This Week at BHS: Bemidji inducts five new members to Hall of Fame
BEMIDJI -- A common reaction among those who have been inducted into the Bemidji High School Athletic Hall of Fame is surprise. The former athletes who belong to the exclusive club usually don't believe their credentials warrant the honor but when their accomplishments are documented it becomes clear that they definitely are worthy of the Hall of Fame.
This year's class includes five former athletes who exceeded in their sports and continued that success in their careers.
Jerry Fruetel lettered nine times in the mid and late 1960s. Nestle Grimes posted an undefeated wrestling season in 1975, capping the year with a state championship. Brook (McKee) Richards set eight program records and won eight section championships in swimming from 1994 through 1998. Dale Lauderbaugh won three letters in basketball, three in football and three in baseball during the mid-1950s. And Philip Feir lettered in three sports in the 1940s and was an All-State basketball player and went on to play football for Army.
Monday's Hall of Fame ceremony and athletic banquet at the high school celebrated the accomplishments of the 83 total Hall of Fame members and the Lumberjacks who participated in sports during the past school year.
It is likely that some of the students who donned the Lumberjacks blue and white this year will some day join the Hall of Fame. On Monday, however, they had the opportunity to meet those who already have reached the standard.
Typical of the athletes of his generation, Fruetel was a true Lumberjack even before he was eligible to join a team.
"Before I got to the high school I started my Lumberjack career," Freutel said. "As a kid, starting when I was about six years old, I listened to the Bemidji games on the radio and pretended I was playing. Those guys who preceded me were my role models.
"I grew up looking up to many of the players and coaches who now are in the Hall of Fame and to be in the Hall with them is special."
When Fruetel finally reached high school he took advantage of every opportunity to represent the school and the teams. On the field, the court and the diamond, Fruetel stood out among his peers. He was an all-conference quarterback in 1967, setting a school record for pass completion percentage for the state's seventh-ranked team. His career record as a starting pitcher was 15-4 and with his help the Jacks made it to the state tournament in 1968.
In 1967 he was the basketball team's leading scorer and helped guide BHS to fourth place at the state tournament.
"To me, the thrill of competing, especially in the big games, was the essence of high school sports," Fruetel said. "For me, the sheer joy was at its peak when I was playing high school sports and when you played in a big game it was a pure adrenaline rush."
Fruetel played in many big games and in many big situations.
"I have many memories of high school and I especially remember the thrill of playing in the basketball state tournament. I remember the entire trip -- playing in a packed Williams Arena, staying at the Curtis Hotel with the other teams, the fans and even some game situations. We were always the small town playing against the Big City and that was fun."
Fruetel is eager to salute his coaches and teammates. Many of the Lumberjacks opponents also made a lasting impression.
"I remember playing against a third baseman from Hibbing named Kerry Taylor," Fruetel said. "His nickname was 'Yo-Yo' because he had a very live arm. I have a vision of him being such a good player.
"A year or two after I played against him I saw that he was killed in action in Vietnam (he was killed on Jan. 21, 1970). And that hurt me. I later saw his name on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. That isn't a pleasant memory from high school but it is one that sticks with me."
Fruetel does have many pleasant memories from his days as a Lumberjack and he created more memories on Monday.
"There are so many players and coaches who helped me succeed," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing them again."
Wrestling was a constant in the Grimes household back in the 1970s and the workouts at home kept Nestle Grimes in shape and ready for each season.
"Having a coach for a father (Nestle Grimes Sr.) helped be because he taught myself and he taught my brother how to wrestle," Grimes said. "I also learned Judo and that helped me in my wrestling. I loved wrestling and wrestled pretty much year-round."
Small in stature, Grimes discovered that wrestling was the perfect sport and he was immediately drawn to it.
" I imagine my size drew me to wrestling. I'm pretty small and wrestling was something I could do one-on-one," he said. "By the time I was 13 and 14 everybody else was head and shoulders above me."
Grimes attended Blackduck schools until transferring to Bemidji as a sophomore. And his first season as a Lumberjacks wrestler was a year no one will forget.
"I started the season wrestling at 112 pounds but at the end of the year I was at 105," he said. "I remember the experience of being at state. I had been there the year before with Blackduck and I remember being nervous every single match. But once the matches started I was good to go and the nervous tension went away."
Grimes entered the state meet with an undefeated record and the BHS sophomore continued that success at the state tournament. He finished the year 32-0 and was Bemidji's only undefeated state champion at that time.
"I never took any match for granted," Grimes said. "I had lost before when I thought I had the match wrapped up so I always was ready."
Grimes was not able to attend Monday's Hall of Fame ceremony because he is the commander of the College of Charleston (South Carolina) police department and had to be on hand to oversee the school's graduation ceremony.
"But I am excited and surprised about being inducted," Grimes said. "I had fun wrestling and I had a really good time wrestling for coaches Ken Schmoker and Howie Schultz.
