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.
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.
Coach. After serving three years in the United States Marine Corps, Gene attended Midland College receiving his B.S. in 1946. His first teaching and coaching job was at his hometown of Arlington, heading up all sports. He made the move to Elkhorn in 1949 where he hired on as assistant coach in all sports and taught math. The next year he was moved up to head basketball and track coach. He got the head football job in 1951. To all this, he added the responsibilities of athletic director until 1955 when he left teaching for private business. The lure of the classroom brought him back to education in 1960 when he returned to Elkhorn as a coach of all sports, athletic director, and math teacher. Over the next 15 years he gradually eased out of coaching one sport at a time but remained as AD until 1980. His track teams garnered several district championships with two winning the state runner-up trophy. He was selected as North All-Star basketball coach in 1970.
Tonya Kneifl Gordon
For four years, Tonya Kneifl put her stamp on athletics at Newcastle High School. A multi-sport star, she had her biggest impact on the track where she never lost a high jump or triple jump competition. She set state records in all three jumping events and accumulated 12 Class D and two all-class gold medals at the state meet, scoring a record 148 points. In basketball, she started all 91 games, earning second-team all state as a freshman and first -team honors the next three years. She scored 1,987 points and led Newcastle to the 1994 Class D2 state championship. In volleyball, she set the school record for kills despite missing her freshman year with a broken ankle. At the University of South Dakota, she was a nine-time Divison II All-American.
Coach.. It was the 1970-71 school year and Omaha Northwest had just opened its doors for the first time. Dick was the new head basketball coach moving in from a stint at Gering with a record of 101-50. He hit the court running and took the “Huskies” to the State Tournament in their very first year of competition. During his 23-year tenure at Northwest his teams won 305 games with 187 losses. Along with Gering, that makes a lifetime coaching record of 406 – 247 which gives him a .608 lifetime percentage. His teams made eleven trips to the State Tournament of which nine were consecutive, making it to the championship round five times and winning it twice. Among the honors he has already received is the Skip Palrang award, the Ed Johnson award and Metro Coach of The Year twice. Non-coaching honors include Gering Jaycees Educator of the Year, Northwest Teacher of the Year and Northwest Hall of Fame.
Dan Keyser presided over a Cambridge Trojans football dynasty that produced an unprecedented era of success. Keysers Trojans set a Nebraska 11 man record with 48 consecutive victories and put together a streak of 71 straight regular season wins. Between 1989 and 2005 Keyser led the Trojans to six undefeated state football championships and two other championship games. Twice he was selected as the Nebraska Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and two other times he received the same honor from Huskerland Prep Report. He also guided Cambridge to two state track championships-as a head coach in 2005 and assistant coach in 1994. An Arnold High School graduate Keyser coached at Lodgepole and Wood River before coming to Cambridge. He finished his 26-year football coaching career with a 198-51 record.
The 1954 graduate of Wisner High went on to attend UN-L where lettered in baseball for three years and was twice selected All-Big 7 catcher. After college he spent three seasons in the New York Yankees farm system. Leaving baseball in 1962, Jim took a job as teacher and coach at Waterloo High School for two years before moving up the road a ways to St. John’s Seminary, which later would be known as Mt. Michael, as its first basketball coach and intramural director. That job evolved into being the “all everything coach” as other sports were added. His cross country teams were state champions in 1967 and 1968. Kane-coached football teams had an overall record of 174-93 and two state championships in ’82 and ’90 while qualifying for the playoffs a total of 10 times. Jim coached his basketball teams to an overall record of 531-254 with 12 trips to the state tournament. Four of those trips were consecutive, ’82 to ’85, and two were champions, ’83 and ’85. As a track coach he had many successful seasons taking the Class C state championship in ’73. Jim was selected as World-Herald Coach of the Year in 1983.
State swimming championship trophies flood the Omaha Westside trophy case thanks to the leadership of coach Doug Krecklow. His coaching career, starting at the club level surpassed the 45-year mark and culminated in 20 state championships with the Warriors-11 with the boys team and nine with the girls team-from 1979 to the time of his Hall of Fame induction in 2015. The run of success has included a dozen runner-up trophies. Employing extensive use of biomechanics and physiology, as well as mental training strategies, Krecklow has produced nearly 90 individual champions and more than 25 relay gold medalists.