Illinois Athletics announces 2022 Hall of Fame inductees, first ever majority female class

Jody Alderson Braskamp emerges from the Chicago Town Club swimming pool after setting a new world and American swimming mark for the 100 yard freestyle with a time of 58.1. Braskamp is among a handful of Illinois athletes who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday.

Photo courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Jody Alderson Braskamp emerges from the Chicago Town Club swimming pool after setting a new world and American swimming mark for the 100 yard freestyle with a time of 58.1. Braskamp is among a handful of Illinois athletes who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois Athletics revealed its 2022 Hall of Fame Class on Monday, the sixth class of inductees since the Hall of Fame was established back in 2016. Since then, notable alumni such as Dick Butkus, Dee Brown and George Halas have all been inducted. With 15 members earning their place in this year’s class, the lineup consists of Olympians, key former Illini and coaches.

The 2022 class sees the first ever majority female lineup, as eight women feature out of the 15 total. Fittingly, this coincides with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which was instrumental in growing women’s varsity sports teams.

With a combined 22 national championships and one team national title among them, here are the athletes being honored in the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

Jody Alderson Braskamp
Alderson competed in women’s swimming during the early 1950s and led an extremely decorated career at both the collegiate and professional levels. Alderson would represent the United States at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics at 17 years old, earning bronze in the 4×100 freestyle and finishing fifth in the 100-meter freestyle. Alderson was three-tenths of a second behind the winner, and despite being in a three-way tie for third, she was awarded fifth place by the judges. After becoming an Olympian, Alderson competed for Illinois and would go on to set the world record in the 100-yard freestyle in 1954 while competing professionally, and was also a part of the 1952 and 1953 Amateur Athletic Union national championship relay teams.

Becky Beach
Beach competed in both women’s golf and basketball for Illinois during the 1970s. She was the school’s first ever gold medalist in women’s golf with her win of the Big Ten title in 1976. Beach also won the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Championship in back-to-back years, from 1976 to 1977, and competed at the AIAW National Championship Tournament in 1976. In addition to golf, Beach also experienced major success playing basketball for the Illinois women’s team from 1976-78. In addition to helping the Illini earn winning seasons in her first two years playing for the basketball program, she also led the team in scoring from 1976-77, in rebounding during 1977 and in assists from 1977-78.

Bill Burrell
Burrell competed as a linebacker on the Illinois football team from 1957-59, and became the first ever Black captain in the program’s history. Burrell experienced tremendous success during his time as an Illini, finishing fourth in Heisman Trophy voting, winning the Big Ten Silver Football Award and becoming a Consensus All-American in 1959. Additionally, Burrell was a three-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection and earned All-America honors in 1958. He was drafted by the AFL Buffalo Bills in 1960 and 50th overall in the NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. Burrell would play five seasons in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and was named to the Illinois All-Century Football Team in 1990.

Harry Combes
Combes competed for the men’s basketball team from 1935-37, and also served as head coach of the program from 1948-67. As a player, Combes helped the Illini win Big Ten titles in 1935 and 1937. He would also earn both First-Team All-Big Ten and Second-Team All-Big Ten recognition during his time playing for the program, as well as Second-Team All-American honors. As a coach, Combes set the record at Illinois for most wins, an achievement that would not be broken for 25 years. Combes was one of the Illini’s most successful coaches to ever head the program earning a 316-150 record, Combes’ teams won four Big Ten Titles and made three Final Four appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

Charlton Ehizuelan
Ehizuelan competed in track & field from 1974-77, during which he became the greatest jumper in Illini history. Coming from Nigeria, Ehizuelan became the first African to ever become the NCAA Outdoor Champion in the triple jump and long jump. Ehizuelan was also a two-time NCAA Indoor Champion in long jump, and earned Indoor All-American honors during all four years. Ehizuelan’s long jump/triple jump records still remain in place at Illinois, and in total he would win 12 Big Ten titles during his collegiate career. He also won both the long jump and triple jump at the 1975 All-Africa University Games and would go on to win the USA Indoor Championship in long jump in 1978. Although Ehizuelan qualified to represent Nigeria at both the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, the team’s boycott of the 1976 Olympics and an injury before the 1980 Olympics prevented Ehizuelan from competing.

Jeff George
George was the quarterback for the Illinois football team from 1988-89, where he earned Second Team All Big Ten honors in 1988 and First Team All Big Ten honors in 1989. George would also earn Honorable All-America honors in 1989, and was instrumental in leading the Illini to two Bowl games during his time wearing the orange and blue, including a 1989 Citrus Bowl victory. Also in 1989, George set the school record for most touchdown passes in a single-season with 22, a feat that now is tied for third in the program today. In total, he threw for 5,189 yards and 31 total touchdowns in his two years at Illinois, and was capable of clutching up for the team late in games. George was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 1990 and experienced a successful 12-year career playing in the NFL.

