Special celebration: BHS inducts four new Athletic Hall of Famers
BEMIDJI - The Lumberjacks Athletic Hall of Fame officially welcomed four new members Monday as Kristy Wallner, Fred Swenson, Kevin Bohlig and Troy Hendricks were inducted during the annual BHS athletic banquet.
Originating in 2001, the Hall of Fame now includes 74 former Bemidji athletes, coaches and administrators.
Wallner was "very surprised" when she received the news that she would be in the 2012 Hall of Fame class.
"I was hoping that I could be a part of this someday but I really wasn't expecting it," Wallner said. "When Troy (Hendricks, the BHS activities director) told me that I was being inducted I thought 'how cool.'"
Wallner is the poster child for Lumberjacks sports. The 2002 graduate lettered five years in softball, four years in soccer and five years in basketball. She led the basketball team to the state tournament on two occasions and finished with 1,350 career points.
Individually Wallner was a Minnesota Miss Basketball finalist, played in the Class 4A basketball and softball All-State games, was All-State honorable mention in basketball and was selected to the state tournament All-Tournament team.
She attended Xavier and started every game during her four-year collegiate career, finishing with 636 rebounds and 312 assists.
Wallner capped her basketball career by playing professionally for two seasons in Germany.
Currently Wallner works for the Bureau of Land Management in Colorado and during her spare time coaches freshman and seventh grade girls basketball in Silt, Colo.
"I enjoy coaching but the one thing I don't see here is any tradition," Wallner said. "In Bemidji I remember as a kid watching Ruth and Lori Tank, Holly Janson, Megan McKee and the other high school basketball players and thinking I wanted to be part of that someday, I wanted to play for Jim Wahl and Bob Luoma.
"The girls basketball program at Bemidji was founded on leadership, and that leadership trickled down to the coaches in the youth programs like Paul Daman and Larry Dahl, Ami Aalgaard in seventh grade and even Michelle Varriano in fifth grade," Wallner continued. "They all talked about playing defense. They all talked about being competitive. And they all talked about what it meant to be a Lumberjack."
Wallner is equally grateful of her softball and soccer coaches.
"I was lucky," she said. "When I was in ninth grade Brad Takkunen took over the softball program and, even though it didn't happen right away, he took us deep into the regionals.
"Kris VanWilgen-Hammit took over the soccer program when I was in school and all of a sudden we went from being a rec league program to beating teams like Moorhead and Elk River."
Wallner couldn't wait to return to Bemidji and see her former classmates, teammates and coaches. She couldn't wait to return to the place that made her what she is today.
"I couldn't tell you what the top 10 songs are right now," she said. "I don't Twitter and I don't have an i-phone. But I will always have a connection with Bemidji because of the Lumberjack tradition."
Swenson is the elder statesman of this year's group, and he is honored just to be considered for the Hall of Fame.
"I wasn't sure I was that good of a player in high school, but I was able to play with Ray Cronk and he put us on his back for a few years," Swenson said of his teammate who was a member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2001.
"I also was able to play with Joe Mayer, Ross Fortier and other great athletes but it was a real honor to play for coach Bun Fortier. I can remember his light blue eyes shooting through me. He made us toe the line but it was an honor to play for him," Swenson added.
Swenson lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track. He was a key member of the 1957 baseball team that advanced to the state tournament. He also helped lead BHS to the state basketball tournament in 1957 and 1958. Following high school he attended and played basketball and baseball at Bemidji State.
"I grew up in Carr Lake and I had an uncle who dragged me to the school to shag balls when I was young," Swenson said. "Carr Lake was a good place to learn how to play ball and Bemidji was a wonderful place to grow up.
"I've had a great life and a big part of that was Bemidji High School and Bemidji State. The memories I have from there will last forever."
When Kevin Bohlig was in seventh grade he and his family moved to Bemidji to accommodate his father's work transfer. All things considered, however, the move was beneficial for Bohlig and for Bemidji High School.
"At the start I was unhappy having to make the move but as it turned out Bemidji was a fantastic place to grow up," said Bohlig, who graduated in 1978.
Bohlig took full advantage of what BHS had to offer. He played tennis, was the quarterback of the football team and also was the starting guard on the basketball team for three years. Bohlig also found time to be a cast member in a couple of plays.
Following high school he was the quarterback at the University of Eau Claire.
As a senior he helped lead the Lumberjacks into the state basketball tournament and during the consolation final his teammate, Jim Jensen, had the hot hand.
Jensen eventually scored what was then a school record and a state tournament record 50 points but Bohlig admits that Jensen's total should have been higher.
"I was scoring at will in that game as well but during the fourth quarter Jack (coach Jack Luoma) kept telling me to pass it to Jim," Bohlig said. "I wasn't paying any attention to the boxscore and I wondered why I had to always get the ball to Jim.
"Then Jack called a time out and told me that Jim was going after a couple of scoring records."
Jensen was inducted into the Lumberjacks Hall of Fame in 2003 and another member of that team, Lance Chambers, joined the hall in 2009.
Also in the starting lineup that day were Brad Goodwin and Rob Skime.
"That was a memorable game and we were all seniors," Bohlig said. "It was a great way to end a career.
"To be selected to the Hall of Fame and be mentioned in the same group as the other members is very flattering," he added.
As a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee, Hendricks voted against his nomination. But his efforts to strike his name from the list failed.
"I felt that, if I was going to be selected, it would be better to wait at least until I'm done with my coaching career," said the current Lumberjacks head football coach and activities director. "But it is a great honor to be inducted."
During his high school days Hendricks excelled as a runningback and a wrestler. The 1982 BHS graduate led the Jacks in rushing, scoring and tackles as a senior and earned All-Tri State honors. He also was a three-time participant at the state wrestling tournament, finishing as high as third.
Hendricks continued his football career at Moorhead State and later signed a professional contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
He was inducted into the Moorhead State Hall of Fame in 2000 and the BHS Wrestling Hall of Fame two years later.
"The opportunity to be inducted into the Lumberjacks Hall of Fame is wonderful," he said, "and I'm excited to be included this year.
"The people who have influenced me at Bemidji and at Moorhead, and all of my family members can share in this because they have helped me become a better athlete and a better person."
As the activities director Hendricks has been attending the Hall of Fame ceremony for many years and each spring he leaves shaking his head in awe.
"Every year I leave and say that this was one of the most enjoyable nights of the year," he said. "I am continually impressed with the quality of the people who are connected with Bemidji High School.
"The Hall of Fame and athletic banquet is always a special night and this year it will be even more so for me because I have the honor of being inducted," Hendricks added.