2005: Neil Halford Fort Calhoun

Fort Calhoun
1992 and was a state qualifier in 1991.
Neil Halford of Fort Calhoun placed fourth in the state wrestling meet in 1992 and was a state qualifier in 1991.Halford lost his sight at the age of two when he was kicked in the face by a horse. Despite blindness, he placed fourth in the state wrestling tournament in 1992 and was a state qualifier in 1991. A self-proclaimed “huge” football fan, Halford used athletics to build character and fuel a competitive nature. After winning only a handful of matches during his freshman and sophomore years, he turned hard work and dedication into a successful junior and senior campaigns. His senior year, he practiced and worked out with the football team and, although he didn’t play, was named a team captain. He has written a book, “The Sound of Sight,” about how his hearing has helped him cope. See his website.

2006: Sara Prenosil Omaha Roncalli graduate in 2003

Heart problems since birth forced a heart transplant in 2000 and she’s been on an inspirational pace ever since. She was a good swimmer when younger and came out for the swim team at Roncalli, mostly for exercise for her new heart, and that success and enjoyment took her into competition nationally in the US Transplant Games where she has won two golds and two silver medals since 2002. Back home, she became a speaker for the Nebraska Organ and Tissue Donor Coalition. She’s been the subject of several printed articles and website features “urging others to fight”. She volunteers as a mentor to other transplant patients. A student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, she is majoring in exercise science.

2008: Staci Rene Perrigo-Venneman Omaha

2008

 

Staci Rene Perrigo-Venneman never shied away from competition. Born without a right arm below the elbow, Staci began competing in swim meets at the age of eight. At 12, she earned a spot on the United States Amputee Athletic Association swim team, competing in international events in England, Australia, South Korea and Holland. In 1991, she set the world record in the 50-yard freestyle and was named the Female Athlete of the Year by the United States Amputee Athletic Association. At Omaha Northwest High School, Staci joined the swim team as a freshman, competing for four years and qualifying for the state meet her senior year as a member of a relay team. She also played soccer for the Huskies and went on to play soccer for two years at Rockhurst University.

2010: Jason Branigan Papillion

2010

A two-time state wrestling champion and an all-state football linebacker, Jason Branigan was diagnosed with testicular cancer, brain cancer, and cancer of the lymph nodes while a high school senior. The diagnosis followed a loss in the 1991 state semifinals where Branigan, nearly doubled over with pain in the third quarter, continued to play until the final gun.

His competitive athletic career was over but he was determined to defeat cancer and remains in sports and education as the wrestling coach and a social studies teacher at Papillion-LaVista South High School.

2011: Tom Heiser Lincoln

Gustafson

Dr. Tom Heiser suffered a physically limiting spinal cord injury in Maui, Hawaii, in 1980, but never let it keep him from an outstanding career in orthopaedic medicine. He no longer works as an operating surgeon but continues to champion a career as a physician, utilizing his exquisite diagnostic knowledge and experience while managing care of his patients.  Tom was an outstanding school athlete at Columbus, a high-scoring all-state running back in football, and a starter on the 1972 Class A state championship basketball team. He enjoyed a stellar football career at Nebraska.

2012: Keefe Lodwig Elkhorn

2012 Awards

Keefe Lodwig enjoyed success in his youthful swimming days, winning a high school state championship while attending Omaha Benson and winning a handful of Big 8 championships while swimming for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. But it wasn’t until many years later, when he started competing in Masters events that Lodwig displayed the success that can be inspired by what is learned as a youth. Lodwig has set hundreds of age-group American and world records in the pool and claimed hundreds of national championships. In 2008, he was named the Cornhusker State Games Male Athlete of the Year.

2013: Olajuwan Wilson

2013 Gustafson

As an 11 year old OJ was diagnosed with acute Myeloid Leukemia. While in the hospital, he suffered two strokes and slipped into a coma. His grandmother who had raised OJ since he was nine months old was told that any breath he took could be his last. Now 16 and with his cancer in remission he realized his dream. He tried out and made the Central High reserve football team.

2014: Josh Jones

Josh Jones saw his promising basketball career at Creighton University end after he fainted during warm-ups for the Nebraska-Creighton game in December of 2012 Jones has undergone surgery to correct heart issues when he was a student at Omaha Central and went on to lead the Eagels to the state title, but the condition developed again in college.  Despite the end of his playing days, Jones completed work on his degree at Creighton and continues to use basketball as his inspiration to make the most of what he was given in life despite the adversity of growing up in at risk environment, losing his father and enduring his heart condition.