 finish in 1995. Head coach Bob Nielson and quarterback Sean Hoolihan came on the scene together in 1996. Hoolihan arrived as a transfer from Minnesota State-Mankato where he was a scholarship basketball player. Following his graduation from Spring Valley High School, Hoolihan walked on as a quarterback at the University of Minnesota. Everything clicked for him when he settled down at UWEC. The Blugolds produced consecutive records of 5-5, 7-3 and 10-3, reaching the post-season for the first time in school history in 1998.
Hoolihan was a dual threat with his arm and his legs. He completed 60 percent of his passes during his Blugold career, throwing for 6,858 yards and 47 touchdowns. He totaled 1,514 yards rushing, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and scored 14 TDs. He averaged what is still a school record 314 yards of total offense per game as a junior when the Blugolds established school team records for points, first downs, rushing offense and total offense. He still ranks among the top three in school career passing yards, passing TDs and total offense.
Hoolihan was a two-time All-Conference first team pick, led the conference in total offense per game in 1996 and 1997 and ranked 12th nationally in passing efficiency as a junior. In 1997, the Blugolds averaged 528 yards of total offense per game in conference play, 62 yards per game more than the second-place team. Only twice in 10 games that season were they held to less than 40 points.
Hoolihan returned to his hometown of Spring Valley two years ago and serves as the head girls basketball coach, assistant football coach, assistant varsity track coach, sixth grade social studies teacher and paraeducator. He has had a wide variety of coaching experiences. This has included being a graduate assistant for Bob Nielson at UM-Duluth in 2000, offensive coordinator at Wadena Dear Creek High School in Wadena, Minnesota from 2001-04, head basketball coach at Wadena from 2002-05, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at UW-Stout from 2005-10, head girls basketball coach at Menomonie High School from 2011-15, and quarterbacks coach at Eau Claire Memorial from 2015-16.
After graduating from UWEC with a degree in sociology, Hoolihan played in the German Football League with the Franken Knights. He also played Arena football with the Peoria Pirates and indoor football with the Duluth-Superior Lumberjacks and the La Crosse Night Train.
Hoolihan and his wife Brittany, who is an elementary school counselor and a coach in the Spring Valley School District, are parents of daughter Jada, 8, and son Deklan, 5.
Jay Hoyord was one of the most active defensive backs to play for the Blugolds. After redshirting in 1997, he played every game for the next four seasons, totaling 324 tackles in 43 contests including 13 behind the line of scrimmage. He broke up 40 passes, intercepted 14 passes, forced three fumbles and recovered five fumbles. He once was credited with a TD on a blocked punt in the end zone. He also scored touchdowns on an 81-yard interception return and a 78-yard fumble return.
Hoyord played regularly on the Blugolds' 1998 NCAA playoff team. He was also an All-Conference first team performer on the Blugolds' 2001 conference championship team after earning All-Conference second team honors during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Hoyord led the team in tackles in both 2000 and 2001. His senior season, he was also recognized as a Hewlett-Packard second team All-American and a Football Gazette third team All-American.
A two-time team captain and defensive MVP as a senior, Hoyord was the first Blugold ever selected for the Aztec Bowl, a battle of Division III All-Stars from the United States against a Mexican National Team in Mexico. He blocked a punt in the 2001 game won by the U.S.
Hoyord was a four-sport standout at Iola-Scandinavia as he earned All-Conference honors in football and basketball and was a state long jump champ in track.
After graduating from UWEC with a MIS degree in December, 2001, he spent almost four years in Middleton with Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. Since October, 2005 he has worked for Sentry Insurance in Stevens Point where he currently serves as Director of Data Services.
He and his wife Kristen, a registered nurse, are parents of three children: Isaiah, 15; Gavin 12, and Addyson 10. The couple live in Iola where Jay has been active in the Iola-Scandinavia Recreation Association and the I-S Pee Wee Athletics. He has served as a baseball coach, basketball coach, soccer coach, flag football coordinator and head coach, Vice President of the Pee Wee Athletics Board and youth tackle football head coach.
Interestingly, 14 family members including his wife, brothers, sister, sister-in-laws, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews have graduated or are attending UW-Eau Claire. Four other family members have been Blugold football players including older brother Charlie and younger brother Luke plus nephews Jordan Beyersdorf and Josh Loken. Older brother Chad is Deputy Chief with the Eau Claire Police Department.
Steve Blodgett was an NAIA first team All-American in 1984 when the Blugold hockey team won the NAIA national championship.
