Beatrice (Class of 1972)
Walter Harrison (Ben) Plucknett, a four-year letterman in football and track at Beatrice High School and the all-class gold medalist in the shot put and discus throw in 1972, developed into the premier discus thrower in the world. At the University of Missouri, “Big Ben” won three Big Eight Championships before moving into the international competition. He qualified for the 1980 Olympic team, but was denied the opportunity to compete by the Olympic boycott. In 1981, Plucknett continued to compete internationally, and his mark of 237’4” was ratified as a North American record.
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.
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.
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.
Coach–Inspiring respect as both an athlete and a coach, this likable coach and school administrator became a legend in Nebraska high school track & field by setting a state record in the shot put of 52’ 2” while competing for Lincoln High School in 1936. The record stood for 19 years. After World War II, in 1946, he returned to the famed Red and Black as a coach and proceeded to carve out an enviable record, especially during the 1950s. In 1951, 1952 and 1954 his football teams went undefeated as state champions and many regard his 1954 Links as one of the most dominating high school teams to take the gridiron of all time. In addition, as track coach his team won the 1951 track & field state meet. As a schoolboy, also at Lincoln High, Pfeiff excelled in football.
Athlete. A 1975 graduate of Hastings High School, Phelps was the first Nebraskan to clear the 7-foot barrier in the high jump. He won three straight gold medals in the high jump at the state meet and, his senior season, broke the state record five times. He also was a three-year, three-sport letterman for the Tigers, competing in football and basketball. He earned All-Big 10 and all-state honorable mention in football and basketball. He was the 1975 Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star Athlete of the Year. At the University of Nebraska, he was a three-year letterman in track and the 1978 Big Eight indoor and outdoor champion in the high jump.