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Alumni enter the NKU Hall of Fame

Matt Birkholtz, Matt Birkholtz, and Matt Birkholtz

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Northern Kentucky University and The Norse Athletics Club inducted nine people into the NKU Athletics Hall of Fame Jan. 23 at the Bank of Kentucky Center.

The sixth biennial event was held in the south end zone of the arena next to the student section in the BOKC and featured a banquet dinner before the inductees were handed plaques commemorating their achievements.

Mote Hils, the first-ever Norse men’s basketball head coach, was among those inducted during the ceremony and admitted the thought of being inducted came as a surprise to him.

‘It is an honor,’ Hils said. ‘I didn’t think it was ever going to happen.’

Hils compiled a record of 119-118 (.502 winning percentage) in 10 years of coaching. He listed NKU’s first victory over a Division I opponent,’ against Xavier in 1978 and eventually making the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time in school history, as his top moments in his tenure, according to NKU Sports Information.

After a successful coaching career, Hil accepted the first position of acting athletic director at NKU from 1971-74, when the then-community college was known as Northern Kentucky State College and the men’s team didn’t have a place to call home or the feel of home-field advantage. That wasn’t the most of Hils worries though as he was responsible for every aspect of athletics.

‘It (athletics) was crazy,’ he said. ‘I didn’t have any help. I had no assistant coach, no secretary. I was acting AD for four years and had no help. It was just constant. Fortunately, I knew what I was doing.’

Michelle Cottrell-Marston’ played on the 2000 National Champion Women’s Basketball team at NKU — the university’s first-ever national championship — and was honored at the ceremony as well.

Cottrell-Marston compiled 2,241 points in her four-year career, an NKU all-time record, and said the induction was a goal she’s waited for.

‘This was my last goal that I wanted to achieve here at NKU,’ she said. ‘It feels like I have accomplished everything that I wanted to do.’

Cottrell-Marston’ now teaches sixth grade in Union, Ky., and received her master’s degree in education from NKU. She said her fondest memory of her career was returning to NKU’s campus after defeating North Dakota State in overtime 71-62 in the NCAA championship game March 25, 2000.

‘My favorite moment, I would have to say was coming home from winning and arriving back at Regents Hall,’ Cottrell-Marston said. ‘Coming off the bus and seeing the crowd welcome us home. I will just never forget that. Those were the fans that couldn’t make it to the game and were glued to their television watching the game.’

LaRon Moore, who played for the Norse from 1993-97 and was a part of two Great Lakes Regional championships (1996, 1997), was another inductee and explained his election into the NKU Hall of Fame as a ‘great’ feeling.

‘To be inducted with such a great group of people is wonderful,’ he said. ‘NKU is a great university to be affiliated with.’

Moore said playing in the national championship games in 1996 and 1997 were his favorite moments in an NKU jersey, although neither team was able to attain a banner of its own.

‘We fell a little short as a team, but we played hard,’ he said.

Moore added that defeating Virginia Union — and current Cleveland Cavaliers center Ben Wallace — 68-66 in the semifinals round of the NCAA tournament during the Norse’s national runner-up run in 1996 was another shining moment in his career.

‘It was good (playing against Wallace),’ he said. ‘Knowing that we beat him and got the game-winning shot against him was really good.’

Former NKU soccer player Todd Gruenwald, who held the single-season record for most goals ‘- tabbing 19 in 1992 ‘- until current Norse sophomore forward Steven Beattie passed him during the 2009 season, was also inducted.

According to Gruenwald, winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference in his senior year was his favorite moment as it came as a surprise ‘- to their opponent Bellarmine.

‘We weren’t really suppose to win it,’ he said. ‘Actually the team that was suppose to win had t-shirts made already for the championship and we beat them (Bellarmine). So we kept them from wearing those championship shirts.’

Gruenwald also regarded the opportunity to play for a legend like the late Coach Toebben as a great honor.

‘It was incredible,’ he said. ‘He was very supportive. He really allowed us to play and that was what allowed us to be so successful.’

Women’s Soccer also got to see one of its own inducted in Tricia Ruark, who played for the Norse from 1998-2001 and went to the Final Four three consecutive years.
Ruark said that receiving the plaque from her former coach, Bob Sheehan, was a ‘surreal, proud moment.’

‘He was a really great coach,’ she said. ‘He really built up this program fast, so it just felt really exciting (for him to give me the award).’

Jenny Jeremiah Moore was one of the top outside hitters for NKU Volleyball in the late ’90s and was also named to the Hall of Fame during the ceremony.

Jenny Moore was named GLVC Player of the Year in 1999 and finished her career with 2,050 digs ‘-‘ the all-time record at NKU.

‘The fondest memory that I came away with from my playing days are the teammates and the people I met along the way,’ Jenny Moore said.

Mark Steenken played baseball for the Norse from 1975-77 and was playing for the program in one of its brightest moments in school history.

NKU went 49-7 in 1977, a school record and earned a No. 7 ranking nationally. Steenken finished his three-year career with a .416 batting average for the Norse ‘- the highest on record for NKU.

Steenken was presented with the award by his coach Bill Aker.His fondest moment was ‘the team’ during his playing days.

‘Coach Ak said, ‘this was the greatest team (at NKU)’ and I would have to agree with him,’ he said. ‘We got along real well. The commodrity was great and they were greatest athletes I played with.’

The NAC also inducted Dr. Thomas Kearns, who was the faculty athletics representative for NKU from 1982-2007.

The NAC inducts players, coaches and personnel every two years at a banquet.

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Alumni enter the NKU Hall of Fame