Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Where Are They Now? -- Jenny Dalton
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 04, 2007
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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[Editor's Note: Nothing like late May or June to make UA partisans think of current and former Wildcat softball greats. Corky Simpson caught up with one of those, 1996 national player of the year Jenny Dalton.]



There is a Wildcat team within a Wildcat team in the heart of America's bluegrass country.


Marc Hill, director of strength and conditioning for the University of Kentucky athletic program, was the strength coach for the Arizona men's basketball and baseball teams and assistant strength coach for football from 1995-99.


His wife, Jenny Dalton Hill, is one of the great athletes in Arizona sports history.  She was an All-American second baseman and played on three national championship teams under Coach Mike Candrea in 1993, 1994 and 1996.


Jenny and Marc live in Lexington with their children, Dalton, who'll be 9 in July, Brookelyn, 7 and Cogan, 5.

A lot of cheering has gone on in the Hill household during the NCAA softball playoffs and the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.


"Oh, gosh, what an exciting time!  Cheering for Arizona is definitely a pride issue in this house," Jenny said. "Watching the Cats in the playoffs and College World Series brings back a lot of great memories."


A three-time first-team All-American (1994, 95 and 96), and College World Series Most Valuable Player in '96, Jenny also was a two-time Academic All-American and won the Honda Softball Award her senior year as the top player in collegiate softball. Candrea recruited her out of Glendale, Calif.


Arguably the most feared hitter in UA history, Dalton owns NCAA records for runs scored in a season (101 in 1995), career runs scored (293) and career runs batted in (328). She owns Arizona school records for most walks in a season and career, most career RBIs and most runs scored for a season and career. She is second in Arizona career home runs (109) and third in home runs for one season (28 in 1995).


"Arizona's is a special place, near and dear to our hearts," Jenny said.  "I can't imagine playing for anyone else but Mike Candrea.  He is the epitome of coaching greatness.  He is a father-figure -- he doesn't want to be a player's best friend, but he parents his players with discipline and love."


Among her closest friends during her Wildcat career were Leah O'Brien, Krista Gomez and Alison Johnsen.


"Leah coaches her old high school, Chino Hills, in California," Jenny said.  "Krista coaches Canyon High School near Valencia, Calif.  I keep in touch with them and with Alison, who lives in Tucson."  Jenny and Leah O'Brien roomed togther in 1993-95 and 1997.  Leah was a member of the USA Olympic softball team in 1996.


The one season in her Arizona career in which the Wildcats failed to win the NCAA championship was 1995, when UCLA defeated the Cats in the finals at Oklahoma City, 4-2.  However, because of recruiting violations, the Bruin championship was later vacated by the NCAA.


Despite the fierce rivalry between the two schools, Jenny said Candrea wouldn't allow the Wildcats to dwell on the fact the national title was taken away from UCLA.  "He told us, 'They did something wrong. Let it go,' and we did," she said.

"It was a surreal feeling, though, to finish second in the nation and have to go home feeling terrible."



'96 was a good year for Jenny, but this '94 club had it all.

Laura Espinoza, Dalton, Nancy Evans, Amy Chellevold, Susie Parra and Leah Braatz


It didn't last long.  The Cats stormed back in '96 with a 58-9 record and defeated Pacific-10 Conference champion Washington, 6-4 in the championship game of the College World Series. Dalton’s play factored, as usual, with a reaching low-ball swing for a first-inning three-run home run that helped clinch it all. The WCWS that year was played in Columbus, Ga., in the facility used later that summer for the Atlanta Olympics.


"One of the best things about playing at UA is the support of the fans at Hillenbrand Stadium," Jenny said.  "It's funny, but you play there and get the feeling every school has that.  Then you go on the road and maybe 15 (fans) show up.

"You know who those fans at Hillenbrand are, too.  You may not know their names, but you know them and you love every one of them."


Marc and Jenny met while at UA. He is from Mount Pleasant, Iowa and is a graduate of Wesleyan College, located there.  He came to Arizona in 1994 as a graduate assistant.  "Dan Wirth, who had been an athlete at the University of Iowa, was the strength coach at the time," Marc said. "When Dan was in school he'd drive to Wesleyan and help our strength conditioning.  He was the reason I wound up at Arizona.


"I'll never forget, the summer I first came to Tucson it was 115 degrees for ten days stgraight. But that was OK.  After a year, I was on the staff full-time."


Hill said that what impressed him most about UA was "The family atmosphere... Jim Livengood (athletics

director) and Rocky La Rose (senior associate AD) made you feel important.  It was that way with athletes, staff, everyone connected to the program,” he said.


"That feeling of 'family,'" Hill said, "is the fondest memory I have of the school." He said his experience at Arizona was "a great benefit" when he was hired at Kentucky.


The nicknames aren’t the only things Arizona shares with Kentucky.  "Basketball is king at Kentucky," Marc said.  "but Jenny and I were used to that great enthusiasm and love for basketball, coming from Arizona."