MISHAWAKA – The Bethel University Athletic Department is pleased to announce the Dr. Albert J. Beutler Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2021. The class includes Hugo Gonzalez (men’s soccer), Laura Johnson (women’s basketball), and Trisha (Miller) Nelson (women’s cross country and track & field), as well as Scott LaPlace (men’s basketball assistant coach) and Robby Prenkert (men’s basketball).
“This class represents everything we expect out of our Athletic Department here at Bethel University,” stated Bethel Athletic Director Tony Natali. “It’s awesome to see great student-athletes and coaches recognized for their outstanding accomplishments. The Hall of Fame continues to be the ultimate recognition of greatness within the Athletic Department here at Bethel. Christ is truly central in all we do and this class exemplifies that.”
Hugo Gonzalez, a 2006 graduate of Bethel, competed in men’s soccer. Gonzalez was a three-time NAIA All-American, reaching Third Team in 2004 and earning Honorable Mention in 2003 and 2005—one of only three men’s soccer players in program history to be mentioned as an All-American three times in the NAIA, joining Rafael Perez and Andres Rodriguez.
In addition, he was a NCCAA First Team All-American in 2005 and NAIA and NCCAA Scholar Athlete in 2004 and 2005. He helped the Pilots to four-consecutive NAIA National Tournament appearances from 2002-05 and an overall record of 55-21-17 in his four seasons.
In the Crossroads League, Gonzalez was a two-time League Player of the Year—the second in program history to accomplish the feat—and was a three-time All-League performer, earning Second Team in 2003 before joining the first team in 2004 and 2005. Gonzalez’s Pilots won four Crossroads League regular season and three Tournament championships—completing a string of seven consecutive regular season and six consecutive tournament championships.
His 47 total points in 2005 still stands as the tenth-most in program history for a single season, with his 11 assists that season still holding at sixth-most in a single season.
Laura Johnson, a 2013 graduate of Bethel, is a first-ballot Al Beutler Athletic Hall of Famer. Competing in women’s basketball, Johnson was a two-time All-American in both the NAIA and NCCAA, earning Second Team honors in 2012 and First Team in 2013 in both associations. She stands as the most recent NAIA All-American in program history.
Johnson was named to the 2013 NAIA All-Tournament Team, leading the Pilots to an Elite Eight appearance, and is one of Pilots in program history to earn an NAIA National Player of the Week award recognition. She was named the 2012-13 Crossroads League Player of the Year—one of four Pilots to earn the award—and was a two-time First Team All-League performer, while earning Player of the Week four times in her career.
In her three years, she won an NCCAA National Championship in 2011 and helped the Pilots to consecutive NAIA National Tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013 with an overall record of 70-33. She finished her career with 1,245 points (13th in program history), 210 made three-pointers (6th), and a free throw percentage of .854 (4th). Her 651 points scored in 2012-13 is the third-most in a single season in program history and her 111 three-pointers made that season is second-most. Johnson had her No. 13 jersey retired following the conclusion of her career, making her one of three Pilots to hold that distinction as well.
A standout off the court as well, Johnson was a two-time NAIA and NCCAA Scholar Athlete in both 2012 and 2013 and was named the NCCAA Kathy Freese Award winner in 2013—one of three Pilots ever named to the award which is given to the player that enhances the Christian purpose of athletic excellence in Christian athletic competition. She is also one of six women’s basketball players to be named a Ron Paulsen Award recipient, given to a Bethel student-athlete who exemplifies the values of Pilot athletics.
Trisha (Miller) Nelson, a 2013 graduate of Bethel, is a first-ballot Al Beutler Athletic Hall of Famer. Competing in women’s cross country and track & field, (Miller) Nelson was a four-time NCCAA All-American—the only Pilot ever to earn that distinction all four years—and a four-time All-Crossroads League standout—one of two to make the list all four years—in cross country.
Nelson was a NCCAA National Student-Athlete of the Week once and a Crossroads League Runner of the Week four times. She graduated with eight of the top ten times in program history, including a program record time of 18:19 (since broken).
