The University of St. Thomas Athletic Department soared to new heights from the mid-1980s into the 1990s, winning numerous NCAA team and individual championships as well as dominating many sports in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).
Several individuals who played roles in that rise to prominence are represented in the 14-person 2001 induction class of the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame.
This induction brings the total in the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame to 132 members. The induction classes are selected every three years, and athletes from St. Thomas must be graduated at least five years to be considered for inclusion.
Here are capsules of the 2001 Athletic Hall of Fame induction class:
Batta was a four-year starter and played on Tommie teams that won three MIAC championships, played in one NCAA tournament and compiled a 77-32 record in his era. Batta surpassed 1,400 career points and was a two-time All-MIAC honoree. The Bloomington Jefferson High graduate lives in Watertown, S.D.
Behrns is St. Thomas’ lone three-time Academic All-America honoree (first teamer in 1994, second teamer in 1993 and 1995) and also won a prestigious Burger King national scholar athlete award. The linebacker-defensive back still ranks as the school’s career tackles leader with 360 (158 solo, 202 assisted), ranks eighth in career interceptions (10) and also had five fumble recoveries. He started the last 38 games of his career and helped the Tommies post an 18-9 MIAC record over his final three seasons. He’s the youngest of five brothers to play athletics at St. Thomas.
Bot was a Kodak All-American and MIAC Player of the Year as a senior in 1993-94 after she scored 501 points (18.6 ppg). She also was named the 1993-94 NCAA Division III Women’s Athlete of the Year for Minnesota. Despite missing 20 games as a junior with a knee injury, Bot finished with career totals of 916 points, 239 rebounds, 240 assists and 195 steals while shooting 55.1 percent from the field and 77 percent from the line. When she was in the lineup on her four-year career, the Tommies were 83-9 overall (57-5 vs. MIAC foes). She also was a member of the 1991 NCAA championship team and was named MIAC Sixth Player of the Year as a sophomore.
Copps broke the St. Thomas record for individual NCAA individual championships by winning six. She won All-America honors 11 times, including nine in track and field. She won three outdoor 10,000-meter national titles (1993, 1994, 1995) and also won the 1994 outdoor 5,000 meters. She won the NCAA indoor 5,000 in both 1994 and 1995 and the 10,000 at nationals as a senior. Copps also won 11 events and placed second five times on her MIAC track and cross country career, and won the conference cross country title as a senior. The Tommies won all eight conference team championships in track and field and captured two MIAC team crowns in cross country. In 1995 she won the 10,000 finals at NCAA outdoor track and field championships. She was an Academic All-American and the recipient of a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
A two-time All-American, Davis set an NCAA Division III record for season receptions by a tight end with 75 for 1,164 yards as a junior in 1994. Those season totals still rank No. 1 in St. Thomas history, as does his career receiving total of 2,652 yards accomplished in three seasons. As a freshman quarterback, Davis starred in perhaps the biggest upset victory in Tommie football history. He scored the go-ahead touchdown and two-point run in a 15-12 home-field win over heavily favored St. John’s.
Dehn was voted the MIAC Player of the Year as a senior, when she averaged 14.3 ppg and led the Tommies to a 22-5 finish. The Tommies won 38 of 44 conference games her last two seasons, and she was named All-MIAC each year. She finished her career with 947 points, 468 rebounds and 42 blocks while shooting 50.1 percent from the field and 74.5 percent from the line.
A nine-time All-American distance runner, Faust ran on three NCAA championship teams. He helped the Tommies win NCAA cross country crowns in 1984 and 1986, and also contributed to the 1985 NCAA Indoor Track & Field championship. In his four-year era, St. Thomas won all 11 MIAC team championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track (no MIAC indoor meet was held in 1984), and he earned All-MIAC honors in each competition.
Jones won a remarkable nine NCAA individual championships in track and field from 1991 to 1994. He won five NCAA crowns in the long jump, and also won two titles each in the high jump and the triple jump. He also won 21 MIAC individual championships, leading the Tommies to team titles in all eight competitions indoors and outdoors. He broke nine school records and still holds several MIAC championship meet and all-time bests, and was a provisional qualifier for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials. He lettered twice in football, where he averaged 25 yards a reception and had nine touchdowns, and lettered in basketball.
Longval was the senior captain of the first men’s basketball Final Four qualifier (1993-94) and was the lone St. Thomas men’s basketball All-American of the 1990s. Longval was a two-time All-MIAC honoree and was the conference’s co-MVP in 1993-94. Longval closed his career with 1,119 points and 375 rebounds. In his three seasons as a starter, the Tommies were 61-25 and won two MIAC championships. He still holds the school record for most free throws made in a game (19 vs. Bethel in 1991-92).
Paley was a three-time All-American and closed the season with national singles rankings of No. 6 in 1992, No. 4 in 1993 and No. 3 in 1994. He also was ranked No. 5 in the nation in doubles in 1992. He later played on the professional satellite cicuit in the United States and Europe.
Skrypek has guided St. Thomas men’s hockey to 11 MIAC championships and six NCAA tournament appearances in his 14 seasons. His overall record is 265-120-26. He was a finalist for National Coach of the Year honors in 1999-2000 after he guided the Tommies to a school-record 27-4-2 finish. They became the first MIAC team to reach the NCAA finals, but lost in the national title game. In 31 years as a head coach, Skrypek’s teams have never finished with a losing record. Skrypek ranks 31st among all active head hockey coaches in college victories. Five of his former players are still playing professionally. He joins assistant coach Jeff Boeser in the St. Thomas Hall of Fame.
Sullivan is the lone St. Thomas athlete to earn cross country All-American honors all four seasons, with two top-five individual finishes. She also was a four-time All-American on the track in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters, with three NCAA fourth-place finishes. Sullivan helped the Tommies win NCAA cross country championships in 1986 and 1987, and helped them place second nationally in 1995 and 1998. In her era, St. Thomas won 11 of a possible 12 MIAC team championships in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field.
Tauer, an Academic All-American and NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient, was a key member of two of the Tommies’ most accomplished basketball teams. As a junior in 1993-94, he played in the school’s first men’s basketball Final Four. As a senior, he led the team to a school-record 27-0 start in a 27-1 finish, including a 20-0 MIAC record that has never been matched by a men’s basketball team in conference history. The Tommies compiled an 88-26 record in his era, with three MIAC championships and three NCAA playoff appearances. A two-time All-MIAC honoree, Tauer finished his career with 1,219 points and 482 rebounds. His 207 career three-point baskets rank second in St. Thomas history and sixth in MIAC history. He returned to St. Thomas in 2000 as an assistant professor in psychology and an assistant basketball coach.
Despite graduating 25 years ago and playing fewer games per season than today’s skaters, Vannelli still ranks 14th in career scoring at St. Thomas with 142 points. His 37 goals put him tied for first among St. Thomas defenseman, and his 105 assists and 142 points rank him first all-time among defensemen. A two-time NAIA All-American and two-time All-MIAC honoree, Vannelli helped the Tommies win the 1973-74 MIAC championship — the school’s first conference crown in two decades.