When Kristy Whelchel Hartofilis first started playing soccer as a little girl, she didn’t even know the meaning of Hall of Fame.
But she certainly does now; Whelchel Hartofilis recently learned she will be among the seven inductees into the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame during a special ceremony at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on March 20.
Whelchel Hartofilis joins local sportswriter Craig Dolch, Inner City Youth Golfers’ Incorporated founder Malachi Knowles, Noah Babin (ice hockey), Jackie K. Manuel and Richard Rellford (both basketball) and Andy McGaffigan (baseball) among the Class of 2016.
“This is really special. It is a really great honor. It is so unexpected,” Whelchel Hartofilis said.
The seven inductees will join a legendary list, dating back to 1977, of those from Palm Beach County who have achieved excellence in sports.
“When I first got started, it was about orange slices at halftime and having a lot of fun,” said Whelchel Hartofilis, who played club soccer with Team Boca and high school soccer at Spanish River before heading off to Duke University on a scholarship. “It evolved into knowing that I had a real passion for the sport, and I [persevered through] hard work, commitment and training.”
Whelchel Hartofilis is considered one of Palm Beach County’s greatest soccer players. In 1995, she totaled 42 goals and 23 assists in her senior year at Spanish River en route to leading the Sharks to their first final four state appearance. She was the Sun Sentinel’s Player of the Year that season and also earned All-State honors.
At Duke, she started at midfield all four years and earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) honors every season along with All-American recognition. She was named captain her senior year.
“My time … at Duke was rewarding and incredibly challenging from a soccer perspective,” Whelchel Hartofilis said. “I was able to start right away as a freshman, and it was amazing for my career. I think it set me up to earn awards and accolades for the future.”
Whelchel Hartofilis was also a six-time state champion, two-time regional champion and national finalist with the Team Boca Soccer Club, in addition to being a starter for the under-19 and under-21 U.S. national soccer team. She and her teammates won the Nordic Cup title in 1997 with the U.S. team.
While waiting for the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) to begin, Whelchel Hartofilis returned to her alma mater as a coach and led Spanish River to a 20-3-2 record and a berth in the state championship semifinals.
She was the first female to reach the state final four as both a player and a coach. After graduating from Duke in 1999, she traveled to Denmark to play professionally, but tore an ankle ligament and returned to the U.S.
Whelchel Hartofilis followed up her coaching stint with the Sharks by becoming a third-round draft pick in the WUSA’s inaugural season. Drafted 20th overall by the New York Power, Whelchel Hartofilis played from January 2001 to August 2004.
“One of my favorite memories in soccer was playing in the WUSA,” Whelchel Hartofilis said. “The very first game in WUSA was against the Atlanta Beat. It was an ugly game. It was sloppy on both sides, but people cheered for both of us and were asking for our autographs. It was really cool.”
After her time with the Power, Whelchel Hartofilis returned to Team Boca and coached an under-9 division team before stepping aside to raise her children.
“It was hard to coach then,” said Whelchel Hartofilis, who has returned to the sidelines with Team Boca as a volunteer with the under-9 girls academy program, where her daughter, Mary Slade, 7, is involved.
Kristy’s mother, Susan Whelchel, was a great influence on her growing up. Susan Whelchel served as a City Council member for 15 years before being elected as the mayor of Boca Raton.
Source: Sun Sentinel