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.

Amy Stephens – Alliance

Athlete. High school basketball state scoring leader in several categories for a number of years. Career points: 1,656. Points in one season: 779. Points in one game: 48. Frankly, there was nobody quite like her. She was a four-year starter at Nebraska. She averaged over 17 points. Kodak District V All-American. Twice All-Big Eight. Second in career scoring at Nebraska (1,976), first in assists (444) and steals (280). Played for the United States National Team and professionally in Germany for a year. Fifth year as head coach at University of Nebraska-Kearney. Record: 97-23. National ranking of 9th and 10th the past two years. Twice conference coach of the year.

Debbie Spickelmier Noble – Hayes Center

inducteeAthlete. (1985)

A small-school superstar who, along with her twin sister, Donna, made Hayes Center a player on the state tournament scene where the Cardinals won back-to-back Class D state track championships in 1984 and 1985, the Class D-2 state basketball championship in 1985 and finished second in volleyball in 1984. Debbie excelled in track, winning 15 medals at the state track meet, including two all-class gold medals in the 800 meters, penning her name on the all-time charts in that race. On the basketball court, she was a Class D-2 all-stater as a junior and a senior. She also garnered all-state honors in volleyball as a senior. In college, she was a seven-time All-American running for Kearney State and Chadron State.

Bob Schnitzler – Battle Creek

Coach. The three-sport athlete in both high school and college came to Battle Creek in 1962 and the rest is history.  His football teams won 293 games with 89 losses.  They qualified for the state playoffs 16 times, winning four championships and runners-up five times. He coached the boys track team to four state championships, twice state runners-up, 20 district championships and 169 invitational championships.  Bob took on the job of girl’s basketball coach in 1974 and amassed a record of 485 wins and 83 losses.  His girls made 18 trips to the state tournament winning it five times and runners-up three times plus 18 district championship.  Nebraska Coaches Association Level 4 rating on all three sports he has coached.  Nebraska Coaches Association Coach of the Year, Omaha World Herald Coach of the Year, Lincoln Journal Star Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, Mid-State Conference Coach of the Year, and Iowa Siouxland Coach of the Year.  He was nominated no less that five times for National Coach of the Year and received the Region 6 award twice.  He was inducted into the Wayne State College Hall of Fame in 1982. 

Val Skinner – North Platte

Athlete

A legend in Nebraska women’s golf, this 1978 graduate of North Platte High School earned an individual medal at the very first Nebraska high school girls golf state championship. She followed that with a win in the state amateur tournament, then attended college at Oklahoma State, and eventually proceeded into the ranks of professional golf. She gradually worked into expert analyst roles for golf media.

She began playing golf at the age of 4, after mimicking her father, who was a head golf professional at a golf course. As a junior golfer, Val won two state championships and 20 high school titles as well as some national competitions. This success earned her a golf scholarship at Oklahoma State University, where she gained more athletic achievements, including being named the Big Eight Female Athlete of the Year, GOLF Magazine’s Collegiate Player of the Year and becoming the National Collegiate Scoring Average Leader.

After college, she qualified for the LPGA Tour, won six tournaments and competed on the pro tour for 20 years. She also was a member of the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup team in 1996 is a member of three golf halls of fame.

Erick Strickland – Bellevue West

Eric Strickland 2007Athlete. A 1992 Bellevue West graduate, Strickland advanced to the NBA after standout high school and collegiate careers in Nebraska. At Bellevue West, Strickland starred in football, basketball and baseball and was the 1992 prep athlete of the year. He earned all-state honors in all three sports and led Bellevue West’s basketball team to three straight state tournaments, including a runner-up finish in 1991. He was a four-year letterman in basketball for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, starting for three years. He was the Big Eight Freshman of the Year in 1983 and was  three-time All Big-eight defensive team selection. He played professionally for the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Vancouver Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks.

Demerick (Erick) Montae Strickland (born 25 November 1973 in Opelika, Alabama) is an American professional basketball player formerly in the NBA. Erick starred at Bellevue West High School in Bellevue, Nebraska as an Omaha World-Herald All-State Wide Receiver, and an All-American basketball player where he still holds most of the major school scoring records.

Erick was drafted in the 1992 MLB draft in the 31st round and played in the Florida Marlins organization as an Outfielder. After a college basketball career at the University of Nebraska, he went undrafted, but caught on with the Dallas Mavericks, and went on to play for the New York Knicks, the Vancouver Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 7.5 points per game throughout his career. In 1999, Erick was voted by Sports Illustrated as the 41st ranked athlete in the 20th Century from the state of Nebraska.

Link to Erick Strickland’s NBA career stats.

Enid Schonewise – Beatrice

Athlete.  A triple-talented athlete in the sports of volleyball, basketball and track; this 1983 graduate of Beatrice High School ranks high on the list of best women athletes in the state. All-state in volleyball (178 ace spikes, 93 per cent server), she was also all-state in basketball, leading South all-stars to its first win in the Coaches All-Star Game. She was a gold medal champion in track in the 100-meter hurdles, never losing a hurdle race in the last three years of high school. An All-American volleyball player at the University of Nebraska, she led the Lady Huskers to their first NCAA volleyball final four appearance.Drafted by professional Minnesota Monarchs.

Donna Spickelmier Vallin – Hayes Center

inducteeAthlete. (1985)

A mirror image of her sister, Debbie, the Spickelmier twins dominated Class D throughout their high school careers that included two state track championships, a state basketball championship and two state track and one volleyball runner-up finish. Donna won 16 medals at the state track meet, including an all-class gold medal in the 1,6000-meter run. She put her name on Nebraska’s all-time top 10 charts in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. On the volleyball court, she led the Cardinals to three state tournaments and earned all-state honors as a junior and a senior. She was second-team all-state helping Hayes Center to the Class D-2 state basketball championship her senior year. At Kearney State College, she earned eight All-American honors and won NAIA national championships in the mile, the 1,500 and the 3,000.

Wes Shepard – Lincoln

Coach. Wes’s basketball record with a career span of 48 years:  519 wins and 168 losses.  This includes one state championship and ten district titles plus numerous conference titles.  The administrator-coach also coached football, track, baseball and volleyball at the junior through college level during his career.  His Nebraska basketball teams reached the state tournament four times: Weston in 1956, Elmwood in 1985 and Lincoln Christian in 1991 and 1993, winning it in 1991.  Other career high lights include coaching a college All Star team in Europe, coaching a professional team in China in 1982, Assistant Coach on the Nebraska Coaches All Star Team in 1991 and coaching one of Valentino’s All Star teams in 1991.  Though officially retired from teaching,  Wes still serves as activity bus driver, substitute teacher and FCA sponsor.  He plans to continue coaching and working with young people.  He runs summer camps for children in kindergarten and up stressing basketball fundamentals and principled of integrity.  Previous honors received by Wes are the Mike Heck memorial award and the Ralph Beechner Coach of the Year Award. Volunteered with the basketball program of the Cornhusker State Games.