The Helena Sports Hall of Fame
the Members of the “2011 Class of Inductees” The following 15 inductees, in six different categories, were selected from a pool of over 125 nominations.
(attended high school 50 or more years ago) ■ John Dolan ■ Z.A. Zip Eaton ■ Cliff Hysell
Special Category (media, fan, supporter, promoter, etc.) ■ Wayne “Cochise” Mann
Athlete (attended high school less than 50 years ago) ■ Marvin “Butch” Joyce ■ Greg Carothers ■ Shannon Agee-Jones ■ Danny Sprinkle ■ Laura (Bennett) Nelson ■ Heidi (Gray) Voigt
Mike Van Diest ■ Doug LeBrun
Golden Team ■ 1960
HHS track and field
1983 CHS Bruins basketball ■ 1984 HHS Lady Bengals basketball.
The Helena Sports Hall of Fame was founded in 1999. Since 2003, this will be the HSHOF’s sixth class of inductees. The induction banquet and ceremony will take place July 15 at the Red Lion Colonial Inn. Tickets are $35 per person and are available by sending a check, including the names of the people attending, to: The Helena Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 6302, Helena, MT 59604. You must also note your meal choices, which are listed on the order form on the HSHOF website, at helenasportshof.org.
To order banquet tickets, go to the web site helenasportshof.org
PAGE 2 — 2011 HELENA SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Z. A. Zip Eaton By CURT SYNNESS
rom shooting jack rabbits as a young boy growing up in Kansas, to breaking 100 consecutive clay targets on his 75th birthday, the late Zip Eaton (1919-2000) spent most of his life with a gun in his hands. And one time he was even on the wrong end of a firearm. Eaton was Helena’s greatest trap shooter, as well as one the best in the history of the sport in the state of Montana. During a career spanning five decades, he captured a total of 23 state championships in various categories. Among his titles were the Men’s 16 yard (1959, 1961, 1963, 1965), the Doubles (1961, 1964, 1965, 1971, 1972, 1977), the All-Around (1961, 1964, 1965, 1972, 1976, 1977), the Veterans 16 yard (1983, 1986, 1989), and the Senior Veteran (1990, 1993). In 1960, he was named to the American Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame, and in 1965, he won the State’s Triple Crown, garnering the Men’s 16 yard, the Doubles and AllAround. He was also the first Montanan to win the state 27-yard championship. But arguably his greatest feat occurred in 1959, when Zip was part of a 5-man team that established a world record with a perfect score of 500. Competing at the Grand American Shoot in Vandalia, Ohio, the fivesome of Dan Orlich (Reno, Nev.), Bill Harrison (Los Angeles), Maynard Henry (Los Angeles), Herman Peterson (Dillon) and Eaton broke 500 out of 500 targets. Each shooter went 100 for 100, with Zip going last and breaking the 500th for the record. “That was my biggest thrill,” Eaton told the IR in a 1988 interview. “Nobody had ever been in that position before in the history of the sport. It hadn’t been done in 70 years of trap shooting.” “I started counting at 480. I didn’t want to do that, but I couldn’t help it.” But Eaton’s career was almost over before it even started, when his young life was
nearly ended by a deranged gunman. While attending jewelry college in Peoria, Ill., in the late 1930s, Zip was working parttime as a busboy in a restaurant. “There was an eccentric optometrist in Peoria that Zip’s boss didn’t want in his restaurant, so he had the help cut down on this guy’s portions of food,” his son Mike
Eaton recounted recently. “The guy came in with a .38 revolver and started shooting up the place. “He shot my dad in the right cheek, and the bullet lodged in the back of his neck on the left side. Zip then took the gun away from the guy and proceeded to beat the crap out of
him, before he (Zip) passed out.” Mike said his mother, Ruth, and his dad were married in the Peoria hospital, because Zip was not expected to live. “He carried a dimple in his cheek and a scar on his neck, and his hearing was impaired for the rest of his life, from the shooting,” Mike said. After coming to Helena, Eaton and Rodney Nick became owners of the No. 1 and No. 2 membership cards, respectively, to the Montana Trapshooting Association. The two men traveled together to competitions for 30 years. “When we first started out, the Helena Gun Club was a tiny little place with not too many shooters,” said Nick, who won the 1978 state handicap championship. “Al Mues took Zip to some trapshoots, and he did real good.” Trapshooting became a family affair for the Eatons, as Zip’s sons Mike and Dave both became standout shootists. “I remember one year at the state shoot, dad and I brought home 22 out of a possible 24 trophies from the all the different categories,” said Mike, who was a junior All-American in 1962-63. “Our jewelry store supplied most of the hardware for the state tournaments. It’s kind of funny, because I did all the engraving on the silver salad bowls and plates, and our family usually ended up taking home about 80 percent of the awards,” he laughed. In addition to competitions, Nick and Eaton helped set the ground rules for the MTA. Zip served as president of both the City and State associations, and was the treasurer/secretary for Montana for 20 years, wrote the late John Delano. Willie Price, who has captured four out of the last five State Senior Veterans championships, described Eaton’s importance to trapshooting around the state. “Zip was an ambassador of the sport for our state, and he was a gentleman in every sense of the word,” Price said. Mike Eaton said his dad was “the Tiger Woods of trap shooting in Montana. When he was competing, you expected him to win, and he almost always did.” “When Zip was competing, he was always the guy to beat,” agreed Rodney Nick.
Marvin “Butch” Joyce
By CURT SYNNESS
he Capital City area has produced two rodeo world champions. The first was Fannie Sperry Steele, who won a pair of “ladies world bucking” championships in 1912 and 1913. The second was East Helena’s Marvin “Butch” Joyce, although his title was the saddle bronc average crown, at the 1972 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. Joyce first learned how to rodeo in about 1960 under the tutelage of local cowboy Walt Holland. In 1961, Butch and the rest of the Helena High Rodeo Club practiced at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds every morning before school, where they trained for the prep rodeos on the wild horses that were kept there. In the summers, Joyce and Holland rodeoed around the state together. “Butch and I practiced together all the time,” related Holland. “And he learned a lot about saddle bronc from Jack Dawson out of Boulder.” A quick study, it didn’t take Joyce long to win his first championship, when as a junior he captured the 1961 State High School AllAround championship. Collegiately, he was a four-year member of the Montana State University’s rodeo club. At the 20th annual MSU Intercollegiate Rodeo in 1966, the Bobcats swept both the men’s and women’s championships. Joyce won the second go-round in the bulldogging, in a time of 5.7 seconds. He would later place third at the College National Finals Rodeo. Butch’s best showing at the Last Chance Stampede occurred in 1971, when he finally broke his hometown jinx with a runner-up placing. He won Saturday’s LCS saddle bronc with a 69. The East Helena cowboy started making a name for himself nationally in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In 1968, he posted his lifetime best in steer wrestling, dogging his steer in an arena record time of 3.2 seconds in Lethbridge, Alberta. The Rodeo Cowboy’s Association selected him its 1969 Saddle Bronc Rookie of the Year. “I think my best steer wrestling payday was in Houston (Texas) in 1971, and one of my top saddle bronc wins came at the 1972 Cheyenne Frontier Days,” Joyce once told this reporter. The 5-foot-10, 155-pounder suffered a setback in 1971 with a broken foot, putting the kibosh to his National Finals Rodeo plans.
