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Published on January 19th, 2021 | by AberdeenMagazine

It Takes a Team in South Dakota Sports

Hub City’s Legacy in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame

In 1968, the South Dakota Sportswriters Association created the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame to honor and celebrate the state’s athletic legacy. In over half a century, the SDSHOF has inducted 301 men and women. According to former Aberdeen American News sports editor John Papendick, “More than one-fourth of the Hall’s inductees have Aberdeen or Aberdeen Area connections. Many of the remaining ones have participated in sporting events in Aberdeen sometime during their careers.”

Papendick has been involved with the SDSHOF for about the past 15 years, as well as in the 1980s during his time as sports editor of the Mitchell Daily Republic. The Hall of Fame is now managed by a group of more than 30 volunteers from across the state. A selection committee, on which Papendick sits, evaluates nominees, and refers them to the full committee to be considered for induction.

The selection committee used to be just sportswriters, Papendick says. “Back when I started, sports editors had been at papers a long time, but even by the 1980s that changed with turnover,” he adds. “The consistency wasn’t there. There were fewer writers who knew a lot about sports across the state.” So the selection committee’s make-up changed, and it now has a cross section of members from across the state, not just sportswriters. “We try to get people who are balanced in their assessment, not biased for certain nominees,” he explained.

He also described the selection process: “Normally, we elect and induct 10 people a year into the Hall. And we will never run out of inductees as we currently have more than 200 nominees.” He adds, “I really admire the volunteers on the committee. It’s a big time commitment. It’s cool to see the dedication of my teammates on the committee.”

Dozens of people with Aberdeen connections have been inducted into the SDSHOF. Here are a few of those with brief summaries of their accomplishments leaving out many statistics, awards, and inductions in other halls of fame. In addition, a few Aberdonian inductees shared some reflections — a common theme of which is that none of them earned the honor by themselves. It takes a team. // –Patrick Gallagher


Football

Bill Welsh

Aberdeen native. 1930 NSU grad. Coached Claremont to a national record of 61 consecutive 6-man football victories 1947-53 (topped previous record of 42). In 1948, Claremont set a national record scoring 608 points. Over 10 years, his teams went 84-3 with nine conference titles. Led Webster to the 1938 state high school baseball title and Claremont to the 1949 state Class B track title. Coached many basketball teams, including 1954 28-0 team. Inducted in NHSACA Hall of Fame, 2005.

Clark Swisher

1938 USD grad. NSU coach and/or athletic director, 1946-1986. Initially coached football, basketball, track, tennis, and golf with no assistants. Winningest football coach in NSU history: 146-42-4, four perfect seasons, and 15 SDIC titles. Former president of the NAIA. Member of U.S. Olympic Committee, 1975-84.

Jim Kretchman

1956 NSU grad. 32 years as NSU coach and/ or athletic director. First year as football coach (1969) led the Wolves to an unbeaten season. 67-46-7 in 12 seasons as football coach. A Little All-American (a recognition for top national players in classes other than Division I) at NSU. Held school career rushing record (4,121 yards) for almost 45 years.

“My wife is amazed I can remember almost every ball game I was in,” Kretchman notes. “Lots of memories—some I’d just as soon forget and some that bring great pleasure.”

He started school in Lebanon, SD, which had 17 students. Then he moved to Faulkton with a “huge” enrollment of 100, “but it had football,” he noted. “The first football game I saw was one I played in. I didn’t have a clue what was going on,” he said. Not bad for a guy who held the NSU career rushing record for over 40 years.

Despite his accomplishments as a player, he spoke more about coaching, “A coach’s equity is really tied up in people. I coached around here, and many athletes I coached still live here. It gives me no greater joy than to visit with them now.” He added, with a chuckle, “I always remember our teams as being better than they probably were. That’s one of the good things about human memory. It enhances things.”

Like most good athletes (and most good people), he recognizes that he didn’t do it all on his own. “Clark Swisher was my coach, then I coached for him and then he coached for me,” he said, reflecting the different NSU roles each man had over time. “Never do I think of athletes or Northern without thinking about Swish. We were probably about 180 degrees different in personality, but he had a great influence in the community and on me.”

“Coaching is a rewarding career,” he concluded. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d follow the same path.”