Ron Guenther
Guenther was an offensive lineman for the Illini football team from 1964-66, and served as the Athletics Director at Illinois in 1988 and from 1992-2011. As a player, Guenther earned Second-Team All-Big Ten, Academic All-Big Ten and team MVP honors in 1966. As Athletics Director, Guenther oversaw major projects at Illinois across many different sports. Notable projects included the Memorial Stadium Renaissance, Eichelberger Field, Demirjian Golf Facility, Atkins Tennis Center, UI Outdoor Track and Field Stadium, Irwin Indoor Football Practice Facility and Ubben Basketball Practice Facility. Guenther’s work greatly benefited the various Illini sports teams, who would win a combined 34 Big Ten Championships during his time as Athletic Director. Additionally, during his tenure the men’s basketball team would make a Final Four appearance and the football team would make six bowl appearances, one of which included the Rose Bowl. In 2005, Guenther was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.

Werner Holzer
Holzer was a Illinois wrestler from 1957-59. He won two Big Ten titles and became an All-American during his collegiate career. Holzer would finish third at the NCAA Championships in 1957 and would achieve a remarkable 71-7 record over the course of his three years as an Illini. Holzer became an Olympian after college, going on to compete at the 1966 World Championship and at the 1968 Olympics. He would later become credited in founding USA Wrestling as the national governing body of amateur wrestling. A long and illustrious career in wrestling would be topped off in 1993 as Holzer was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Dr. Nell Jackson
Jackson served as the coach of women’s track in 1970, where her Illini team won the 1970 National Championship in women’s track & field. In addition to coaching at Illinois, Jackson coached the Olympic women’s track & field team and was the first Black coach to ever head the United States Olympic team. She was also the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s board of directors and is an instrumental figure in the sport.

Linda Metheny-Mulvihill
Metheny competed in women’s gymnastics during the 1960s and enjoyed an extremely decorated career as an Olympian. She competed in three separate Olympics and over the course of her career won countless titles and awards. At two separate Pan American Games, Metheny won a combined seven gold, three silver and one bronze medals. Across a variety of different domestic competitions, Metheny won around 18 individual national titles and is a member of the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame. After becoming an Illini following the 1964 Olympics, Metheny competed as the sole member of the women’s gymnastics team.

Ken Norman
Norman competed for the men’s basketball team from 1985-87, earning Second-Team Consensus All-America honors and two-time First-Team All-Big Ten picks during his time at Illinois. In the latter portion of his collegiate career, Norman led Illinois in scoring and rebounding. During his senior year, he averaged 19.7 points on a school record 64.1 percent shooting. The Illini made NCAA Tournament appearances during all three of Norman’s years, and he was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers as the first-round pick of the 1987 NBA Draft. Norman would enjoy an 11-year career in the NBA, and played for the Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks during that time. He averaged 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds as a professional player, and in 2005 was named to the Illini All-Century Team.

Jonelle Polk McCloud
Polk competed for the women’s basketball team from 1984-87. Polk broke the school scoring record with 1,984 points. This record was held for 11 years and her numbers still rank third in the program. In terms of rebounding, Polk broke the school record with 933 rebounds. This record was held for 17 years and remains fourth all-time. Polk also currently ranks sixth in most blocked shots in program history at 135. Her ability to earn double doubles on a regular basis saw Polk named to the First-Team All-Big Ten team twice and to the Second-Team All-Big Ten once during her collegiate career. She won the 1987 Big Ten Medal of Honor and after college played professionally overseas in Europe for four seasons.

Dawn Riley
Riley competed in women’s track & field from 1993-96, during which she was an eight-time All-American and seven-time Big Ten champion. She placed in the top 10 during the 1996 NCAA outdoor meet for the 100-meter hurdles and placed third in the 55-meter hurdles during the 1996 NCAA indoor meet. Riley played a significant role in helping Illinois to secure Big Ten Indoor titles in 1993, 1995 and 1996, while also helping Illinois to a Big Ten Outdoor title in 1995.

Emily Zurrer
Zurrer competed as a defender for the soccer team from 2005-08, where she enjoyed a decorated four years at Illinois. Zurrer earned a selection to the All-Freshman squad in her first year, and over the next three years would earn All-America honors three times, First-Team All-Big Ten honors three times, First-Team All-Region honors two times and won Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year in her final season. Zurrer’s presence on the back line was crucial for Illinois, who conceded the second-fewest goals in program history during the 2008 season. Opponents only managed a total of 19 goals against the Illini that year. Additionally, over the course of Zurrer’s collegiate career Illinois produced 42 clean sheets. Zurrer would go on to play for Canada at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, during the latter of which her team would win bronze. She was an important starter for her country particularly in the 2008 Olympics, and in 2009 Zurrer would earn the Big Ten Medal of Honor from Illinois. After college, Zurrer would continue playing professionally in a variety of different countries, including Sweden, Germany, Canada and the United States.

Danielle Zymkowitz
Zymkowitz competed for the softball team from 2008-11. She was a two-time Third-Team All-American, three-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection and a three-time First-Team All-Region selection during her collegiate career. Serving as the captain from 2009-11, Zymkowitz’s legacy and impact on the program is far from forgotten. Etched in the record books, Zymkowitz holds the records for career batting average, stolen bases, runs and hits. She also ranks second in triples and stolen base percentage. Zymkowitz’s 59 runs scored in 2010 ranks as the third most runs scored in a single season and her 36 stolen bases in that same year remains a school record.

 

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