But he was determined to make a comeback. The next year he improved his bulldogging skills by traveling the circuit with Wyoming’s legendary Frank Shepperson. Joyce entered the 1972 NFR in Oklahoma City – considered “the World Series” of professional rodeo – as the 14th leading money winner in saddle bronc riding. He split the second and third money in the third go-round and won the sixth go-round with a 74. On the final day, Butch stood in second place, 10 points behind Bill Martinelli of Oakdale, Calif., and needed a big ride in order to win. Which is exactly what he did. “Marvin Joyce, appearing in his first NFR, did not let the pressure bother him as he spurred his way to an 82-point ride and a first place finish in the 10th and final go-round of saddle bronc riding,” wrote IR sports editor Roy Pace. “That ride also moved the 28-year old East Helena cowboy into first place in the 10-head average and he picked up another $1,930 in prize money, bringing his total NFR winnings to $3,100.” Joyce, who amassed 664 points for his crown, was one of only two cowboys to make all 10-rides. The next year, he entered the NFR ranked 10th in the world, with earnings of $11,849.
During the season he cashed in at 37 rodeos, including his best showing at the Denver Livestock Show of $2,634. But he finished out of the money at the NFR that year. After spending eight years on the professional rodeo circuit – many times having to skip a meal so his horse could eat – Joyce retired from competition. He is one of only three local area athletes to qualify for the NFR, along with Cody Demers and Shelley Murphy; and he stands as the only one to make it twice. Joyce stayed involved with his sport by serving as the RCA Northwest Regional Bronc Riding Director for several years. He also kept busy by managing the TriCities Rodeo, serving on the rules committee, performing rodeo judging seminars, and putting on numerous bronc riding and bulldogging schools. Nowadays, he is a real estate adjuster in Copell, Texas, where he lives with his lovely wife, Joanne. The Joyce’s have one daughter, Peggy, and two grandsons. “Marvin was much better riding the rank, wilder horses, rather than the classic-type buckers,” says former professional ‘dawger Joe Epler. “And he was able to bulldog steers like a much bigger guy because he had such powerful shoulders and great technique.”
2011 HELENA SPORTS HALL OF FAME — PAGE 3
Shannon Agee-Jones By CURT SYNNESS
hen girl’s pole vaulting first became an MHSA sanctioned sport in 1995, the top two vaulters in the state both came out of the Capital City. Helena High had Shannon Agee, while Capital High had Suzanne Krings. Like Ali vs. Frazier, the two pushed each other to new heights. Over the next four years, whenever Agee and Krings hooked up against each other, it was almost guaranteed that the girl’s pole vault competition would last long after most of the other events were finished. Usually as the sun was going down. And although Krings often came out second-best in their match-ups – Agee captured the events’ first four AA State championships from 1995-98, with Krings placing runner-up three times – their crosstown rivalry made history, putting Helena on the map as the host of two of the nation’s prep pioneers in the sport. Her senior year in 1998, Agee became the first high school girl in the nation to clear 13-feet, while setting the national record of 13-feet-2. Krings wasn’t far behind, with a clearance of 12-6. “When coach Doug ‘Old Man’ LeBrun took me under his wing during the first season of sanctioned women’s pole vaulting, I didn’t really understand the extraordinary leap it was for women in track and field,” wrote Agee-Jones from her home in Harlowton. “It was a lot of fun,” Krings said, reflecting on her rivalry with Agee-Jones during the infancy of girl’s pole vaulting. “Shannon would make a height, and then I’d make a height – we kept pushing each other, back and forth, to go higher. “And when we got to college, it was even more fun, because we weren’t so serious about the rivalry and became more friendly,”
said Krings, who is a 2009 HSHOF inductee. “Looking back, I feel lucky to have been part of a pioneering group of women,” AgeeJones said. “With myself and Suzanne, the city of Helena represented this new event well.” Shannon still holds the state all-class (13-0) and Vigilante Stadium (13-2) records, 13 years later.
She is the only athlete, boy or girl, in the 107-year history of track and field at Helena High, to win four State titles in the same event. The versatile Agee garnered eight letters at HHS – four in track, three in basketball and one in cross country. On the Lady Bengals track Top-10 lists, she stands fifth in the 300 hurdles (47.11
seconds), fifth in the triple jump (35-1) and ninth in the 100 hurdles (16.0). She also ran a leg on the 400 relays…if and when she had time. Agee possessed a phenomenal strengthto-weight ratio, and earned the school’s “Top Weight Lifter” award. At 5-foot-6 and 133 pounds, her best lifts included a 175-pound bench press, 265 squat and 165 clean. In 1997, she was named Montana’s Female Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year, and in 1998, she received HHS’ Pat Donovan Award. “Coach LeBrun took me around the state and country, to meets, camps and trainings,” Agee-Jones wrote. “He was a force – dedicated, protective and proud, and I am grateful to have been part of his crew. “Old Man, Tony Arntson, Sheila Williams, Linda Paull, Manny Garza, George Harper – whose encouragement always meant so much to me – and many others helped me win those championships, and be a part of this emerging women’s sport.” Collegiately, Shannon competed for one year at the University of Kansas before transferring to Montana State. There she renewed her rivalry with Krings, who was competing for the UM Lady Griz. With the Bobcats, AgeeJones was a two-time NCAA All-American and Big Sky Conference champion, in 2001 and 2002. She established MSU and Big Sky records of 13-5½ outdoors and 13-3¾ indoors. Both marks still stand as Lady Bobcat records for a native Montanan. “Montana State University-Bozeman vault coach Tom Eitel was one of the most sincere, authentic and rooted people I will ever meet, and he helped me to my (college successes),” wrote Shannon. Agee-Jones went on to become a teacher and coach at Harlowton High School.
John Dolan By CURT SYNNESS
hen the late John Dolan (19151978) played for the Kenosha (Wis.) Cardinals in 1940, he became the first local athlete to play professional football. And he was able to do it despite two strikes against him; one being his size, the other being a conspiracy by the Cardinal coaches and team members. Even the Kenosha equipment manager didn’t think Dolan belonged. “My dad’s first day of pro camp, he was told by the equipment manager that there wasn’t any equipment for him, that he was too small to be playing pro football,” wrote Pat Dolan of his father’s experience, 71 years ago. Even after John showed the fellow his team contract, the guy still didn’t believe him, but finally gave in. “At practice, dad received the same cold shoulder (Who gave this guy a contract!),” Pat wrote. “So the coaches got together and decided they would physically run this Montana kid off the field.” They ran three consecutive toss sweeps to his left end position, each time adding a man for Dolan to beat. After the 5-foot-9, 178-pound Helenan stopped every play for no gain – the third time he beat three guys, having to play off the tight end, the leading fullback and a pulling guard – he was finally accepted. Dolan went on to play two years of pro ball. After his second season, with the Buffalo Tigers in 1941, his professional career was cut short by World War II. In high school, Dolan gained fame by helping the Helena Bengals to the 1932 State championship, with a 12-6 win over Billings. When he was selected first team AllState at left end, Helena Daily Independent sports editor Al Gaskill wrote, “Dolan was the greatest defensive end in the state, as well as being a competent offensive man.” During his three seasons as a starter for coach Henry Fiske, HHS compiled an 18-7 record. A versatile athlete, Dolan was also a
catcher for the 1932 Lewis and Clark baseball team, one of Helena’s first Legion clubs. He later played a number of seasons of adult baseball in the City and State Leagues. John started at end for Montana State University (prior to being called by the University of Montana) as a sophomore in 1936, when the Griz played in the Pacific Coast Conference.
