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.

Joe Sukovaty – Swanton

Coach. After graduating from Swanton High School and Doane College, Joe returned to his home town in 1923 as coach, science teacher and assistant principal. In his 17-year tenure with the Jackrabbits he coached them to the basketball state tournament seven times, winning it twice. His 1933 squad was runner-up with only seven players on the roster. Leaving Swanton in 1940 he went to Hildreth as coach, teacher, and administrator for ten years. His teams went to the state tournament seven times and were champions three times and runner-up once. He left teaching in 1950 to go into private business but the lure of education brought him back to teach in Western, Wilber, and once more to Swanton. One final highlight was starting the career of Willard Schmidt, who played at Creighton University and then AAU with the McPherson Globe Refiners and was chosen for the 1936 U. S. Olympic team, gold medal champions. 

 

Alice Schmidt – Elkhorn

Alice Schmidt

Elkhorn High School

Athlete

 

Alice Schmidt dominated the middle distance races, winning the all-class gold medal in the 800 all four years at the state high school track meet and setting the state record in that event (2:08.84).  In all, she won five all-class gold medals and 12 Class B gold medals at the state track meet during her years at Ellkhorn and graduated with school records in the 800, 1600, 3200, and 1600 and 3200 meter relays.  At the University of North Carolina, Schmidt was a two-time NCAA champion in the 800 and a nine-time All-American. She continued to compete after college, wearing the USA colors in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, advancing to the semifinals in London.  She retired from competition in 2014 with personal bests of 1:58.61 in the 800 and 4:05.64 in the 1500.

 

Gale Sayers – Omaha Central

Athlete–No one ever looked better on the gridiron wearing the purple and white football uniform of the Omaha Central Eagles than this backfield dancer who graduated in 1961. Wherever he played, spectators couldn’t forget his incredible ability to “shift gears” and leave all behind when he made his move for a touchdown.  He was all-state twice in football, the state’s leading scorer (Class A) twice. He lead Central in 1960 to an unbeaten year during which the team was touted as state champion. Still a legend in track & field Nebraska annals. Gale Sayers jumped an astounding 24 feet 10 inches in the long jump in 1961, the longest jump in the nation that year by a high school athlete and the Nebraska state record for nearly four decades. An All-American college halfback at the University of Kansas, he is also most remembered as one of the best players in professional football, during a career cut shot by injuries for the Chicago Bears.

In football, Sayers led the state in scoring both his junior and senior seasons, scoring 127 points as a senior.  Although his school’s statistics are almost non-existent, newspaper research revealed that he had several games of over 100 yards rushing (no total season rushing totals could be found).  In addition to his offensive prowess, newspaper accounts report that during his senior year, he scored on a pass interception return of 53 yards and fumble recovery return for 29 yards.

Sayers was selected to the Scholastic Coach All-America High School Track Team, having had the lead performance in the broad (long) jump in 1961 across the nation.

He still holds the Bears record for the number of touchdowns scored in a single season (22) set his first year in the NFL. Sayers also still holds the Bears record for the most touchdowns and points scored in a single game. He scored six touchdowns for 36 points in a 1965 game against San Francisco.  During his career, Sayers had nearly 9,500 combined net yards, almost 5,000 yards rushing and scored 336 points. He also was the NFL’s lifetime kickoff return leader.Sayers was named the Pro Bowl’s Player of the Game in 1967, 1968 and 1970, and was named to the 75th Anniversary All Time NFL Team. He was also named to the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, the Blacks Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the NFL All-Time Millennium Team. In 1977, he was the youngest player ever inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Writers of America once named Sayers the NFL’s most courageous player to acknowledge his dedicated comeback from career-threatening knee surgery.

After completing his professional football career, Sayers returned to Kansas University and earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education while also handling duties of assistant athletic director. He then accepted the assignment as assistant director of the Williams Education Fund for three years and earned his master’s degree in educational administration. From 1976 through 1981, he was athletic director at Southern Illinois University.

Following a successful career at SIU, Sayers moved back to Chicago and launched a sports marketing and public relations firm, Sayers and Sayers Enterprises.

In 1984, Sayers and his wife, Ardythe, started a computer reseller firm. Today, the Sayers Group is a national technology solutions provider with locations across the United States.

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