Former University of Texas head women’s swim coach and champion Texas swimmer Jill Sterkel will be inducted into the University of Texas Sports Hall of Fame on April 7th, per a university announcement.
Sterkel is a three-time Olympian, a 1976 Olympic relay champion, and former world record holder as a member of two 4x 100 meter freestyle relay teams.
A native of Hacienda Heights, California, Sterkel was a phenom already at 15-years-old. She qualified for the 1976 Olympic team as a member of the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay, which went on to beat the East German team in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. After the U.S. Boycott of the 1980 Games, in 1984 on American soil, Sterkel won gold again as a member of the 4 x 100 freestyle relay and a bronze in 1988 individually in the 50 meter freestyle, and one more gold for swimming in the prelims of the 4 x 100 freestyle relay.
As a Longhorn in a pre-women’s-NCAA era, Sterkel won 16 individual Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national titles and helped Texas to two AIAW national titles in 1981 and 1982. By the end of her collegiate career, Sterkel had earned the maximum of 28 All-American awards for her performances at the 1980 and 1981 AIAW National Championships and the 1982 and 1983 NCAA Championships.
After her own swimming career ended, Sterkel took over as head coach of the University of Texas women’s swimming and diving team from 1993 to 2006. Sterkel coached both Whitney Hedgepath (1996) and Erin Phenix (2000) onto Olympic teams during her time as Texas’s head coach. Sterkel was inducted into the Texas Women’s Athletics Hall of Honor and was the 2000 Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year.
Sterkel has already been inducted into the UT Athletics Women’s Hall of Honor, the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame, and the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) Hall of Fame. Sterkel has remained active in Texas Athletics as an assistant athletics director for the T-Association.
Jill was a member of 4 US Olympic teams, but only competed in 3 Olympics. She didn’t compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics due the US Boycott of those Games. She is the first American swimmer to make 4 Olympic teams. In 1976, she did more than just qualify for the 400 freestyle relay. She also swam the 100 and 200 m freestyles. In Montreal, Jill finished 7th in the 100 free and tied for 9th in the 200 free. Her finest Olympic moment was the 1976 Gold medal winning relay, but she also should be commended for coming out of retirement and winning a bronze medal in the 50 free in 1988 in Seoul at the age of 27.
Congratulations Sterk! I’ll never forget the thrill you gave me beating those DDR women! It was an honor to shake your hand in Omaha!!!
Jill competed at a time when the deck was stacked against our American women. She is an icon and wonderful example for other women in sport. Congratulations!
That relay win was SPECIAL a “Do you believe in Miracles?” moment for sure, and Jill’s leg was what did it.
Congratulations Jill, well earned & deserved indeed.
I love how she came into her turn slightly behind East Germany’s Andrea Pollack and came out of her turn clearly ahead. Her legs whipped around sooooo fast! An incredible swim under enormous pressure.
She could make the Hall Of Fame for sooo many accomplishments! Congrats Jill!
She dove in behind, put the USA in first for one of the greatest Olympic performances ever. Thanks for the memories Jill!