They compiled a 6-3 record, with two of their losses coming to Washington State and UCLA. Montana finished the season with three impressive wins, over Idaho, San Francisco and North Dakota. The Grizzlies opened the 1937 season with 25-0 and 13-6 triumphs over Whitman College and Texas Tech, respectively. Next, Montana defeated Oklahoma City University, 36-6. The Griz then met the University of San Francisco in Butte, prevailing 13-7. Dolan came up with a huge sack in the fourth quarter to stop a Dons drive. “John
Dolan, wrecking end, threw Braga for a 16 yard loss after the ball had been put in play on Montana’s 31-yard mark,” according to The Missoulian. Then came two shutouts, over the Bobcats and Gonzaga. When Montana beat Gonzaga for its ninth consecutive victory, L.A. Times sports editor Bill Henry reported that should the Grizzlies finish undefeated, they would be “strongly considered” for the Rose Bowl. But the Griz were then stopped 6-0 by the Idaho Vandals on a soggy field in Moscow, ending their Bowl bid. In the season finale, a 14-3 comeback win over North Dakota at Dornblaser Field, “John Dolan, fighting end, was the outstanding Montana player in the Thanksgiving tussle. His smashing defensive work kept the Sioux in check, while his 23yard catch started the Grizzlies on their first scoring march.” Montana finished at 7-1, outscoring the opposition 143-28. After opening 1938 with a win over Eastern Washington, the Griz shaded powerful DePaul University, 7-6. “Superhuman John Dolan, the greatest defensive performer on the field, caught an 8-yard strike from Rolland Lundberg and fell across the goal line. Perry Stenson’s placekick sailed over the crossbar for the 1-point win.” The Griz closed out the season with consecutive shutouts over Gonzaga, Montana State and Arizona. In his three years at Montana, he was twice named AllConference and served as captain his senior year, while helping the Griz to an 18-7-1 mark, with 11 shutouts. Dolan’s three sons, Johno, Pat and Mike, all gridded for Great Falls Central in the mid1960s. Pat went on to play safety for the UM in 1969-70, when the Grizzlies compiled successive undefeated 10-0 regular seasons and participated in two Camellia Bowls. He later was an assistant coach at Montana, from 1971-80. One of his charges was his cousin, Bill Dolan. And Pat’s son, Billings prep great Nathan Dolan, was a wide receiver for the Griz on the 1995 National Championship team.
PAGE 4 — 2011 HELENA SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Mike Van Diest By TOM STUBER
nless you haven’t ever left your home, read a paper, listened to a radio or watched the local television in the past decade, then chances are you’ve probably heard about Mike Van Diest. The former Helena Central and Helena High athlete has led the Carroll College Fighting Saints to six NAIA national football championships in the past nine seasons as the head football coach. In 12 seasons leading the Saints, Van Diest has compiled a 144-20 won-lost record for a winning percentage of .878, which stands as the third best in the history of college football behind only Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne and Mount Union’s Larry Kehres. Former Capital High star quarterback Tyler Emmert led the Saints to the first four national championships. “Away from football he’s one of the nicest guys you’re going to meet,” Emmert said. “He’s unbelievable at remembering peoples’ names and events. “Around the game he’s pretty intense. He can leave the game after practice, but when he’s there he’s very demanding.” Emmert says it’s that passion for football that has made Van Diest’s career so outstanding. “It matters to him. It’s an obsession,” he said. “That’s one of the major reasons players respond to him so well and why he’s successful. He expects the best you have and you always know where he stands.” Van Diest played football for the University of Wyoming, after which he was offered a tryout with the Washington Redskins. Washington paid him for $12,500 to attend a 2-day camp in Corpus Christi, Texas. But the only rookie coach George Allen kept was Mike Thomas, who went on to make Rookie of the Year. His coaching career involved stints at Wyoming, the University of Montana, the University of Massachusetts and Northwestern University. Van Diest’s first Saints’ team (1999) went 5-6 and in 2000 he went 10-4 with a loss in the national semifinals. Those are the only two teams with more than two losses in a season. In the 10 years since then, his teams have lost the same number of games (10) as those first two seasons. “He prepares for every game the same
way,” Emmert added. “The atmosphere may be different in Division I than it is in the NAIA, but he approaches them the same way. It wouldn’t matter if we were playing Tech in the middle of the season or Florida State. The players really react to that.” Van Diest has been known for coming up with fun sayings, with one of Emmert’s favorite moments involving future NFL tight end Casey FitzSimmons. “Casey had just caught a pass and was about a half-yard short of the first down,” Emmert related. “Coach told Casey he’s ‘the worst tight end I’ve ever seen’ when he came off the field. Casey had caught a bunch of passes in that game and we were way ahead. I wanted to fall over laughing.” Van Diest continues to coach the Saints, who have won 11 Frontier Conference championships, own a conference record of 95-10 (.905 winning percentage), and are currently riding a 43-game winning streak versus Frontier foes. Carroll has reached the national semifinals in 10 of the past 11 years, while posting a 29-5 mark in postseason play. Van Diest is a 10-time Frontier Conference Coach of the Year, and a 4-time NAIA National Coach of the Year. But despite all his successes, the
Hilltoppers’ coach tells a great story of mistaken identity that helps keeps him humble. “The day after the national championship in Rome, Ga., our football team had an autograph signing at the Capital Hill Mall,” recounted Van Diest. “Late in the afternoon I sent the players home to pack for Christmas vacation, and I stayed around at Leslie’s Hallmark for about an hour signing footballs, T-shirts and sweatshirts.” Just as he was cleaning up, and elderly lady approached, and asked if he would sign a couple shirts for her grandchildren for Christmas presents. “She said she was a big Carroll football fan, and never missed a game when the weather was nice and listened to all of our away games on the radio. I told her I would be honored, and thanked her for her support,” Van Diest said. As the woman started to leave, he wished her and her family a merry Christmas, and a safe drive home. She then turned around and said, “Thank you, and a very merry Christmas to you, coach Petrino.” “Only in your hometown could something like that happen,” laughed Van Diest.
By TOM STUBER
apital High football has churned out a bevy of talent on the defensive side of the ball over the years, but only a small handful have been in the same league as Greg Carothers. Carothers led the Bruins to an undefeated State title in 1999, while earning the AA Defensive Most Valuable Player award at season’s end. He would go on to start for four years at the University of Washington, collecting six tackles and forcing a fumble to lead them in a Rose Bowl win along the way. It’s been said that a keen fan of the game wouldn’t need to observe a Capital game for long before noticing the skills of Carothers, who seemed to sniff out every play on the field before it happened. “Just about anything you wanted him to do, he could do it,” said former Capital High football head coach Mark Samson. “The way he could adjust to different things on both sides of the ball and special teams and then carry them out well was pretty special.” Carothers was also electric on the track where as a sophomore and junior, he won state championships in the 300M hurdles, and placed runner-up his senior year. He finished with two more titles, as part of CHS’ 1,600 relay winners, while helping the Bruins to back-to-back AA team championships, in 1998-99. Carothers holds at least three school track records, including the 300 hurdles, in 38.17 seconds; points scored in a State meet, with 30 points; and total career points at State, with 62. He’s tied for the most medals at a State meet (five), with Jake Eldridge and Shawn Holland; and is second in career State medals (12). Carothers is also part of CHS’ 1,600 relay record, of 3:21.12, with Herb Ballou, Joe Baumgart and Eldridge. The versatile Carothers earned 10 letters for the Bruins; four in track, and three each in football and basketball. But his calling card was football.
