Shelly Block Tvrdy – Gothenburg

Athlete.  Shelly (Block) Tvrdy was a standout in track, cross country and basketball at Gothenburg High School where she holds school records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs. In cross country, Block placed in the top three in every meet her sophomore, junior and senior years, except for the state meet her sophomore year. In basketball, she was a member of the 1983 Class B Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star All-State basketball teams, as well as the 1983 Super State and All-State Tourney teams. As a junior she was the leading scorer in the state, averaging 24 points per game, and Gothenburg was the state runner-up her senior season. In track, Block won 15 state meet medals – four as a freshman, three as a sophomore, and four in her junior and senior years. Block attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she was a two-year starter on the basketball team.

Dave Lebsack – Lincoln Northeast

Athlete.

Dave Lebsack earned the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald’s Athlete of the Year awards in 1962 after earning nine letters at Lincoln Northeast in football, basketball and baseball. An all-state quarterback, he led the Rockets to a 9-0 record and the state ratings championship in 1961. He started from the first game his sophomore year and had a reputation for being a ball-handling wizard. He also earned all-state honors in basketball where the Rockets won the Class A state title in 1962. Lincoln Northeast was 19-2 that year, losing two games Lebsack missed with a strained knee. He averaged 22.4 points per game in that state tournament. In baseball, Lebsack was known as an outstanding catcher.

 

 

Journal Star 4/6/2012

There were no clever nicknames for Dave Lebsack.

Not “Smoothy” or “Slick” or even “Lethal Lebsack.”

And there were certainly plenty of opportunities. Lebsack quarterbacked Lincoln Northeast to the 1961 Class A state football ratings championship (there were no playoffs until 1975), then helped the Rockets to the 1962 Class A state basketball title. He was all-state in both sports and earned Journal Star athlete of the year honors in 1962.

Lebsack, one of Lincoln’s most decorated athletes, died Tuesday at the age of 67. Memorial services will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. David’s Episcopal Church.

“From the late ‘50s to the mid-‘60s, every kid in northeast Lincoln wanted to be Dave Lebsack,” said Jerry Motz, a longtime friend and teammate at Northeast. “I was one of his close friends and I wanted to be Dave Lebsack.”

Lebsack was a charter member of the Lincoln Northeast Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted in 1991, and he was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lebsack guided Northeast to a 9-0 record in football his senior year and was a three-year starter at quarterback. He missed the first four games of the basketball season (the Rockets went 2-2 without him) after an injury during football required surgery. The Rockets won 17 straight games after he came back to earn the title, with Lebsack averaging 22.4 points a game in the state tournament. He was also a standout catcher and earned all-city honors in baseball.

“I can see a gifted athlete who made sports look ever so easy, especially handling the football in a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t fashion,” said Conde Sargent, who covered Lebsack’s career for the Journal Star and named him athlete of the year.

“His value to Northeast athletics was never more noticeable than his return from a football injury to the basketball court. With Dave, the Rockets stepped up a level and won the state championship. He lifted that team.”

Lebsack accepted a scholarship to play both football and basketball at Nebraska, but transferred to Nebraska Wesleyan during his sophomore year and graduated from there in 1969.

“He was a class act. He never left northeast Lincoln,” Motz said. “He’s an icon out here. He’s one of the people who laid the groundwork for all the rich tradition we had.

“He treated his opponents with respect. There was no trash talk. And in return, everyone respected him, too.”

Lebsack is survived by his wife of 47 years, Sharon, daughter Lindy and her husband Doug Bonnett, son Scott and his wife Christie, granddaughter Haley, and sister Donna Spence, all of Lincoln, and sister Judy and her husband Harlan Hoy of Waverly.

“He was very humble and shy. The only thing he cared about when he stepped on the field of endeavor was to win,” Motz said. “I’ve seen a lot of high school quarterbacks in this town, and there’s no one who was better.

“He wasn’t the fastest and he couldn’t jump the highest. All he did was win.”

Reach Ryly Jane Hambleton at 402-473-7314 or rhambleton@journalstar.com.

Carol Nunnally Countryman – McCook, Lincoln High

Athlete.  Carol started collecting gold medals from the beginning.  She began competing in AAU meets as a youngster.  She competed on the boys cross-country team her freshman year at McCook because there was no girl’s team.  She was the number 3 runner in most of the meets.  Track season was her real forte, she won  the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter runs in the State Meet.  Her sophomore year McCook fielded a girl’s cross-country team and sparked by Carol won every meet they were in including the Nebraska State Cross Country Meet.  Their team finish of 2-3-6-9 for a total of 18 points still ranks as the lowest team score in the history of the meet.  This was also a banner year for the girls track with Carol again winning the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter runs she also took a leg on the 3200 meter relay which gave them a total of 32½  points and the State Championship.  Moved to Lincoln High for her next two years, picking up six letters in three sports, cross-country, basketball and track.  In her junior year she again picked up the gold in the distance races with a record time of 10:45.89 in the 3200. This year she switched from the 3200 relay to the 1600 relay, which finished second and gave the Links a Class A team state championship. Carol was named All-American Honorable Mention in track her senior year, where she won the State Meet in the 1600 and 3200 and a second place finish in the 800.   Her 1600 time was a record 5:00.61.  After high school Carol accepted a scholarship from UNL where she lettered two years in cross-country and four years in track.  While she was a member of the Husker track squad they were Conference Indoor and Outdoor Champions all four years and National Indoor Champions one year.  After college she returned to McCook  as a teacher and coach for a time then went to UNO for a Masters Degree and is now involved in social work.  

Frank Smagacz – Omaha Central

Coach. From early coaching positions at Arlington and Tekamah this talented leader of boys then moved on to arguably the toughest conference in Nebraska where for the next 27 years he was football and track coach at Omaha Central High School. A good example of strong competition occurred the fall of 1960 when Omaha Central High battled cross-town rival Creighton Prep on the football gridiron to a zero-zero tie. Both schools were then treated as co-champions. Between 1958 and 1966 Frank Smagacz coached five Class A Boys state track & field champions,  indicating a superb ability to spot great athletes and guide them to their best efforts. In 1961, he was named high school coach of the year in Nebraska.

 

LaVerne Torczon – Platte Center

inducteeAthlete.(1953)

LaVerne Torczon blazed a trail from Nebraska’s six-man fields to professional football where he earned the nickname “Tarzan Torczon” while playing for the Buffalo Bills, New York Titans/Jets and Miami Dolphins. At Platte Center, he was a three-year starter in football, playing end as a sophomore and running back his junior and senior years, which included a one-loss season in 1951. He lettered all four years in basketball, averaging more than 20 points per game his junior and senior seasons. A walk-on football player at Nebraska, he earned a scholarship after his freshman year and twice earned All-Big Seven honors as a lineman.
As a professional, he earned All-AFL honors at defensive end in 1960 and played in the 1961 AFL All-Star Game.