Despite Lack of Team Success, Individual Stars Abound
By Lauren Clark
Spectator Staff Writer
The lack of excellence in women's athletics at Columbia, excluding the fencing, cross country and archery teams, has been much discussed, but as the University prepares to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium and the history of women's sports, it is important to recognize the many dominant female athletes who have performed at the school before and since the Consortium was established in 1983. In fact, the talented pool of athletes from both sides of Broadway includes two two-time Olympic competitors, three NCAA Individual Champions, and seven Ivy League Champion teams. Here are some of the outstanding female Lions who have earned their place in the Columbia record books:
Tina Steck Young, BC '80
As a first-year at Barnard, Steck formed a unique agreement with the Columbia men's swimming coaches that allowed her to practice at their facilities and compete in the Ivy League as the sole member of the Barnard women's diving team. She proceeded to win the 3-meter event at the first-ever Ivy championship in 1977 with a score of 507.45, still the meet record. She also won the Ivy title in 1979. In past interviews, Steck has said that although it was difficult as a Barnard student to compete against other athletes from co-educational institutions who received more Title IX funding, she received much support from Barnard's then-athletic director. After Barnard, Steck went on to get her law degree and practice for the Manhattan District Attorney and the Department of Justice in Washington. She now has her own private practice in Los Angeles.
Nora Beck, BC '83
Beck was a member of the Barnard basketball team from 1979-1983, as the schools faced the tough transition into consortium status. Despite the early lack of success competing at the Ivy level (she remembers one crushing 98-14 loss to Princeton), Beck was Columbia's first All-American basketball player. Team captain for three years, Beck graduated in 1983 as a Small School Second-Team All-American and held 32 of 36 school records. Though she experienced many successes on the court, Beck insists to this day that it was "more [about] the experience back then." The camaraderie on the struggling team failed to impress fans as much as wins might have, but, as Beck says, "It was a labor of love". Currently, Beck is the head of the music department at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon and works closely with the NCAA, discussing homosexuality and women's health in collegiate athletics.
Ulana Lysniak, BC '87
As a member of the first Columbia women's basketball team to compete at the Division I level, Lysniak established herself as the third-highest average scorer in the Ivies, with 16 points per game, and remains Columbia's all-time leader in scoring, with 1,447 points, and rebounding, with 764 boards. She earned an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship after being named Second-Team All-Ivy and was the first Columbia alum to play professionally, joining the Union Basketball Club in Salzburg, Austria. Following success in Europe, Lysniak was an assistant coach at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics for the Ukranian women's team. She is currently an instructor at Brooklyn College, a member of the gala committee for the Women in Athletics celebration, and the first vice president of the Columbia Varsity "C" Club.
Caitlin Bilodeux-Banos, CC '87
Born in Boston, this Columbia fencing star was the dominant women's foilist of her time. At Columbia, she was the NCAA foil fencing champ in 1985 and 1987, won four individual USFA National Championships--1986, '87, '89, '92--and was the Pan American individual and team champion in 1987. In each of her four years at the college, she was an All-American athlete, northeast regional champion, All-Ivy selection, junior national champion, and NCAA Fencer of the Year. She was an alternate at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo and a member of the Olympic teams in 1988 and 1992, finishing 11th at Seoul. She finished with a career record of 186-7, was named the NCAA Women's Athlete of the Decade for the 1980s, and was named the best female Ivy athlete of the first 25 years of such competition. Bilodeux ranked ninth in Columbia's Athletes of the Century list compiled in December of 1999, one of only two women on the list.
Christina Teuscher, CC '00
The most celebrated female athlete at Columbia and one of America's greatest swimmers, Teuscher won an Olympic Gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta games and a bronze in Sydney in 2000. At Columbia, she was the NCAA individual national champion in 1998 in the 500-meter freestyle and 400-meter individual medley events, and in 2000 for the 400-meter freestyle and 400-meter Individual medley races. She finished her collegiate career with an undefeated record and still holds the Ivy League records in six separate races. After graduating from Columbia, she was awarded the prestigious Honda-Broderick Cup, given to the best collegiate female athlete in the United States. She is a member of the gala committee for the upcoming celebration and the Christina Teuscher Women's Intercollegiate Sports Endowment remains in her name to provide resources for Columbia women's sports programs.
Ex-Swimming Star Continues To Contribute to Women's Athletics
By Kwame Spearman
Spectator Senior Staff Writer
Former Columbia women's swimmer Christina Teuscher, the greatest female athlete ever to compete for the Lions, continues to give back to her alma mater.
Teuscher's trophy case is filled with awards from her time at Columbia. She received two Olympic medals, taking gold in Atlanta and bronze in Sydney. Competing for the Lions, Teuscher managed to never lose an individual collegiate race and won four NCAA national championships in various swimming events. She finished her glorious career winning the Honda-Broderick Cup, naming her the nation's best female collegiate athlete
But perhaps her greatest accomplishment came away from the pool.
Current women's swimming Head Coach Diana Caskey formulated the idea to develop a women's sports endowment in honor of Teuscher and her many accomplishments. After a considerable funding drive, the endowment was launched in 2001 and titled the Christina Teuscher Intercollegiate Sports Endowment. It was intended to augment the funding given to women's sports teams here at Columbia and allow them to better recruit, purchase more equipment, and have more resources to compete with other Ivy League schools.
Funding the endowment, which was originally intended to raise $250,000 but now looks to the loftier sum of $1 million, is one of the central motivations for this weekend's Columbia-Barnard Consortium 20th Anniversary Gala, which begins Friday.
The gala, which will bring many of the most influential names in women's athletics to campus, will give its proceeds to the endowment. The keynote speaker at the gala is world-renowned swimmer and television personality Summer Sanders. The gala will honor the hard work and dedication that has gone into the advancement of women's sports. Tickets for the gala range from $50-250 dollars and will feature events throughout the weekend.
To initially fund the endowment in 2001, Coach Caskey and others solicited contributions from alumni and other contributors to the University, asking to help advance the funding received by women's sports.
After months of receiving donations, Columbia received the first sign that they had made the right decision: the school brought in $55,000 more than they initially expected and kicked off the endowment with a base of $305,000. Many notable Columbia administrators dipped into their pocket books to support the endowment, giving contributions of at least $10,000. Among them were: Dean of Student Affairs Chris Colombo, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda, Athletic Director John Reeves, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Financial Aid David Charlow, Dean of Academic Affairs Kathryn Yatrakis, and former President of the Alumni Association Gerald Sherwin.
The endowment has already brought in more funds for women's sports at Columbia. "I am delighted with the endowment. Currently, it is serving all of its purposes," Reeves said.
Columbia had many difficulties complying with the changes brought about by the Title IX legislation and many feel their issues have had lasting effects on women's sports. However, Reeves hopes for continued improvements within the Lions' organizations.
"Given continued University support, all of our women's sports will reach the level of success currently enjoyed by our cross country, fencing, archery and swimming teams," Reeves said. "It is simply a matter of time."