He was a two-time first team all-state safety for the Capital Bruins in 1998-99. His career statistics – 136 solo tackles, 42 assists, 10 interceptions, 10 pass knockdowns, 13 tackles for loss, five fumbles caused, four
fumble recoveries, three sacks and three blocked kicks – earned him the nation’s 38th ranked prep safety. Collegiately at Washington, Carothers was co-winner of the Travis Spring Award as one of the team’s outstanding freshman, and was named an NCAA freshman All-American.
As a sophomore, he was the Huskies’ second-leading tackler, with 72, and was named a game defensive MVP three times. In a win over Stanford, he recorded 12 tackles, and he forced two fumbles and a sack in the victory over Washington State. His junior year, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Carothers collected two game defensive MVPs and was tabbed All-PAC-10 honorable mention. His 2002 season numbers for UW consisted of 84 tackles, 8½ tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown. In 2003, he moved from strong safety to outside linebacker, recording 57 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and four sacks. Upon leaving Washington, Carothers had NFL tryouts with the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. He spent one season in the NFL Europa, where he helped the Amsterdam Admirals to the league title, making 58 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception. His local prep gridiron exploits, however, still top the charts. In a semifinal playoff game against C.M. Russell, the Bruins had a double-digit lead when the Rustlers scored a late touchdown and lined up to try an onside kick. “I told everyone to just field the ball and get down,” Samson said. “We could just take a knee and that was it. “So CMR kicks it and it goes right to Carothers on an easy bounce and he takes off untouched for a TD. At first I was little upset, but he came over to the sidelines with a big grin on his face and said, ‘coach, I had no choice.’ I just laughed and said that’s fine. “The next week in the championship game he threw a halfback pass for a touchdown. That just showed how versatile he could be. It just seemed like every week he was doing something unique.” “He was a tough kid that loved the game of football. In my three years with him I didn’t have an ounce of trouble with him,” Samson said. But opposing coaches and players sure did.
2011 HELENA SPORTS HALL OF FAME — PAGE 5
1984-85 HHS Lady Bengals basketball
By CURT SYNNESS
he 1984 Helena High Lady Bengals won the school’s first modern-day girls state basketball championship. Helena compiled a 21-3 overall record, with seven of its talented cagers going on to play college hoops. HHS featured a balanced scoring attack (the top six players averaged between 8-12 points per game), an intense defense and an overwhelming esprit decor. “Of all the years that I coached, that team probably had the most special relationship of all,” said Gross, who coached girls basketball for over 30 years. “I remember Lisa Downs telling me in the seventh grade, ‘We’re going to win a state championship when we get to high school.” After placing runner-up at State in 1983, the Lady Bengals entered the Eastern Division tournament in Billings the next year at 16-2. They made it to the division finals before losing to Great Falls High and finishing second. “We didn’t show up in that first loss to Great Falls, so after we got home, we went back to work,” Jim Gross said. “There was a two-week break between divisionals and state, and we practiced hard almost every day during that time, including Thanksgiving Day.” At State in Great Falls, HHS beat Havre and Kalispell to advance to the title game and a rematch with the Lady Bison. Led by 6-foot-2 junior post Kari Kockler’s 21 points, Helena prevailed 60-48 for the title. According to Lisa (Downs) Bullock, coach Gross used a little psychology to get his hoopsters ready.
“When I was a junior, before State the team went to the local radio station, and each team member introduced themselves on the air,” Bullock wrote. She described how in the locker room prior to the 1984 chipper, The 1984 HHS Lady Bengals basketball team, from left; Theresa Downs, Brenda Toner, Jennifer Davis, Kim Ware, Margie McMahon, Tammy Gross played Sutliff, Kari Kockler, Karen Gross, Leslie Ursich, Tiffany Shew, Lisa Downs, Cheryl Hultin, Becky Schmidt. the tape of that interview. Western Montana. “We listened to the excitement and anticipation in our voices, and remembered Karen (Gross) Keller concurred with her the agony and heartache after losing father’s assessment of the team’s camaraderie. to Columbia Falls, and we vowed not to “We all got along well on and off the court, experience defeat again,” wrote Bullock. we played together as a team, and we had a lot “It was a brilliant move on Coach Gross’ of fun,” said Keller. part – we were all energized and motivated Some of that fun included teammates – and left the locker room thinking we were getting her in trouble on the long bus rides. invincible.” “I’d be asleep in the back, and anytime Karen Gross, who averaged 13.3 ppg in the somebody caused a ruckus, or played the tourney and was lauded for her “strong allJackie and Diane song, they’d yell out, ‘Knock around play” was selected tournament MVP. it off Karen!’ Lady Bengals joining her on the All-Tourney “I’d wake up just in time to see my dad team were Brenda Toner and Tammi Sutliff. turn around in his seat up front, and yell, ‘You All-State honors went to Toner, Gross and need to stop, and we’ll talk about this when we Lisa Downs. get home,” she laughed. Collegiately, Gross, Lisa Downs and Toner One song that was not banned was the played for Carroll; Leslie Ursich played for “Eye of the Tiger,” which the girls sang before Miles City CC and the University of Mary; every game. Kari Kockler played at Portland State; And the “We Are The Champions” song, Theresa Downs played at Rocky Mountain which they belted out the entire ride home after winning in Great Falls. College; and Tammy Sutliff played for
1983 CHS Bruins basketball team
By TOM STUBER
here have been several out-ofnowhere basketball teams to go on to win state AA championships over the years, but probably none have done it in as exciting a fashion as the 1983 Capital High Bruins. Playing in the always tough Eastern AA Division the Bruins fought their way to a 10-8 mark at the end of the regular season. While that record is average it didn’t tell the whole story as the Bruins were losing to some of the top teams in the state by close scores, but also beating those same teams and building a reserved confidence along the way. One of the senior starters on the team – Paul Phillips – had a good explanation of the team’s development. “We only had one player, John Harrington, with varsity experience, so it took a while for us get (head coach Jim) Opitz’s schemes down,” he said. “We had a smart team and knew that once we got it together we’d be all right.” The players also pointed to a Christmas Break scrimmage it had with some recently graduated Capital High players. Guys like Bobby Petrino, Dan Frankino and Scott Davis gave the ’83 squad a run-through and it proved valuable. “Playing against those guys taught us to take it up another level and that every possession counts,” Phillips said. The Bruins would take third at the Eastern AA Divisionals and went into the state tourney
feeling like there wasn’t anyone there they couldn’t beat after having won a game against each team at state. Narrow wins in the first two games sent the Bruins to the title game to face The 1983 CHS Bruins basketball team, front row (l-r); coach Bob Ridgeway, Tracy Johnson, Kurt Keith, Mike McMahon, John Harrington, Billings Senior. Troy Grovom, Mike Mulcahy, Paul Phillips, Brett Voegele, coach John Frankino. Back; mgr. Scott Cleveland, mgr. Matt Amundson, Rich When CHS Knuckles, Scott Hicks, Paul Petrino, Colt Sanders, mgr. Tom LaFond, head coach Jim Opitz. rallied from a Phillips would score the first points of OT six-point deficit with a pair of free throws, but Senior’s Derek against Great Falls High in the semifinals for Green converted a three-point play to put the a 56-51 triumph, coach Opitz told the IR, “We are a Cinderella team with both shoes still on.” Broncs up by a point. Tracy Johnson scored for Capital off an In what would be the first televised state offensive rebound and Mike McMahon atoned championship contest, former University for a missed free throw with 20 seconds to go of Montana head basketball coach Mike by grabbing a Senior miss to end the game. Montgomery provided the color commentary. Harrington and Johnson were named to The Bruins were poised to win in the All-Tournament first team, and Phillips regulation when Phillips converted both ends was tabbed for the second team. of the bonus to put Senior down by two, but Coach Opitz was selected Class AA Coach the Broncs got a tip-in at the buzzer to force of the Year. Harrington (13.64 points per the first overtime. game) was awarded first team All-State, while Senior had a chance to win in the first Johnson (10.53 ppg) made the second team. overtime, which was scoreless, but missed The 1983 Capital High boy’s basketball two free throws with two seconds to play. The second overtime was also scoreless as championship is the only hoop title in Harrington missed the front end of the bonus the school history and one of only two midway through the period and Phillips doing appearances in a state championship for either the same with four seconds to go. the boys or girls programs at the school.
