Few can match the diverse success enjoyed by John Miller. A 36-year coaching career garnered seven state championships and more than 700 victories in girls’ and boys’ basketball and football. His longest tenure came as the Chambers girls’ basketball coach where his teams won five state championships, four runner-up trophies and 585 games. The Coyotes put together an 87-game win streak. After 30 years coaching girls at Chambers, he moved to boys’ basketball, first at Chambers/Wheeler Central then Southern Valley. In six years at Southern Valley, his teams notched 124 wins and captured Class C2 state championship in 2014. Miller also coached the Chambers football team for 13 years, winning 77 games and the 2007 state title.
At Centura High School, Kathy Mettenbrink was simply known as “Coach.” Her 34-year career as the Centurions girls basketball coach resulted in 549 wins, 11 state tournament appearances and two runner-up finishes. But her biggest accomplishments can’t be quantified by numbers. “She turned a lot of average players into great ones,” one of her players said. Despite its small size, Centura saw more than its share of girls become college basketball players. Mettenbrink put her all into coaching. Starting in elementary school, where she taught physical education, Mettenbrink challenged her girls physically and mentally, teaching integrity, hard work, respect, perseverance and teamwork.
Rick Hesse put Clearwater on the map. Called a “true mentor” who taught life lessons along with basketball, Hesse built a dynasty that became the first school to win four consecutive boys’ basketball state championships from 1984-87. After 22 years at Clearwater, Hesse moved on to Valentine where he wrapped up his career with 440 wins and 12 state tournament appearances. Noted for rewarding positive actions with a wink or a smile and not raising his voice while correcting his players, he also coached Clearwater’s volleyball team for 10 years, leading the Cardinals to its first state tournament appearance.
Grand Island (Class of 2001)
Scott Usher found his niche in the breaststroke, swimming his way to the 2004 Olympics. He won three gold medals at the state swimming meet his junior and senior years and graduated from Grand Island Senior High with school records in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley. At the University of Wyoming, he was a five-time All-American and won six Mountain West Conference meet gold medals, setting the breaststroke records. At the Olympics in 2004, he qualified for the finals and finished seventh. He narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics in 2008, finishing third at the Olympic Trials.
Bellevue West (Class of 1978)
A lock-down defender on the basketball court and a speedy outfielder on the baseball diamond, Daryl Stovall used his athletic skills to allow him to be selected by the Chicago White Sox in the Major League Baseball draft, and the San Diego Clippers in the NBA draft. At Bellevue West, he averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds as a senior all-stater. On the baseball diamond, he was a two-time all-state selection. At Creighton University, he continued to play both sports, setting a freshman home run record and averaging double figures in basketball his last three years. He signed with the Chicago White Sox before his senior baseball season.
South Sioux City (Class of 2001)
The road under Anne Shadle’s feet often seemed to fly by. At South Sioux City, where her father was the coach, Shadle took the first steps to becoming a premier runner. She won three Class B and two all-class gold medals at the state cross country championships and three all-class gold medals at the state track meet. She went on to earn seven track and cross country letters at Nebraska, making the jump to the next level when she won the indoor mile and outdoor 1,500 at the NCAA championships in 2005. She graduated from Nebraska holding two individual and three relay records. After college, she ran professionally for three years, competing in the 2008 Olympic Trials.
Omaha Marian (Class of 1995)
Renee Saunders kept her eye on the ball. Named all-class all-state in volleyball and basketball her junior and senior seasons, she led Omaha Marian to the state basketball tournament every year and a state runner-up finish her junior year. She graduated as Marian’s all-time leader in scoring and rebounding. On the volleyball court, she garnered All-American honors, logging 335 kills as a senior. She also lettered in softball and track and field at Marian and was the consensus athlete of the year by The Omaha World Herald and The Lincoln Journal Star her senior season. Saunders went on to play basketball and volleyball at the University of Nebraska. Though her basketball career was short, she was a major contributor for the Husker volleyball team.
Lincoln Southeast (Class of 2001)
Touchdowns highlighted Barrett Ruud’s football career before tackles made him a pro. The cornerstone of three Lincoln Southeast state football championships, Ruud made the Knights varsity as a freshman, started as a sophomore and set school career records with 2,988 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns. The Lincoln Journal-Star’s Athlete of the Year in 2001, Ruud was a three-year letterman and a two-time all-state honorable mention all-state selection in basketball. A third-generation Husker football standout, he was a 4-year letterman at linebacker, setting a single-season and career record for tackles. He went on to play eight years in the NFL, making more than 100 tackles in half of those years.
Laura (Pilakowski) Buttermore excelled on every field and court. The first female four-year, three-sport letterman at Columbus High School, she earned all-state honors in volleyball and basketball and qualified for the state track meet all four years. The consensus 1999 Female Athlete of the Year, she was the Nebraska Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year as a senior, averaged a double double on the basketball court her junior and senior years and won the long jump gold medal as a sophomore. At Nebraska, she became a two-time volleyball All-American, helping lead the Huskers to the national championship in 2000. She finished her career playing on the Husker women’s basketball team.
Scottsbluff (Class of 1954)
The Nebraska High School Athlete of the Year in 1954, Knaub was a four-year letterman in track and a two-year letterman in football and basketball, earning all-conference and all-state honors. On the track, he established three state records and won all-class gold medals in the pole vault his sophomore and junior seasons and in the long jump his junior year. Knaub won the state pentathlon as a senior, but was injured at the state track meet. He helped UCLA win the NCAA championship in 1956 and won two conference long jump championships. He competed in the 1956 Olympic Trials in the long jump.