Nov. 11, 2013
By CSU Athletic Historian, John Hirn
Ram Alumni Athletes Association
For November’s RAAA feature, we complete the list of our top 50 athletes at CSU with the top 25 female athletes. Women’s basketball started at CSU in the fall of 1899, it was suspended as an intercollegiate sport in 1907 and did not return until the establishment of the women’s athletics program in 1976. Since 1976 there have been many other women’s sports added to the CSU athletic department with soccer the newest.
Some women did compete in intercollegiate athletics before 1976, but the majority of CSU female athletes have made their careers after Title IX for the Rams. There are also fewer professional sports for women, which makes any athletic participation after their CSU career weigh heavier on a female athlete’s ranking even higher. Olympians do carry a lot of weight in the ranking of athletes, especially medal winners. National champions and All-Americans also help increase an athlete’s ranking.
The honorable mention for women’s athletes goes to the 1902 women’s basketball team. They were the first conference champions in any sport in school history and paved the way for men to launch the sport two years later.
T25. Teri Klement – Klement was an outstanding softball player and a three-time All-Conference honoree who helped lead her team to two HCAC championships and later went on to play as an alternate in the 2000 Olympic Games.
T25. Dana Cranston – Cranston earned an AVCA Third team All-American and an academic All-American in 2012. She was the 2012 Mountain West Player of the Year and is currently a member of the Canadian National Team and playing professional volleyball in France.
24. Courtney Cox – A 2000 second team All-American volleyball player who helped guide the 1999 and 2000 Rams to conference championships and three Sweet 16s in the NCAA tournaments. Cox was also named to the AVCA All-District VII team in both 2000 and 2001 along with helping her team achieve the highest ranking in CSU volleyball history at number 3.
23. Sarah Freedstrom – A 1997 NFCA first-team All-American in softball, Freedstrom still holds five all-time records at CSU. She was the instrumental shortstop that helped guide the 1997 WAC Champion Rams to within one out of the College Softball World Series.
22. Jennifer Buford – Jennifer Buford not only earned an All-American award for softball in 1997 and helped guide her team to the greatest record in CSU softball history, she also was a member of the greatest women’s basketball team helping the Rams to a 33-3 record and into the Sweet 16 of the 1999 NCAA tournament.
21. Nikki Johnson – Another member of the great 1997 WAC Champion softball team, Nikki Johnson earned a second-team All-American award as a pitcher with a 33-7 record in a season the Rams went 51-14. She continues to hold numerous school and WAC records more than 15 years after her final pitch.
20. Megan Plourde – A three-time Honorable Mention AVCA All-American and third-team AVCA All-American in 2011, Plourde is first AVCA four time All-Region and All-MWC selection helping her Rams volleyball team win four titles during her career.
19. Kristin Elliott – Kristin Elliott remains the winningest swimmer in WAC history and was a 1994 All-American. She helped guide the Rams to a 1996 WAC championship and still holds numerous WAC records being named to 21 all-WAC teams during her career. She was also the 1996 WAC Swimmer of the Year.
18. Amy Brookover – A two-time All-American and one of the finest swimmers in school history, Brookover was named as the Colorado Sportswoman of the year three times; more than any other female athlete at CSU. In 1990 she clocked the nation’s fastest time at the Husker Invitational and won numerous individual HCAC championships.
17. Liz Toman – A three-time All-American in discuss and shot, in 2001Toman finished fourth in the nation for the indoors in the shot put and in the outdoor competition finished second in the nation for discus.
16. Katie Cronin – Cronin received Kodak honorable mention All-American honors in both 1998 and 1999 and also AP honorable mention All-American. She was one of the driving forces behind the women’s basketball dynasty of the late 1990s. Cronin went on to play professionally in Europe and the United States.
15. Sandy Ham – Ham was the first CSU female athlete named to a Cross Country All-American team and after a highly successful 1992 season finished 10th nationally in the 5,000 meters. She was ranked by Track and Field News as one of the top-10 athletes for indoor and outdoor 5,000 meters.
