One year later: Athletic department copes with the death of Celia Barquín Arozamena

Before the football game against University of Akron on Sept. 22, 2019, a video tribute was shown honoring Celia Barquín Arozamena. Members of the audience participated in a moment of silence to remember the Cyclone gold athlete at Jack Trice Stadium. The crowd was filled with yellow, as that was Barquin Arozamena’s favorite color.

Noah Rohlfing

Sept. 17, 2018, is a day that won’t be forgotten for the foreseeable future in Iowa State history, both athletically and legally. 

The murder of Celia Barquín Arozamena threw Iowa State into a state of shock, one so strong that the following Saturday felt much more like a celebration of the stricken golfer than a football game. 

The marching band played a touching tribute and a video made by John Walters and honored the former Cyclone golfer, who was chasing her dream of playing on the LPGA Tour while finishing her degree. At the time of her death she was 22-years-old, and while she had exhausted her playing eligibility, she was ever-present with the Iowa State women’s golf team, practicing with them constantly and serving a mentor role with her fellow “Cyclonitas,” as she liked to call them.

Jamie Pollard helped organize the tributes to Barquín Arozamena on the Akron game day, having been at the front of the situation since the beginning, when he gave a tearful press conference at Hilton Coliseum detailing what happened the day of her death. He said he wanted the celebrations of Barquín Arozamena during the Akron game to be the first step in healing for the Iowa State community. 

“This situation, it cuts at the very core of our community, of this institution and of this athletics program,” Pollard said at the presser. “I know there are many questions, and far few answers. Her legacy is yet to be still defined.”

In the year since then, the Iowa State athletic department has made steps to ensure Barquín Arozamena will not be forgotten at any time. 

The most notable honor came in May, when Pollard and the athletic department announced that the university’s Female Athlete of the Year award would be named in honor of Barquín Arozamena from this year forward. 

“We felt this gesture was a significant way to honor forever the amazing legacies — as students and athletes — of two of the brightest stars in Iowa State history,” Pollard said in a press release announcing the award name changes. “Our staff felt it was appropriate and timely to recognize one of our favorite sons and one of our favorite daughters in the Cyclone family.”

Barquín Arozamena was set to be the recipient of the award in 2018, but her death occurred a few days before she was scheduled to be formally honored during the Akron football game on Sept. 22. 

“It is a wonderful tribute to one of the most beautiful persons and best representatives this school has ever had,” said women’s golf coach Christie Martens in the May press release. “Iowa State was such a special place to Celia and her family was extremely appreciative of this way to celebrate her amazing legacy.”

Her legacy was felt by more than just the women’s golf team — Iowa State legend Gary Thompson said when the names for the awards were announced that “to have my name mentioned with Celia is really special.”

The tributes for Barquín Arozamena were widespread in the sporting community for her impact on the world of golf.

Her golfing hero as a child, 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia, said before the 2018 Ryder Cup the European team would be playing for Celia. Both teams wore yellow ribbons in honor of Barquín Arozamena, with Garcia telling reporters in France at the time that, “I guess the only thing we can do is pay a great tribute to her and make sure her family feels proud of us.”

The European team then won the Cup by a score of 17.5 to 10.5, and Garcia set the all-time individual points record with 25.5. 

The tributes have continued throughout this year — one of the most decorated athletes in Iowa State history, Bridget Carleton, was named the 2019 recipient of the award bearing Barquín Arozamena’s name in June, a fitting tribute to an athlete the Cyclones will never forget.