Thole: Klancher, Kress are HOF bound

Former Ponies quarterback Kevin Klancher, left, is among a group of six individuals slated to be inducted into the St. Croix Valley Athletic Hall of Fame on Wednesday at The Grand in Stillwater. Next to six-time hall of fame coach George Thole in the photo above is 1993 SAHS graduate and former Arizona State football player Jeff Hoffman, who recently married ASU spirit squad coach April Morris.

Walter Kress ’64 and Kevin Klancher ’93 will be inducted into the St. Croix Valley Athletic Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at The Grand Ballroom in Stillwater.

The festivities begin with a social hour at 6 p.m., followed by a dinner and program.

Joining the pair at the 13th annual event will be inductees Tanya (Schuh) Modelli ’93, Jill (Junker) Stimson ’75, Glenn Harris ’91 and coach Don Campbell. The 1975 state champion Stillwater football team and several synchornized swim teams will also be inducted. Additional honorees include the state championship 2011 boys’ cross country team and the 2012 softball team.

Forty-eight years after his graduation, the 200-meter Ponies school record of Walt Kress still stands. This guy had quicks during the years he racked up five letters in football and track for the Big Red. Kress picked up gold medals in the 440, low and high hurdles in the Suburban Conference meet and placed second at state in the 440.

Walt Kress, a 1964 Stillwater graduate who lettered in football and track at Macalester College, is also part of this year’s hall of fame induction class.

After graduating from Stillwater High School, Kress began a distinguished career at Macalester College, where he was a five-year letterwinner in football and track.

Kress was inducted into the Macalester Hall of Fame in 2002 for exploits like setting MIAC records in the 440 intermediate hurdles and the 4×440 relay. Walt held or tied seven school records in track and was a solid gridder for the Scots.

Klancher played on Ponies grid teams that racked up a 28-9 record, including three conference and section titles. He was the starting quarterback on two of those teams. This wasn’t a football-only guy as he earned six letters while playing football, basketball and baseball. He was all-state in football and played in the all-star game and was also all-conference in basketball.

Later, Klancher became the three-year starting quarterback for the U of North Dakota, compiling a 24-7 record. He ranks in the top 10 for several season and career records at UND. He connected on 52 touchdown passes while pitching a 60-percent completion average (340 of 585) for 4,440 yards during his distinguished career with the Fighting Sioux (now the only fighting they are doing is trying to keep their moniker).

Klancher has been a teacher in ISD 834 for several years and is the head football coach at Oak-Land Junior High.


Mail call

Hi George,


A great column, once again, about the greatest high school football game I ever witnessed in person, and still one of my greatest sports thrills in 68-plus years on this planet. I have been a Stillwater Pony diehard ever since Bayport’s own, Mike Quinlan, took me to my first Pony basketball game when he was a senior basketball star at SHS (and football, baseball, and I think track star). Mike went on to be a football star and captain of his Air Force Academy football team.

Never again will I be as thrilled as that night when our beloved Ponies were shoved all over the field in the first half by the mighty Richfield Spartans, but only trailed 7-0 at the half. I don’t know what you said in the locker room at halftime, but Stillwater came out in the second half and overwhelmed the stunned Spartans to take the lead, only to see the Spartans regain the lead with under four minutes to go. What ensued was one of the guttiest last-minute drives I have ever witnessed. I remember you saying afterward that the Todd Butterfield to Bobby de St. Aubin winning halfback pass had not worked all season. I don’t know if that is true or not. It didn’t matter that night, because it did work when it was needed.

I remember how overjoyed my uncle Wilfred Poirier was because he had waited all of his life for this moment and his nephew, Tom Peterson, was a starting lineman for the Ponies that night. I will never forget your joyful on camera interview immediately after the game with Ralph Jon Fritz of Channel 4 TV when you came up with one of the greatest quotes of all time in praising the incredible efforts of your young athletes. You stated, “They were tougher than carp!” That statement has always defined toughness for me forever thereafter. Go Ponies!!


Best wishes,


John St. Marie ’63


GT: John is a long-time devoted Ponies fan and was a member of our sideline wheelchair brigade that consisted of “Hawkeye” Schultz, Bob Okerlund and later Lyman Geary.


In the huddle

Former Ponies all-conference running back Jeff Hoffman of the 1992 football team (11-2 conference and section champs) recently married April Morris — sister of Glee TV star Heather Morris — who happens to be the head coach for the Arizona State University dance team and cheerleaders. Hoffman played in the 1997 Rose Bowl for ASU and is the co-owner of the men’s product company of Alford and Hoff. Jeff and April reside in Scottsdale, Ariz. Let’s not forget that April was also a cheerleader for the L.A. Lakers and Phoenix Suns…. Sign of the Times Department: I still can’t believe it, but on Sunday, Sept. 9, I passed up watching the 49ers-Packers game to watch women’s tennis for 2.5 hours and I enjoyed it. I have always been a fan of Serena Williams and the melodic voice of Victoria Azarenka every time she hits the ball I find enchanting. These two went at each other with gusto and finesse in the women’s final at the U.S. Open. I was never a fan of the sport because I was lousy at it, but my wife Karen won the Red River Open singles title 58 years ago while competing in Fargo against players from several other states. I managed to win a doubles title in my third-hour PE class, only because I had three-sport Ponies ace Dan Mayasich as my partner. Seeing the athletic skill exhibited by Williams and Azarenka gave me a richer appreciation for the sport. Serena won the title, but every point was hotly contested…. The Ponies football team (2-1) faced the agony of defeat at the hands of Cretin (2-1) Friday night during a 27-13 loss at O’Shaughnessy Stadium on the U of St. Thomas campus. James Onwualu rushed for 163 yards (12.5 avg.) as the Raiders quickly seized the upper hand. Our thrills came from Nick Anderson’s 90-yard touchdown kick-off return in the first half and Nate Ricci’s late 9-yard scoring toss to sophomore Matt Anderson. Look for the locals to right the ship 35-7 over Forest Lake tomorrow night on SAHS turf. The Thole Poll: 1. Eden Prairie (3-0); 2. Wayzata (3-0); 3. Lakeville North (3-0); 4. Mounds View (3-0); 5. Cretin (2-1); 6. Totino-Grace (3-0); 7. Osseo (3-0); 8. Minnetonka (3-1); 9. Moorhead (3-0); 10. Hopkins (4-0)…. Don’t tread on me, because I’m on the endangered species list…. finis


Today’s rumination #584

Some folks don’t exaggerate, they just remember big.

• • • •

George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]