LAURA SPANHEIMER DECHANT – Omaha Marian

Omaha Marian (Class of 2001)
The Athlete of the Year tag stuck to Omaha Marian’s Laura Spanheimer, who twice earned the honor from the Lincoln Journal-Star and as a senior from the Omaha World-Herald. She led Marian to back-to-back state basketball championships those years, earning all-metro and all-state accolades. An outstanding runner as well, she burst on the scene by winning the All-Class gold medal in the 1,600 at the state meet as a freshman. She went on to win two individual 800 gold medals and ran on four state-champion 4×800 relays, including one that set a state and state meet record. In cross country, she finished second in state as a sophomore and junior and won the event as a senior. At Creighton University, she earned All-Missouri Valley basketball honors and finished her career with the most steals in Bluejay history and the second-highest total of games played.

SARAH SASSE-KILDOW – Lincoln High

Lincoln High (Class of 1998)
In spite of her diminutive size, Sarah Sasse-Kildow cast a long shadow on Nebraska high school girls golf. After tying for fourth at the state meet as a freshman and second as a sophomore, she won back-to-back state titles as a junior and senior. She also dominated the amateur golf ranks, winning three state junior match-play championships and the first of five women’s state amateur championships the summer before her senior year. At the University of Nebraska, Sasse-Kildow was a three-time All-Big 12 pick and the conference champion and Player of the Year as a senior, the year she claimed first-team All-American honors. She established Husker records for the lowest 36- and 54-hole scores and went on to compete in three U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships.

Theresa Stelling Gosnell – Auburn

Athlete. Theresa Stelling Gosnell, who started her high school career at Wakefield and finished at Auburn, won four all-class gold medals in the 1,600-meter run and three in the 3,200. She had career-best times of 5 minutes, 0.6 seconds in the 1,600 and 10:44.0 in the 3,200. She set the Class C state track meet record in the 1,600 and the Class B state track meet record in the 3,200. In 1989 she was the Class B state cross country champion.

Stelling went on to compete for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in cross country and track, lettering in cross country from 1990 to 1993 and earning Academic All-Big Eight and Academic All-American honors.

She was a four-year letterwinner in track where turned in some of the school’s all-time best performances in several events. Stelling was a four-time NCAA Division I All-American, placing as high as fifth at the national outdoor meet in the 5,000 meters. Stelling was named the 1994 UNL Woman Athlete of the Year

 

Conde Sargent – Lincoln

Contributor.  A faithful keeper of the lighthouse of Nebraska high school sports, this sports writer and association executive spent the better part of a lifetime supporting the pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics. As a long-time sports writer for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal & Star newspapers, his expertise was put to good use when he became a member of the executive staff of the Nebraska School Activities Association. Through his careful keeping of high school athletic records and tournament lore, the history of secondary education is enhanced by an accurate account of its athletic activities–developed/maintained records and state meet championship history in all high school sports and made information available to press and public via news releases, state tournament programs and through the NSAA internet website, which he developed. On the founding Board of Directors of the high school hall of fame.

Chapter out of a book aboout high school sports by Tad Styker.

If you like high school athletics, take a moment to cheer for Conde Sargent, because few have done as much for Nebraska prep sports.  Sargent, who graduated from high school in Indiana, will be forever linked to the Cornhusker State as a journalist, then as an assistant director of the Nebraska School Activities Association. He has written about, campaigned for, eaten, slept and dreamt prep sports.

He took the lead in promoting high school activities during the last three decades, and is one of the leaders responsible for Nebraska’s system of well-organized and well-run state tournaments.

Sargent was a prep sports beat writer with the Lincoln Journal-Star and the Omaha World-Herald. That included a stint as the World-Herald’s famous (or infamous) prep rater, a rather high-profile job in this state. Being the prep rater is somewhat like coaching–everyone is interested in your opinion, but they reserve the right to criticize it to the ends of the earth. It’s also like beekeeping–you’re likely to get stung every couple of weeks.

After leaving daily journalism, Sargent joined the executive staff of the NSAA, where he worked for 22 years. His efforts at getting information to the media in a timely manner have been remarkable. Time after time, he has gone out of his way to help players, coaches, administrators and members of the media, even when they were less than appreciative. Even heart surgery has not diminished his hospitable spirit.

“His dedication to the job stands out,” said Jim Riley, executive director of the NSAA. “The main thing he brought us is that he understands the necessity to publicize activities, and he brought the expertise to do it. The time of the day or the day of the week doesn’t matter to him. He just gets the job done.”

The game has not passed him by. Sargent stayed current. He was responsible for developing the NSAA’s efficient, informative website (http:www.nsaahome.org).

One of his favorite causes has been the Nebraska High School Hall of Fame. Sargent has championed that fledging organization, and now, fittingly, he has been enshrined it it. Even more fittingly, he was honored as a “contributor.”   Few have given more to the cause.

He retired in 1998, and the world of Nebraska prep sports will miss him.

Like many leaders, Sargent has had to weather some criticism with grace, but hopefully, he’s enjoyed a lot of sunny skies along the way. He left us with a much clearer view of the prep sports scene than we had before he came along.

