Two Teams, Two Individuals Chosen for Willamette Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2007

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Two teams from the same calendar year and two individuals who played soccer and basketball are included in the Willamette University Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2007. The newest selections for the Hall of Fame will be inducted on Oct. 27 and will be honored during Willamette’s football game that afternoon against Whitworth University. Set for induction are the 1997 Bearcat football team and the 1996-97 women’s swimming team, plus Russell Sovde ‘90 and Tracy Thom ‘88. Sovde competed for the men’s soccer and basketball teams, while Thom played for the women’s soccer and basketball squads.

The induction ceremony will be held at the Red Lion Hotel in Salem, Ore., beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m. (PDT). Tickets will be $30 per person.


The 1997 Willamette Football TeamThe 1997 football team experienced one of the most successful seasons in the program’s history. Willamette finished the year in the NAIA Championship game, before falling to Findlay (Ohio), 14-7. The team was 13-1 overall, led the NAIA in scoring defense during the regular season and finished second in the NAIA in total defense. Willamette outscored its opponents, 470-167, including a 205-27 advantage against conference foes. WU also featured the first woman to play and score in a college football game in Liz Heaton, who scored two extra points against Linfield on Oct. 18. The Bearcats achieved the highest ranking by a WU football team in a final poll by finishing #2 in the nation. Willamette won the Northwest Conference of Independent College (NCIC) title with a 5-0 record.

Along the way, the Bearcats annihilated many school records. On offense, the team still holds the following records: most rushing yards in a game, 554 versus Montana Tech on Dec. 6; most rushing yards in a season, 3,940; most rushing attempts in a season, 744; most rushing touchdowns in a season, 49; most total yards in a season, 5,802; most plays in a season, 969; most touchdowns in a 10-game season, 53; most touchdowns including the postseason, 67; and most first downs in a season, 296.

On special teams, additional WU records were set for most punt returns in a season at 49 and for most punt return yards in a season at 488. On defense, the team set the following records: fewest rushing yards allowed in a
10-game season, 680; fewest passing yards allowed in a 10-game season, 1,215; fewest total yards allowed in a season, 1,895; and most interceptions in a season, 23.


The Willamette 1996-97 Swimming TeamThe 1996-97 women’s swimming team was formed by an outstanding group of athletes who had an exceptional season. Willamette featured 10 swimmers who earned All-America honors, as they led the Bearcats to a third place finish at the NAIA Swimming Championships, after achieving second place at the Northwest Conference Championships. Head Coach Skip Kenitzer was named NAIA National Coach of the Year and was chosen NCIC Coach of the Year.

Willamette’s successful trip to the NAIA Championships in Federal Way, Wash., led to five relay teams claiming All-America status to go with 10 individual All-America selections. In the 200 Freestyle Relay and the 400 Freestyle Relay, the team of Bonnie Bauer, Rachel Cohen, Danika Williams and Gerianne Mikasa placed second. In the 200 Medley Relay, the team of Erin Venable, Beth Brinton, Mikasa and Bauer took fourth. The same group finished seventh in the 400 Medley Relay. The 800 Freestyle Relay team, which included Bauer, Rachel Webb, Cohen and Williams, attained a third place finish.

The team’s individual All-Americans were: Bonnie Bauer ‘97 - 50 Freestyle (2nd place), 100 Freestyle (5th place) and 200 freestyle (15th place); Beth Brinton ‘00 - 100 Breaststroke (6th place) and 200 Breaststroke (10th place); Rachel Cohen ‘98 - 200 Freestyle (6th place), 100 Freestyle (7th place) and 500 Freestyle (10th place); Cammy Farsvedt ‘99 - 400 Individual Medley (7th place), 200 Individual Medley (12th place) and 200 Butterfly (9th place); Becky Fox ‘00 - 200 Individual Medley (3rd place) and 400 Individual Medley (4th place); Gerianne Mikasa ‘99 - 50 Freestyle (6th place), 100 Freestyle (2nd place) and 100 Butterfly (5th place); Jean Orth ‘97 - 1,650 Freestyle (5th place), 500 Freestyle (9th place) and 400 Individual Medley (11th place); Erin Venable ‘99 - 100 Backstroke (16th place); Rachel Webb ‘00 - 500 Freestyle (6th place), 200 Freestyle (13th place) and 1,650 Freestyle (10th place);
Danika Williams ‘97 - 200 Individual Medley (5th place), 200 Freestyle (5th place) and 100 Freestyle (3rd place).

