The 2012-13 winter sports season at UW-Eau Claire was one for the books. Coming into the season, the men’s hockey team had never even won a conference title but ended the 2012-13 season in Lake Placid, N.Y., capturing the 2013 NCAA Division III championship, the team’s first NCAA title and second national title in history. The 2013 men’s indoor track and field team, which finished third in the nation, also made history by winning the 60-meter dash and 4×400-meter relay national titles, the first such titles in running events in program history.
The UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team capped off its best season in school history with a 5-3 win over Oswego State (N.Y.) to claim the NCAA Division III national championship.
Playing at Herb Brooks Arena — site of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” – making their first Frozen Four appearance in school history, the Blugolds didn’t need any miracles to cap off their amazing season; they simply were the better team.
Despite falling behind 2-0, the Blugolds never panicked and responded with four unanswered goals, and that was enough for them to hold on to the victory.
“It was a good game back-and-forth,” Blugold coach Matt Loen said. “We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve struggled to score goals and I was hoping tonight wasn’t going to be that night. I think we just had to get one goal and then tying it up at two, that instilled more confidence in our team.”
The Lakers were returning to the championship game for the second straight year, after falling to St. Norbert College last year, but it was the Blugolds who looked like they had been there before early in the game.
The men’s hockey team also received numerous All-Conference and All-American accolades at the end of the season. Head coach Matt Loen was named National Coach of the Year by three organizations while also being named the NCHA and Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Coach of the Year.
All-American goalie Brandon Stephenson was named NCHA Player of the Year, just the third Blugold in history to receive the honor and first since 1995. All-American forward Jordan Singer finished as the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player and ended his career first in school history with 11 game-winning goals. He was named the NCHA and WIAC Scholar-Athlete this season.
With the men’s indoor track and field team coming off its best nationals finish in school history (second place in 2012), there were high expectations for the 2013 season — and the Blugolds delivered.
The men’s team capped the season by taking third at the NCAA Division III championship in Naperville, Ill., on March 9. Four WIAC schools finished in the top four places at nationals, an unprecedented achievement.
Sophomore Thurgood Dennis won the 60-meter dash national championship and later teamed up with sophomore Cody Prince, junior Jacob Dennis-Oehling and sophomore Joe Makeever to win the 4×400-meter relay NCAA title. While UW-Eau Claire had previously won national titles in field events, 2013 marked the first time a Blugold won a running event at nationals.
Women’s track and field member Erin Schoenfelder was presented with the Elite 89 award, given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships. She holds a 3.98 GPA and was the first Blugold to ever win an Elite 89 award.
At the NCAA Division III championships for indoor track and field, swimming and diving, and wrestling, individuals can achieve All-American honors depending on how they finish. In track and field and wrestling, the top eight finishers in each event are All-Americans, while in swimming and diving, the top eight receive first-team honors. and ninth- through 16th-place finishers are recognized with honorable mention status.
UW-Eau Claire finished the winter season at NCAA championships with eight first-team All-American finishes: seven from indoor track and field events and one from wrestling as Nathaniel Behnke took fifth place at 141 pounds. Swimmer Alex Card was an honorable mention All-American twice, taking 10th place in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke.
The women’s gymnastics team competed at the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NCGA) championship, with four Blugolds finishing as All-Americans and the team taking fifth place. Danielle Schulzetenberg became the first Blugold in school history to earn All-American honors in the all-around competition four times during her career.
Other winter season highlights
Blugolds are currently 10th in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, which ranks more than 430 institutions in NCAA Division III based on national finishes in their sports each year.
Women’s basketball player Sarah Bingea was selected to the Capital One Academic All-America Third Team and named a WIAC Scholar-Athlete. She also was picked to the All-WIAC First Team and D3hoops.com All-Central Region third team and was a Jostens Trophy finalist.
Gymnastics head coach Jean DeLisle was named WIAC Coach of the Year and the Head Coach of the Year in the NCGA West Region. She earned the WIAC honor for the fourth time in her career.
Thurgood Dennis was named the WIAC Indoor Track Performer of the Meet for the second straight year, just the third person in conference history to earn the honor in back-to-back seasons.
Women’s swimmer Grace Fair was one of three individuals from around the conference to earn the WIAC Scholar-Athlete award.
Liz Amici, who competed in volleyball and track and field, received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, awarded each year to only 174 student-athletes from around the nation and across all divisions. More than 450,000 student-athletes compete annually in the NCAA.
For more information about Blugold athletics, visit www.blugolds.com.
Josh Metz ’10 contributed to Sportsview.