Diane Rouzee’s 30-year career as head volleyball coach of Grand Island Northwest produced three state championships, six runner-up finishes, 23 trips to the state tournament and a 768-183 record. The recipient of the National Coach of the Year Award in 2018, Rouzee retired with the eighth-highest win total in Nebraska history. Called a “second mother” by many of her players, she watched her teams establish state records for kills and digs in a match. She has been on the coaching staff of the Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Game three times, twice as head coach.
Rochelle Rohlfs forged Omaha Marian into a volleyball power, rolling up a 718-245 record in her 26 years as head coach. Her career included four state championships, four other state finals appearances and a total of 21 trips to the state tournament. She coached in the Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Game three times and has won several Coach of the Year awards. An educator at heart who viewed coaching as teaching, she had eight of her former players go on to become head volleyball coaches at Nebraska high schools. She also had brief stints coaching soccer and track at Marian.
South Sioux City (Class of 2001)
Katie (Robinette) Kock collected almost every basketball honor available to a prep athlete. Her coach, Kelly Flynn, said she was a coach’s dream ╨ a great player and hard worker who never hesitated to help younger players improve their game. Her list of honors included prep All-American, Gatorade Player of the Year, four-time all-stater, and holder of several school records. She finished her career averaging more than 18 points and eight rebounds per game while leading the Cardinals to a 102-5 record, three state championships and a No. 1 national ranking in USA Today. She played collegiately at Nebraska and Iowa State, earning All-Big 12 second-team honors as a senior for the Cyclones.
Benkelman (Class of 1975)
Danis (Richards) Willet made the quarter-mile race her specialty, winning the Class C gold medal all four years and claiming all-class honors her junior and senior seasons. She finished her high school track career with 15 medals in the 440-, 880- and 220-yard dashes as well as the mile relay. At Kearney State College, she continued to set records, ranking in the top 25 of all collegiate runners and becoming the first Nebraska woman to break the 55-second barrier in the 400. Her career in track continued into her 30s where she won national titles in the 100, 200 and 400 and won the National Outstanding Female Athlete Award in her age group in 1991.
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.
Norfolk Catholic (Class of 1988)
Good at everything he did, Kevin Ramaekers locked up the Athlete of the Year award in 1988 by earning all-state honors in football, winning gold at the state wrestling meet and winning the all-class gold medal in the shot put at the state track meet. A Bally All-American in 1987, he helped Norfolk Catholic reach the state championship game his senior year, concluding a career where he was a two-time all-class, all-state player. On the wrestling mat, he finished third at state as a sophomore and a junior before winning his senior season. Posting the fourth-best shot-put mark in state history, he won back-to-back all-class gold medals. A three-year mainstay on the defensive line at Nebraska, Ramaekers earned All-Big Eight honors as a senior and was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Athlete. High school basketball players talk about someone having a “hot hand,” meaning the knack of hitting the basket again and again and again. Kent Reckewey, a 1971 graduate of Lincoln East High School, personified the phenomenon. A two-time all-state basketball player, it was the 1971 state tournament won by Lincoln East which brought out the record scoring of this sharpshooter. He set records for Class A in points in one game, field goals in one game, free throws in one game and points in one tournament. The free throw (23) and career (118) performances still existed in the record book in 2010. University of Nebraska letterman in 1973-74-75, winning a Big Eight post graduate scholarship in 1975 which he applied toward pursuit of a medical career. His impact on the high school sports scene was emphasized in a Lincoln Journal Star survey which sought to identify the most popular Lincoln high school basketball player over a 25-year period. The winner: Kent Reckewey.
Mark Russell’s coaching tenure at Broken Bow lasted nearly 40 years and included nearly every sport. A track coach for 39 seasons, starting in 1947, he led the Indians to the state title in 1959, ’60 and ’61 and a runner-up finish in 1965. As the head football coach for 27 years, he had Broken Bow in the final Top Ten 12 times and was chosen to coach the Shrine Bowl in 1961. He also coached the cross country team for nine years, the basketball team for five years and coached the wrestling team in its first year of existence. In the summer, he directed the city’s baseball, golf, softball and volleyball programs. In 1987, the school board named the football/track complex at Broken Bow Mark Russell Field.
Athlete. This 1963 graduate of Elba High School in Howard County certainly proved what all great coaches know: if you have the talent, your origins, whether small town or large city, simply do not matter. Randy Rasmussen began playing eight-man football in high school along with other sports. At Kearney State College, he quickly matured as an athlete and was eventually drafted by the New York Jets professional football team. Randy Rasmussen played for fifteen years in the pros as a lineman. His great effort of blocking for quarterback Joe Namath in the 1969 Super Bowl Game helped achieve an unexpected victory for the underdog Jets that year. Whether playing for the Elba High Bluejays, the Kearney State Antelopes or the New York Jets, this athlete could play and stay with the very best.
“Football is football whether it is played with, six, eight or 11 men. One thing I do believe,” he said in 1983, “No young man should ever be denied the right to play, no matter where he lives, small or large town. And no matter how it is played, it comes down to blocking and tackling. Without them, it isn’t football.”
A Lincoln native, Max Roper started officiating basketball in 1923 when one official was enough, despite the work load required by the center jump after each basket. One of the most respected officials of his day, he worked his first state tournament in 1930 and officiated the state tournament each year until 1948. One year he teamed with fellow Hall of Fame referee Mutt Volz to work one site at the state tournament where they worked an entire day, alternating jobs where one sold tickets while the other officiated the game. Roper also officiated football, first at the high school level then working his way into the college ranks. His last game was the 1948 Orange Bowl where he was the head linesman.