Max Hawk

1957 NSU grad. Winningest high school football coach in state history, 284-78-2. Coached Yankton 30 years, ending with a perfect season and state Class 11AA title in 1994. National football coach of the year, 1986; inducted in NHSACA Hall of Fame, 1996.

George Amundson

1969 Aberdeen Central grad. 1973 Iowa State grad. At the 1969 state Class AA track meet in Spearfish, threw discus 211 feet, 4 inches — farther than any U.S. high schooler had ever thrown it, still a state record. (Record never recognized nationally because later surveying showed uneven terrain.) Held state record in shot put. As ISU tailback, he set the single-season rushing record of 1,316 yards. All-American quarterback 1972. Set ISU records for total offense in a career, touchdowns scored in a game, season, and career, and touchdown passes in a season. Finished 7th in Heisman Trophy vote. Set the ISU record in the discus. First round draft pick of Houston Oilers in 1973 — only first rounder ever for ISU. Played three seasons in the NFL.

Rich Andrzejewski

1974 NSU grad. Voted best all-around male athlete in NSU history. Earned 16 varsity letters, four years each in football, basketball, baseball, and track, most ever by an athlete at any South Dakota college.

 


Basketball

Bob Olson

1973 Aberdeen Central grad. 1977 NSU grad. Coached NSU women’s team to a 44-10 record in two seasons. Followed his college coach, Bob Wachs, as men’s basketball coach, 1985-1999: career record 305-129, six conference titles, five NAIA national tournament appearances, and runner-up in 1994 and 1995. In NCAA Division II, earned national tournament berths in his first four seasons, including Elite Eight in 1997-98. National coach of the year, conference coach of year five times. Coached 27 all-conference players, five NAIA All-Americans, one NCAA II First-Team All-American, and eight Academic All-Americans. Athletic director for 13 years. Also taught and worked as an admissions counselor. Coached Roncalli basketball 1981-1983, with a 27-13 record.

Bob Olson reflected on memories, particularly of the people who contributed to his and NSU’s success. “Collaborating with Todd Jordre, Tim Miles, Brad Christenson and many other coaches and assistants made our program successful,” he noted.

“Coaches Wachs and Kretchman impacted my entire career as a student and coach at NSU,” Olson recalled. “Their professionalism and work ethic and desire to win were passed on to me. The time they took to establish rapport with students and fellow coaches was phenomenal.” He added, “Newspaper reporter John Papendick was fair and good at his job of reporting our games.”

He summed it up, “There have been so many contacts made through sports that have made major impressions on me and their impact has helped promote NSU Athletics as we worked together as a team.”

Gene Haldeman

1938 Aberdeen Central grad. 1942 Creighton grad. Led Central to 1938 Class A title. A top collegiate player in the early 1940s. Helped Creighton to third-place finish in 1942 NIT and to 1941NCAA tourney in an eight-team field.

Mel Klein

1957 Aberdeen Central grad. 1961 NSU grad. On four SDIC championship teams, three NAIA national tourneys. NAIA All-American. Drafted 7th round by the Boston Celtics (never played in NBA). Coached basketball at Sioux Falls O’Gorman, 1961-68, went 92-35, won state Catholic title, 1963, and qualified for state Class A tourney, 1967 (first year parochial schools were eligible). Augustana basketball coach, 1971-1980; athletic director, 1974-80.

Bob Wachs

1947 Northern Colorado grad. NSU men’s basketball coach 1955-1985. His 532-286 record makes him winningest coach in South Dakota men’s basketball. Led Wolves to be SDIC champion 10 times, NIC twice, NAIA national tourney eight times, and have 12 seasons with at least 20 wins.

Larry Luitjens

1965 NSU grad. South Dakota’s winningest boys’ basketball coach, 748- 305 record. Coached more than 40 seasons, most at Custer. Coached one unbeaten team (Custer, 25-0, 1990) and five one-loss teams. His teams won seven state titles.

Don Meyer

1967 Northern Colorado grad. NSU men’s basketball coach 11 seasons. Retired 2010 as winningest men’s basketball coach in NCAA history. Career record 923-324; only one player he coached completed eligibility but did not graduate. NSU 221-104 record, two conference titles, five postseason berths, and at least 20 wins seven years in a row. Coached three years at Hamline Unversity, 24 years at Lipscomb University. Thirteen NAIA tourney appearances, winning in 1986.

