SE: K-State's 'Mount Wildcat'

Judy Akers

July 2, 2012

Editor’s Note: Today, K-State Sports Extra begins a two-part series recognizing the top four athletes in school history that would comprise K-State’s Mount Rushmore. Today highlights the women’s side, and Wednesday’s article will showcase the men’s ‘Mount Wildcat.’

By Mark Janssen

It’s a holiday week to celebrate America.

For some, it’s a month for vacationing, which for some could mean a journey to such a locale as the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s there that four profiles are carved into a landscape called Mount Rushmore.

The faces are those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. It was over 100 years ago that those individuals were chosen to represent American history. All were men who brought the country from colonial times into the 20th century.

Where is this going, you ask?

Well, for a couple of years I’ve piddled with this question: Who would make up Kansas State’s ‘Mount Wildcat’ carved out of the Flint Hills that surround Manhattan? What four individuals have had the greatest impact on the K-State athletic scene?

Difficult to do, you ask?

Without question, I answer. But the good news is there are no right or wrong answers… only opinions that can make for a great topic for a coffee shop debate.

With that in mind, here is the K-State Sports Extra ‘Mount Wildcat’ for Women. They are announced with a personal comment, followed by a mini-resume.

JUDY AKERS: She put women’s athletics on the map at K-State by being a fearless leader and a pioneer on Title IX issues nationally.

K-State’s first women’s basketball game doesn’t include a date, but it was Judy Akers who coached that team… and the volleyball team, and the softball team, and any other team the Wildcats could come up with in the pre-Title IX era.

While K-State passed the 800-win mark in basketball at the close of the 2009-10 season, it was Akers who coached the first 206 of those wins from 1968-79.

They were days when the women could only practice at 5 a.m., and often times their basketballs would mysteriously end up flat. When on the road, each Wildcat player was allotted $3.00 per day for meal money.

Austra Skujyte: Without question, Kansas State’s premier overall female athlete.

No female in the history of the Olympics has competed in the heptathlon four times… except for one. She’s Austra Skujyte of Birzai, Lithuania, who won NCAA championships in the heptathlon at K-State in 2001 and 2002 with a school record 6,275 points.

With the Wildcats, she became the first woman to win multiple NCAA championships with her two titles, plus a shot put gold medal.

K-State’s Ryann Krais won the 2011 NCAA heptathlon crown, but she did so with a point total that was 245 less than that of Skujyte.

Rarely staged for women, Skujyte also set the decathlon world record in 2004 in Columbia, Mo., with a score of 8,366.

Later this month in London, Skujyte will become an unprecedented four-time Olympic participant in the multi-events, competing in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Kendra Wecker: She rewrote Kansas State women’s basketball history.

The Marysville, Kan., product was named the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award winner in 2005 as the country’s premier scholar-athlete in women’s basketball.

Playing from 2001-05, Wecker became the school’s all-time scoring leader with 2,333 points, and the career rebounding champion with 1,087. Those were points and rebounds that helped the Wildcats to a four-year total of 104 victories.

Oh, and just for good measure, Wecker also ranks fourth in all-time assists with 379 and sixth in career steals with 227.

Wecker the 2005 Big 12 Player of the Year, also helped the Wildcats to four NCAA Tournaments, winning a total of five games in years when K-State ended the year ranked 11th, seventh, eighth and 16th in the nation in her four seasons.

Want more? Wecker still holds the K-State javelin record with a heave of 194 feet, one inch in 2002 when she won the Big 12 title and placed sixth at the NCAA championships.

Wecker, who was a national finalist in the Punt, Pass and Kick contest as a 10-year-old, would be the fourth overall draft choice in the 2005 WNBA Draft by the San Antonio Silver Stars, and would later play for the Washington Mystics.

Nicole Ohlde: Also one of the greatest players in K-State women’s basketball history.

Nicole Ohlde’s 2,241 points and 995 all-time rebounds rank second only to the numbers of Wecker. She also ranks second in blocked shots with 204 and sixth in career assists with 367.

A product of Clay Center and a Kansas prep rival of Wecker, Ohlde was a two-time first team All American and twice the Big 12 Player of the Year as she was honored in 2003 and 2004.

Ohlde’s teams went 45-3 at home over her final three seasons when K-State won a total of 80 basketball games, which included 39 Big 12 games and four in NCAA Tournament play. All three of those teams ended the year ranked in the top 11 in the country.

Ohlde was the sixth selection in the 2004 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx and continues to play in Europe.

Now, I’d be interested to hear your candidates for K-State’s ‘Mount Wildcat.’ All-time K-State coaching winners Suzie Fritz (volleyball) and Deb Patterson (basketball)? NCAA three-point record holder Laurie Koehn? Your favorite volleyball talent? Or someone like distance ace Amy Mortimer? There are no wrong answers here.

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.