Russ Ninemire-Sandy Creek


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.

Tom Novak – Omaha South

When sports fans talk about tough athletes, no one’s name stands above this 1944 graduate of Omaha South High School. He started out as a crushing fullback and a stop-them-in-their tracks defender and led South to #1 championship fame in the fall of 1942 as a junior. He reached all-state status his final two years of high school. During some dark days for NU football following World War II, Tom Novak was a bright spot, a force to be reckoned with all by himself, playing center on offense and linebacker on defense from 1946 to 1949. His nickname of “Train Wreck” properly explains the high regard all opponents had for his powerful playing style. This was a truly fearless football player.

The university now has an annual player award in his name. His number was retired.




Jay Novacek – Gothenburg

Athlete–A multi-sports talent, this tall young man graduated from Gothenburg High School in 1981. He set a record in the pole vault, 15-1 in 1981 and also won medals in the hurdles at state track meets. He was all-state in basketball and an all-state quarterback for the Swedes in football. After an outstanding career in college at the University of Wyoming, his national acclaim came from professional football where he won three Super Bowl rings as a tight end for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. After this great career in football, he is back home on the range in western Nebraska. A very talented “Cowboy” all in all.

He was selected to the Kodak All-American football team in 1984 after setting an NCAA record for receiving yards per receptions by a tight end. He had 83 career receptions for 1,536 yards and ten touchdowns. Novacek also competed in track and field for the University of Wyoming. He won the Western Athletic Conference decathlon championship, earning All-American honors. He also set UW records for decathlon points, 7,615, and in the pole vault, 16’4″.

 Novacek was drafted in the sixth round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. After spending five seasons with the Cardinals, he signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a Plan B free agent. Novacek was a key contributor for Dallas in the early 1990s, assisting them to three Super Bowl wins in four seasons. In those games, he recorded a combined total of 17 receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Novacek, who hadn’t played a game since Super Bowl XXX in 1996, officially retired from the NFL on July 15, 1997 due to a lingering back injury. In his 11 seasons, Novacek recorded 422 receptions for 4,630 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Novacek was commemorated for his 2008 induction into the College Football Hall of Fame at half-time of the Wyoming Cowboys game on 9/13/08.

Ray Novak – Omaha Tech

Athlete.  In 1949 this young man was called by many the best high school athlete ever seen in the Omaha area. And for good reason. That fall he helped lead Omaha Technical High School to an undefeated Class A football state championship as quarterback of the Trojans. He was an all-around reliable athlete, starring for four years in basketball, three years in football, four years in baseball, and even one year in track & field. One of the rare athletes to receive All-American honors while in high school, he later lettered at the University of Nebraska in both football and baseball. He was a baseball college All-American in 1953 as a pitcher, with a 6-0 pitching record and a .095 earned run average.

Brother Tom Novak also is in the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.


Jill Noel Korta – Lincoln Pius X

Athlete. Jill could possibly have been the first four-time state girl’s cross country champion had that sport been sanctioned by the NSAA in 1979, her freshman year at York. So she ran with the boys that year and finished second in her first race. In her next three years, she never lost a race in girls cross country and only one in girls track and field. She was the all-class gold medal champion in the first girls state high school cross country meet. She continued her efforts in track and field and accumulated eleven state medals.  She was selected all-state, all-city, and all-academic in both cross country and track and was a varsity letter winner all four years in cross country and track. Jill represented the state of Nebraska and finished second in the National High School Cross Country Meet in Albuquerque New Mexico in 1983. She went on to compete for UNL and paced the Husker women in their first Big 8 cross country championship. She earned eight varsity letters at Nebraska and won Big 8 and All-American academic honors, reaching the dean’s list all four years in school.

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.  

Jerry Neely – Norfolk

Official. Jerry’s 40-year officiating career started while he was in the military service.  While waiting for an injury to mend he started refereeing basketball games among service teams.  While attending Hastings College and on the basketball team, he did some intramural refing and then added some high school games while still competing himself.  After graduation, he accepted a job at Norfolk to teach in the Junior High.   It was here that he teamed up with Leonard “Soup” Campbell working both basketball and football for many years.  After completing his last basketball game in 1986 he became an observer of officials for the NSAA.  From 1976 to 1986 he taught a class on Mechanics of Officiating at Northeast Community College.   Jerry’s career spanned from the era of one official per game to two different for each game in basketball and from three to five in football.  Worked 16 State Basketball Tournaments. Head Referee for the first Shrine Football game.

