In admiration of outstanding public safety professionals and their heroic work, the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table on Monday welcomed Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, UC Santa Barbara Assistant Police Chief Cathy Farley and Newport Beach Fire Department engineer Erin Alexander Brown to the 2018 Women & Girls in Sports Luncheon.
All three women, who excelled in high school and collegiate athletics, participated in an honest and revealing panel discussion moderated by K-LITE Radio’s Catherine Remak in Warren Hall at Earl Warren Showgrounds. The rapt audience included 400 local female high school and college athletes and their coaches, as well as 100 community supporters.
The annual event, in its 32nd year, celebrates National Girls & Women in Sports Day, the enduring impact of the 1972 Title IX legislation, the importance of sports and fitness participation for all girls and women, and the outstanding female athletes in the Santa Barbara community.
The event was presented by title sponsor Cottage Concussion Clinic with additional support from the Mosher Foundation, the Volentine Foundation and the George Page Foundation, as well as numerous table sponsors and media sponsors, including Noozhawk. Event committee members included co-chairs Alison Bernal and d’Alary Dalton, Sarai Anderson, David Cash, Cara Gamberdella, Laurie Leighty, Diane O’Brien, Diana O’Connell and Susan Salcido.
Bernal opened the program and announced the theme “Play Fair.” She then shared sobering statistics, noting the low percentages of women in the fields of law enforcement and firefighting. The most recent statistic that she said she could find on the percentage of women in law enforcement was from 2013, which was 20 percent, with only 3 percent of women reaching the level of police chief.
Women made up only 4.6 percent of firefighters in 2015.
Jennifer Wobig, a former student athlete and now the mother of a girl athlete, spoke for title sponsor Cottage Concussion Clinic. She said her organization sees 20 to 30 new patients per month and is involved in community outreach and education about concussions, as well as baseline testing.
Part of SBART’s regular meetings is to recognize the Athletes of the Week. So, before a much larger crowd than usual, Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal honored Female Athlete of the Week and Dos Pueblos High School water polo champion Olivia Kistler, who recently signed with the University of Hawaii. Punzal also recognized Male Athlete of the Week Erick Nisich, a Dos Pueblos wrestler who was not able to attend the luncheon.
During the panel discussion, Luhnow, Farley and Brown each described their own sports history as well as their journey to their public safety careers.
Before her appointment in Santa Barbara, Luhnow served for 27 years in the San Diego Police Department, rising to the rank of captain. She said she developed athletic prowess as a girl.
“My mother was a single mom and worked a lot,” she said. “My sister and I had a babysitter who would take us to the skate rink. It took me awhile to talk my mother into the idea of competitive speed skating. When I was 12, I became a California regional speed-skating champion.”
Luhnow also was a three-time NCAA volleyball national champion at UC San Diego. During her law enforcement career, she was a police and fire games doubles beach volleyball world champion (with her twin sister) and a masters track bicycle sprint state champion at 500 meters in 2015.
“I firmly believe that athletics gives you the core values that will bring you success,” she said. “Skills learned in sports — such as teamwork, dedication and good decision-making — will keep you out of trouble and will shape you early on.
“Guys were my role models. I just wanted to be better than them. So I thank them for that.”
In 2012, Farley was selected and promoted as the UCSB Police Department’s first assistant chief. An accomplished 400- and 200-meter high school and junior college runner, Farley transferred to UCSB and became a member of the track and field team, where she converted from running to field events, such as the shot put and discus.
While on the track team, Farley became interested in strength conditioning, which developed into an interest in body building. In 1986, she won the Ms. Santa Barbara Body Building Competition and was second in the Central Coast portion of the show.
Farley is a stage-three breast cancer survivor in an eight-year remission. She attributes survivorship to the support of her family, medical team, friends and co-workers, and the fitness levels of her athletic background.
“Public safety officers are all members of teams,” she said. “Growing up in athletics, I learned how to work in teams, which is very important.”
Brown was the first female ever hired by the Newport Beach Fire Department, where she is an engineer and a fire line medic. A Santa Ynez High School graduate, Brown was a standout on the UCSB women’s basketball team from 1993 to 1997. She went on to become the first Gaucho to play in the WNBA.
At the time of her graduation, Brown was UCSB’s all-time leading scorer with 1,588 points in her four-year career. A three-time All-Big West selection, Brown was named the Big West Player of the Year as a senior when she averaged 18.9 points per game and led the Gauchos to the NCAA Tournament.
In her years with NBFD, Brown has played basketball and soccer in the Firefighters Olympics. These days, she does CrossFit for fun and spends time supporting her twin daughters, Riley and Haley, in their sports.
“At 5 foot 6, it was a real challenge to compete in basketball,” Brown joked. “But I always tried to work harder than anyone else, and that paid off.”
The mission of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table is to recognize and support athletic participation as an important means of fostering discipline, teamwork, self-respect, personal responsibility and camaraderie. It provides a public forum for area athletic coaches and athletes; grants financial support to organizations, teams and individuals to further their participation in sports; and publicly honors athletic performance, scholastic achievement and exemplary ethical behavior.
First conceived in 1968 by Jerry Harwin, Caesar Uyesaka and Bill Bertka, SBART today gives more than 1,000 student-athletes and coaches a well-deserved pat on the back each year by publicly recognizing and honoring achievement in athletics and scholarship through its Monday Press Luncheons, Hall of Fame, Evening with the Athletes, and monthly awards for Scholar Athletes, Phil Womble Ethics in Sports and Special Olympics Athlete of the Month.
SBART also has partnered with the Positive Coaching Alliance to bring seminars free of charge to local youth sports organizations and high school athletic departments.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.