By STEVE CHOICE
The Pima Community College Athletics Department honored its past during an inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 5 in the West Campus gymnasium.
Numerous players, coaches and administrators were inducted for their accomplishments while at PCC.
A common thread running through the event was memories of Larry Toledo’s leadership. Toledo was Pima’s athletics director for 24 years, and was the initial inductee recognized.
Toledo, who died in 2012, helped start Pima’s athletics department in 1973. Many of the speakers honored him with words of appreciation and respect, including his daughter, Andrea Toledo-Leyva.
Toledo-Leyva’s speech interwove funny stories and happy memories with poignant remembrance.
Also recognized was four-time U.S. Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, an Aztec track and cross-country star in 1995-97.
“A lot of people know me as an Olympic runner, but it all started here at Pima,” he said in his acceptance speech. “I was actually a soccer player at Tucson High, and didn’t run until I got here.”
He recounted how a friend from Pima took him running on a whim. The friend then recommended he join the team, and introduced Abdirahman to Pima’s cross-country coach, Jim Mielke.
“Coach Mielke told me to show up the next day for practice,” Abdirahman said. “I showed up in jeans and boots. I quickly learned that was not how to dress, though.”
Former softball coach Stacy Iveson was also inducted. Iveson led Pima from 2002-07, guiding the Aztecs to national championships in 2004 and 2006.
Iveson compiled an .855 winning percentage at Pima, and established PCC as a softball power. She was NJCAA National Coach of the Year in 2004.
“I have a lot of amazing memories from my time at Pima,” Iveson said after the ceremony. “Certainly that first national championship was very special.
“More than anything, though, I remember the girls I got to coach and the group of people I got to work with.”
Iveson, now an assistant coach at the University of Arizona, stays in touch with many former players.
Her 2004 national championship team was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. When some members came on stage to join Iveson and receive their award, the players’ joy at seeing their former coach was evident.
“It was just amazing to see some of my players,” Iveson said. “We’re all like family. Just a great group of girls.”
A few honorees were unable to attend, including former Aztec basketball star Horacio Llamas. Born in Rosario, Sinaloa, Llamas later went on to become the first Mexican-born player in the NBA.
Eddie Urbano, the first Pima wrestler to win a national championship, died in 2012. He was feted in a funny and moving speech by ex-coach Ed Torrejon, and was warmly remembered by his daughters Elizabeth Urbano and Gabriela Urbano.
Yuliana Rodgers, who competed as Yuliana Perez for PCC’s track and field team in 2001-02, was also inducted in absentia.
Other inductees were Maureen Murphy, who was integral in establishing women’s athletics programs at Pima, former baseball coach Rich Alday, current head athletics trainer Ben Carbajal, the 1980 men’s cross-country team and Mielke.