Lyle Nannen – Syracuse

Coach, Athlete.  A member of a very athletic family, Lyle excelled in football, basketball and track.  Lyle was a four-year letterman in football and basketball and would have been in track had it not been for a knee injury in the last basketball game his senior year.  Playing at three positions in football — quarterback, halfback and end — he was selected all-conference for three years and Class C all-state his senior year.  If one sport had to be picked as his best, it would have to be basketball.  Syracuse lost only seven games during his career and was the undefeated state champions his senior.  He earned all-state honors in 1952, ’53, ’54, and all-class all-state in ’54.  Other honors include being chosen one of the top five players in ’53 and ’54 by the Lincoln Journal-Star and the Omaha World-Herald and the all-state-tournament team by the Hastings Daily Tribune.  The Lincoln Journal-Star selected him as the Athlete of the Year in 1954.  In 1953 Lyle added more hardware to his collection by winning Class C  high hurdle race at the state track meet and placing second in the low hurdles.  He attended college at UN-L lettering in basketball three years, and was on the team that beat Kansas University with Wilt Chamberlin.

Even more successful as a coach, his career record in basketball was 468-223 winning one state championship,  eight district titles, and five conference championships.  Lyle was picked to coach in the all-star games three times.  His football record was 171-96-5 with two conference championships.  He served as the assistant coach of the North squad in the 1991 Shrine Bowl.

Jason “Bump” Novacek – Gothenburg

Athlete.   Tremendously successful in football, basketball and track, Jason “Bump” Novacek epitomized the vision of an all-around athlete. In football, he starred as quarterback, running back and defensive back, leading Gothenburg to a state runner-up finish his junior year. He earned all-state honors in 1984, gained high school All-American status, and won the Nebraska Shrine Bowl’s outstanding defensive player award, highlighted by a record 84-yard interception return for a touchdown. In track, he set the pole vault record at 16-0, won four Class B vault championships and three all-class gold medals. He qualified for the state track meet in 13 events from 1982-85, and won the elite 1985 Golden West Invitational decathlon. He started three years in basketball. At Fresno State University, he starred in multi-event competition, winning the conference decathlon championship as a sophomore. He also lettered in football at Fresno State. He follows brother Jay Novacek in the High School Sports Hall of Fame. Lives in Manter, KS.

  Hometown hall-of-famer

Gothenburg graduate makes his mark in track, football

By Deb Egenberger, Gothenburg Times, September 16, 2006

Somewhere in a heavy box tucked neatly away with his mementoes of his high school years are dozens of track medals that Jason Bump Novacek earned as a teenager. Among them are three state meet all-class golds and a district track championship that marked a Nebraska state record in the pole vault in 1985.

His 16-foot vault at Lexington not only earned him statewide recognition his senior year at Gothenburg High School but it also made him a barrier breaker and helped him to earn a spot in the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Novacek will be among 13 former Nebraska high school athletes to be inducted into the hall of fame on Sunday, Sept. 24, in Lincoln.

Novacek, the youngest of four children born to former Gothenburg residents June and Pat Novacek, grew up in an athletic family with his dad as his coach and his brothers as his mentors.

Among them, there are six hall of fame honors for high school, college or professional athletics.

“We were blessed with ability and a dad who was very knowledgeable,” Novacek said during a phone interview from his home in Johnson City, KS. “I worked hard and the cards fell into place for me.”

Novacek was a three-year starter on the Swede football and basketball teams and was a four-year state track qualifier. He also played drums in the band, did his share of lip-syncing in the chorus and had parts in three all-school plays.

During the B-5 district track meet in Lexington on May 9, 1985, Gothenburg’s Jason Bump Novacek cleared 16-0 in the pole vault. Novacek was the first Nebraska high school athlete to break that barrier and the state record stood for 18 years until Gabe Baldwin of Grand Island Central Catholic broke it in 2003.


Dan Newmyer – North Platte

Dan NewmyerInducted with officiating partner, Dennis Logan.

They officiated together for 40 years, so they will be inducted into the Hall of Fame together. They began officiating basketball while students at Doane College in the late 1940s and they retired in the late 1980s. They began officiating football games with Hall of Fame referee Dick Thompson in 1956. They officiated at the state basketball tournament from 1964 to 1968 and refereed the 1984 Shrine Bowl football game. They also worked many state football playoffs and small-college games.