1960 HHS Bengals Track & Field
By CURT SYNNESS
he 1960 Helena High track and field team did not feature any superstars, per se. What the Bengals did have, was depth and grit, which they were able to parlay into the second state track championship in school history. A regular season highlight was the 17th annual Jaycee Relays at Vigilante Stadium, when the Bengals won six events. Cliff Hysell led the hosts by breaking the school shot put record for the third straight meet. Cliff upped his own mark with a toss of 55-9¾, while beating the great Wayne Estes of Anaconda by 5 inches in the process. The Bengals showed they were bona fide contenders for a state crown by garnering the Eastern Division title in Butte, outdistancing the runner-up Billings Broncs, 63-57. Three Capital City tracksters broke divisional records. Hysell in the shot put, at 55-feet-9½; Juergen Greger (a foreign exchange student from Germany) in the 880, in 2:00.7; and Kenney in the 440, at 50.4. At the 54th Interscholastic Meet in Missoula, coach Lloyd Skor’s thinclads “captured the school’s first AA track and field title since 1952, combining team depth and a lot of grit,” according to the Independent Record. Helena tallied 45 points, compared to 37 for second-place Park County High. “Never during the two-day meet did the weather cooperate,” the IR reported. “Friday’s extreme winds were followed by overnight
rains. “Saturday was a peek-a-boo session, with intermittent rain, snow and winds to 20 miles an hour.” Greger copped the 880 championship and placed second The 1960 HHS track and field team, State qualifiers, from left; Coach “Nog” Hansen, coach Jack Cohn, Dean Retz, Barney in the mile. His Olson, Mike Meloy, Dave Tobol, Cliff Hysell, Juergen Greger, Gary Larson, Tom Kenney, Bill Wertz, Ron Tobol, Chuck Baer, winning time of Chuck Dove, Randy Noland, head coach Lloyd Skor. 2:00.0 in the halfmile was just ahead of the times as a sports psychologist.” The half-mile relay quartet of Ron and 1/10th of a second off Don White’s 1949 HHS Dave Tobol, Retz and Chuck Dove placed mark of 1:59.9. And the popular German’s runner-up, as well. 4:37.8 in the mile was a couple seconds off his Other teammates scoring were Barney own school standard of 4:35, which he set in Olson in the mile and Randy Noland in the 1959. high hurdles. Much of the Bengals’ strength came in their top-three scoring, in the persons of Ron Tobol, whose runner-up finish in the Kenney (second in both the 440 and 880), 220, to future Olympian Larry Questad of Hysell (second in the discus, third in the shot), Livingston, clinched the team championship Bill Wertz (second in the high jump), Ron with four events left, related his highlights of Tobol (second in the 220, fifth in the 100), and that season 51 years ago. Dean Retz (third in the quarter-mile). “I once beat Larry Questad in a semifinal Wertz, who improved from a fifth-place heat of the 220 dash, although Larry may not finish at the Jaycee’s, said coach Skor’s have been pushing too hard, since it was the psychology helped him to a state runner-up semis,” Tobol wrote. medal. He said that he proudly displays his relay “After divisionals, coach Skor gave me a hurdles record, which still stands. Tobol notes new pair of Adidas, blue with white stripes,” they might not still have the record, however, Wertz wrote. “He told me they would help me since the event was discontinued the following jump higher…and he was right. He was way year.
PAGE 6 — 2011 HELENA SPORTS HALL OF FAME
By CURT SYNNESS
liff Hysell’s induction into the Helena Sports Hall of Fame this summer comes seven years after his enshrinement into Montana State University’s Hall of Fame. Hysell was a three-sport athlete for Helena High from 1957-60, where he earned eight letters in football, basketball and track. He was a junior tackle when the Bengals finished 7-2 and were 1958 state runners-up to Kalispell. The next year, Helena High went 4-4-1, when Hysell was a 6-foot-2, 212-pound fullback and defensive tackle. The Bengals won the season opener 12-7 over Havre, and then Hysell scored the first TD in a 12-7 victory over Great Falls. Next came a 7-7 tie with Missoula, followed by a 29-7 triumph over Livingston. The IR reported that HHS’s backfield of Randy Noland, Ron Tobol, Green and Hysell “banged out consistent 6-to-8 yard gains on every carry” as they amassed 386 yards rushing. Hysell scored one TD, booted three PATs and blocked a punt for a Park safety. Helena then fell behind Anaconda 19-6 before rallying for three unanswered scores to prevail 25-19. Bengals making the 1959 AllState team were Jack Coe, Hysell, Ken Leland, Harry Crawford, Larry Ashcraft and Chuck Green. “Cliff was a big guy and a great player,” said HHS teammate Harry Crawford. “He did everything for us…ran the ball, kicked off, played defense. Cliff helped us win a lot of games.” As Helena’s center on the hardcourt, his senior year he averaged 8.3 points per game and was named to the AllConference team. The school’s Vigilante yearbook described him as “one of the best rebounders in the state.” Two of his best efforts came when he scored 18 points and helped HHS come from 15 down in a 61-57 win over Butte High; and in the 63-61 double OT victory against Bozeman in the 1960 state tourney, when he drained 20 points. In track, Hysell helped Helena High to the 1960 state championship.
He won the shotput and took second in the discus at the Jaycee Relays and the Eastern Division meet in Butte, and then at state he placed runnerup in the disc and took third in the shot.
