Oct. 9, 2006
BOCA RATON, FL - Seven individuals were inducted into Florida Atlantic University's Athletics Department Inaugural Hall of Fame. The class of seven was announced by Craig Angelos, FAU's athletics director, at the FAU Wimberly Library where a timeline and history of FAU athletics will be on display through November. The induction ceremony took place Friday, October 27, at at the Eleanor R. Baldwin House.
The FAU library and athletics department have worked together for years archiving historical information. They have expanded their archiving work in 2006-07 to include student-athletes featured in an awareness campaign called `@your library®.' In addition, the library offers additional tutorial sessions for student-athletes.
The first class represents individuals who were instrumental in the growth and development of not only their individual sport but the entire FAU athletics department.
"Florida Atlantic is such a young program in respect to its athletic peers," said Angelos. "The university has sponsored intercollegiate teams since 1979. To put it into perspective, the University of Miami was considering dropping football in 1979. As we enter our 18th season of men's basketball and just the 22nd year of participating as a four-year institution, we wanted to establish a Hall of Fame to recognize those who have paved the way towards our current success." The 2006 inductees are (in chronological order): Whitney Kraft, Laurence Bensimon, Steve Traylor, Keith Foley, Noemi Lung, Yolanda Griffith and Nikki Myers.
Whitney Kraft played tennis at Florida Atlantic from 1981-1983 and served as team captain both seasons. A transfer from the University of Arizona, he held the no. 1 position for both singles and doubles. The Owls participated at the NAIA level where Kraft captured the Southeast Region title (played in Rome, GA) and advanced to the NAIA National Championship (played in Kansas City, MO) where he was victorious in his first eight matches. The Summit, NJ native advanced to the semifinal round and completed the season as the program's first men's tennis All-American and is currently the only All-American for men's tennis. Kraft has continued his tennis career and currently resides in Broward County where he is Director of Tennis for the City of Fort Lauderdale parks and Recreation.
Laurence Bensimon set a precedent early in the women's swim program's history with two national records in the 500 (4:47.25) and 1650 (16:28.14) freestyle events. While she set the mark in 1987, her times have yet to be surpassed in the nearly 20 years that have followed. Bensimon was a four-time National Champion after she captured the 200 free, 500 free 1650 free and 200 fly in 1987. In the history of NCAA Division II, Bensimon is one of eight individuals who have captured four events in a single season.
Steve Traylor, the only coach in the 2006 class, was the first baseball coach in the program's history and was instrumental in setting a tone of excellence for a program that has sent 71 players to professional baseball. While coaching at FAU from 1981-87, Traylor amassed a 268-107-2 record for an outstanding .714 win percentage. In just his second season (1982), Traylor guided the Owls to a District 25 runner-up finish. In his third season (1983), FAU was crowned the NAIA District 25 Champions. Traylor also guided the program from NAIA to NCAA Division II status without a hiccup. In the program's first season at the Division II level, the team captured a berth in the 1985 NCAA South Regional. Following his outstanding stint at FAU, the Ohio native, became the head coach at Duke University and is currently the head coach at Wofford. Traylor is also a member of the FAU Baseball Hall of Fame Inaugural class.
Keith Foley joined the Florida Atlantic baseball team in only its third year of existence. The outfielder became the first baseball player to gain All-America recognition for a program that has now yielded 14 All-Americans, as he was named second team at the NAIA level in 1983. In 1984, Foley was in the initial class to be drafted when he was picked up by the New York Yankees. He held the record for hits in a season with 95 until the 2005 season, and is third in career batting average at .372 and in slugging percentage at .640. Foley's 95 hits led the nation in 1983. In his two seasons at FAU, he belted 28 home runs to rank 10th all-time in that category. Foley also had 154 total bases, in 1983, which lists him third all-time and a .545 on-base percentage which ranks eighth. Foley was one of six players to be inducted into the FAU Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005, a year the program celebrated its silver anniversary.
Noemi (Lung) Zaharia came to Florida Atlantic in 1990 as an accomplished swimmer. Zaharia competed in both the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, representing Romania. She took silver in the 400 individual medley and bronze in the 200 IM in 1988. Prior to that, she swam in the 1987 World University Games, where she won five gold and two bronze medals and received the Most Valuable Athlete Award. While at FAU, Zaharia earned All-America honors in 1991 and 1992. She took eight Division II individual championships. Zaharia was named the NCAA's 1992 Female Athlete of the Year and received the Honda Award for excellence in sports. Her FAU career was not limited to competition. Zaharia also served as the associate head coach for both the men's and women's swim program from 1997-2000, a period when she coached four qualifiers at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA. She was also involved with the coaching and recruiting of Bela Szabados who captured the 1997 national championship event for FAU. Zaharia helped recruit and coach five national qualifiers, three competitors in the 2000 South American games and a participant in the World University Games and European Championships. She was also heavily involved in the FAU outreach program to local elementary schools. Zaharia has since become instrumental in starting and serving as the head coach at Florida International.
Yolanda Griffith came to FAU in 1992 and quickly placed FAU on the national radar, despite the program competing at the NCAA Division II level. Griffith guided the Owls to a 20-8 record, the program's fourth regional appearance. Griffith holds the FAU single season record for points scored (621) scoring average (28.2), field goal percentage (.631), rebounds (352), and rebounding average (16.0), despite playing in just 22 games. Griffith was named the NCAA Division II Kodak Player of the Year and was named All-America. Since leaving FAU, she has played professionally in Europe, with the American Basketball League and for the last eight seasons with the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs (1999-2006). While with the ABL Long Beach Stingrays (1997-98) she was named First-Team All-ABL and was the Defensive Player of the Year and Victor Award Winner. She joined the Monarchs in 1999. Since joining the Monarchs she has been named to the All-WNBA First team (1999, 2005) and the All0WNBA second team (2000, 2001 and 2004). Griffith earned WNBA Finals MVP in 2005 and surpassed 3,000 WNBA career points in the same season. She is the WNBA's all-time leader in offensive rebounds (905) and ranks second all-time in total rebounds (2,101). Griffith guided the Monarchs to the 2005 WNBA Championship, a first in franchise history. She also led the 2000 and 2004 USA Olympic Team to gold Medals.
Nikki Myers completed a four-year softball career at FAU and is the most highly decorated player in the history of the program, which began in 1995. While at FAU, Myers was a three-time Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and was a four-time A-Sun Tournament MVP. She pitched in an NCAA Tournament each of her four seasons at Florida Atlantic and earned NCAA All-Regional Tournament Team honors twice. Nationally, Myers is a two-time Second Team All-American and was a top-10 finalist for the 2002 Softball National Player of the Year. She currently ranks fifth all-time in the NCAA history with 1,376 strikeouts. Myers earned FAU's Female Athlete of the Year in 1999 and was the A-Sun's Pitcher of the Week 15 times and Player of the Week six times. Since completing her collegiate career, she has played professionally for the Akron Racers (2004) and for the Connecticut Brakettes (2006). Myers is currently the assistant coach at Michigan State University.
Florida Atlantic University's Athletic Hall of Fame was founded to honor, pay tribute and perpetuate the memory of those individuals who, either through participation, support or interest, have made outstanding contributions in intercollegiate athletics and who have helped bring recognition, honor, distinction and excellence to the University.