14. Loree Smith – Loree Smith amassed six All-American Awards in her career as a Ram, Two in the hammer, two in the shot put and two in the weight throw. She competed in the Bejing Olympics in 2008 in the weight throw competition and continues to hold several school and conference records.
13. Diane Saba – As a member of Coach Rich Feller’s dominant volleyball teams of the late 1980s, Diane Saba was named as a 1987 first team All-American. Saba also helped lead the Rams to conference championships in 1985 and 1986 along with four NCAA tournament berths and was the HCAC Offensive Player of the Year. She played professional volleyball from 1988 to 1998.
12. Pamela Green – A national champion in the 1973 AIAW 200 meter run, Pamela Green also competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics before she attended CSU. She continues to hold school records in three events and was also a member of the 1973 World Games.
11. Shelly Greathouse-Borrman – A four-time All-American in discus and one All-American in the hammer, Shelly Greathouse-Borrman has represented CSU nationally and in 1999 competed in the USA National Track and Field championships finishing 4th in discus.
10. Susan Knox – Knox is the only national champion golfer in CSU history, winning it in the AIAW 1981 season. She was also named as the Colorado Sportswoman of the year in 1980 and placed second in the nation in the 1982 AIAW tournament.
9. Elizabeth Johnson- Not only did Elizabeth “Libbie” Johnson win the 1988 All-American award for 3,000 meters, she also competed on the 2000 US Olympic team as a 10,000 meter runner finishing 16th in the Sydney Games. Johnson also won the 1997 Bolder Boulder, the only CSU female athlete to win that in-state marathon. Along with the 2000 Olympics, Johnson also competed in the 2000 Goodwill Games.
8. Angela Knopf – Knopf earned All-American honors in volleyball in 2000 and 2001 along with helping to guide some of Coach Tom Hilbert’s greatest teams to conference championships. In 2001, Knopf led the NCAA in hitting percentage and still ranks as the eighth best season hitting percentage in NCAA history. She also competed with the USA National team in 2002 and competed on the AVP beach volleyball tour from 2003 to 2009.
7. Sherri Danielson – Danielson was the first CSU volleyball player to make an Olympic team and also earned All-American awards in 1984 and 1985. She was a three-time HCAC all-conference honoree and helped guide CSU to its first two conference championships in volleyball. She has her jersey number 12 retired, the only volleyball player with a retired uniform number.
6. Wendy Koenig-Knudsen – Wendy Koenig had an illustrious career at CSU in the 1970s which included national championships, school records that have never been broken and as a member of the USA Olympic team in 1972 and 1976.
5. Lillian Greene-Chamberlain – The first African American female athlete in CSU history, Lillian Greene earned national and international awards 16 years before Title IX and helped to establish the first women’s intercollegiate track team in CSU history. She was a 1961 All-American in the 440 indoor, setting a new world record at the time.
4. Marsha Middel – Middel is the only four-time national champion in CSU history winning the 50 yard Butterfly in 1970, 1971 and 1972 and the 100-yard butterfly. She never finished any of her swimming competitions below third place. She was one of the driving forces behind the Rams swimming teams that finished 3rd nationally from 1970 to 1972.
3. Janay DeLoach- The Rams’ latest sweetheart of the Olympics brought home a Bronze in 2012 and may bring home more in 2016. She has earned four All-American honors, three in the long jump and one in the 100 meters.
2. Becky Hammon – Nobody that cheers for the Rams will ever forget what Becky Hammon accomplished wearing her now retired #25 uniform. She is the only women’s basketball player in school history named to a first-team All-American team and has spent a highly successful career in the WNBA. She also won Silver in the 2008 Olympics as a member of the Russian team and in 2011 was named as one of the top 15 WNBA players of all time.
1. Amy Van Dyken – There is no surprise who ranks as the greatest CSU female athlete of all-time. Amy’s six Olympic Gold Medals are five more gold than any other CSU athlete and may be the most Olympic Gold any CSU athlete will ever win. Her 1994 National record in the 50 meter freestyle and NCAA Swimmer of the Year locks her in as the Rams’ greatest female athlete of all time.