Olympic record holder and gold medalist Melaine Walker, a former Longhorn track star, will be inducted into the UT Women’s Athletics Hall of Honor on Nov. 1.
Walker, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in applied learning and development, became a three-time NCAA and six-time Big 12 Conference champion running in various relays while still an undergraduate. In her professional career, she has raced in the 400-meter hurdles, earning a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. She also recorded the second-fastest time in the world, 52.42 seconds, for the same event in 2009.
Jim Deitrick, an accounting professor who chairs the selection committee for the Hall of Honor, said there were 29 total nominees for the induction, and said through long discussions they decided on Walker, four other athletes and one athletics staffer who will be inducted in the fall.
“In our discussions we always discuss the pros and cons, and we all have different opinions on who merits the Hall of Honor,” Deitrick said. “It’s a difficult process trying to compare all the different sports. Some are team sports and some are individual, like track. But ultimately we choose who we feel deserves to be inducted.”
Jill Sterkel, a co-executive director of the T-Association which also oversees the selection committee, said Walker’s cumulative athletic achievements made her stand out.
“I felt she was one of the top candidates in the pool of nominees,” Sterkel said.
Mario Sategna, Texas head track and field coach, said Walker’s induction is a huge accomplishment on many fronts and said she is well-deserving of the honor.
“In our world of track and field, making a world championship or world team is a feat in itself,” Sategna said. “Winning an Olympic gold medal is an unbelievable feat and one that as a program and as a University we couldn’t be more proud of, so without a doubt there is probably nobody more deserving as she is.”
Sategna said when looking back at the careers of people like Walker, a clear message is sent to the current men and women’s track team.
“A lot of our athletes have aspirations to train post-collegiately at the highest level,” Sategna said. “So this shows the importance of not only receiving a first-class degree competing at the highest level in the NCAA, but [that] when you do it right you can go above and beyond professionally.”