Curt Fredrickson

1970 Aberdeen Central grad. 1974 NSU grad. 13th-winningest college women’s basketball coach of all time, 846-306 record in 39 seasons. Just the 16th head coach across all NCAA divisions to reach the 700-win mark. Led NSU to NAIA Division II tournament five times, winning titles in 1992 and 1994, finishing second, 1993, third, 1981. The Wolves were 30-4 in 1992 and 32-1 in 1994. Six NSIC titles; 45 consecutive wins, 1993-95. In NCAA Division II, Lady Wolves made five postseason appearances, reaching regional semifinals three times. Had 23 20-plus and two 30-plus win seasons. Coached 32 1,000-point scorers; 63 all-conference selections; eight All-Americans; and three Academic All-Americans. At Central, he played first-team All-State football and basketball. At NSU, he played NAIA All-American football and baseball. One of the greatest amateur baseball players in state history.

Curt Fredrickson seems to have coached everything in Aberdeen. Besides women’s basketball at NSU, he was assistant football coach for 14 years, women’s fastpitch softball coach for four years, and women’s track coach for four years. In addition, he coached 15-16 Teeners and the Smittys, and he ran spring youth baseball.

He also played amateur baseball for nearly 30 years, racking up impressive stats. His pitching record is an unbelievable 256-13, and he hit .410 with 277 home runs. He is the only player in state history with more than 250 home runs and more than 250 pitching victories — the personal statistic he says he is most proud of. During most of that time, he also ran the amateur team.

A member of four sports halls of fame, he recognizes, “You’re in with a select group of outstanding athletes.” He credits the “outstanding coaches” who contributed to his success, mentioning Smittys coach Reedy Fossum, high school coaches Don Reshetar, Jack Niesen, and Dave Smith, college baseball coach Bart Berndt, and Jim Kretchman, who was his college football coach when he played and, then, athletic director when he coached. He adds, “You pick up things from every coach. It forms your coaching philosophy — things you try to implement in your program.”


Track

Bill Jordan

1954 NSU grad. Earned four letters each in football, basketball, and track. Started NSU cross country program, 1959; head track and cross country coach, seven years. In 1967, started the cross country program at BHSU. Also served as BHSU head track and golf coach and athletic director. President of SDIC and NAIA, member of the U.S. Olympic track and field committee.

Vic Godfrey

1958 Aberdeen Central grad. 1963 NSU grad. Track and/or cross country coach for more than 50 years, mostly at Watertown, but also, Indonesia and Kingdom of Bahrain as head coach of Bahrain Olympic track teams in 1984, 1988. In Watertown, earned state titles in boys’ track, 1998, and girls’ cross country, 2001. State coach of the year for girls’ cross country, 1993, and boys’ track, 1998.

Kim Fordham-Lien

1986 Aberdeen Central grad. 1990 SDSU grad. NCAA Division II indoor national track 800-meter champ, 1988 and 1989. Seven-time All-American in 800 meters. Won 11 individual indoor and outdoor NCC titles, 1987-1991. MVP NCC indoor meet, 1988, and outdoor meet, 1990. Her 800-meter outdoor time of 2:06.24 remains a school record after nearly 30 years; her indoor 800-meter run school record only broken in 2017.

Kim Fordham-Lien spoke of people who influenced her by challenging her. “In high school, I was impressed by how tough and talented the runners at Central were that I got to run against every day in practice,” she said. “It helped prepare my work ethic, which helped me get noticed by SDSU coach Scott Underwood.” Fordham- Lien said that Underwood “set some pretty high goals” for her.

“At college I got to run on the track with some of my idols. I’m still friends with many of those people, amazing human beings.” She concluded, “None of it would have happened if Scott Underwood hadn’t taken a chance on me. He opened up my world. I owe it all to Scott Underwood.”

She is also a competitive horse rider and has competed in triathlons and duathlons. “I saw it on TV and thought it looked really hard and really fun — and it was,” she said. “It’s hard, but it’s a blast.”

In Aberdeen, she has been chair of the Chamber of Commerce and United Way campaign, and she has served on the Safe Harbor Foundation board and the Aberdeen Planning Commission — activities she credits sports for. “When I was young I was really shy,” she said. “Sports gave me more confidence. It gave me confidence whether it was speaking in front of people or volunteering. I was not afraid of embarrassing myself,” she laughed.


