He’s known as “Mr. North High,” Gene Haynes” larger-than-life presence as Principle of the school has emerged from his dedication to helping young people. Using a humble, friendly demeanor and an infectious smile, Haynes has been a positive influence on Omaha Public Schools for more than 50 years. “I just want to be someone to say, ‘I made a difference in the lives of the young people,” he told one news outlet. A teacher, coach and administrator Haynes started at Omaha Technical High School in 1967. Nebraska’s first African-American basketball coach, he coached the Trojans from 1972 until the school closed in 1984, winning the Metro Conference championships and nearly 60 percent of their games. The Mississippi native has been honored with awards from many civic, community, educational and athletic organizations in the metropolitan area, and a portion of the street leading to Omaha North High School is named “Gene R. Haynes Street.”
Cambridge (Class of 2003)
Christina (Houghtelling) Hudson enjoyed the high school career of dreams. All-class all-state in volleyball and basketball, three all-class gold medals in track, superior ratings in music and class valedictorian, the 2003 Prep Athlete of the Year led Cambridge High School to the state volleyball and basketball tournaments while earning letters in all three sports for four years. Her legacy of honors continued at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she played an integral role in the Huskers’ four Big 12 championships and two Final Four appearances. Named the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Year as a junior, she was a two-time All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Kearney High (Class of 1967)
Tom Heller was the epitome of the natural athlete. Name the sport, Heller, the 1967 Athlete of the Year, excelled. Bob Devaney once said he could have played all 22 positions at college football’s highest level. Heller was the first Kearney High football player to rush for 1,000 yards, earning all-state honors while leading the Bearcats to a 10-1 record. He also earned all-state honors in basketball and qualified for the state track meet in the hurdles. At Nebraska, he was a part-time starter as a defensive back and kick returner before leaving after his sophomore year to join the Navy. After his military service, he went on to coach in Colorado where he was a positive influence on many young athletes
DON “TOT” HOLMES
As the sports editor of the Tri-City Tribune, Don “Tot” Holmes used his story-telling skills and a fascination for statistics to develop the newspaper into the center of attention in Dawson County and the surrounding area. Focusing on the Southwest and Hi-Line Conferences, Holmes brought attention and notoriety to thousands of high school athletes. An avid sports fan, Holmes launched the Gothenburg Little League baseball program and was active in other youth programs. He also published comprehensive annual reviews of the Los Angeles Dodgers. An avid historian, he has written books covering 100-year histories of Gothenburg High School football and track.
Rick Hesse put Clearwater on the map. Called a “true mentor” who taught life lessons along with basketball, Hesse built a dynasty that became the first school to win four consecutive boys’ basketball state championships from 1984-87. After 22 years at Clearwater, Hesse moved on to Valentine where he wrapped up his career with 440 wins and 12 state tournament appearances. Noted for rewarding positive actions with a wink or a smile and not raising his voice while correcting his players, he also coached Clearwater’s volleyball team for 10 years, leading the Cardinals to its first state tournament appearance.
Title IX and Pat Hoblyn arrived at Ansley High School at the same time, and they had an immediate impact. In her first year as the school’s volleyball coach, she led the Warriors to a 19-0 record and a state championship. She continued to coach the team for more than 40 years. At the time of her induction, she had celebrated five state championships, one runner-up finish and had compiled 681 victories and a .748 winning percentage. Her teams won 25 Loup Valley Conference titles and a total of 37 tournaments. In addition to coaching volleyball, she was head basketball coach for two years and coached boys and girls track for 17 years, winning a total of 13 conference championships and two girls’ state runner-up trophies.
Few teams have ever enjoyed the dominance of Coach Brad Hildebrandt’s Skutt Catholic wrestling teams. During his tenure from 1993 to 2015, he led the SkyHawks to a total of 20 state wrestling championships – 17 team titles and three dual championships. The run included 13 straight Class B titles from 1998-2010. After a runner-up finish in 2011, the SkyHawks embarked on another string of state titles that carried on beyond his retirement. An Omaha firefighter whose passion was coaching wrestling, Hildebrandt strived to use wrestling to prepare for life. His teams produced 63 individual champions, six high school All-Americans, 101 state medalists and 154 state qualifiers.
Athlete. The 6-foot-7 forward from Schuyler starred with center Chuck Jura on the 1968 Class B state championship basketball team. Referred to as the “Jolly Green Giants,” the Schuyler Warriors were considered by some to be the best Class B team of all time. During his high school career, Gene was a noted rebounder and defensive player, while maintaining a scoring average of 24.3 points per game. Gene scored 53 points against York in 1969 for a single-game school record. Gene racked up a career total of 1,466 points. He also played football and was a gold medal champion in the high hurdles. He played college basketball for Creighton University graduating with a business degree in 1975.
Hartington Cedar Catholic
Russ Hochstein turned an all-around athletic career at Hartington Cedar Catholic into a football career that culminated in three Super Bowl Rings. A BlueChip Illustrated football All-American as a senior, Hochstein was a 12-time letterman at Cedar Catholic, earning all-state honors for three years in football and basketball and broke the schools 23-year -old shot put record in track. He came close to logging more that 100 tackles three years running and averaged a double-double on the basketball court (15 points, 10 rebounds) as a senior. An all-class, all-state offensive lineman as a senior, Hochstein signed to play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers where he was a first-team All-American and a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection. In his 12-year NFL career, he became the second player to win a Super Bowl ring in three consecutive years.
Athlete. The 1979 Lyons grad garnered many individual honors in his four years of basketball. He was named to the East Husker all-conference basketball team for three years, then selected Class C All-State his junior and senior years. With Lyons making the trip to the state meet, he was twice named to the all-tournament team in Class C and the all-class all-tournament team his senior year. Jeff had to be one of the major factors in Lyons being picked as the No. 3 team in the all-class rankings in 1979. He had a high school career scoring record of 1,585 points with game highs of 45 points and 27 rebounds. Jeff was selected to the KCAU Channel 9 All-Area Team and a member of the Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star team. He went on to play ball at Hastings College where he was all-district and all-state-college his junior and senior years. He played in the NAIA District 11 All-Star game for three years. His college scoring total was 1,990 points. After college Jeff played basketball in Australia. He played on the National Championship Adelaide Buffalos and three years on the Noarlunga City Tigers. He was elected MVP of the Grand Finals for Adelaide, scoring 38 points and hauling down 28 rebounds. He was also chosen MVP for three years at Noarlunga. Jeff now teaches and coaches all sports at Albion Middle School.