Off the course, Nelson was a two-time NAIA and NCCAA Scholar Athlete in each association in 2011 and 2012 and a two-time NCCAA Ray Bullock Award winner, recognizing outstanding runners in athletics, academics, leadership, Christian character and service.
In track & field, Nelson still holds the program records for Indoor 3K and 5K and Outdoor 5K and Marathon. She was a two-time NAIA All-American in 2013, earning status in the Indoor 5K and Outdoor Marathon. She was a three-time NCCAA All-American and won a title in the Indoor 5K. Nelson’s Pilots won back-to-back NCCAA National Championships in both indoor and outdoor in 2010 and 2011.
In the Crossroads League, she helped the Pilots win back-to-back Outdoor Championships in 2010 and 2011. She was a seven-time All-League performer with titles in the 5K and 10K in 2012 and the 10K in 2013.
Off the track, she was a four-time NCCAA Scholar Athlete (twice in both indoor and outdoor) and was the 2013 NCCAA Dan Wheeler Award recipient, recognizing outstanding runners in athletics, academics, leadership, Christian character and service.
Scott LaPlace, a 1981 graduate of Bethel, competed in baseball and basketball as a Pilot. He joined first-year Head Coach Mike Lightfoot and the men’s basketball staff in the fall of 1987. Over the next 13 seasons, the Pilots became one of the most dominant teams in the nation, establishing Bethel’s place in history as a small college basketball juggernaut.
In those 13 seasons, LaPlace helped guide the Pilots to a 405-89 overall record, averaging 31 wins against just 6 losses per season. Nine of the 13 seasons saw the Pilots post at least 30 wins in that time and amass a record of 194-15 on home courts.
During his tenure, the Pilots recorded eight MCC titles, four MCC Tournament championships, an NAIA Division II record three national championships (95-97-98), one NAIA Division II national runner-up (99), and three NCCAA national championships (92-93-00). LaPlace helped develop 13 NAIA and 24 NCCAA All-Americans.
The most significant contribution. Coach LaPlace made was the investment he made into the lives of his players and the everlasting impact he left on them as he challenged them on the court, but even more so in the classroom in their development as young men, and in their daily walk with Christ.
LaPlace currently serves as a middle school Athletic Director and Physical Education teacher in Fremont, Indiana.
Robby Prenkert, a 1992 graduate of Bethel, was a pivotal member of the men’s basketball team from 1988-92. Nicknamed “The Rainman,” Prenkert’s prowess as a long-range three-point threat was the perfect complement to the potent lineup of fellow Hall of Famers Jody Martinez, Dave Troyer, et al.
Prenkert’s Pilots managed an overall record of 113-37 with a nearly unblemished mark of 59-4 in Goodman Gymnasium, while winning MCC championships in 1990 and 1992, as well as the program’s first-ever NCCAA National Championship in 1992. One of his finest moments came in a shocking 85-82 win over Valparaiso in 1992, the program’s first win over a NCAA Division I program in history, in which he led the Pilots with 27 points.
Prenkert finished his career with 1,658 points (sixth at the time), a three-point percentage of .410 (secnd at the time), 298 three-pointers made, 147 games played, and 113 wins (all first at the time). He still holds program records for most field goals made without a miss, going 13-13 against Indiana Wesleyan in 1990 and most minutes played in a game, playing all 50 minutes in a double overtime game against Indiana Wesleyan in 1991.
Prenkert currently chairs the Literature and Language Studies, the Committee on the Humanities, and Freshman Year Experience at Bethel University.
The Dr. Albert J. Beutler Athletic Hall of Fame committee consists of Bethel faculty Norm Spivey, Tim Erdel, Robby Prenkert, Kent Eby, Bethel Women’s Volleyball Head Coach Katie Weiss, and Bethel athletic administrators Tony Natali, Christopher Hess, and Andrew Bowen.
The Dr. Albert J. Beutler Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Friday, June 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Dining Commons on the campus of Bethel University. The 29th Annual Bethel Athletics Hall of Fame Golf Classic will precede the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Blackthorn Golf Club. Registration begins at 7:30 and will begin with a shotgun start at 9:00 am. For more information regarding the Hall of Fame Golf Classic and Induction Ceremony, contact Associate Athletic Director Christopher Hess.