Hysell bettered Jim Cottrill’s school shotput record with a heave of 55-11¼, and his discus throw of 162-10 eclipsed his buddy Frank Ursich’s former HHS mark. Hysell gridded collegiately for the University of Utah’s freshman team, and then transferred to Bozeman, where he played his final two seasons for the Bobcats. In 1964, MSU won the Big Sky Conference and defeated Sacramento 28-7 to capture the Camellia Bowl-Northwest championship. As a senior, the Bobcats beat Wichita State 17-6 in the second game of the year,
but the victory was costly as several starters sustained season-ending injuries. They won only once more all year, but it was a big one, 24-7 over the Griz. A few of Hysell’s Bobcats’ teammates included future NFL Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud, future Capital High coach Jim Tuss, and former Helena Bengal great Earl Hanson. The 266-pound Hysell, who was voted team co-captain and chosen Big Sky all-conference offensive tackle, was drafted by the Denver Broncos. But he was cut after two weeks, and therefore unable to reunite with former HHS teammate Bob “Spud” McCullough. After his professional tryout, Hysell was hired as an assistant coach for Great Falls High in 1966. As the defensive coordinator for six years, the Bison went 52-9, won three state titles and two state runners-up. He then went back to MSU as an assistant, where he was the defensive line coach under Sonny Holland (1972-77) and the defensive coordinator for Sonny Lubick (1978-81). During this period, the Bobcats won three Big Sky Conferences and were crowned national champions in 1976. From 1982-91, Hysell served as an assistant under his old MSU boss, Jim Sweeney at Fresno State, where he was part of five California Raisin Bowl appearances and coordinated the third-rated defense in the nation in 1988. In 1992, Cliff was hired as the MSU Bobcats head coach, a position he held for eight years. Some of his biggest thrills included: beating the University of Idaho when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation in 1993; defeating Boise State in Boise, against his old buddy, the late Pokey Allen; and playing against Montana for the conference championship in 1998. “The thing that I will take to my grave,” Hysell told this reporter in 2002, “is the ’97 game with the Griz, when we went ahead with 22 seconds left in the game. “Then our kicker kicked the ball out of bounds and they got the ball on the 35, and went on to beat us,” he said. But that game won’t be listed on Cliff’s HSHOF plaque.
Laura (Bennett) Nelson
By TOM STUBER
Bennett’s Bruins’ teams win the 1996 and 1997 girl’s AA track and field championships.
t could be said that Laura (Bennett) Nelson’s prep track and field career at Capital High was one of being in-itto-win-it, because if she didn’t win it, she was certainly in it. That can be proven by the fact that of her 15 career medals during state competition, 11 are for either first (six) or second (five) place finishes. “She was always a fun-loving person and an intense competitor,” longtime Capital High track coach Shirley Chesterfield-Stanton said. “One year at divisional she was just about exhausted during the long jump qualifier and was tied for the last spot.” Chesterfield-Stanton said, “The officials thought they had to look into the tie-breaker and (Capital assistant coach) Bob Ronan had to explain to them that the tiebreaker is only used in the finals. “Laura then went out and jumped up a storm and won the event despite being worn out.” Bennett garnered three individual AA titles, two in the 200-meter dash, and one in the 400 open; and three relay crowns, two 4x100 relays and one 4x400 races. She holds the CHS records in both the 200, in 25.5 seconds, and the 400, in 58.4. Bennett is also part of both school relay marks – in 1997 with Danielle Merritt, Jamie Armbruster and Carrie Damschen in the 4x100, in 49.71; and the 4x400, in 4:01.02, with Damschen, Betsy Krings and Emily Nay in 1995. Of her five state runnersup medals, perhaps the most noteworthy was the 1997 long jump. At the AA meet in Billings, Bennett sailed 17-feet-11½, but was shaded by teammate Suzanne Krings for the title by a mere quarter of an inch. Her exploits didn’t just set Bennett apart, but they also went a long way in helping
Those teams totaled 135 and 133 points, respectively, with the 135-point mark setting a girl’s AA record at the time and it has only been topped once. The marks stand as the
second- and third-best point totals in girl’s AA history. Bennett, alone, put 41 points towards the 1997 State Class AA Meet team total. That mark stands to this day as the top individual point total in the history of girl’s track and field at Capital High. She is No. 2 on the school’s State meet all-time lists in four categories; career state championships (six), career medals (15), career points (83½), meet medals (six). In the weight room, she was CHS’ top female lifter in the 110pound class, with a combined total of 675 pounds in four lifts (bench press, squats, clean and dead lift). Bennett would go on to compete at the collegiate level with Montana State University where she helped the Bobcats win just their second Big Sky track and field indoor championship in 2001. The 5-6 speedster was a member of two MSU recordsetting 4x400 relay units. The 2001 indoor foursome got the stick around in 3:44.56, which still stands; and the 1999 quartet clocked a 3:43.26 (since broken). Both efforts were good enough for conference titles, and former Capital teammate Carrie Damschen was involved with each race. All-told, Bennett was a member of 10 Montana State relay teams which posted times on the school’s top-10 lists – eight in the 4x400, and one apiece in the 4x100 and distance medley relay. “If there’s one thing I’ll always remember about Laura it’s her smile,” Chesterfield-Stanton said. “She was a good teammate and a leader on the team. She could never complain and just wanted to know ‘what do we need to do now.’ “It was a fun time for all of us.” Laura is better known these days as Laura (Bennett) Nelson, Peyton and Cooper Nelson’s mother.
2011 HELENA SPORTS HALL OF FAME — PAGE 7
By TOM STUBER
ew athletes in the Capital City have piqued the interest of local sports fans as much as Danny Sprinkle in his three years as a starter on the Helena High boy’s basketball team. Sprinkle helped keep the Bengals at or near the top of the Western AA conference and the AA power polls, which in turn had fans piling into the Helena High gym in droves with nonsellouts being the exception not the norm during the early 1990s. With his characteristic highenergy style of play and long-range shooting accuracy, Sprinkle delighted fans throughout his career. “Danny just worked extremely hard,” his high school coach Steve Keller said. “He had a key to the gym and he’d be in there shooting until midnight sometimes. That carried over to (Montana State).” He would go on to crack the 1,000point barrier for the Bengals finishing with the third highest total in the school’s storied history at 1,053. Sprinkle left the school as No. 2 in career free throw percentage (.833), tied for third for points in a single game (35), and fourth in career average (16.71 ppg) and career 3-pointers (77). He is one of only three Bengals, along with Justin Brown and Jeff Foster, to score 300 points in three separate seasons. He earned an All-Conference selection as a sophomore, and firstteam All-State honors his final two seasons. His senior year, Sprinkle helped the Bengals to the AA runnerup trophy. “I coached a lot of good shooters, but Danny was one of the best,” Keller added. Sprinkle received seven letters at HHS, three in basketball and two each in football and track. He caught 25 passes for 225 yards at his wide receiver position, and was named honorable mention AllConference. In track, his best efforts were a 6-foot-6 high jump (placed fourth at Divisionals), 14.9 seconds in the 110 hurdles, and 40.5 in the 300 hurdles. After seeing the AA state cage title elude him in high school, Sprinkle quickly made up for it with a vengeance as a true freshman at Montana State University.