"During my wrestling career I learned that hard work pays off. It always does. There are no shortcuts to hard work."
BROOK (McKEE) RICHARDS
Richards also is honored to join the Hall of Fame family and she knows that there are many people who had major roles in this accomplishment.
"I have to thank mom who brought me to practice every morning and drove me every place I had to be," Richards, who set eight Bemidji swimming records during the mid to late 1980s, said. "I would also have to thank my dad who attended all my meets and who always gave me the support I needed.
"And I have to thank the coaches who were so committed to me and to swimming."
The latter group included Jeff Cain, Woody Leindecker and Kristen McRae. Collectively that trio worked with Richards from the time she was six years old and refined her skills all the way through her senior season.
Early in her career Richards displayed the talent and attitude of a swimming champion and it didn't take long for her to make her mark in the sport.
"Seventh grade was my first year on the varsity and I remember making it to the region podium (top 8) and swimming on a relay team at state," she said. "In eighth grade I won my first region individual event and from then on I won events at the region meet each year."
When Richards was a junior she finished third at the state in the backstroke and fourth in the 200 individual medley. At the time all of the state swimmers were grouped into one class so Richards was competing against the best high school swimmers in Minnesota.
"I think I was the first female swimmer at Bemidji to make top 8 at state," she said. "And that was exciting."
Richards also was excited Monday night.
"I'm flattered and excited to be part of a small group of Hall of Famers," she said. "This is really an honor."
A Lumberjack through and through, all who are familiar with the history of Bemidji athletics knows that Dale Lauderbaugh is more than qualified for induction into the BHS Hall of Fame.
Everybody, perhaps, except Dale himself.
"A few years ago Dale told our kids that he didn't want them to put his name in (for possible induction)," said his wife Rita. "Dale was proud to be from Bemidji and proud to be a Lumberjack but he didn't want any attention drawn to himself."
Lauderbaugh, who died in October of 2012, graduated in 1956 and lettered three times in basketball, baseball and football. His senior season the Lumberjacks lost 4-2 in nine innings to St. Paul Washington in the championship game of the state baseball tournament. During his high school career Lauderbaugh also was named to an All-State football team but he decided not to attend the ceremony in the Twin Cities.
"Dale was a farm boy and didn't want the attention. He wouldn't go on about himself," Rita said. "I know he was a good baseball player because I watched him but he wouldn't talk about himself. He would talk about some of the fun things he did with his teammates and how Bun Fortier, Jack Luoma and Horace May would run the teams during practices.
"Many of his teammates and his coaches are in the Hall of Fame and we are very pleased and proud that Dale is now with them," Rita continued. "When Sheila Guest (the secretary of the BHS activities department) called and said that it was a shame that Dale wouldn't be at the Hall of Fame ceremony I told her that he would be proud to be a member of the hall and he would be humbled. And I know that he (was) watching us on Monday night."
Feir graduated in 1944 and lettered in three sports. A captain of the basketball team Feir received All-State honors and was an honorable mention All-State pick in football.
"Phil was a very good football player and a very nice guy," said friend Bill Howe.
Feir crammed a few lifetimes into his time on earth which ended July 14, 2011 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
After high school Feir served in World War II and in 1945 received an appointment to West Point where he was a tackle on the Army football team and also played lacrosse.
His military service included deployment to Korea and Vietnam and command assignments in Hawaii, West Point, California and Germany.
ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
This year's female and male Senior Athletes of the Year are Hanna Olson and Samuel. F. Carlson.
Olson is a three-sport athlete as she was the libero and defensive specialist for the volleyball team, played defense on the hockey team and is the shortstop for the softball squad. Olson also was a captain for each team.
Carlson's forte is distance running and he is among the best in the state. In cross country Carlson was a three-time state participant and was an All-State selection on two occasions (finish in top-25 at the state meet). He also has run three times and the state track meet and last year was a member of Bemidji's 4x800 relay team which set a school record and finished second at the state meet.
Carlson also is an Academic All-State selection in track and the cross country.
The 2014 winner of the Lumberjack Award is Kevin Jackson. Professionally, Jackson has announced BHS sports on the radio and has coordinated the Lumberjacks radio broadcasts. He also is the public address announcer for the boys basketball and football games.
Monday's ceremony also highlighted the academic side of high school athletics. Each year nine groups or individuals provide scholarship funds for Bemidji seniors and this year's scholarships and recipients included:
Bun and Elvira Fortier Award: Matthew Breeze
Buck Robbins: Sam howard
Troy Nelson: Abby Lindseth
Des Sagedahl: Thomas Revering
Red Wilson: Savanna Hanson
Bemidji Youth Basketball: Casey Palmer, Jillian Ricci, Collin Rutledge
Ray Kavanagh: Claire Laakso
George Pelawa: Sam Bruestle
Other Award Winners
Lumberjack Award: Kevin Jackson
Female Athlete of Year: Hanna Olson
Male Athelte of Year: Samuel F. Carlson