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UCD Hall of Fame banquet to recognize Aggie athletes

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From page B1 | May 26, 2013 |

Rolf Benirschke, a UCD football and soccer standout, kicks for the San Diego Chargers in the early 1980s. Benirschke will receive the Aggie Legacy Award at a Hall of Fame and awards banquet on Saturday. Courtesy photo

Aggie legends and current UC Davis standouts will be honored Saturday night as the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame hosts an induction ceremony and student-athlete awards banquet at Freeborn Hall

The husband-and-wife coaching tandem of Jon and Deanne Vochatzer lead a class of seven new inductees, which also includes golfer Louie Bishop, water polo player Katherine O’Rourke (Shroyer), football’s Dave Roberts, women’s basketball player Kari Sivesind (Montero) and baseball’s Robby Tulk.

Additionally, former UCD football and soccer standout Rolf Benirschke — who starred for the San Diego Chargers — will receive the Aggie Legacy Award for outstanding achievements in an athletics-related field since leaving the university. Jane Arp was selected as the recipient of the Special Recognition Award for volunteer contributions to the athletics department.

The same night, three-time Big West Golfer of the Year Demi Runas, Mid-Major basketball All-American Corey Hawkins and Academic All-America soccer player Mustafa Chopan will get Aggie Athletics awards for the 2012-13 season.

Runas, who finished tied for 37th at the recent NCAA Division I Golf Championships for the 17th-ranked UCD squad, has been named the Dr. Hubert Heitman Award winner as the outstanding female student-athlete. Hawkins, a sharp-shooting guard who recently completed his inaugural season, is the recipient of the Colby E. “Babe” Slater Award as the outstanding male student-athlete.

Chopan, an Aggie team captain who helped UCD to its first Big West North Division title, will receive the W.P. Lindley Award as UCD’s outstanding student-athlete.

Those awards will be handed out while UCD celebrates some of the most important athletes and coaches in school history.

The Vochatzers combined for nearly a half-century of coaching for the Aggie track and field teams, bringing prominence to the athletics program both with the success of their UCD athletes and with their contributions on the international scene. Both coaches retired after the 2010 season.

In 30 total seasons, Jon Votchatzer earned 12 West Region Division II Coach of the Year honors — six indoors and six for the outdoor season. He also mentored 80 NCAA All-Americans, including nine national champions, while guiding the program to four top-10 NCAA finishes and 14 conference championships.

Deanne Vochatzer won 19 total Coach of the Year awards: 10 for the conference, eight for the West Region, plus the 1999 NCAA Division II Coach of the Year nod. Deanne Vochatzer also mentored 67 individuals and 11 relay squads that earned All-America honors.

Deanne Vochatzer was the head women’s coach for the U.S. Olympic team at the 1996 Centennial Games in Atlanta to highlight a brilliant international career, while Jon Vochatzer also served on the American coaching staff.

Bishop led UCD golf during the university’s reclassification period, becoming the first Aggie to win PING Division I All-America honors as a senior in 2007. He set school records for career and season stroke average, and won three tournaments.

O’Rourke Shroyer scored 154 goals as a center and defender for the Aggie women’s water program from 2004 to 2007. Relatively unheralded out of high school, she emerged into the team’s leading scorer in her final two seasons, earning All-America third-team distinction as a junior and honorable mention as a senior.

An offensive tackle from 1970 to 1972, Roberts owns the distinction as the first player in UCD football history to earn first-team All-America honors, making the coaches association’s top squad as a senior.

Sivesind Montero starred as a wing during head coach Jorja Hoehn’s streak of seven straight NCAA postseason appearances. She set a school record with 232 assists and continues to rank among the program’s all-time career leaders in points, assists and blocks.

Tulk started 201 of the Aggie baseball team’s 211 games in center field during his career from 2001 through 2004. Entering this season, he continues to hold school records for career games played and doubles, while ranking second all-time in at-bats, hits and runs. In 2004, he was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 25th round of the MLB draft.

Benirschke, formerly a soccer and football standout for UC Davis in the mid-1970s, went on to become one of the great inspirational stories of the sporting world during and after his professional career with the San Diego Chargers. On the field, he kicked for 10 years and set a club record of 766 points.

Perhaps more remarkable, however, was that the 1977 zoology graduate played most of his career after undergoing emergency abdominal surgery that resulted in the removal of big portions of his large intestine. Even in January 1982, after he had kicked the winning overtime field goal in the AFC divisional playoff game in Miami, Benirschke was still battling his illness. He was hospitalized again mere weeks after the conference championship to endure additional surgery.

Off the field, Benirschke’s career is one of advocacy and philanthropy. He founded the Great Comebacks program, which later became a community for those living with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other similar conditions. He also began the Legacy Golf Invitational as a benefit for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America and other charities.

Benirschke’s undergraduate studies continued to play a major role in his life. He founded Kicks for Critters to aid what is now known as the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

Benirschke received the NFL’s Man of the Year (now known as the Walter Payton Man of the Year) and NFL Player Association’s Byron “Whizzer” White Man of the Year awards in 1983. He also earned spots in the Chargers Hall of Fame and on the team’s 50th anniversary team.

Arp, wife of former assistant football coach Fred Arp, volunteered her services as a photographer for the UCD football program for four decades, never missing a home or road game.

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