There was reason to be jubilant on Oct. 15 — high school football was back with the Tigers vs. Big Lake at S.R. Knutson Field.
For most folks, the return of the gridiron sport was reason enough to be joyous; however, the evening offered a bonus experience for fans — the induction of the 2020 Hutchinson High School Wall of Fame members.
This year, HHS recognized Ryan Dolder, athlete; Lowell Himle, coach; Wendell Jahnke, outstanding graduate; Glen "Clancy" Kurth, fan; and the late Carol Wendt, coach.
Dolder, 43, is the all-time goals, assists and points leader in the history of Hutchinson boys hockey. He said the honor "meant a lot."
"When you're younger you don't really reflect on certain moments or experiences in life," he said. "As you get older, I think you start to look back on those moments and start to self-reflect. ... An honor like this validates the work and effort I tried to put in, and maybe it means I left some sort of imprint during a very meaningful point in my life."
Lowell Himle, 74, served as track and field coach for 50 years at HHS.
"This is a tribute to all the athletes I had who worked hard and understood that we needed more than first places to win meets," he said of the Wall of Fame recognition. "Every inch or even quarter inch could make a difference in placing."
Jahnke, 87, was a four-sport letter winner in high school (football, basketball, baseball and track) and a member of the Minnesota State Athletics Hall of Fame. He was especially proud due to his age and was so glad the Wall of Fame committee was willing to consider older grads.
Glen "Clancy" Kurth, 70, described the honor as "humbling." The Tigers super fan lettered in football as a sophomore, junior and senior at HHS.
"It's an accomplishment for a 70-year-old to be remembered in the trophy case at your high school," Kurth said. "I'm very proud to be a Hutchinson High School graduate and a Hutchinson Tigers fan."
Kurth said what made the evening was the attendance of his high school coaches Bill Snyder, Dave Larson and Bev Luke, whose husband, Denny, coached him.
"All three were there to be with me," he said. "It was special for them and very special for me."
Jodi Wendt accepted the award for her mother, the late Carol Wendt, a two-time Minnesota Coach of the Year and member of the Minnesota Coaches Hall of Fame. As girls golf coach, Wendt took either an individual or a team to the state tournament 23 out of the 24 years that she coached.
"To have her recognized publicly means a lot and displays the impact she had on this community," said daughter Stacy Thompson.
Like Kurth, Thompson said her mom would have felt "extremely humbled."
"She knew that the reason she had so much success was because of the God-given talents each and every golfer she coached had (no matter how big or small)," Thompson said, "and their willingness to use these talents to work together as a team to not only be successful, but also to represent the Hutchinson community well."
Lives are defined by great accomplishments and the ability to overcome tough setbacks. In this Leader Q&A, the Wall of Fame inductees share their experiences and advice for young people.
What are the moments/people that defined your career?
Dolder: I guess the cliche answer would be my parents, but without their sacrifices, something like this never would've happened. All of the experiences I had in high school, college and beyond, especially when it comes to sports, were a direct result of the sacrifices my parents made for me. I also think it's all of the teammates and coaches I had. The wins and losses fade away, but the relationships you build with your teammates and coaches last forever.
Himle: My coaching career would likely never have happened if it had not been for a chance meeting with Len Lasley at the Hutch Cafe when we were both here interviewing for our new jobs. Since I had some experience in high school and college, he asked if I was interested in helping the varsity high jumpers. I went from being a volunteer, to a junior high coach, and finally to an assistant varsity coach. Len and I coached together for 50 years.
Jahnke: Miss Michaelson, who taught me how to use math throughout my life and a love of numbers. Jim Witham, Mankato State basketball coach, (he taught me) how important teamwork is.
Kurth: My parents. Kurth said he attended St. John's parochial school through eighth grade. When his classmates headed to high school in Buffalo Lake, his parents worked hard so he and his sister could attend school in Hutchinson.
I'm a farmer who likes to talk sports. I do like to sit down with younger high school, college kids and visit with them. I feel honored that they want to sit down and visit with me.
