Athletes and female sports advocates were honored Feb. 6 at the 23rd annual Girls & Women in Sports & Fitness event at the Nebraska Champions Club, 707 Stadium Drive.

Girls and women honored at this year's event included:

• Star City Sports Youth Athletes of the Year – Jaden Ferguson and Emma Kauf, both multi-sport athletes at Lincoln Southwest. Ferguson rewrote several school records and contributed to state team championships in basketball and track while also excelling at volleyball. She will continue her volleyball career this fall at Northwest Missouri State University. Kauf contributed to state team championships in three sports – basketball, softball and track. In softball, she set the state All-Class single-season record for runs (81) and Class A record for home runs (22). In her career, she set the All-Class records for runs (236) and RBI (214), and the highest career batting average in Class A (.535). This fall, she will play for the Georgia Tech University softball team.

• Carmel Sheppard Spirit Award – Colleen Arnold is a three-sport athlete at Lincoln High (cross country, swimming and track). She was a major part of the 200-meter freestyle relay swim team and medley relay teams setting school records. She also earned two varsity letters in cross country and three in track and field, contributing to a state meet-qualifying 4x800 meter relay team last spring. She is considering swimming at Nebraska Wesleyan or Midland University.

• Andrea Kabourek Courage Award – Molly Nance, open-water swimming advocate, became the first woman to successfully swim the 21.2-mile channel that connects St. Lucia and Martinique on May 16, 2018. She plans to continue to test the waters during an excursion to Key West, Florida, in June. She also serves as the open-water swimming director for the Cornhusker State games.

• Barbara Hibner Mentor Award – As a golfer, Steph Kolbas has won a record-setting 18 titles in the annual Lincoln City women’s tournament series and won three state championships. She also qualified for and played in the LPGA’s U.S. women’s open in 1999. As a coach and mentor, she has directed high school programs since the late 1990s at Pius X High School and coached several teams to state championships. She has been the NWAGA Junior representative and Nebraska Junior Girls’ Four-State Team coach the last three years. She has provided junior golf camps, implemented a Junior High Catholic League and started the U.S. Kids Golf Lincoln Local Tour.

• Anne Campbell Pioneer Award – Ryly Jane Hambleton, barrier-breaking sportswriter, couldn’t play sports in high school because she was a pre-Title IX, but she went on to be one of the first Nebraska women to cover them for a state newspaper. Hambleton was girls prep editor for three years at the Lincoln Journal Star and took over the boys prep editor position in 1985. She expanded the Journal Star’s Academic All-State football teams to all sports. Former LPS Athletic Director Wendy Henrichs called Hambleton a proponent of young female athletes and a role model for women in a male-dominated field of sports reporting. She continues to write on a freelance basis and enjoys playing golf.

• Ambassador Award – Tracy Bender is a fitness pro, Ninja warrior and doctor of occupational therapy specializing in cancer rehabilitation and lymphedema at Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center. Last July’s Cornhusker State Games Ninja Challenge age division win qualified Bender for the regional Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association competition, a separate national ninja league. As a runner, she has completed 13 half marathons, two triathlons and many road races. She encourages a healthy lifestyle for patients as well.


L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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