Eastern Illinois will add five new members to its Athletic Hall of Fame as the Class of 2016 was announced. The ceremony will take place surrounding the Panthers October 8 football game with Tennessee State. Entering the Hall of Fame for the Class of 2016 are former athletes Jeff Christensen, Brett Nommensen, Sandyn Short, Gabe Spezia and former faculty athletic representative Dr. Gail Richard.
LISTED BELOW ARE SHORT BIOS ON EACH INDUCTEE (Athletes are listed with hometown and high school)
JEFF CHRISTENSEN (Football / Gibson City, Ill. / Gibson City HS)
In a list of honored quarterbacks Christensen was among the best in school history helping the Panthers transition from the NCAA Division II level to the NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) level for football from 1980-82. During his first season he led the Panthers to the 1980 NCAA Division II National Runner-Up finish as EIU lost in the national championship game. As a senior he earned honorable mention All-American honors helping EIU advance to the FCS playoff quarterfinal round. At the end of his EIU playing career Christensen owned five EIU career passing records including passing yards (6,282 yards), completions (469), total offense (6,185 yards) and touchdown passes (51). He currently ranks in the EIU career top five in five categories and is tied for second on the single game touchdown passes list with six during the 1982 season. He had six games with more than 300 yards passing including a high of 409. He was a fifth round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1983 and played four seasons in the NFL.
BRETT NOMMENSEN (Baseball / Fox River Grove, Ill. / Cary-Grove HS)
Nommensen was instrumental for the Panthers baseball program playing for EIU from 2006-09. During the 2008 season Nommensen helped the Panthers win the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament to advance to their second NCAA Division I regional in school history. That set the tone for the 2009 season that watched the Panthers climb to No. 27 in the College Baseball rankings, the programs first national ranking at the NCAA Division I level. Nommensen was named to the NCAA Player of the Year Midseason Watch List prior to an injury that sidelined him for most of the second half of the season. He set the EIU school record for single season batting average hitting .525 during the 2008 season. He was named to the NCAA All-Region team in 2008 and a first team All-OVC selection in 2008. He ended his career ranked first on the EIU career runs (182) and hits (253) list with his hits record broken in 2015. Nommensen was an eighth round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays and played five years of professional baseball reaching Class AA.
SANDYN SHORT (Softball / Davis, Calif. / Davis Senior HS)
Short was a durable player for the EIU softball team starting as the team’s catcher from 2004-07. She was a first team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection in 2005 while earning second team All-OVC honors twice. In 2004 she was named to the All-Mideast Region team as she set the EIU single season records for batting average (.428), doubles (22) and total bases (122). Short’s name dots the EIU single and career record book with 12 top ten rankings between the two lists. She is the career leader for doubles (59) and total bases (349) while ranking third in career hits (215) and sixth in career batting average (.342). She was the EIU career leader in both home runs (23) and RBI (119) at the end of her playing career and currently ranks third in both categories.
GABE SPEZIA (Track / Westville, Ill. / Westville HS)
Spezia was a two-year standout for the men’s track team excelling during the indoor season from 1999-2000. He was twice an NCAA Division I Indoor All-American qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Track National Championships during both seasons with the Panthers. He placed ninth at the 1999 indoor meet and 10th at the 2000 meet running the 60-meter hurdles. His time at the 1999 meet was 7.95 while his time in 2000 was 7.90. Spezia set the school record for the 60-meter hurdles during the 2000 season with a time of 7.78. As a competitor in the outdoor season Spezia ranks second on the 110-meter hurdle school record list with a time of 13.85 set during the 2000 season.
DR. GAIL RICHARD (Administrator / Faculty Athletic Representative)
A respected member of the Eastern Illinois campus community Richard served as the Panthers Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) from 1994-2011 helping to represent the athletic department on a campus, regional and national level. For her efforts in that role she was the inaugural winner of the Ohio Valley Conference Thurston Banks Award for Distinguished Academic Service in 2013. As a FAR, Richard helped EIU go through the NCAA certification process and also make the move from the Mid-Continent Conference to the Ohio Valley Conference. She served on the NCAA Division I Management Council (2004-08), the EIU academic integrity subcommittee for NCAA certification, the EIU presidential task force on athletics and was actively involved with the EIU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). As a faculty member she served as Department Chair for Communications Disorders and Sciences, earned a Distinguished Faculty Award and served a term as Chair of the EIU Faculty Senate. In addition she has assisted the EIU sports information department for parts of four decades as a game basketball statistician and football radio broadcast crew member.
Ticket information for both the Hall of Fame luncheon and football game will be available later this summer.