At least twenty-one Big Ten Medal of Honor winners have won gold medals in the Olympics, including Illinois' Robert E. Richards (1947, track & field), Indiana's Steve Alford (1987, basketball), Jim Montgomery (1977, swimming), Ken Sitzberger (1967, diving) and Michelle Venturella (1995, softball), Iowa's Ed Banach (1983, wrestling) and Charles Darling (1952, basketball), Michigan's Mike Barrowman (1991, swimming), Brent Lang (1990, swimming) and Davis Tarwater (2006, swimming), Minnesota's Bill Baker (1979, hockey) and Jack McCartan (1958, hockey), Northwestern's Ralph Breyer (1925, swimming) and Harold Osborn (1915, track & field), Ohio State's Bruce Ira Harlan (1950, diving), Bill Hosket (1968, basketball), Jerry Lucas (1963, basketball), Sarah Josephson (1985, synchronized swimming), Katie Smith (1996, basketball) and Harry Dwight Steel (1924, wrestling) and Wisconsin's Carla MacLeod (2005, ice hockey).
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Nebraska's Bjorn Barrefors (2013, track & field)
A track & field standout at Nebraska, Barrefors earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2013. He is a six-time All-American, two-time conference champion, two-time All-Big Ten selection and holds the school record in the outdoor decathlon and indoor heptathlon events. The three-time captain won the decathlon at the 2012 Big Ten Outdoor Championships and finished fourth at the 2013 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. At the NCAA Championships in 2012, he finished fourth in the heptathlon and eighth in the decathlon. The Stockholm, Sweden native was the first four-time CoSIDA Academic All-American in Cornhusker history, and also won the NCAA Elite 88 award in 2010. Barrefors is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and won the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar award in both 2012 and 2013.
Dike Eddleman (Illinois, 1949) is the greatest all-around athlete in Illini history, earning a record 11 letters in the sports of football, basketball and track & field. He was a punter for the 1946 Big Ten football champions and played in the Rose Bowl Game, finished fourth in the high jump at the 1948 London Olympics and was the Big Ten MVP in leading the Illini to a conference basketball title in 1949. He played four seasons in the NBA and later became a fundraiser for Illinois' athletic department.
At least 632 Big Ten Medal of Honor recipients have also earned Academic All-Big Ten recognition, including 308 three-time and 80 four-time honorees. Football has the most Academic All-Big Ten selections (132), followed by track & field (84), swimming & diving (69), basketball (61), tennis (37), gymnastics (35), cross country (34), soccer (32) and volleyball (30).
Bob Richards, who won the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1947, became the first athlete to be pictured on the front of a Wheaties cereal box. He is the only two-time Olympic gold medalist in the pole vault (1952, 1956), and won bronze in 1948. He won the 1951 Sullivan Award as America's top amateur athlete. Richards, an ordained minister, ran for president in 1984 on the ticket of the conservative Populist Party ticket. He also had four sons who became top pole vaulters.
During the Big Ten's celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, the conference will be featuring "Medal of Honor Mondays" for 12 consecutive weeks, which will highlight a number of Medal of Honor winners from each school. This week, we feature the University of Illinois.
Illinois All-Century Team - (1949/1963, men's basketball)
Illinois' Dike Eddleman (1949) and David J. Downey (1963) were both named to the Illini's All-Century Basketball Team. Eddleman was a two-time All-Big Ten selection, led the team in scoring in 1948 (13.9 ppg) and 1949 (13.2 ppg) and helped the Illini win the Big Ten Championship in 1949. Downey was a first-team All-Big Ten honoree, led the team in scoring and rebounding from 1961-63 and guided his team to the Big Ten Championship in 1963. Downey currently ranks No. 21 among Illinois' all-time scoring leaders with 1,360 points (18.9 ppg). Downey later went on to found The Downey Group (high quality life insurance, long term care, disability programs, and related planning for affluent individuals, families, and businesses), and is Chair of the Investment Policy Committee at University of Illinois Foundation Board and member of University of Illinois College of Business Board of Overseers.
Dee Brown (2006, men's basketball)
Brown won the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2006 following a stellar four-year career at Illinois. The Maywood, Ill., native won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard as a senior in 2006, along with collecting Consensus Second-Team All-America honors. In 2005, Brown led the Fighting Illini to the national championship game and was named the Sporting News National Player of the Year and a Consensus First-Team All-American. Brown collected first or second-team All-Big Ten honors all four years of his career and was a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. He was named a finalist for Illinois' Male Athlete of the Year in 2006 and was also recognized as a Senior CLASS Award finalist.