Injuries forced the Bobcats to give Sprinkle a shot in his first year and he immediately made that move pay dividends hitting six 3-pointers in an early season non-conference game against Texas Christian. Later that same season, in the 1996 Big Sky Conference championship game, Sprinkle would torch the net with eight 3-pointers scoring 30 points to lead the Bobcats to the tourney championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Sprinkle was awarded the Big Sky Tournament MVP for his efforts, becoming the only freshman in tournament history to receive the award. He also led the Bobcats to the Big Sky title game in 1998, but they fell to Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. A three-time All-Conference selection – first team as a frosh, and honorable mention the next two years – he holds no less than six team records, and four Big Sky tourney standards. A few of his more noteworthy MSU marks include game (9), season (88) and career (263) three-point field goals, and season (.895) and career (.850) free throw percentage. Sprinkle held the Big Sky mark for career 3-pointers for several years, and presently sits fourth on the all-time list. His conference tournament records are career 3-pointers (18), career 3-point percentage (.462) and field goal percentage for a tournament (.789). Sprinkle averaged 13.4 points per game at MSU, with his 1,497 lifetime points ranked No. 6 on the school’s list. He was named to Montana State’s Hall of Fame in 2006 his first year of eligibility. Sprinkle is currently an assistant coach at the California State University-Northridge. He has served in that capacity from 2000-2006 and 2008-present. He spent 2007 as an assistant at his alma mater Montana State. “Danny was a great kid and good leader at Helena High,” said Keller, current Montana Western head man. “He was a good teammate and just an all-around good guy. We still stay in touch and talk about players we’re recruiting. “I think he’s going to be a head coach soon,” Keller said.
Wayne “Cochise” Mann
By CURT SYNNESS
he late Cloycie Wayne “Cochise” Mann (1942-2007) was one of Helena’s most recognizable, colorful and devoted sports fans. Mann was a fixture at local sporting events for almost 45 years. Mann’s favorite haunts were the Carroll College P.E. Center, Kindrick Legion Field, the Helena High and Capital gymnasiums, Vigilante Stadium, and Nelson Stadium. Whenever there was a home HHS, CHS or Saints football or basketball game, or a Helena Brewers, Senators or Reps baseball contest, the odds were that the skinny guy with the glasses and cowboy hat would be there…many times appearing at two or three different events in the same day. “Cochise had an effect on everyone he met,” wrote former Helena Brewers manager Dusty Rhodes, after learning of Mann’s death in 2007. “He will be missed not only by the people of Helena, but also people he came into contact with during their stay in Helena. “I lost a close friend, and will miss him very much,” said Rhodes, who coached the University of North Florida (1988-2010) and the Greek national baseball team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. And Mann wasn’t satisfied to just sit in the seats and spectate. Cochise had a boundless source of energy, and was always on the move – whether it was roaming the stands to offer his opinion on a certain play, or voluntarily helping out in one way or another. The only thing he loved more than watching his favorite teams, was
analyzing their performances, and Mann could pontificate local sports with the best of them. Nor was he bashful when it came to giving the coaches advice, either. Cochise kept busy at Kindrick Legion Field by delivering refreshments to the press box or collecting garbage, and at Vigilante
Stadium by manning the player’s gate to the field. One of his jobs at the HHS “Jungle” was crowd control, keeping the kids in line. Mann truly enjoyed making himself involved
at basketball games as well, and one of his favorite rituals was getting down on the floor and “high-fiving” the players during warmups. For over a decade every baseball season in the 1980s and ’90s, it was Wayne’s job to single-handedly put up and take down the Helena Brewers canvas fence signs. Many nights he didn’t finish until after midnight. Mann was known and loved by literally thousands of sports people in our community, including coaches, players, activities directors, managers, referees and fans. Steve Jones, Carroll College director of sports facilities, said that Cochise was in charge of the player’s gate at Nelson Stadium, and for hoops games at the P. E. Center, he was the officials’ gametime and halftime contact. He also volunteered picking up towels and cleaning up the locker rooms after games. “Cochise was always the first to come in every year and find out what tournaments were coming to town,” said Helena School District activities director Jim Opitz. “He made almost daily stops in our office to give his impression of teams or players he had observed the week before.” Lifelong friend Jim Walczak said that Mann was an absolute avid sports fan. “Cochise had an incredible memory,” related Walczak. “You could be talking about the Class C basketball tournament from 1967, and he’d list off the names of three or four players on the championship team. He always had time to talk to anybody, anywhere about anything. “There’s never been a better fan than Cochise Mann,” Walczak said.
PAGE 8 — 2011 HELENA SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Heidi (Gray) Voigt By TOM STUBER
ersatile Capital High swimming sensation Heidi Gray brought home seven individual state AA titles during her career with the Bruins. Amazingly she would set school records in five different disciplines and distances along the way.
Gray established marks in the 100 yard breaststroke, 200 individual medley, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke, and 500 freestyle. The only events she didn’t hold records for were the 50 and 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly. She still retains three school standards at CHS, 19 years later; the 100 breast in 1:11.43 (1990), 500 free in 5:28.04 (1991) and 200 IM in 2:13.43 (1992). The 1992 graduate was a phenom before
and after her days with the Bruins setting 26 records for the Helena Lions Swim Team. Heidi captured two “Best of the West” Zone titles, and was named the Female Swimmer of the Year by Montana swimming. In an e-mail from Northern Michigan University, where she presently serves as the Wildcats’ head coach, Voigt wrote that some of her favorite memories with the Lions were “Sandy Mihelish stepping on my fingers on the side of the pool so I didn’t keep taking rests, and Gary Mihelish’s photography and great swim banquets.” “An early celebration was a 10 and under win in Great Falls, complete with a team trophy, with Sunshine Chapman, Kirsten Douglas and Ashley Feaver,” she wrote. “We took turns caring for the trophy, and a piece got broken while it was in my care. I couldn’t sleep until we got it fixed.” Among her career highlights was traveling to Czechoslovakia with Holly Kaleczyc, competing “with Matt Kuntz, Mike MacKinnon and Jenny Kaleczyc, and swimming for Jarek’s team in Olmoutz.” “(And) Debbie Michelson, my aunt Jill Moerer, my dad Rick (Gray) and so many others who gave so many hours to our sport, were always important in our minds,” Voigt wrote. She went on to be team captain in 1996 for the University of Washington swim team, as well as that program’s most inspirational swimmer for three straight years, from 199496. Heidi achieved Top-10 times for the Lady Huskies in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, and 200 IM. While attaining her masters in health and kinesiology at the University of Wyoming, she placed fourth in the Fort Collins Horsetooth Reservoir 10-K Open Water Swim in 2004. Bruce Dunkle was Gray’s coach not only in high school, but also during her time with the
Helena Lions coaching her for 11 years. “For as good an athlete as she was, she was a better person,” Dunkle said. “She was a tremendous teammate, who had a positive influence on the team throughout her career. She would pick people up when things weren’t going so hot.” Going into her senior year at CHS, she began working out with weights for the first time in her career and would swim a whopping three hours a day. Gray went into the 1992 AA state meet at the Carroll College pool as the favorite in the 200IM and 500 freestyle and won both to cap off her stellar prep career. “She was very dedicated to her sport and put in many hours to be the best she could be,” Dunkle added. “She never quit trying to get better.” Voigt went on to high school coaching stints at Helena, Capital, Great Falls, C. M. Russell and Garfield (Wash.). She also directed the Helena Lions age-group team, in addition to the age group squads for FAST and Swim Seattle. She was named Montana’s 2002 age group coach of the year. In 2005, she presented a study on collegiate swimming at the American Swim Coaches Association World Clinic in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., that was later published in the ASCA newsletter. Voigt was an assistant at Wyoming for four years and New Mexico State University for two years prior to accepting the NMU job in 2010. In her email, Voigt – whose cousin Diane Moerer later garnered eight state swimming crowns for Helena High – credited her old coach for some of her techniques. “Coach Bruce Dunkle was always enthusiastic and made practice fun, and I still use some of his tricks on my swimmers today,” she wrote.
