By GEORGE THOLE – Stillwater Gazette
During the Memorial Day break, I got to thinking about a special night three lustrums ago in North Dakota. On that occasion, I loaded up my SUV with West Lakeland’s John McPherson and Hutchinson hall of fame football coach Grady Rostberg and headed north to Cavalier, N.D., to visit with my NDSU football buddy Dale Hinkle.
We had a great time hitting the two hot spots in Cavalier and noticed the lights on at the CHS football field at 1 a.m. Dale informed us that a facsimile of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was on display in the Tornadoes’ stadium.
The wall looked magnificent and VFW members were on hand to help you locate the names of family and friends. This immediately brought back names of teammates, opponents I played against and young men that I coached.
"We’ll be here all night and we can help you find them," a fellow VFW member suggested to me.
I remember a freshman tackle Jerry Schlicht from Melrose, who lived in the athletic dorm with us my senior season at NDSU. He was a copter pilot who was lost and a terrific young man. I saw his name on the wall and I felt that he knew that I was there for him.
There are 58,267 names on that wall arranged in the order they were taken from us, but it’s really hard to believe it’s been 36 years since the last casualties. I was in the Navy and never in harm’s way, but I admire those who were.
I remember an All-American fullback Joe Thorne of South Dakota State, who I played against in 1961, and whose name I saw on the wall. Another name listed was a guy I met from Grand Forks, N.D., named Cliff Cushman, who was the NCAA 400 intermediate hurdles champion for the Kansas Jayhawks.
I also remember a pair of linemen Mick McCartney and Ben Jendro, who played for me at Central Cass High School in Casselton, N.D. They were both in some tight spots, but made it home.
Let’s not forget the former Ponies – eight who attended Stillwater-area schools – who paid the ultimate sacrifice to have their names honored on the wall.
Karen and I visited the real wall in Washington, D.C., a lustrum ago and further learned that 33.103 of those names were 18 years young.
Thank you veterans of all ages.
In the huddle
Rachel Boldt ’07, a recent graduate of UW-La Crosse, just finished a preceptorship in Costa Rica for her community health and education degree, with a minor in Spanish. Boldt, a top-notch student, graduated with high honors and gave the student address at her commencement. Rachel was a four-year letterwinner in track and cross country and served as captain of the latter her senior year at UW-La Crosse…. I’ve said the following many times before, but as graduation approaches, I will repeat myself. Even 12 years after retirement, I still manage to hit the speaking circuit a few times each year. The question I am asked the most is to describe the difference between athletes then and now. I always answer by stating that when I started coaching in 1965, the players were 16 to 18 years old, and when I left in 1999, they were still 16 to 18 years old. They didn’t change much, but I did because I was 26 when I started and 60 when I departed. I’m 73 now, and the student-athletes are about to face the world just like those before them. The beat goes on as another great class from SAHS departs. If they leave us knowing that "there is no such thing as a free lunch" they will truly prosper…. Hailey Boner recently racked up her third medalist honor in a golf tournament this spring for the Ponies. She edged teammate Cassie Deeg in a scorecard playoff as both shot 76s to help the Ponies edge Edina by a stroke at the Northland Invitational. Boner also clipped Deeg 75-76 as the Ponies won the 10-team Ridgeview Invitational…. Former Ponies three-sport athlete Josh Campbell "92 is assistant vice president of Real Estate Lending with Alliance Bank in St. Paul. Campbell played football, basketball and was a driving force during Stillwater’s climb to the 1991 state baseball championship…. The 11th Annual Minnesota Old Timers Football Association Golf Tournament will be held at River Oaks Golf Course in Cottage Grove on June 25. It’s open to everyone – men and women – and no membership is required. Golfers can form their own foursomes or we’ll do it for you. At a cost of $65, which includes green fees, cart and dinner, it’s the best bargain anywhere. There are equal cash prizes in two categories, under- and over-65 years old. We are talking about a scramble event with a noon start and there is a limit of 144 golfers, with a June 20 deadline for registration. For more info, call the sage Jerry Foley at 651-439-1379 or email [email protected]. Make checks payable to Old Timers Football Assn…. The Ponies girls’ thinclads placed fourth while the boys settled for seventh at the True Team state track and field meet held at SAHS on Friday, May 16. The girls racked up three firsts, led by the versatile Kelcie Kempenich, who won the 400 (57.99) and ran legs on the winning 4×200 (1:44.22) with Alex Crain, Bethany Adkins and Natalie Phippen and the 4×400 (3:59.74) while teaming with Fiona Montie, Maria Morley and Phippen. Lakeville South won the girls’ team title and Minnetonka claimed the boys’ crown. Eric Colvin was the lone winner for the Stillwater boys with a 9:29.57 effort in the 3,200 while fellow Pony Wayde Hall placed third. The locals placed second in the 4×200 with Makao Day, Jordan Phelps, Zack Smith and Nate Ricci passing the baton in 1:30.94. Nate Bird was second in the discus with a 156-6 toss…. Back in the days when I was coaching, I always tried to figure out new ways to motivate our football players to play hard and accomplish things that even they didn’t think were possible. In trying to better understand these teenage warriors, I would study tons of material on the mental aspects of performance. Many of these ideas were founded in logic, and after years of coaching experience, I found them to be accurate…. finis
Today’s rumination #569
Things will either get better or worse – it’ up to you. Don’t give up the ship.