The 1981 Wisconsin state prep player of the year and Eau Claire North's all-time leading scorer until 2017, Blodgett still ranks high on many Blugold career offensive categories. He was a four-year letterman between 1981 and 1985, playing in 111 games with 133 points scored on 67 goals and 66 assists. He is still tied for seventh in career points and fourth in career goals.
He was a freshman on the first Blugold team to qualify for nationals in 1982. Then as a junior, he earned All-Tournament honors as the Blugolds beat Roger Williams College, 10-5, and Michigan-Dearborn, 6-1, for the national title.
He was an alternate captain his senior season while earning WSUC and NCHA first team recognition. The NCHA was considered a power conference at that time with the likes of current Division I teams Bemidji State, St. Cloud State and Mankato State as members.
Blodgett graduated from UWEC with a Business Administration-Marketing degree in 1986. He spent five years with Target Corporation in Fargo, North Dakota (1986-91), five years with Famous Footwear in Madison (1991-96) and five years with Pleasant Company/American Girl in Eau Claire (1996-2001) in management positions before joining the Department of Workforce Development for the state of Wisconsin. He has been the District Director in Eau Claire since 2001. Three times in the past seven years, the Eau Claire office has been awarded the State of Wisconsin Employment Office of the Year for Service to Veterans by The American Legion. In 2017, the office was awarded the National Employment Award for Outstanding Employment Service Office of the Year presented by The American Legion.
Blodgett was a volunteer hockey coach at various levels from 1995 to 2015 including mini-mites, mites, squirts, pee wees, bantams and midget. He coached clinics, house teams and travel teams at all levels. He served as a Blugold assistant to Ian Perrin one year and also has been an assistant at North High School. He has also been a volunteer coach at various levels of soccer and baseball.
He served as a member of the Projects with Industry Business Advisory Council through the UW-Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute. In addition, he currently serves and has been a member of the West Central Workforce Development Board for the past 17 years.
Blodgett and his wife Karen, a grant specialist with the DNR, are parents of three children: Ethan, 26; Sidney (Blodgett) DeMaster, 24; and Quin, 21.
Kristi Channing was the fifth and most recent UW-Eau Claire women's basketball player to earn WBCA first team All-American honors following the 2002-03 season in which she led the Blugolds to a 32-2 record and third place in the NCAA Division III national tournament.
Channing played on two of the most outstanding teams in Blugold women's basketball history. Recruited by Lisa Stone after leading Arnie Skrukrud's Fall Creek Crickets to a state championship in 1996 and a state silver ball in 1998, she played in all 29 games in the 1999-00 season, when the Blugolds won their first 28 games and then lost to eventual national champion Washington University in the NCAA sectional. She was the conference player of the year in 2003 as the Blugolds again went unbeaten in the 16-game conference schedule and reached the Final Four of the NCAA tournament in Terre Haute, Indiana. There, the Blugolds lost by three points to Eastern Connecticut in overtime in the semifinals and then beat the University of Rochester in double overtime for third place.
Channing was a two-time All-Conference first team pick and was one of five Blugolds named to the WIAC's All-Centennial women's basketball team in 2012.
The four-year letterwinner, who redshirted in 1998-99, scored 1195 career points in 112 games for a 10.7 career average. The 5-10 shooting forward also pulled 468 rebounds, dished out 128 assists and came up with 95 steals. As a senior, she set the school record for free throws made with 150. Twice, she went to the line 18 times in a game. Against Stevens Point as a junior, she made all 11 of her charity attempts. She hit 30 or more points four times in her career including 35 against Millikin in which she connected on 14 of 18 field goals. That point total is the second best in school history
The Blugolds won or shared conference championships in three of her four seasons, producing a 54-10 WIAC mark while going 102-16 overall.
Channing graduated in 2003 with a psychology major and sociology minor. Although knowing she needed a master's degree to become a Licensed Professional Counselor, she pursued playing professional basketball initially. She received the opportunity to play for a U.S. team through the Athletes in Action (AIA) organization. Her participation on this team in Thailand and China got her recognition as a player as well as a platform to do outreach/charity with Thai and Chinese children from low socioeconomic families. After touring with this team, she accepted a position to tour with an AIA team to Division I colleges around the U.S. as an exhibition team. Then she was recommended to an Australian coach and received an offer to play for an Australian team in Perth, Australia. She retired from playing basketball at age 27 to pursue her counseling degree from UW-Stout.
Channing is currently a Licensed Professional Counselor with Vantage Point Clinic and Assessment Center in Eau Claire. A single mom, Channing has two boys: Haaken, 7, and Ryker, 4.