Golf

Alice Bauer

Born in Eureka. Introduced to golf by her dad who owned and ran Hyde Park (now Lee Park) Golf Course in Aberdeen. In 1942, at age 14, youngest ever South Dakota state amateur champion. Family moved to California. In 1950, at 22, one of 13 founding members of LPGA. With sister, Marlene Bauer Hagge, were featured in national magazines wearing shorts while playing, uncommon in the ‘50s. One of the first golfers to travel the Tour with her children.

Marlene Bauer Hagge

Born in Eureka. First woman named to SDSHOF. Family lived in Aberdeen Hyde Park (Lee Park) clubhouse before moving to California. Youngest athlete ever named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, Golfer of the Year, and Teenager of the Year. Founder and, with sister Alice, one of 11 charter members of LPGA in 1950. In 1952, got her first Tour victory at age 18. Remains youngest player to join LPGA Tour and youngest winner of LPGA event. Inducted World Golf Hall of Fame, 2002.


Baseball

Kermit Wahl

Born in Columbia. Played youth baseball in Columbia and Aberdeen. 1946 Indiana University grad. Played pro baseball for 11 seasons (1944- 1945, 1947, 1950-1951) with Cincinnati, the Philadelphia Athletics, and St. Louis Browns.

Kermit Wahl

 


Coaches and Administrators

Rich Hanson

1954 Aberdeen Central grad. 1958 NSU grad. Officiated high school and college sports for decades. Officiated the first football game at DakotaDome, 1979. Held many administrative positions and earned numerous awards.

Ruth Marske

1955 NSU grad. Coached track, volleyball, softball, and basketball teams at SDSU in the 1970s and 1980s. Outstanding fastpitch shortstop, inducted in South Dakota Softball Hall of Fame, 1989.


Going the Distance

With the 2020 Hall of Fame Banquet rescheduled for June 12, 2021, many people around Aberdeen and South Dakota are left wondering what it takes to receive one of South Dakota’s greatest athletic honors. Being athletically gifted is a big help, but what makes a great athlete or coach stand apart from the rest? John Papendick offers a play by play on who is worthy of the honor.

“Almost every sport you can think of is represented in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame,” John says. “From traditional sports like football, rodeo, track, and basketball to polo, horseshoes, auto racing, and trapshooting to everything in between.” No sport is left behind, and all athletes with a serious dedication to their sport are considered if nominated.

“The Hall is all about uniqueness,” he points out. Amanda Clement was baseball’s first paid woman umpire. Lyle “Dusty” LeBeaux not only coached all eight of his children in state basketball tournaments, but also some of his grandchildren. Pal Christensen officiated 22 basketball games in eight days. Paul Sheeks co-founded the National Basketball League, a forerunner to today’s NBA. Groton’s Earl Sande rode Gallant Fox to horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1930 after coming out of retirement.

When it comes to South Dakota’s Olympic athletes, not many have found their place in the Hall just yet. “The standards to be inducted are tremendously high,” says John. Olympic gold medalists in the SDSHOF include runner Billy Mills, trapshooter Frank Hughes, and wrestler Randy Lewis.

The Hall’s showcase is in the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls (call ahead to be sure it’s open). Anyone can submit nominations to the Hall by filling out a form at www.sdshof.com. The SDSHOF is also always looking for contributions and/ or sponsors. If interested, contact papendickjohn@gmail.com.


Abbreviations

For the sake of brevity in the biographical summaries here, abbreviations for institutions and organizations were used in most places. Here is a legend:

BHSU: Black Hills State University

LPGA: Ladies Professional Golf Association

NAIA: National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics

NCAA: National Collegiate Athletic Association

NCC:  North Central Conference

NHSACA: National High School Athletic Coaches Association

NIC: Northern Intercollegiate Conference – forerunner of today’s Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC)

NIT: National Intercollegiate Tournament (basketball)

NSU: Northern State University (Northern State College)

PGA: Professional Golfers’ Association

SDHSAA: South Dakota High School Activities Association – forerunner South Dakota High School Athletics Association

SDIC: South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference

SDSHOF: South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame

SDSMT: South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

SDSD: South Dakota State University

USD: University of South Dakota


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