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Seven to enter Baylor Athletics hall of fame

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Posted at 4:40 PM, Jun 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-27 17:40:43-04

One of the most balanced classes in the history of the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame, the 2018 class of inductees includes longtime trainer Mike Sims and six outstanding former student-athletes representing five different sports.

Highlighted by 2005 NCAA singles champion and five-time All-American Zuzana Zemenova from women’s tennis, the 59th class of inductees also includes former NFL players Ronnie “Bo” Lee and Gary Baxter, record setters Chelsi Lake Reichenstein from softball and Elisha Polk from volleyball, men’s golf player and coach Tim Hobby and Sims, who retired last summer after 42 years of service.

Moved off the annual Homecoming weekend, the 2018 Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame banquet will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, in the Brazos Room at the Waco Convention Center.Tickets cost $50 per person, with table sponsorships also available for $600 (green) and $800 (gold), and can be purchased by contacting the “B” Association at 254-710-3045 or by email atTammy_Hardin@baylor.edu.

Also recognized at the Friday night banquet and the Big 12 football opener against Kansas the next day at McLane Stadium will be Wall of Honor recipients Gary Luft from men’s tennis and Dr. E. “Sonny” Whorton from football.

Organized in 1960, the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame recognizes and honors individuals whose participation and contributions have enriched and strengthened the university’s athletics program. Student-athletes are required to wait 10 years after completing their eligibility before they can be nominated for the Hall of Fame.

Beginning with the inaugural 1960 class that included coach Floyd “Uncle Jim” Crow and baseball’s Ted Lyons, 235 honorees have been elected or already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, while another 26 have been added to the Wall of Honor.

Still ranked as Baylor football’s all-time leader with 44 career pass breakups, Baxter (1997-2000) was a three-time All-Big 12 pick who earned first-team honors as a senior when he had 96 tackles, 11 pass breakups and forced two fumbles.

A second-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, Baxter played seven years in the NFL with the Ravens and Cleveland Browns. His career took a major blow on Oct. 22, 2006, when he tore the patellar tendons in both knees during a game against the Denver Broncos.

Returning to earn his degree in speech communications from Baylor in 2003, he gave back to his alma mater by funding the computer lab in the Simpson Athletics and Academic Building. A Tyler, Texas, native who was part of a state championship team at John Tyler High School, Baxter is back in his hometown, where he owns and operates two restaurant franchises.

A rare multi-sport collegiate athlete, Hobby was actually a two-year basketball letterman at the University of Houston (1985-87) before transferring and playing three years of golf at Baylor (1987-90). While at Baylor, he won four individual tournament titles, recorded seven top-five finishes and earned honorable mention All-America honors in 1989 and All-Southwest Conference accolades as a senior in 1990.

One of the top amateur golfers in the country, Hobby won the 1989 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship to qualify for the 1990 Masters. He also qualified for the 1995 U.S. Open and the Byron Nelson Classic in 1999 and 2001.

Returning as Baylor’s head golf coach in 1996, Hobby led the Bears to 17 team tournament championships, the only Big 12 title in program history (2001) and 14 individual medalist honors. Named the Big 12 and District VI Coach of the Year in 2001, he led the team to a 10-stroke victory at the Big 12 Championships and then made it to the NCAA Championships the next year.

A four-time all-region selection and three-time first-team All-Big 12 pick who was part of Baylor softball’s first trip to the Women’s College World Series in 2007, Reichenstein held the program’s career records for home runs (44) and RBI (184) until they were broken this season by Shelby Friudenberg.

She earned first-team all-region and third-team All-America honors as a junior, hitting .362 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI. As a senior, Reichenstein hit .301 with 10 homers and 50 RBI and led the Lady Bears to their only Big 12 title and first WCWS appearance.

In her four seasons, Baylor was 188-69 with four straight postseason appearances and the first NCAA Regional, Super Regional and World Series trips in program history.

Lee, inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2004, was a three-sport star at Tyler John Tyler and a member of the 15-0 state championship team in 1973 that included fellow Baylor Hall of Famer Gary Don Johnson and future Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell of Texas.

A two-time All-SWC pick (1975-76) at tight end, he was named to Baylor’s All-Decade Team of the 1970s and played in the Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl all-star games following his 1978 senior season.