Thompson: My mom would always say, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Matthew 7:12. Her faith in Jesus Christ ran deep, which then translated through her kindness, patience, understanding and love that she showed each of her golfers. C.W., as her players called her, was not about trophies and accolades, but instead making the girls feel like they were special and mattered. These moments of virtues that she shared with her players defines her coaching career.
What was your greatest hurdle, and how did you overcome it?
Dolder: That's a tough one, because I think every person faces difficult hurdles in life, many much more significant hurdles than I faced. In regards to sports, I think one of the biggest hurdles I felt I always had to overcome was the perception of being from 'a small town.' I wouldn't trade growing up in a small town for anything, but there was always a perception that because we were small, the competition we played didn't stack up against what the bigger schools played. A lot of times because of this, as I moved up in levels, other players and coaches didn't give much respect to where I came from. I always felt I had to work harder to overcome that perception. And that perception is nonsense. If you're good enough you'll find a way. If you're a kid in Hutchinson who thinks you might have to go somewhere else because of this, you don't. You will get your opportunities to wipe the floor, field or ice with a kid from Edina or Wayzata at some point.
Himle: My coaching assignments could change from year to year. Techniques and equipment were changing in the high jump, pole vault, shot put and discus. The weight of the girls' shot put changed. No more sawdust and bags of foam in the high jump pits. Metal pole vault poles were replaced by fiberglass poles. Because fiberglass poles would break, safety became a huge concern. To address this, the pits were enlarged. What I knew about each event at one time no longer applied. Coaching clinics, instructional videos and track publications helped me keep up with the changes.
Jahnke: The death of my father at age 6. (This) was accomplished with the wonderful help of my mother and the great support of my HHS friends and the Hutch community.
Kurth: A large number of small farms are being eliminated. It's a trend in the ag industry. People are going elsewhere. They're trying to paint a brighter picture. It's not hard to get depressed, down in the dumps these days. My parents taught me to stay on an even keel — not too low and not too high.
I'm sometimes not as good of a listener as I should be. I need to listen better. Now I have to let other people talk, give them the opportunity and be supportive of them.
Thompson: The greatest hurdle that she talked about often was growing up in a 'man's world' where there were no women's sports. As a female athlete, this was extremely frustrating. Instead of giving up, she grabbed her catcher's gear the minute she got home from school and met the boys at the ball field and joined right in. Once she became a teacher at Hutchinson High School, she found other ways to provide activities for women prior to sports being available. Through her involvement with the GAA (Girls Athletic Association), she led a group of women to the Boundary Waters for an annual canoe trip. As female sports became more accessible, she was very active in helping these girls participate in the sports she wasn't able to through her coaching career.
What advice would you give young people today?
Dolder: I would say two things: One, get off social media. Very little good comes from it. Two, enjoy every minute of being young. It goes by fast. At all ages, but especially when you're young, it's easy to constantly look ahead and forget to live in the moment. High school can be tough, but you'll also realize when you're older that some of your best memories came from high school. Make the most of that time. You don't want to look back years later and say, "I wish I did things differently."
Himle: I would recommend they participate in as many activities as they can handle. By doing so, they build all programs and make them better. It also will make them a better all-around person.
Jahnke: Never give up. We can all achieve our dreams if we keep trying our hardest no matter how tough the situation. May be a bit 'corny,' but sure worked for me.
Kurth: When I go to a graduation, I tell the graduate two things: There are classmates you'll never see again, and start your retirement as soon as possible. Being single made it easier for me. You don't want to spend your whole life and be broke. Have goals. At 70, I'm looking 10-15 years down the road. I want to live out my life at my farm, if my health permits. In retirement, find things you like to do but didn't have time for. Have a bucket list. Travel was never priority. I'm catching up with friends now. Be an example. Don't be afraid to give back. Growing up, 4-H was a big deal for me. It meant a lot to me. I give back to Hutchinson High School, the McLeod County Fair and Hutchinson Huskies baseball.
Thompson: My mom would remind young women to be thankful for the opportunities they have available to them today. From an early age, she taught her granddaughters to be proud of their abilities to participate in female sports. She would also advise young people to work hard and give your all toward the things you are passionate about. That is the way she lived her life, and what she taught her family and golfers to do as well.