BEMIDJI -- The freshest batch of Lumberjacks took in a bit of a history lesson at the Bemidji High School Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony on Monday.
BHS inducted five new members to the Hall: Jared Echternach, Bob Fortier, Richard “Dick” Fortier, Shelly (Kringen) Gulbranson and Bill Rabe. Additionally, Lumberjack supporters honored and celebrated a widely successful 2018-19 season for Bemidji sports and individuals.
“It was a fun time. I think the reason was because we had good people: coaches, administrators,” Bob Fortier said of his time at BHS. “And we won. We had good athletes and good coaches who figured out who should go where. That’s probably the big memory.”
Bob and Dick, twin brothers and sons of the legendary coach Bun Fortier, shared their time within the Bemidji halls and on the field, court and track together. Fittingly so, they were immortalized together.
“We came in on the same year,” Dick said. “We played together for four years in high school, and then three or four years in college (at Kansas). It’s quite an honor. It’s quite a feeling.”
A laundry list or two was needed to list off all of Bemidji’s accomplishments and awards, meanwhile. The accolades included eight state-tournament teams, 19 all-state academic teams, two academic state champions, and eight total coach of the year awards between head coaches (six) and assistants (two).
Ryan Bieberdorf was named the BHS Male Athlete of the Year, and Kinley Prestegard was named Female Athlete of the Year.
Bieberdorf is a three-sport athlete for the Lumberjacks, reaching the state tournament as a wide receiver/defensive back on the football team and a guard on the boys basketball team. He is also in the middle of his track and field season.
Prestegard is also a three-sport athlete. She was a defender on the state tournament-bound girls soccer team in the fall and a headliner on the state-bound Nordiic skiing team in the winter. This spring, she is also a member of the track and field team.
James Siems and Maggie Brown were honored as Triple “A” Award winners for excellence in academics, arts and athletics. Longtime softball coach Tom Strommer won the Assistant of the Year award, and baseball assistant Jim Wynne earned the Lumberjack Award, as well.
For this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, which boast hefty high school and collegiate accomplishments of their own, their call to the Hall is the culmination of their efforts while representing the Lumberjacks.
“With all the hard work we did back then, it’s a reward,” Bob Fortier said. “I wish all our teammates could be in it.”
And the imprint Bemidji High School left on them hasn’t weakened over time.
“I remember the camaraderie I had with all the ballplayers, whether it be football, basketball or track,” Dick Fortier said. “(This ceremony) shows a lot of tradition, a lot of spirit with athletics and all the support the kids get here.”