Drafted in the third round by the Miami Dolphins in 1979, he has the rare distinction of starting at three different positions (tight end, guard and tackle) in a 14-year NFL career that included 10 seasons in Miami, one in Atlanta and his last three with the Seattle Seahawks.

Polk becomes just the second volleyball player selected to the Baylor Hall of Fame, joining 2007 honoree Cory Sivertson. Named to Baylor’s 25th anniversary team in 2002, she was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 pick, four-time Academic All-Big 12 and an all-region selection in 1999.

The Sacramento, Calif., native set the school and Big 12 single-season records in 1999 with 557 digs and 4.42 per game. Still the school record-holder with 2,272 career kills, Polk ranked eighth in NCAA history when she finished in ’99.

Twenty years later, her name is still all over the Baylor record books. In addition to being No. 1 in career kills, total attempts (5,663) and kills per set (4.69), Polk is third in career digs with 1,507.

A fixture in the Baylor training room for parts of five decades (1975-2017), Sims started a student trainer under fellow Baylor Hall of Famer Skip Cox. He became the school’s first full-time assistant trainer after finishing his undergrad degree and then earned his master’s degree in 1982.

Taking over as the head athletic trainer for football in 1984, Sims led the department for the next 33 years. He was promoted to Director of Sports Medicine in 1993, Assistant AD of Athletic Training in 2006 and Associate AD in ’15.

Sims, a Cedar Hill, Texas, native, joined the staff at Southwest Sports Medicine last year as manager of sports medicine. Previously, he was honored with the Southwest Athletic Trainers Association’s Most Distinguished Award in 2013 and the Dave Campbell Award in 2006.

A two-time NCAA singles finalist, Zemenova became the first unseeded NCAA champion when she won it as a freshman in 2005 and then reached the finals again as a senior in 2008. Like Polk, she becomes just the second in her sport to be elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Jahnavi Parekh (2016).

Ranked as one of the top 100 junior players in the world before coming to Baylor, Zemenova certainly lived up to that reputation as a five-time All-American and the only athlete in the league’s history to be a four-time Big 12 Player of the Year. A native of Kosice, Slovakia, she also led the Baylor women to their first NCAA semifinal berth in 2008.

Ten years later, she still holds the record for doubles wins in a season (38, 2008) and ranks second in career doubles wins (100) and fourth in career singles victories with 123. Zemenova won the 2005 Honda Award as the NCAA’s top athlete in women’s tennis and also captured the Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award in 2007.

The Wall of Honor annually recognizes Baylor letterwinners and graduates whose meritorious accomplishments in public or private life following graduation have brought positive public recognition, credit and honor to Baylor and the athletics department.

Luft, a Baylor tennis letterwinner (1967-70) who earned a BBA from Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business in 1970, has remained active in the “B” Association with 30-plus years of service and two terms as president. He won the Schroeder-Bradley Award in 2003, presented annually to a “B” Association member who has rendered exemplary volunteer service to the organization, and was presented with the first “B” Association President’s Ring in 2012.

Throughout his working career, Gary has carried on the Baylor tradition of “service to others” in stints as Chief Fiscal Officer for District 9 of TxDOT; Vice President of Business services at McLennan Community College; Assistant VP and Business Manager at Baylor; National Director of Educational Markets for VarTec Teleco, Inc.; and now in his 13th year as Director of Health and Human Services for the Heart of Texas Council of Governments.

A lifelong Waco resident and an active member at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church for more than 50 years, Gary and his wife, Bonnie Mathias Luft (BS ’71 MS ’74), are proud parents of Baylor graduates Amanda Luft Christian and Neil Scott and grandparents of five beautiful grandchildren.

Dr. Whorton, a Baylor football letterman (1959-61) who earned dual degrees in math and physics (1962), turned down a contract offer to play for coach Sammy Baugh with the New York Titans to continue his education. He received post-graduate degrees from Stanford and Tulane and eventually earned his PhD from the University of Oklahoma.

A teacher, professor and dean at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, for nearly 50 years, Whorton was serving as chair of the National Cancer Institute’s Biometry and Epidemiology Contracts Review Committee when he visited Jamaica and the West Indies and participated in the first on-location investigation and identification of what turned out to be the AIDS virus.

Sonny and his wife, Evangeline, have been involved in several community service and philanthropic efforts in the Galveston area and also donated the Loessin Room in the Baylor Student Union Building with Ben and Pat Tate.