15-foot vaulters, including Brian Schweyen, Todd Foster, Cole Wilson, Geoff Ferguson, Ole Olson, Bill Hurford, Blain Bermingham and Shane Willems.
annual National Pole Vault Summit – LeBrun cultivated personal friendships with the likes of Olympians Tim Mack and Stacy Dragila, and Bob Fraley, former Fresno State coach and USA Track and Field president. In 2009, Fraley attended LeBrun’s camp, and became part of the coaching staff that summer. “Doug refuses to say ‘No’,” Fraley told the Independent Record. “This is a heck of a role model for the rest of the nation…it has a pioneer spirit about it.” Among LeBrun’s accolades were induction into the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1993, the 2006 U.S. Pole Vaulting committee’s national “Outstanding Service to Pole Vaulting” award, and the 2010 “Jeff Turman Memorial Pole Vault Summit-ship” award. Harper said that “Getting into Helena’s Hall of Fame meant more to Doug then you’ll ever know. He was so pleased when he learned about it last week.” George added that is was a real blessing that LeBrun knew, before leaving this earth, that the sporting community appreciated his contributions in that fashion. LeBrun’s memory will always live with his athletes and fellow coaches. At the latest State AA Track Meet in Butte, three of his HHS charges placed in the top three; Jake Reidelbach, T.J. Bomar and Terah Cundeth. Between jumps, Bomar was wearing a black t-shirt dedicated to LeBrun, that read “Suck Air!” on one side and, “We’ll always remember your Pizazz!” on the other. “Doug was a big part of Helena’s pole vault success,” Olympian Stacy Dragila wrote. “He was a great friend with a big smile.”
Doug LeBrun By CURT SYNNESS
he late Doug LeBrun (1936-2011) served as Helena High’s pole vault coach for 27 years, during which time he mentored 14 state champions and two state record holders. LeBrun graduated from Ronan High in 1954 and attended the University of Montana on a baseball scholarship. After graduating from UM, Doug first taught and coached at Judith Gap, thus the beginnings of an illustrious coaching career. During his 10 years as a football, basketball and track coach at Lewistown’s St. Leo’s High, his teams captured eight conference titles. He arrived in Helena in 1973, teaching freshman P.E., and started out coaching various sports at the Helena Junior High. When Helena High transitioned to a fouryear school in 1979, Doug became an assistant track and field coach for the Bengals. In 1984, he took over as HHS’ vault coach, and served in that capacity until his death earlier this year. “The kids called him ‘Old Man,’ and he was the old man of the pole vault community – not just for Montana, but for the entire nation,” the late George Harper said after LeBrun passed away in March. “He could be rough in spots, but he had a heart of gold, and there never would’ve been any pole vault camps or tournaments around here without him.” “When you know him, there’s something about him,” said State champion Alexandra May-Fraser in an interview in 2009. “You just have to vault for him. Maybe it’s the technique he teaches you, but I just love him so much. “I’ve never had a coach like him before – he’s like family.” During his tenure, LeBrun instructed eight
His prize jewels were all-class record holders Foster (15-9 in 1988) and Shannon Agee (13-0 in 1998). “That (the record) was my gift to coach LeBrun,” Foster told the IR after winning his title. “He’s not only my coach, but also a close friend. He’s always stuck up for me and protected me.” LeBrun also operated a nationally renowned summer pole vault camp at his ranch in the Helena valley for the past 25 years, where he guided thousands of local, statewide and regional area vaulters. “Doug had space enough for 12 stations, each meant to break down the steps for a successful vault,” wrote Emilee DeKam, who coached track with LeBrun at HJHS in the 1970s. During his travels to the various camps around the country – including Reno’s
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HOF Selection Process – A Community Effort The selection process for the Helena Sports Hall of Fame begins with an individual or team nomination, which can come from anyone in or outside the Helena Community. Specific criteria must be met in order for a nominee to be accepted. Selection criteria and information are available on the Hall Of Fame website at Helenasportshof.org. It is important to note, however, that nominations must include both factual data (statistics, etc.) and a personal/character recommendation. The HSHOF selection committee is comprised of community members and board members who choose to participate in the selection process. Community members are selected from a cumulative list of names recommended by HSHOF board members as persons who might be interested in helping the HSHOF select inductees. The names of potential community members of the selection committee are kept in a numbered file which is available to only the chair of the selection committee. Prior to activating the selection process, the HSHOF board members decide if they, personally, wish to take part in that year’s selection process – some do, and some do not for personal reasons. Then the board members draw by lot potential community selection committee members using only identifying numbers, not names. The selection committee chair then contacts the community members chosen by lot to determine if
they will agree to serve as a member of the selection committee in that year’s selection process. Community selection committee members can only serve on the selection committee if they satisfy the following conflict of interest criteria: 1) They cannot be a close relative (by blood, marriage, or adoption) of any individual or team member in the nomination pool; 2) they cannot be an employer or employee of any of any individual or team member in the pool; 3) they cannot be an individual who coached (at any level) an individual or team member in the pool; and 4) they cannot be an individual or team member nominee in that pool. Each selection committee is comprised of not more than twenty members. Board members who serve on the selection committee are also subject to identical conflict of interest prohibitions but board members are only prohibited from voting on potential nominees in the category in which a conflict exits. After the twenty-member selection committee is picked, packets containing the nominees for each of the six categories are sent to the selection committee members. This is a significant undertaking because individuals who are nominated but not inducted into the HSHOF remain in the pool of nominees. The selection committee members must read each of the nominations in each category and rank those individuals and teams in an order of their priority for nomination by category. After the packets are returned to the HSHOF, the individual rankings of nominees are combined to reflect the total number of points for each nominee in each of the
six categories. The nominee receiving the largest number of points in each category is ranked number one and other potential nominees are listed in descending order based on the total number of points received from the selection committee members. A total of 15 inductees are usually inducted every two years with a team counting as one nominee. The tally of points received by each nominee and selection of inductees is done using a code rather than referring to the names of the inductees. When the board is satisfied with the determination of the number of inductees in each category, the names of the inductees are finally revealed to the board. The board members (with the exception of the one in charge of the selection process) do not know who has served on the selection committee. Community members of the selection committee are also not told who is serving on the selection committee. The HSHOF selection process has been designed to eliminate lobbying of the selection committee members and ensure that only deserving individuals are inducted into the HSHOF. Based on our experience since 2003, we believe these goals have been achieved. Most of the membership of the selection committee changes for each year of induction. The board of directors of the Helena Sports Hall of Fame is proud of the selection committee’s work. The board believes that Helena’s outstanding sports legacy has been represented well by the HSHOF’s inductions. - Jacque Spaulding, president HSHOF