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–A 1980 graduate of Grand Island High School, this versatile athlete surprised many at the state track meets by being an excellent high jumper, posting a top personal best of 6’7“ and winning a gold medal as a junior. A running power on the gridiron both in high school and college, he developed into a great fullback at the University of Nebraska (he enjoyed a rare 84-yard touchdown run against Colorado his senior year). During a decade of professional football, he earned two Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco 49ers as a runner-blocker-pass catcher for Joe Montana, et al, reaching all-pro status. An NFL player from 1986-94, Rathman helped the 49ers capture two World Championships (Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV) and seven NFC West titles. He totaled 4,392 yards from scrimmage and scored 34 touchdowns while playing in 113 games with San Francisco. He played his final season in the NFL with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1994.
Larry Ribble’s boys basketball teams enjoyed more than their share of success, winning seven state championships and qualifying for 10 other state tournaments. His teams’ state championship success started in Class C at Pawnee City before his Millard South squads won five Class A crowns. His 1970 and 1971 Pawnee City teams won 35 straight games and two state championshps. His 1989 Millard South team was the first undefeated Class A team in 30 years. Coaching from 1965 to 2004, Ribble guided his teams to a 509-280 record. He also coached at Holmesville, Dorchester, Falls City and Hastings. He coached track for 22 years at Millard South, the last 12 as head coach.
Athlete–Omaha Central High School won the state wrestling team championship during each of the four years this 1947 graduate was in school. He became the first high school wrestler to win state individual championships four straight years–as a 155-pound freshman, next year in the 165-pound class and finishing up his final two years in the heavyweight bracket. Every sport needs its lofty standards (four-time champion is the ultimate) and the surge to prominence of wrestling in high school can be traced in part back to this fine champion. Also an outstanding football player.
Dr. Herb Reese was a leading pioneer in Nebraska heart surgery. In 1986, Reese performed the first heart transplant in Lincoln at what was then Bryan Memorial Hospital. He also played a key role in forming the team that would become the Nebraska Heart Institute. He was a member of the Bryan medical staff from 1966 until he retired in 1992 and was the hospital’s chief of staff from 1978-82.
John Reta was the center of swimming in Nebraska for nearly 20 years. Instituting the program at Lincoln Southeast, Reta coached the Knights to eight consecutive boys state swimming championships from 1959 to 1966. His swimmers won 11 individual state titles and set 18 state records. The Knights put together a winning streak of 59 consecutive meets then, after a one-point loss, won another 23 straight. He was the 1962 Lincoln Journal Star Coach of the Year and the 1965 Omaha World-Herald Coach of the Year. Reta left Lincoln Southeast to become head swimming and diving coach at the University of Nebraska, a position he held from 1966 to 1978. Reta got his start coaching the Palmer (Colo.) High School swim team. Next he coached basketball, track and six-man football teams at Gurley for one year.