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Rockets celebrate past year's successes

Top teams, athletes from 2011-12 are recognized


Lori Kertesz looks at one of the many trophies displayed at UT's Celebration of Champions. She is the mother of Emma Kertesz, a Central Catholic grad and All-American runner in track and field.

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It was a banner year athletically for the University of Toledo -- and the Rockets aren't bashful about recounting their glory.

About 200 loyalists turned out Wednesday night at Savage Arena for the Celebration of Champions, an event put on by the university's athletic department to honor achievements by student-athletes rivaling previous accolades in university athletic history.

Trophies -- 17 of them -- decorated a table in the west lobby as athletic director Mike O'Brien proclaimed: "We've been busy since last fall."

Championships, turnaround seasons, individual feats, and academic laurels were among the boasts.

Following O'Brien were two UT student-athletes from local high schools: Central Catholic's Emma Kertesz, an All-American runner in track and field, and Perrysburg's T.J. Fatinikun, a two-time All-Mid-American Conference selection in football.

Among the highlights of 2011-12:

■ Women's soccer captured division, season, and MAC tournament titles, with Brad Evans collecting coach of the year.

■ Football won nine games, topping Bowling Green to bring home the inaugural I-75 Trophy and beating Air Force in the Military Bowl.

■ Cross country and swimming won MAC titles, with Kevin Hadsell and Liz Hinkleman picking up coach of year awards in their respective sports.

There's more:

■ Baseball won the program's first division title;

■ Softball advanced to the MAC tournament for the first time since 1997;

■ Women's basketball captured a division title and ranked 25th nationally in attendance;

■ Men's basketball produced the second-best turnaround in the nation, winning 19 games, and Brian Jones received the Ohio Athletic Trainers' Association athletic trainer of the year.

"As the year went on with championships and trophies and the academic success, we thought we needed a night like this to celebrate what we did and to celebrate our supporters," O'Brien said."

Collectively, all teams combined for a 3.266 grade-point average -- a UT record -- and the Rockets garnered their first Jacoby Trophy as the top women's program in the MAC. Kertesz and swimmer Laura Lindsay were All-Americans.

Soccer's Natalia Gaitan will represent Colombia in the Olympics.

"I get recognized a little bit more out and about," said Kertesz, who finished 16th in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA meet.

Kertesz, who was named most valuable performer of the MAC in the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, exhausted her eligibi lity in cross country but will return for one more year of track.

Three new coaches will be on board next year.

Former offensive coordinator Matt Campbell was elevated to head football coach, replacing Tim Beckman who left for Illinois, and former Indiana assistant Jamie Broce takes over men's golf.

O'Brien is in the process of finding a swimming coach after Hinkleman resigned this month to be an assistant at Ohio State.

Interviews will be conducted next week or the following week.

"It's a nice pool of candidates," O'Brien said.

Even with the school's success, O'Brien told supporters "We can do better. We will do better."

Fatinikun echoed that sentiment, noting the football team fell short of winning a MAC title.

Healthy after a dislocated elbow ended the second half of his junior season, the defensive end will join his teammates Aug. 3 for the start of fall practice.

"Next step is winning a MAC championship," Fatinikun said. "That's been our goal and we've fell short. It's very clear."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade

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