Don Laz (1951, track & field)
A seven-time Big Ten Champion for the Illini from 1949-51, Laz was also the 1951 NCAA pole vault champion. He won three straight indoor conference crowns in the pole vault and swept that event and the long jump in the 1951 Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships. He won the silver medal in the pole vault at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Laz later became an architect before a stroke cut short his career. His best height was 15-3, or two inches less than the vault by his son, Doug, in setting an Illinois high school state record in 1972.
Ashley Berggren (1998, women's basketball)
Berggren, a 1998 recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, was the first Illinois women's basketball player to have her jersey retired in 2009. Berggren ranks in Illinois' top 10 of numerous career categories, including second in points (2,089), seventh in assists (328) and 10th in rebounds (779) and steals (183). The Big Ten Player of the Year in 1997, she guided the Illini to a Big Ten Championship and back-to-back NCAA Sweet 16 appearances in 1997 and 1998. She is the only Illini to be named first-team All-Big Ten in three seasons (1996-98). Following her collegiate career, Berggren played professionally with the Chicago Condors of the ABL before becoming a high school special education teacher and basketball coach. She also has run the Berggren Hoop Camp for the past 15 years.
Jonelle Polk (1987, women's basketball)
Awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1987, Polk has left her mark on Illinois basketball, ranking in the top 10 of various Illini career records, including first in field goals made (815), third in points (1,984), field goal percentage (.562) and double-doubles (40), fourth in rebounds (933) and fifth in blocks (135). She led Illinois in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots in three of her four seasons and was a three-time All-Big Ten selection (1985-87). Polk was tabbed a Fast Break All-American and Illinois' Female Athlete of the Year in 1986 and led the Illini to NCAA Tournament appearances in her final two seasons. Following her graduation, the Peoria, Ill., native played overseas for four years, before returning to the U.S. to get her masters' degree and delve into coaching. She currently works as a manager at Proctor Recreation Center in her hometown mentoring young girls
Trent Meacham (2009, men's basketball)
Meacham, who earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2009, scored 866 points, handed out 231 assists and recorded 74 steals during his career at Illinois. A co-captain during his senior year, Meacham led the Illini and ranked second in the Big Ten in three-point field goal shooting at 42.1 percent during the 2008-09 season. He currently ranks fifth at Illinois in career three-point field goal percentage (.408) and 11th in three-point field goals made (178). The Champaign, Ill., native was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and won the Lou Henson Courage Award in 2009. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in sport management and is currently in his second season with JSF Nanterre of the LNB Pro A in France.
Disa Johnson (1988, volleyball)
A 1988 Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient, Disa Johnson led the Illini to a 124-28 record in her four seasons. She guided Illinois to three NCAA Championship appearances, including the national semifinals in 1987, and a pair of Big Ten titles (1986-87). The setter ranks second in Illinois history in assists (5,550), third in aces (154) and 10th in block assists (339). She led the Illini in assists all four years she competed and topped the conference in that category for two years (1985-86). The Western Springs, Ill., native was an AVCA All Mideast Region team honoree (1987), a second-team Academic All-American (1987), and a three-time All-Big Ten selection and Academic All-Big Ten pick (1985-87). Johnson was also named to the Big Ten All-Decade Team in 1992. She earned a master's degree from Illinois in kinesiology and sports administration in 1992. Following her playing career, Johnson entered the coaching realm. She was an assistant coach with the Illini from 1990-93. She was the head coach at Missouri from 1994-99 and James Madison from 2000-09, where she was named CAA Coach of the Year twice in 2002 and 2006. Johnson returned to Champaign this fall when her husband, Ron Garner, was named head coach of the Illinois women's track & field program.
Tim Simon (1988, track & field)
A two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and eight-time Big Ten Champion, Simon was tabbed Big Ten Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year in 1988, the same year he was named Athlete of both the Indoor and Outdoor Championships. He finished third in the 400-meter run at the 1988 NCAA Championships behind two UCLA sprinters who won medals at that year's Seoul Olympics. Simon holds three Illini records in the 300- and 400-meter dash and 4x400 relay. He earned a medical degree from Howard University has been a colon and rectal surgeon in Georgia since 2002.
