A quick note and belated congratulations to four stellar former student athletes named to Northwestern’s Hall of Fame earlier this week. Softball slugger Garland Cooper, lacrosse superstar Kristen Kjellman, Olympic swimmer Matt Grevers and football’s Eric Hutchinson were all named to the Hall of Fame. In addition, Patrick G. Ryan was added to the Hall of Fame as an honorary member.
Each of these four student athletes have accomplished amazing things in their time with Northwestern and since.
We all know Matt Grevers’ story. He was a four-time NCAA champion and 27-time All-American in his four years at Northwestern, even defeating Florida’s Ryan Lochte in the 100 backstroke for the national championship in 2005. He graduated with 11 Northwestern records and three Big Ten records in the pool. Of course, he did not stop there. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he won an individual silver medal in the 100 backstroke and added two gold medals in assisting the U.S. in two relays.
He returned to the Olympics four years later in London and won gold in the 100 backstroke. He recorded the second fastest time in history at the U.S. Olympic trials in the event, firmly establishing himself as one of the best backstrokers in the world. He also added a few more gold medals from relays too, just for good measure.
Kjellman helped establish the Northwestern women’s lacrosse dynasty and was the team’s first superstar player. Kjellman was a four-time All American and a two-time Tewaaraton Trophy winner in 2006 and 2007, becoming the first player to win lacrosse’s Heisman Trophy in consecutive seasons. She won three national championships, helping start the dynasty that Northwestern women’s lacrosse has become. She was a monster of a scorer with 250 goals, then a Northwestern record.
Since graduating, Kjellman has played for the U.S.A. World Cup Team where she helped the U.S. win the World Cup in 2009. She had a goal and an assist in the championship match and her dominance in draw controls was key for the victory. The next World Cup will take place this year in Oshawa, Canada where four Northwestern players — Katrina Dowd, Shannon Smith, Lindsey Munday and Sarah Albrecht are expected to compete.
While Kjellman appears to have hung up her stick, there is no Northwestern lacrosse without Kjellman.
The same could be said about softball and Garland Cooper, although not to that extent perhaps. From her ominous batter-up music and the way she took two big cuts before stepping into the batter’s box, Cooper was the epitome of power softball for Northwestern in the mid-2000s, helping key the offense to back-to-back Women’s College World Series appearances.
She was a two-time First Team All-American and a three-time All-Big Ten selection for the Wildcats, blasting 55 career home runs and batting .387 for her career, both program bests at the time. In 2006, Cooper, along with some fantastic pitching from Eileen Canney and Courtnay Foster and Tammy Williams (who broke many of Cooper’s records) backing her up in the lineup, led Northwestern to its first Big Ten title and first Women’s College World Series appearance since 1987.
Cooper had a successful career playing both in the U.S. and in Japan. She now provides commentary for ESPN’s softball coverage. And, in an ultimate sign of respect, Cooper is the NCAA all-time leader in intentional walks.
Finally, Eric Hutchinson was a first-team all-american safety for Northwestern football from 1968-71. He helped lead NU to back-to-back six-win seasons in the Big Ten in 1970 and 1971, something I think we all know was a pretty big deal for NU at the time. His career closed with back-to-back wins over ranked Ohio State and Purdue. Two very big wins among the 15 he had in his career in Evanston.
Hutchinson was a seventh round pick of the Houston Oilers, but did not play a game. He was named to Northwestern’s all-century team by the Chicago Tribune.
Congrats to all these great Northwestern alumni! Your spot in the Hall of Fame is well deserved.