Keith Staehr – Kimball

2009Coach. Keith Staehr gained a reputation for getting the most out of his teams, building a formidable squad out of very little talent. His Kimball teams often came away with victories over schools with larger enrollments and more talented athletes. He retired in 2000 with a 187-119-1 record that included four seasons, and three conference championships, at North Loup-Scotia. His Kimball teams qualified for the state playoffs seven times, winning five conference championships. He coached the North Shrine Bowl team in 1974 and was a head coach in the West Nebraska All-Star Game in 1980 and 1994. As an athlete, Staehr was a standout at York High School and Kearney State College. He was a four-year letterman in football and track at Kearney State, playing running back, cornerback and punter in football and ran hurdles in track. At York, he was an all-state quarterback and an all-state tournament selection in basketball.

 

Cliff Squires – Lincoln Northeast

Athlete. Cliff’s athletic career began with 13 varsity letters at Bethany and Lincoln Northeast high schools. He was co-captain of Northeast’s first state championship football team in 1943. It was that year he was selected Nebraska’s “Prep Player of the Year” which was the forerunner of the “Athlete of the Year” award. He also garnered all-state honors in both football and basketball in 1943 and 1944. He was one of the factors in Northeast’s run to the state tournament in ‘42, ‘43 ‘and ’44. He was on the all-state tournament team in ‘43 and ‘44. His college career took him a few blocks west where he competed for the Plainsmen of Nebraska Wesleyan University, again earning 13 varsity letters and was named small college all-American in football in ‘46, ‘47, ‘48, and ‘49. In 1950 he was picked by the Detroit Lions in the 14th round. Returning to Lincoln to work as a sporting goods salesman and football official, he officiated for 30 years, 20 of those as a Big Eight official. Cliff worked eight major bowl games, one of which was the ‘79 Sugar Bowl between Penn State and Alabama for the national championship. He also officiated the first Nebraska Shrine Bowl Game. Cliff has also been enshrined in the Northeast Hall of Fame, Nebraska Wesleyan Hall of Fame, and the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. 

Gene Suhr – Papillion-LaVista

2013 InducteeCoach

A motivator, innovator and a master builder of programs, Gene Suhr created a winning legacy on the football fields at Ord and Papillion. He compiled a 200-95 record over a 23-year head coaching career, which included 21 state playoff appearances.  Suhr led Papillion-LaVista to undefeated state championship seasons in 1990 and 1996, with both teams considered among Nebraska’s all-time best. His Monarchs also won state runner-up honors in 1985, 1995 and 1997.  The first trip to the finals came in his second year at Papillion-LaVista. The school had only one previous playoff team.  The Monarchs went on to a state record 16 straight playoff appearances. He has won several coach of the year awards and was in demand as a speaker at coaching clinics. He finished his coaching career as offensive coordinator at Wayne State College.

 

 

 

Dennis Smith – Papillion

Contributor. A huge, huge percentage of the credit for the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation goes to Dennis Smith. He had a vision of this organization and served the board from the organizational days of 1993. He’s been the treasurer since 1996. His 32-year career at Papillion-LaVista schools that included a position as principal from 1979-2000, netted many honors, including the naming of the annual high school track meet the “Denny Smith Invitational.” He was elected to the NSAA Board of Control for 21 years and his colleagues clearly recall his stance on most issues being “how does this affect the kids.” He was instrumental in the fundraising of more than a million dollars for the Papillion-LaVista stadium facility. He grew up in Cherokee, Iowa, and his football, basketball, track exploits drew him to Wayne State. He taught and coached at Creighton before moving to Papillion.

 

Virginia Stahr Gee – Centennial

Virgina Stahr 2007

Athlete.

The Big Eight Female Athlete of the Year in 1989, Viriginia (Stahr) Gee started her career at Centennial High School where she earned 12 varsity letters before her graduation in 1985 when she was the Lincoln Journal Star Athlete of the Year. Stahr’s Centennial volleyball teams had a combined 80-11 record, going 24-0 and winning the Class C-1 state championship her senior year. She was all-state in basketball her junior and senior years and qualified for the state track meet in 12 events during her high school years. She played volleyball at the University of Nebraska, playing for four Big Eight Conference championship teams that had a combined record of 116-20. She played on the 1989 national runner-up team, earning Big Eight Player of the Year and NCAA All-Tournament Team honors. She earned All-American honors in 1988 and 1989.

Darcy Stracke – Stuart, Chambers

2011 InducteeChambers Class of 1996
Athlete
Darcy Stracke rewrote many record books in volleyball and track, but the most in basketball. Starting with her freshman year at Stuart High School, then the following three years at Chambers, Stracke led her teams to state titles all four years, averaging 30.5 points per game in the state tournament. She set Nebraska high school scoring records in a career (2,752) and a season (824 and 872), setting in motion an 87-game winning streak at Chambers. She also earned all-state honors in volleyball and was a Class D state champion in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. As a college basketball player, she earned first-team All-America honors at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In three years at UNK, she set the school’s single-season record for points (679), career record for steals (292) and a single-game record for assists (14). She set both schools’ single-game scoring records with 43 points, each record-setting effort at the others’ expense.