June 24th, 2024

Patzer and Petersen join Horns Hall of Fame


By Lethbridge Herald on February 3, 2023.

Knud Petersen and Ashley Patzer share a moment as they were named to the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Athletics Hall of Fame during Friday's basketball game at the 1st Choice Saving Centre. Herald photo by Ian Martens

Dale Woodard – U of L PRONGHORN ATHLETICS

Ashley Patzer made her mark as a University of Lethbridge Pronghorn on the rugby pitch in the 2000s.

Knud Petersen has been the man behind the scenes — but no less important — over the past 30 years.

On Friday night, Patzer and Petersen took centre stage together when they were inducted into the Pronghorn Athletics Hall of Fame for 2023 – Patzer as an athlete and Petersen as a builder.

The duo was inducted at halftime of the Pronghorns men’s basketball game as the Horns hosted the MacEwan Griffins.

Patzer was a staple in the Pronghorns rugby program from 2005 to 2009, while Petersen has been making things happen off the field as a member of the Pronghorns Booster Club since 1994.

“I honestly was so shocked when Neil (Langevin, executive director, Pronghorn Athletics), initially contacted me about it,” said Patzer. “It’s obviously part of a massive team program that did really well. We, as a team, were inducted a couple of years ago. So, finding out I got an individual nomination, I wasn’t expecting it. I was really shocked and super-honoured.”

Finding out she was going in alongside Petersen made it that much sweeter for the Horns alumnus who went on to play nationally after her Pronghorns years, ultimately winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with the Canadian women’s 7’s rugby team.

“Finding out it was going to be alongside Knud, I think, just made it,” said Patzer. “He’s a massive supporter of Pronghorn Athletics and is such a good friend. I think the word would be ‘stalwart’. He’s just always there and so supportive of the program. He gets to know the athletes. I consider him a very good friend, so to be able to be inducted the same year, it’s just an incredible honour. He’s such a wonderful man and has been such a great support. I’m lucky to be inducted alongside him.”

Petersen has been a leader in fundraising activities for Pronghorn Athletics. He has acted as Casino Chair for many of the casino nights the Booster club has staged, coordinating volunteers and working late night shifts. He also helped organize the first of many yearly Pronghorn Dinner and Auction events and is a volunteer for Operation Red Nose, a major Pronghorn fundraising initiative, doing pre-campaign groundwork, securing sponsors, and acting as an on-call driver.

Like Patzer, news of his induction caught the retired potato farmer off guard.

“It was something pretty unexpected altogether,” said Petersen. “I’ve been involved for a long time. Personally, it meant an awful lot to me and when Neil told me Ashley was going in, that’s a double honour.”

Petersen called Patzer “the ultimate Pronghorn.”

“She’s really well spoken and that’s the other part about Ashley. When I was a member of the U of L Senate, I invited her to come and speak and the group was impressed at how well-spoken she was. That was after she won the bronze medal with the Olympic team. She has a beaming personality. She’s a kind person and a tenacious athlete. She was the person a lot of people looked up to and I remember her in her rookie year, it was like “Holy smokes. She’s going to go places.” Look at how she was able to further her career with the national team. She’s just that kind person who, whether she plays rugby or not, she’s an awesome person.”

Patzer said her time in the Pronghorns program kickstarted her career.

There were nine first-year players when Patzer joined the Pronghorns in 2005.

“All of us played until our fifth year,” she said. “A lot of girls had done their degrees in four years, but came back for their fifth year. We were such a tight group and the program meant so much to all of us.”

While the memories of her time in Horns silks are many, Patzer pointed to the Pronghorns’ 2008 national title, won at home in dramatic fashion, as one that is especially fond.

“It was an incredible experience, just the come-from-behind win against St. Francis Xavier University,” she said of that 29-15 victory. “It was an amazing game. I’m so proud of our team for the resilience we showed during that game and being able to dig in — the defence we played and the attack we had. That’s one (memory) that pops out in my mind. There are so many, but I don’t think anything could top that one, playing at home at nationals and winning a gold medal.”

After she retired from international rugby, Patzer remained involved with the Pronghorns.

“Anytime I was back in Lethbridge I’d get hold of Neil or Ric (Suggitt),” she said. “Being an alumnus of that program, there’s a lot of pride, it doesn’t just go away after you leave the school. So many of the women I played with in my five years and meeting so many of the women who came before me at alumni events has been so heartwarming. Being able to reconnect and keep those memories alive has been great and now I get to create new ones and just cheer on the next generation.”

Patzer has been in Edmonton for the last two years, enrolled in a massage therapy program.

“I’m back in school, who would have thought?” said Patzer, who earned her kinesiology degree through the U of L. “It’s something I didn’t see myself doing a couple of years ago, but it has really just fallen into place and feels right and feels aligned and something I’m passionate about.”

Long before the Pronghorns Booster Club, Petersen was a presence at Pronghorns games dating back to 1972 when he worked alongside Jody Fry on the Castle Mountain ski patrol.

Fry’s husband at the time, Robin, was involved with coaching the Horns men’s basketball team and was the assistant coach to Gary Bowie.

“Phil Tollestrup was playing that year and they had an awesome team,” said Petersen. “That’s when I started going. Ever since then, when I had a chance, I was going to the games. I always made a point of going to the women’s game, right from Day 1. There were (about) 20 people in the building for the women’s games in those days.

“It was pretty exciting because the old gym was a real home court advantage because it was tight. You were right behind the benches. It was electrifying.”

Petersen remained a spectator at Pronghorns games throughout the 1970s, getting more involved in the ‘80s when he started refereeing soccer at the university.

In 1994, Petersen retired from his potato farming days in Chin. That planted the seed for his years with the Pronghorns Booster Club, which was founded during a period when funding for Pronghorn Athletics was in a state of uncertainty. The club was officially incorporated as a society on February 22, 1994.

“That’s right when they started the Pronghorns Booster Club,” said Petersen of the club founded by Dawn Keith (the club’s first president), Murray McAuley (the U of L’s first full-time athletic director), Brenda Boughton, Terry Innes, Dorothy Stein and Bruce Vance. “They ran a dinner and auction that year in March.”

Programs such as Operation Red Nose, and events such as the Annual Pronghorn Booster Club Dinner/Auction and Casino played key roles in promoting Pronghorn Athletics and encouraging groups and businesses to show support.

“I certainly didn’t do it all myself, but I was quite involved,” said Petersen. “The athletes appreciate it. It’s so nice to have the athletes come up and thank us for the scholarships we got through the Booster Club.’”

Being on the University Senate for six years allowed Petersen to highlight Pronghorn Athletics.

“A lot of senators didn’t know anything about Pronghorn Athletics,” said Petersen, who in 2003 was honoured with the Gary Bowie Leadership Award. “It just gets in your blood. You can compare it to farming. Once you’ve been a farmer, you always know how the weather affects farming. It just stays with you.”

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