Beatrice (Class of 1972)
Walter Harrison (Ben) Plucknett, a four-year letterman in football and track at Beatrice High School and the all-class gold medalist in the shot put and discus throw in 1972, developed into the premier discus thrower in the world. At the University of Missouri, “Big Ben” won three Big Eight Championships before moving into the international competition. He qualified for the 1980 Olympic team, but was denied the opportunity to compete by the Olympic boycott. In 1981, Plucknett continued to compete internationally, and his mark of 237’4” was ratified as a North American record.
Bob Whitehouse has influenced sports in Nebraska at every level, including as a coach, administrator, and volunteer for more than 50 years. A coach, athletic director and administrator in the Omaha school system, he was inducted into the Omaha Public Schools Hall of Fame as a special contributor in 2012 and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Hall of Fame in 2015. Selected as a Hall of Fame athlete at Bellevue High School and Kearney State College, Whitehouse has been involved in numerous organizations supporting athletic programs, including the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame where he served as President of the Board of Directors on two separate occasions.
Diane Rouzee’s 30-year career as head volleyball coach of Grand Island Northwest produced three state championships, six runner-up finishes, 23 trips to the state tournament and a 768-183 record. The recipient of the National Coach of the Year Award in 2018, Rouzee retired with the eighth-highest win total in Nebraska history. Called a “second mother” by many of her players, she watched her teams establish state records for kills and digs in a match. She has been on the coaching staff of the Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Game three times, twice as head coach.
Rochelle Rohlfs forged Omaha Marian into a volleyball power, rolling up a 718-245 record in her 26 years as head coach. Her career included four state championships, four other state finals appearances and a total of 21 trips to the state tournament. She coached in the Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Game three times and has won several Coach of the Year awards. An educator at heart who viewed coaching as teaching, she had eight of her former players go on to become head volleyball coaches at Nebraska high schools. She also had brief stints coaching soccer and track at Marian.
Russ Ninemire forged one of the all-time greatest dynasties in Nebraska high school girls athletics. Under his guidance, the Sandy Creek girls basketball team put together a 95-game win streak and won 10 state championships, including six straight between 1996 and 2001. Ninemire, the 2018 National Coach of the Year, departed from the program in 2017 after 40 years with 583 coaching victories. Head coach of the McDonald’s High School All-American all-star game in 2016, Ninemire ranked fourth in coaching victories at the time of his retirement. He also coached football and track at Sandy Creek, leading the Cougars to seven state football playoff appearances.
Max Kurz’s 47-year coaching career was dotted by championships. As a boys cross country and track coach and a girls cross country coach at Millard, Millard South and Millard West, his teams won three state championships, finished second nine times and in the top four 21 times. His boys track team claimed one state title and seven top-four finishes. He was named the Metro Conference track and cross country Coach of the Year 14 times before his retirement in 2017.
South Sioux City (Class of 2001)
Katie (Robinette) Kock collected almost every basketball honor available to a prep athlete. Her coach, Kelly Flynn, said she was a coach’s dream ╨ a great player and hard worker who never hesitated to help younger players improve their game. Her list of honors included prep All-American, Gatorade Player of the Year, four-time all-stater, and holder of several school records. She finished her career averaging more than 18 points and eight rebounds per game while leading the Cardinals to a 102-5 record, three state championships and a No. 1 national ranking in USA Today. She played collegiately at Nebraska and Iowa State, earning All-Big 12 second-team honors as a senior for the Cyclones.
Benkelman (Class of 1975)
Danis (Richards) Willet made the quarter-mile race her specialty, winning the Class C gold medal all four years and claiming all-class honors her junior and senior seasons. She finished her high school track career with 15 medals in the 440-, 880- and 220-yard dashes as well as the mile relay. At Kearney State College, she continued to set records, ranking in the top 25 of all collegiate runners and becoming the first Nebraska woman to break the 55-second barrier in the 400. Her career in track continued into her 30s where she won national titles in the 100, 200 and 400 and won the National Outstanding Female Athlete Award in her age group in 1991.
Blair (Class of 1987)
Janet (Kruse) Sellon shredded opposing volleyball defenses. With nearly half of her attacks resulting in kills, she proved to be a dynamic volleyball player, starting four years at Blair and earning all-state honors her junior and senior seasons. She also started for three years in basketball, earning all-state honors, and she was a state champion high jumper. But volleyball paved the way in college where she became a three-year starter and a four-time letterwinner for the Nebraska Cornhusker volleyball team. She was Nebraska’s first three-time All-American and an NCAA Woman of the Year while leading the Huskers to the NCAA Tournament semifinals twice.
Omaha Central (Class of 1984)
Keith Jones’ legacy is stamped into his nickname: “End Zone”. A speedy and powerful running back at Omaha Central, Jones broke records that belonged to the legendary Gale Sayers. Jones rushed for 1,710 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior, including a 235-yard effort against state champion Omaha Creighton Prep. His speed resulted in gold medals at the state track meet in the 4×100 relay and the 200-meter dash. Jones went on to play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers where he became the third-leading rusher of all time, piling up nearly 2,500 yards and a stunning total of 32 touchdowns. A sixth-round draft pick by the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, he played two seasons in the NFL.