Jim Paige spent more than 50 years calling fouls and penalties in football, basketball and track at Nebraska high school athletic events. Described as “quiet, unassuming and hard-working,” Paige displayed a respect for athletes and coaches while maintaining fairmindedness in the implementation of the rules. Selected as the Nebraska Football Official of the Year, Paige worked a handful of state football championships as well as several state basketball tournaments. Primarily a starter in track and cross country, Paige has been a triple jump official at the state track meet for more than 30 years. In addition to being an active official, Paige has mentored dozens of young referees, bringing quality to the ranks of the profession. He has also been an observer and evaluator of officials for the NSAA.
No one could account for all the athletes and students who have benefitted from the unselfish contributions Mike Purdy has made to their lives. A coach and administrator in the middle school and high school ranks for more than 40 years, Purdy pioneered and promoted programs and activities that made interscholastic activities in Nebraska a better place. Throughout a career centered on the interests of all students and athletes, Purdy developed scholarship programs, promoted sportsmanship summits and awards, supervised sporting events of every description and fostered an atmosphere of cooperation among organizations supporting athletics. A leader among his peers, Purdy earned Distinguished Service Awards from the Nebraska and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Associations.
A past chairman of the Metro Conference, Purdy is the NSIAAA’s Executive Director. Mike retired from Bellevue East in 2004.
Official. It is enough said, perhaps, that Vern Plambeck has officiated high school sports since 1954. That’s six decades, and it would have been continuous except for a 1957 Army tour of duty. In the whistle-blowing fraternity, he developed into one of the best — calling seven state basketball tournaments, including the 1973 Class A boys championship game; officiating 33 football playoff games since 1976, including the first overtime game played in Nebraska (Nov. 12, 1976, Wheatland 38, Hampton 32, Class D championship game). He worked the Coaches Association All-Star Basketball and Shrine Bowl All-Star Football games. He has served the NSAA as a basketball observer starting in 1990, and did the proofreading in 1999 of the National Federation of State High School Association football rulebook and other publications. Hastings High School graduate. College degrees: Hastings College, University of Nebraska. Lives in Kearney, retired professor of English.
Few probably would recognize his face, but many knew his voice from radio broadcasts to the public address announcements at many events. Jack Payne provided the soundtrack to numerous high school and college events, including the state track meet, which he announced for 27 years. He also loaned his voice to the Metro Conference track meet for nearly 40 years and the College World Series for 37 years. He began broadcasting football games while a college student in Oklahoma. After military service in World War II, he returned to Oklahoma and began his association with high school sports by broadcasting the field events at the state track meet on state-wide radio. Payne is best known for his 17 years at WOW and WOWTV and his 22 years at KFAB in Omaha. He was on the Husker football broadcasts from 1970-92 and broadcast Nebraska basketball, high school basketball and the Drake Relays.
Athlete. A 1982 graduate of Bellevue East, Parker excelled at football where he lettered for three years for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and was an Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention in 1986. At Bellevue East he excelled in wrestling and track as well, going undefeated (25-0) in wrestling in 1982 and winning the state championship. He also won the Class A discus in 1981. His throw of 191 feet, 2 inches topped the all-time charts at the time, and his throw of 194-1 in 1982 was the second-longest throw in the nation that year. He was drafted in the ninth round of the NFL draft by the New York Giants.
John Petersen’s coaching career in volleyball and basketball set the gold standard for girls athletics. He built Columbus Scotus into a volleyball dynasty, winning 15 state championships and seven runner-up trophies in a 36-year span (1973-2013) that included 28 state tournament appearances. Nine of his teams went undefeated. Including a brief stint at Newcastle, Petersen compiled a 863-136 volleyball coaching record. In 23 years as basketball coach (1975-99), Petersen’s teams reached four state finals, winning three state championships. He compiled a 353-148 record. He was awarded nine Coach of the Year honors, including the 2012 National High School Athletic Association National Coach of the Year award.
Coach–Success as a coach in at least three different sports and at different high schools throughout a career from 1934-1972 shows the versatility of this fine coach. Prior to World War II, Maurice “Skip” Palrang helped develop the basketball skills of the Creighton Prep Blue jays in Omaha, leading them to winning state tournaments in Class A and top ranking in 1935 and 1940. After the war, Skip shifted west to coach the Boys Town High School in Douglas County. His success as a basketball coach, winning state in 1953 and 1956, was but one aspect of this great coach. The Boys Town Cowboys under his guidance also became a powerful football power, traveled the country and took on all comers, usually winning. Palrang teams played in 21 states and the District of Columbia, sometimes drawing crowds as large as 40,000. In 1939 this talented gentleman as a baseball coach brought a rare national American Legion championship to Nebraska while coaching the Omaha McDivitts.
Besides being a great coach, known for his compassion almost as much as his intensity on the sports fields, Palrang was a top-flight classroom instructor. He taught chemistry, Spanish, English and math. He held a bachelor’s degree from Regis College in Denver, Colo., and a master’s degree from Creighton University in Omaha. His awards included 1949 Coach of the Year, Pop Warner Foundation, 1965 Nebraska Coach of the Year, Omaha World-Herald; and 1967 Rockne Club citation. He was head coach of the victorious South team in Nebraska’s inaugural Shrine Bowl in 1959.
Palrang died Feb. 8, 1978 at the age of 71. His picture and records still grace the walls of the Field House named in his honor in Boys Town, Nebraska.
Puetz compiled a 236-96-6 record coaching football for 34 years, 31 at Columbus Scotus. His teams won state championships in 1984 and 1993. A track coach from 1968 to 1993, his teams won two state championships, two state runner-up trophies, 18 district championships and 19 conference championships.
Athlete–One of the best high school runners of all time, this 1976 graduate of Archbishop Bergan Catholic High School still draws raves from Nebraskans who were fortunate enough to witness his performance in the 1976 Boys State Track & Field meet. Winning the team grand championship for Fremont Bergan by himself, his times in those three gold medal events are remarkable: 49.7 seconds in the 440-yard dash, 1.52.2 in the 880-yard run and 4:20.7 in the mile run. Today, even though the old half-mile run is replaced with the 800-meter run, the time of Scott Poehling was a state record for 20 years and remains high on the all-time list.
Contributor. Park served as the Director of Athletics and Activities at Millard North from 1981 to 1995, overseeing 21 varsity sports and numerous junior varsity, sophomore and freshman programs. He developed the entire budget, ordered all equipment and uniforms and oversaw the construction and rental of the school’s athletic facilities. He also developed the schedules and transportation for all teams and developed the coaches’ handbook. He was also a regular on hosting, volunteering and supporting Nebraska School Activities Association functions.