ALISON (HOVER) KHAN
Alison Khan ranks among the premier women's tennis players in UW-Eau Claire history. She posted a 91-18 career singles record, winning the conference No. 3 singles crown as a freshman and sophomore and the league's No. 1 crown as a junior and senior.
In doubles, Khan was 74-23 with a No. 3 conference championship as a freshman and a No. 1 title as a senior. In between, she was the No. 1 runner-up both years.
Khan was a member of the Blugolds' last four conference championship teams from 1999 through 2002. The Blugolds were an NCAA team qualifier in three of those seasons with a quarterfinal finish in 2000 when she played alongside fellow Hall of Famers Molly (Cope) Breunig and Coralie (Lockner) Beckman. Khan also competed in the 2002 NCAA individual singles competition at nationals.
Khan was a Blugold Super Six recipient as well as a Verizon first team Academic All-American. She was one of four Blugolds named to the WIAC All-Centennial women's tennis team.
A mathematics and finance major, Khan has worked for Travelers in St. Paul since graduation and is currently Second Vice President and Actuary. She earned her master's in Business Administration from the University of Minnesota Carlson School. She attained Fellowship in the Casualty Actuarial Society in 2007 and received a Travelers Chief Actuary Award in 2016.
She is currently serving as the Executive Co-Chair of the Travelers employee resource group, Women in Actuarial & Analytics, a Co-Chair of St. Paul Academy Lower School Parent Association Diversity & Inclusion committee and a Children's Museum of Minnesota Playmaker. Since 2007, she has been a volunteer for the Casualty Actuarial Society Exam Committee. She was Co-Chair of the first Travelers Actuarial Case competition and spent six years as a Hayden Heights Elementary Reading Buddy volunteer.
As a high school player, Khan was a member of St. Cloud Tech's third place state tournament team and competed in the individual state tournament three times.
She and her husband Imran, a former Blugold men's tennis letterwinner, are parents of two children: Isa, 7, and Ilya, 5.
KARRI (MEINEN) BAREKSTEN
The left-handed rightfielder is one of nine players in school history who have received NFCA All-American recognition.
The Circle Pines, Minnesota Centennial grad, who played on an All-State team, stepped into the starting lineup as a freshman and never relinquished her spot. A .303 career hitter, Bareksten holds the school record for games played (196) and at bats (627). She is eighth in career hits (190) and third in runs scored (139). She is third in career walks drawn (79) while striking out just 41 times.
Bareksten was All-Conference, All-Region and NFCA third team All-American as a freshman when she batted .388. She was a team captain twice and was named to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team and the NCAA Nationals All-Tournament team in 1999.
Bareksten played on the two winningest teams in school history as both the 1998 and 1999 teams won 40 games. In her four seasons, the Blugolds were 144-53 overall, 27-5 in league play and won three conference tournament championships. In both 1999 and 2000, the Blugolds placed fourth in the NCAA national tournament.
An outstanding student, Bareksten was the WIAC Judy Kruckman Scholar-Athlete Award winner for softball and an NFCA All-American Scholar-Athlete in 2000. Before she graduated with an accounting degree in 2000, she had already landed a position with the Big 8 accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche. She stayed with the firm for nearly 10 years, becoming a senior manager, before leaving in February, 2010 to join Medtronic.
She is currently Financial Controller for Medtronic's Latin America business which is based near Miami, Florida. Medtronic is among the world's largest medical technology, services, and solutions companies with its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland and operational headquarters in Fridley, Minnesota. Medtronic currently employs over 86,000 individuals globally and had annual net sales of nearly $30 billion in fiscal year 2018.
During Bareksten's tenure at Medtronic, she has participated in multiple leadership programs, including being 1 of 18 leaders nominated globally for a Medtronic Leadership Award. In addition, she was a 2016 Star of Excellence Nominee for her involvement in the integration of the acquisition of Covidien plc. This is an award that recognizes employees' unwavering commitment to the highest quality in products, processes, and services, as well as excellence in products, services, and business models that deliver critical innovations to market.
From 2008 through 2015, Bareksten was a Volunteer Board and Finance Committee Member for Prepare + Prosper (formerly AccountAbility Minnesota). Prepare + Prosper provides free tax prep and other financial services for hardworking individuals, families, and the self-employed in Minnesota.
Bareksten and her husband, Lance, reside in Weston, Florida with their two children Mya, 13, and Mason, 10, and their Boston Terrier, Tuukka.
(current conference for men's and women's sports, combined in 1996)
WSUC = Wisconsin State University Conference (former men's only conference)