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.
Scottsbluff (Class of 1954)
The Nebraska High School Athlete of the Year in 1954, Knaub was a four-year letterman in track and a two-year letterman in football and basketball, earning all-conference and all-state honors. On the track, he established three state records and won all-class gold medals in the pole vault his sophomore and junior seasons and in the long jump his junior year. Knaub won the state pentathlon as a senior, but was injured at the state track meet. He helped UCLA win the NCAA championship in 1956 and won two conference long jump championships. He competed in the 1956 Olympic Trials in the long jump.
Athlete. The attraction is to the weight events for many strong young men in high school. Many double in the events, but rarely do they reach star status in both the shot put and discus throw. Marty Kobza of Schuyler Central High School made it, big time, especially in 1981. His top throw in the shot put reached 66’11 1/2″, plus he was the first in history to reach 200 feet in the discus. His boys state meet toss of 201-7 toss became the all-time record at the time. Named high school athlete of the year, his discus throw was second best in the entire nation in 1981. Later, while at Arkansas in college, he was six times an All-American and a member of the World University Team in 1985.
Athlete. Gibbon (1990)
A pillar of Gibbon’s back-to-back state championship teams of 1988-89, Ginger Keller scored 1,413 points in high school – making the all-class all-state second team as a senior. The Buffs won 66 straight games with Keller at center, and she averaged a double-double — 15.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game – while leading Gibbon to its second state championship in 1989. Her senior year, she averaged 26 points and 16 rebounds per game. In her four years, Gibbon posted an 89-4 record in basketball. A dominating middle blocker on the volleyball court, she also qualified for the state track meet in four events. At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, she graduated as the Lopers’ career leader in points (1,758) and rebounds (847) and led UNK to its first-ever NCAA post-season appearance in 1994.
Athlete. A 1937 graduate of Jackson High School situated in northeast Lincoln, this versatile athlete had an honorable career in three sports: football, basketball and track from his freshman year forward. He was an all-city back for four years on the gridiron. Named all-state in football his junior and senior years, the Jackson High team was actually unbeaten for three years, at one time with a 30-game winning streak. Every year he was in high school the Jackson High Cardinals were in the Class A state basketball tournament, finishing runners-up in both 1936 and 1937. At one time he held the state track & field record in the javelin.
Making a smooth transition from the red and white of Jackson to the scarlet and cream of the University of Nebraska, he was the Big Six champion in the javelin in 1938. Of legendary note are his three years as a letterman in the backfield of the Cornhusker football team, finishing his career in the 1941 Rose Bowl appearance of the Cornhuskers.
Athlete. Class of 1996
Nicole Kubik epitomized the word winner. She led Cambridge to four state tournament finals, three state championships and an 81-game winning streak, averaging 22.5 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 steals per game. An outstanding 3-point shooter, she finished with 2,179 points and averaged 28.3 points per game her senior year. At the University of Nebraska, she earned All-Big 12 and second-team All-American honors as a senior and was drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. She ranked in the top 10 in steals in NCAA history and fourth in career scoring for the Cornhuskers. Basketball wasn’t her only sport. In high school she was a four-year starter in volleyball, playing on two conference championship teams and earning all-state honors as a senior. In track, she qualified for state three times, winning silver medals in the long jump and 100-meter high hurdles. She also placed in the 300-meter low hurdles and ran on the 1,600-meter relay that set the school record.
Athlete. The halls of Schuyler High School echoed for quite some time at the exploits of Sue Kobza, one of the best girl athletes at a time when women’s high school sports in Nebraska was undergoing a modern resurgence. A three-sport athlete at Schuyler Central, she lettered three years in both volleyball and basketball, but she claimed track as her true athletic love and followed in a family tradition by throwing the discus. Sue started early by setting discus records in youth competition while in junior high and won second place in the state high school meet her freshman year, her lowest state meet finish. She won the Class B discus throw her sophomore, junior and senior years at the state track meet, setting records each time. She carried her love for track into the Junior Olympics and was a national champion in her final year in 1977. A good student at the University of Nebraska, she lettered one year in basketball and three years in track & field.
Athlete. Class of 1989
Michelle Kush Bohlen was simply a winner. Gibbon High School didn’t lose a basketball game after she moved from Grant before her junior year. The Buffs had their best volleyball season in history her senior year. And she won a gold medal in the high hurdles in track — accomplishments that earned her the 1989 Omaha World-Herald Female Athlete of the Year award. Bohlen was a four-year state qualifier in track and cracked the all-time top 10 in the 300-meter low hurdles. She played in the state basketball tournament all four years, scoring 1,306 points and leading Gibbon to back-to-back state titles and becoming Nebraska’s first Miss Basketball. She signed to play basketball at Creighton, but a promising career hit a snag with recurring knee injuries. She completed her college career at Hastings College, helping the Broncos advance to the NAIA National Tournament.
Coach. His tenure as head football coach of the Holdrege Dusters covered a span of 25 years, achieving a 120 wins and being awarded three Omaha World-Herald mythical state championships. Those came in 1950, 1953 and 1959 with two undefeated seasons in 1953 and 1958. During the 1950s, the Dusters missed being in the top 10 ratings just twice. Jess was best known for his Single-Wing offense, which later evolved into the wing-T. He also served as track coach for 38 years and was cross country coach after retiring from his football job. Jess was named the Coach of the Year by the Omaha World-Herald for the 1959-60 school year when his football and track team both won state championships. He was named assistant coach for the first Nebraska Shrine game in 1959 and was the head coach of the all-star game the next year, tutoring the South to 46-7 victory.
Other honors include recognition by Kearney State College for his outstanding contribution to high school athletics and having the Holdrege football field and stadium renamed Keifer Field-Memorial Stadium.
Seven times in her high school career Kristie Korth Brezenski enjoyed lifting a state championship trophy. A three-sport standout at Columbus Scotus, she played on three state championship volleyball teams, three state champion basketball teams and a state champion soccer team. She earned all-state honors in all three sports, and was named the 1998 Omaha World-Herald’s girls athlete of the year, but especially stood out in soccer where she set state records for assists. She went on to play at the College of St. Mary where she earned NAIA All-American honors. A four-time conference offensive player of the year, she set several school scoring records. She also played basketball for the Flames for two years.