Swimmers who placed in the top eight received All-America honors. Athletes finishing ninth through
sixteenth earned Honorable Mention All-America recognition.

RUSSELL SOVDE '90 (Men's Soccer, Men's Basketball)

Russell SovdeRussell Sovde attended Willamette from 1986 through 1990. He was a four-year letterman in soccer and basketball. As a soccer goalkeeper, Sovde was named Second Team All-NAIA District 2 in 1986, 1988, and 1989.
In 1987, he was chosen Honorable Mention All-NAIA District 2. He was named First Team All-NCIC in 1986, 1988, and 1989, and received an Honorable Mention All-NCIC in 1987.

In basketball, Sovde played guard and helped the Bearcats reach the top of the conference standings. In 1986-87 and 1989-90, the team tied for the NCIC title. In 1987-88 and 1988-89, the team won back-to-back outright conference titles. The 1989-90 team also claimed the NAIA District 2 championship.

Sovde holds several school records in soccer and basketball. In soccer, he recorded the most shutouts in a season with 10 in 1988. He achieved the most career shutouts with 21, and registered the lowest goals against average at 0.78 in 1988.

In basketball, Sovde earned the fifth highest career free throw percentage in Willamette history at 79.9%. He also tied the school record for the highest free throw percentage in a single game by hitting 11 of 11 charity tosses against Pacific University on Jan. 16, 1990. He set the single game record for steals with eight versus Pacific Lutheran University on Jan. 12, 1990. He was named Willamette University Male Athlete of the Year following the 1989-90 season.

TRACY THOM '88 (Women's Soccer, Women's Basketball)

Tracy ThomTracy Thom was a student-athlete at WU from 1984 through 1988. She was a solid player for the soccer and basketball teams. Thom was a midfelder/forward who served a captain of the Willamette soccer team under Head Coach Ron Eber from 1986 until 1988. She helped the team develop into a regional and national power.

During the 1985 season, she scored seven goals and added one assist, as she earned First Team All-NCIC recognition. She also was Team MVP and was chosen First Team All-NAIA District 2. In 1986, she received Honorable Mention All-NAIA District 2 accolades. As a senior in 1987, she provided the Bearcats with three assists and was chosen First Team All-NCIC and First Team All-NAIA District 2. Also in 1987, she became the first WU player to earn a spot on the First Team All-Western Region squad. Thom was an NAIA Scholar-Athlete and was selected to receive the Jean Williams Award in 1987-88.

As a basketball player, Thom was a guard who achieved First Team All-NCIC and First Team All-NAIA District 2 honors as a senior. She was a starting guard for the Bearcats in 1985-86, 1986-87 and 1987-88, while playing for Head Coach Cheryl Brown. She was a team captain during her senior season.

In 1985-86, she contributed to Willamette achieving a 20-7 overall record, including an undefeated NCIC championship with a 10-0 mark. When she concluded her career, she ranked third on Willamette’s all-time women’s basketball scoring list. She was selected as the Willamette University Female Athlete of the Year in 1987-88.

Willamette shared two NCIC basketball titles and tied for another during Thom’s years at Willamette. In 1984-85, WU went 22-8 overall and tied for the conference title at 9-2. Willamette’s undefeated title followed in 1985-86. In 1986-87, the Bearcats finished 14-11 overall and tied for the NCIC crown with an 8-2 record.

The Willamette Athletics Hall of Fame induction is set for Saturday, Oct. 27.

The Willamette Athletics Hall of Fame induction is set for Saturday, Oct. 27.