Members of the University of Missouri–St. Louis community gathered in the Arch View Room at the Hilton at the Ballpark Friday evening in downtown St. Louis to celebrate some of the greatest athletes and teams in school history during the annual UMSL Sports Hall of Fame induction.
The 2024 class, featuring men’s basketball player Jonathan Griffin, softball players Brianna (Butler) Len and Alex (Stupek) Johnson, men’s golfer Markus Lindberg and baseball player Todd Schmidt as well as the 1973 baseball team and the 2017 and 2018 women’s golf teams was first unveiled in November.
But Chancellor Kristin Sobolik had a surprise award at the end of the night for Director of Athletics Lori Flanagan, presenting her with the inaugural Chancellor’s Medal for the “indelible impact” she has made at UMSL during her 18 years at the university.
Flanagan has always preferred to direct attention to the accomplishments of UMSL student-athletes and coaches, but she couldn’t help but be moved by the unexpected recognition.
“I was very surprised, and I’m very honored to be selected – or even considered,” Flanagan said.
The award was created to honor members of the UMSL community, including friends and supporters, who have made a significant contribution to advance the mission and values of the university.
“Her record speaks for itself,” Sobolik said as she called Flanagan to the stage to receive the honor.
During her tenure as athletic director – which began in 2009 after two years as associate athletic director and eight months as the interim athletic director – UMSL teams have made 53 NCAA Division II regional appearances and won 13 games in NCAA play. They also have 10 Great Lakes Valley Conference championships and have seen 354 student-athletes earn All-GLVC honors and 1,650 garner academic all-conference recognition.
Flanagan was also instrumental in reinstating UMSL men’s and women’s swimming teams and men’s cross country team and launching women’s cross country and men’s and women’s track and field. She helped secure investments to build competitive athletics facilities and infrastructure, including most recently helping open the new Terry and Stan Freerks Student-Athlete Academic Commons in the Mark Twain Athletic Center.
Sobolik also noted Flanagan’s leadership through the somewhat contentious shift from the university’s long-used unofficial nickname of Rivermen to the UMSL Tritons.
Flanagan, the fourth athletic director in UMSL history, came to the university in 2006 after spending 14 years as an athletic department administrator at Saint Louis University. She got her start in college athletics at Minnesota State University, Mankato in Minnesota, where she also earned her master’s degree, and spent a year working at Division II St. Cloud State University before first coming to St. Louis.
“Lori, you lead by example,” Sobolik said. “You care about the details. You are competitive in all the best ways. You surround yourself with champions and you always keep our student-athletes’ best interests at heart every day. You are the true definition of an UMSL Triton, and I am honored to present you with the inaugural University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor’s Medal.”
The presentation of the Chancellor’s Medal only added to an already stellar event celebrating excellence of former student-athletes with former UMSL men’s basketball player and KSDK (Channel 5) Sports Director Frank Cusumano hosting chats with each inductee.
Flanagan is long enough into her tenure at UMSL that she has watched many of them compete during their careers.
“The thing that is very rewarding is they’re very appreciative of the opportunity that they were given here,” Flanagan said. “They very much appreciated the coaches they worked with, they teammates that they met, the education that they got. To me, that’s always what has been important about running an athletic program is giving young students, young adults a platform to be able to grow and mature and develop and get an education and go on and do really good things.”
Here’s a look at Friday’s honorees from the 2024 induction class:
Jonathan Griffin, men’s basketball (2002-06): Griffin was a two-time All-GLVC and an All-Region selection who finished his career as UMSL’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,739 points and ranks in the top 10 all-time in the school record books in made free throws (2nd), free throw attempts (2nd), steals (fourth), rebounding (seventh) and assists (seventh). He was also named the GLVC’s Scholar Athlete of the Year for men’s basketball in 2006.
Brianna (Butler) Len, softball (2012-15): Butler rewrote the softball record books during her four-year career, including teaming with fellow inductee Stupek for two seasons. When she finished her playing career, she was the program’s leader in hits, home runs, RBI and total bases and now ranks second in all those categories behind Stupek. Butler, Stupek and 2020 inductee Hannah Perryman helped the Tritons earn the program’s first and only No. 1 national ranking in 2015. She helped lead the Tritons to three straight GLVC Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and two Super Regional appearances in 2014 and 2015. She was a four-time All-GLVC selection, a three-time all-region honoree and a two-time All-American.
Alex (Stupek) Johnson, softball (2014-17): Stupek finished her career as the program’s career leader in runs scored (183), hits (268), home runs (52), RBI (175) and total bases (490). She was a four-time first-team All-GLVC selection, a four-time All-Region honoree and a two-time third-team All-American. The Tritons were nationally ranked in each of her four seasons and reached four NCAA Tournaments and won three GLVC Tournament championships.
Markus Lindberg, men’s golf (2014-18): Lindberg, a two-time All-American and three-time All-GLVC selection, graduated as UMSL’s career leader in scoring average at 74.22, though he’s now second on the career list. He also finished his career as the leader in rounds of par or better (41) and was second in rounds played (138) and events won (4). Lindberg holds the 18-hole school record for lowest score of 60, which also ties the NCAA record for all divisions. He also holds 36-hole school record for lowest score of 134. Lindberg was the GLVC’s Player of the Year as a junior and a part of 10 team wins, four NCAA Regional appearances and two NCAA Championship appearances.
Todd Schmidt, baseball (1993-97): Schmidt was a two-time All-GLVC honoree who was named a second-team All-American in 1996. He finished his career sixth in UMSL history in hits (168), sixth in total bases (258), seventh in walks (79) and tied for seventh in triples (10). As a junior, Schmidt led the team in triples (9) and total bases (116) and was second in RBI (53). He earned second team All-GLVC honors that season and helped UMSL win the Central Regional and advanced to the Division II Championships. He batted .440 as a senior and was named first-team All-GLVC.
1973 Baseball Team: Coached by Fred Nelson, UMSL won the Midwest Regional with a 3-0 record to advance to the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships for the second straight year and defeated Jacksonville State 2-1 for the program’s first win at the Championships. The team still holds the school record for lowest earned run average in a season (2.78) and is tied for fifth in shutouts (6). It was led by first-team All-American Frank Tusinski and honorable mention All-American John Horvath. The team finished third in the final national rankings.
2017 and 2018 Women’s Golf Teams: Coached by Troy Halterman, the Tritons finished eighth at the 2017 NCAA Championships and were third at the NCAA East Regional. The team won five events that season, tied for the most in program history, and were the GLVC runner-up and had the second-best scoring average (305.81) in team history. It holds the school record for 18 holes of 286 and the 36-hole record of 581, both set in the Screaming Eagle Classic. Emma Thorngren earned honorable mention All-American and was an All-Region and All-GLVC selection. Maxi Roth, Alexa Capesius and Stefaniya Ivanova were all named to the All-GLVC team. Halterman’s Tritons finished sixth at the 2018 NCAA Championships, were third at the NCAA East Regional and finished as the runner-up at the GLVC Championships. They won three events and finished with the best scoring average in school history (305.19). Thorngren earned honorable mention All-America honors for the second straight season and was an All-Region and All-GLVC selection. She was joined on the All-Region and All-GLVC squads by Ivanova.