Utah Athletics entered its final Hall of Fame class Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium and Tower. The Utah Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2022 is made up of eight former athletes.
Friday night, Christl Hager (skiing), Heidi Hausknecht (women’s swimming), Chris Kemoeatu (soccer), Carla Pittelkow (cross country/athletics), Mitch Smith (men’s basketball), Shona Thorburn (women’s basketball), Melissa Vituj (gymnastics) and Eric Weddle (soccer). The class will also be recognized during the Utah-Southern Utah football game on Saturday afternoon.
“Tonight is always one of the highlights of the year for us,” the Utah athletic director said. Mark Harlan. “It’s a night to connect with our past and to celebrate the start of a new year. To all of our inductees, congratulations. You are among the best there has ever been and the best there will ever be in the world. Utah Athletics history. A special salute to all of our female inductees. It’s the 50th anniversary of Title IX. I think we understand it was a little different back then, but you kept on fighting .So many amazing women have come here and thrived, and we’re proud to have some of them inducted into the Hall of Fame tonight.”
Christl Hager – Skiing
One of the most dominant downhills in NCAA history, Christl Hager became Utah’s only three-time national champion skier in the mid-1990s and led the Utes to a pair of national titles.
Hager joined Team USA at age 14, but after a series of injuries she was forced to give up her dream of competing in the Olympics and focus on collegiate skiing.
Hager joined the Utes in 1994, winning the first of his three giant slalom titles as a rookie. The following year, Hager won another gold medal in giant slalom and earned the first of his three runner-up finishes in slalom at the NCAA championships. She also placed third in the GS at the 1995 U.S. Nationals. Hager capped her career by winning another NCAA giant slalom title in 1997. She won or shared the Toril Forland Women’s Outstanding Skier Award from the Utah for the four years of his career.
Heidi Hausknecht – Swimming Women
A two-time Mountain West Conference champion and Utah’s first All-American in women’s swimming, Heidi Hausknecht left an indelible mark during her career with the Utes.
She began her college career in Hawaii and competed in three NCAA championship events as a rookie. Hausknecht then decided to return home and finished second in the 100 butterfly, fourth in the 50 freestyle and ninth in the 100 freestyle at the 1999 WAC Championships. She placed eighth in the 100 butterfly at the NCAA Championships to become an All- American.
Hausknecht won two Mountain West Conference titles in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly. She qualified for the NCAA for the second straight year, placing 22nd in the 100m butterfly. During his career at Utah, Hausknecht set seven school records, including individual marks in the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 butterfly, as well as the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and the 200 and 400 medley relays.
Chris Kemoeatu – Soccer
A first-team All-American in 2004, lineman Chris Kemoeatu paved the way for a Ute-record offense during the undefeated Fiesta Bowl season before playing in a pair of Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He became a starter at left guard in 2002, earning an All-Mountain West Conference honorable mention. Kemoeatu had an all-conference caliber first season as a team in 2003 before missing four games. But he came back in 2004 to have a dominant senior year.
As a starter at right guard, Kemoeatu averaged 68 snaps per game and had a team-high 81 knockdowns. Kemoeatu was named First Team All-Mountain West Conference and First Team All-America by two outlets. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kemoeatu in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He started on the 2008 Steelers team that won the Super Bowl. He made another Super Bowl appearance with Pittsburgh two years later.
Carla Pittelkow – Cross Country/Athletics
A four-time All-American distance runner in the early days of women’s track and field, Carla Pittelkow helped lead the Utah cross country team to the AIAW Division II National Championship in 1981.
Pittelkow got off to a flying start in his college career in 1980, taking third place at the regional cross country championships and earning All-America honors at the national championships. The following year, she finished seventh in national competition, helping Utah win the AIAW Division II championship in 1981.
She had a stellar track and field season in 1982. She placed sixth at the national indoor championships and won the regional outdoor title in the 800 meters. At the AIAW National Championships, she earned All-America honors in two events, placing third in the 1,500 meters and second in the 3,000 meters. A series of injuries limited the final years of her college career, but she still managed to place seventh at the 1984 NCAA Cross Country Regional Championships.
Mitch Smith – Men’s Basketball
A three-time All-Western Athletic Conference forward for the Runnin’ Utes in the late 1980s, Mitch Smith was Utah’s top rebounder and shot blocker in his four-year college career, and has led the team to scoring the past three years.
Smith averaged 7.6 rebounds per game in his freshman season as Utah tied for the 1986 WAC title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. As a sophomore, he had his best offensive year averaging 16.8 points per game. As a senior in 1988-89, Smith recorded 55 blocked shots, the seventh in a season in school history.
In career standings, Smith remains 10th with 1,628 points, fourth with 1,026 rebounds, third with 157 blocked shots, seventh with 134 steals and eighth with 418 free throws made. He is one of four all-time Ute players to reach 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. After his college career ended, Smith embarked on a ten-year professional career in Spain, Turkey and Belgium.
Shona Thorburn – Women’s Basketball
Shona Thorburn, a two-time All-American and all-conference first-team point guard, was the rushing general in Utah’s run to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2006.
Thorburn earned second-team All-Mountain West Conference honors as a rookie and redshirt sophomore. As a junior. She averaged 14.9 points and ranked sixth in the nation with 6.5 assists per game that season. Full Court Press placed her on its third All-America team and she shared Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors. In his senior year in 2006, Thorburn ranked second in the nation with 7.1 assists per game, earned an All-America honorable mention, and was a first-team All-Mountain West for the second consecutive year. .
She finished her career sixth in Utah history with 1,735 points, first with 689 assists, and fourth with 203 steals. She was seventh overall in the 2006 WNBA Draft, spending two years in the league. She continued to play professionally overseas and was a member of the Canadian national team.
Melissa Vituj – Gymnastics
An 11-time American gymnast, Melissa Vituj has four top-10 finishes at the NCAA championships and led the Red Rocks to the Super Six in her four-year career.
Vituj had a stellar first season in 2001, placing third on balance beam and eighth on floor at the NCAA championships. She was also a second-team All-American on vault. After completing 14e on floor and a second-team All-American winner on balance beam and vault as a sophomore, she placed ninth on floor as a junior and was named North Central Gymnast of the Year.
As a senior, she won the South Region all-around and beam titles. At the NCAA Championships, she placed third on floor, seventh all-around, and earned second-team All-America honors on balance beam at the NCAA Championships. She was also one of four nominees for the Honda Broderick Award, honoring the nation’s top female gymnast, and earned third-team Academic All-America honors.
Eric Weddle – Football
One of the most versatile college football players of all time, Eric Weddle was honored as a Consensus All-American in 2006 before becoming an All-Pro safety and Super Bowl champion in the NFL.
Weddle earned first-team Freshman All-America honors in 2003 and played a key role in Utah’s undefeated Fiesta Bowl team in 2004. In each of the next two seasons, Weddle was voted player Mountain West Conference Defensive of the Year. He led the league with seven interceptions as a senior, returning two of those picks for touchdowns. Weddle scored eight touchdowns during the 2006 season, including five as a running back. He also passed for a score. Weddle was named a first-team All-America defensive back by the AFCA and The Sporting News, and was a second-team All-American by other media outlets. He finished his career with 18 interceptions, ranking second in school history.
Weddle was selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers, as the 37th overall pick. During his 14-year NFL career, Weddle was a six-time Pro Bowl selection. After initially retiring after the 2019 season, Weddle returned to join a shorthanded Los Angeles Rams team for their January 2022 playoff run and led them to a Super Bowl victory.