Big Ten Medal of Honor winners share a special bond, none more than Wisconsin's 1985 winners, Cathy Branta and John Easker. Branta and Easker were an engaged couple when they ran on the Badgers' cross country and track & field teams, both producing illustrious careers. Branta won 11 Big Ten track & field titles, was a three-time cross country champion (1982-84) and the conference's first national champion in cross country (1984). Easker was a four-time Big Ten track & field title winner and the 1983 conference cross country champion. Both still hold Big Ten records, Branta in the 1,500-meter run and two-mile run and Easker in the 10,000-meter run. Nowadays, the couple is married and operate a dairy farm outside Wausau, Wis.
Six Big Ten Men's Indoor Track & Field squads appear in the latest USTFCCCA poll, released on Tuesday, which is the most among all conferences. Wisconsin leads conference teams, coming in at No. 4, followed by No. 8 Penn State, No. 14 Nebraska, No. 17 Ohio State, No. 21 Purdue and No. 22 Michigan State.
For the full ranking, click here.
Five schools collected regional awards from the USTFCCC, it was announced on Monday. Student-athletes and coaches from Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin earned recognition in three different regions: Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.
The Big Ten Champion Wisconsin men's team swept the Great Lakes region awards, as Reed Connor and Michael Lihrman took home Track and Field Athletes of the Year honors, respectively. Mick Byrne was tabbed Coach of the Year and David Astrauskas was named Assistant Coach of the Year. On the women's side, Michigan State's Leah O'Connor earned Track Athlete of the Year honors and fellow Spartan Tori Franklin collected Field Athlete of the Year recognition.
Penn State's Brannon Kidder and Mahagony Jones took home Track Athlete of the Year honors in the Mid-Atlantic region. Nittany Lion head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan was named Coach of the Year, while John Gondak and Randy Bungard were tabbed men's and women's Assistant Coaches of the Year, respectively.
In the Midwest Region, Minnesota's Jon Lehman earned Field Athlete of the Year accolades and Nebraska men's assistant coach Billy Maxwell won his respective award.
For the complete release, click here.
The NCAA Track & Field Committee announced on Tuesday the participants for the 2014 NCAA Men's and Women's Indoor Track & Field Championships, set for March 14-15 in Albuquerque, N.M. A list of Big Ten men's qualifiers, complete with seed and qualifying time, can be found below.
16. Raheem Mostert, PUR (6.63)
7. Raheem Mostert, PUR (20.73)
9. Timothy Faust, OSU (20.77)
3. Brannon Kidder, PSU (1:47.45)
11. Za'Von Watkins, PSU (1:48.11)
9. Reed Connor, WIS (7:51.78)
14. John Simons, MINN (7:52.62)
16. Caleb Rhynard, MSU (7:53.34
1. Reed Connor, WIS (13:37.42)
12. Mohammed Ahmed, WIS (13:44.32)
1. Oladapo Akinmoladun, NEB (7.61)
4. Demoye Bogle, OSU (7.65)
5. Donovan Robertson, OSU (7.65)
16. Vanier Joseph, ILL (7.76)
8. NEB (3:06.93) - Jake Bender, Levi Gipson, Drew Wiseman, Cody Rush
11. OSU (3:07.47) - Champ Page, Jordan Rispress, Javon Walker, Lamar Bruton
Distance medley relay
1. PSU (9:26.59) - Brannon Kidder, Brandon Bennett-Green, Za'Von Watkins, Robby Creese
2. IND (9:27.72) - Jordan Gornall, Derrick Morgan, Tretez Kinnaird, Rorey Hunter
15. Jon Hendershot, PSU (2.20m)
4. Japheth Cato, WIS (5.55m)
10. Zach Siegmeier, MINN (5.45m)
6. Patrick Raedler, NEB (7.86,)
9. Emmanuel Williams, NU (7.77m)
11. Steve Waithe, PSU (16.00m)
16. Klyvens Delaunay, IOWA (15.88m)
8. Antonio James, MSU (19.93m)
10. Danny Block, WIS (19.55m)
14. Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, PUR (19.24m)
1. Michael Lihrman, WIS (24.27m)
2. Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, PUR (23.62m)
3. Jon Lehman, MINN (22.98M)
4. Antonio James, MSU (22.74M)
9. Will Barr, PSU (21.50m)
15. Davis Fraker, ILL (20.99m)
5. Japheth Cato, WIS (5837)
6. Zach Ziemek, WIS (5818)
7. Kurt Schneider, MSU (5738)
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