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.
Laura (Pilakowski) Buttermore excelled on every field and court. The first female four-year, three-sport letterman at Columbus High School, she earned all-state honors in volleyball and basketball and qualified for the state track meet all four years. The consensus 1999 Female Athlete of the Year, she was the Nebraska Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year as a senior, averaged a double double on the basketball court her junior and senior years and won the long jump gold medal as a sophomore. At Nebraska, she became a two-time volleyball All-American, helping lead the Huskers to the national championship in 2000. She finished her career playing on the Husker women’s basketball team.
Jim Paige spent more than 50 years calling fouls and penalties in football, basketball and track at Nebraska high school athletic events. Described as “quiet, unassuming and hard-working,” Paige displayed a respect for athletes and coaches while maintaining fairmindedness in the implementation of the rules. Selected as the Nebraska Football Official of the Year, Paige worked a handful of state football championships as well as several state basketball tournaments. Primarily a starter in track and cross country, Paige has been a triple jump official at the state track meet for more than 30 years. In addition to being an active official, Paige has mentored dozens of young referees, bringing quality to the ranks of the profession. He has also been an observer and evaluator of officials for the NSAA.
No one could account for all the athletes and students who have benefitted from the unselfish contributions Mike Purdy has made to their lives. A coach and administrator in the middle school and high school ranks for more than 40 years, Purdy pioneered and promoted programs and activities that made interscholastic activities in Nebraska a better place. Throughout a career centered on the interests of all students and athletes, Purdy developed scholarship programs, promoted sportsmanship summits and awards, supervised sporting events of every description and fostered an atmosphere of cooperation among organizations supporting athletics. A leader among his peers, Purdy earned Distinguished Service Awards from the Nebraska and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Associations.
A past chairman of the Metro Conference, Purdy is the NSIAAA’s Executive Director. Mike retired from Bellevue East in 2004.
Coach–Inspiring respect as both an athlete and a coach, this likable coach and school administrator became a legend in Nebraska high school track & field by setting a state record in the shot put of 52’ 2” while competing for Lincoln High School in 1936. The record stood for 19 years. After World War II, in 1946, he returned to the famed Red and Black as a coach and proceeded to carve out an enviable record, especially during the 1950s. In 1951, 1952 and 1954 his football teams went undefeated as state champions and many regard his 1954 Links as one of the most dominating high school teams to take the gridiron of all time. In addition, as track coach his team won the 1951 track & field state meet. As a schoolboy, also at Lincoln High, Pfeiff excelled in football.
Class of 1988
John Parrella played in three Super Bowls–the Buffalo Bills in 1994, the San Diego Chargers in 1995 and the Oakland Raiders in 2003–during a 13-year professional career at defensive tackle. His football days started at Grand Island Central Catholic High School where he excelled in football and was named a high-school All-American. He earned all-state honors twice and led the 1986 playoff team in tackles and receiving yards. A walk-on for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Parrella lettered for three years, earning All-Big Eight honors in 1991 and 1992 and second-team All-American honors as a senior. He was a second-round draft pick in 1993 by the Buffalo Bills.
Coach. An all-around athlete at Omaha Central, Fred lettered in football, wrestling and tennis. During those years Central won the state meet in wrestling and tennis for four years and he won the gold medal in his weight class one year. After high school graduation in 1946, he spent two years in the Marine Corps. During his tour of duty with the Corps, he won the All-Pacific wrestling championship and the Marine-Navy singles tennis championship on Guam, plus wrestling four months at the Naval Academy at Annapolis On returning to civilian life, he enrolled at UNO where he lettered four years in tennis, was team captain 3 years, and had a record 143-5 in singles and 49-4 in doubles and was undefeated in 1950. He coached the UNO team for one year while working on his master’s degree. Along with Charlie Mancuso, Fred was instrumental in getting the wrestling program started at UNO. Hired at Omaha Benson, he was there for 38 years, coaching tennis for 35 years, coaching wrestling for five years, plus 20 years of freshman-reserve football coaching. A long time wrestling official, he was elected to the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1982. He was also selected to the Nebraska Tennis Hall of fame, Benson High Hall of Fame, Metro Conference Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, Metro Tennis Coaches Hall of Famc, and the UNO Wrestling Hall of Fame. Beyond his high school activity, Fred also ran the city and state tennis tournaments and was Omaha City Tennis Director for 20 years.
Nebraska high school’s athlete of the year in 1980, he was a three-sport prep standout whose fourth – and best sport – baseball, took him to the 1982 College World Series and the 1983 Pan American Games. Drafted by the Texas Rangers, he was All-American in baseball in 1985. At Aurora, Penner quarterbacked a Husky team that went undefeated in the regular season and first playoff appearance in 1979, then he earned all-class all-state honors in basketball as the Huskies went 22-3 and reached the state tournament semifinals in 1980. At the state track meet, he placed third in the 100 in 1980 and ran on school-record setting 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams.
Contributor. The large majority of Al.’s professional career was on a collegiate level, but he continually worked with, and for, the high schools in the state of Nebraska. A 1950 Doane College graduate, Al accepted his first coaching position at Laurel, followed by two years at Crete Public Schools. In 1955, he was selected as Head Football and Track Coach at Doane College, a position he held for 17 years. His football and track teams were very successful earning him Nebraska College Coach of the Year on three separate occasions. At Doane, he would host one of the largest high school invitational track and field meets in the state. After the completion of a fieldhouse at Doane, high school invitational and district qualifying basketball tournaments were common. In 1973 Al left the coaching arena and accepted a position at the University of Nebraska. As an administrator of college athletics he continued to serve Nebraska high school coaches and athletes, For 23 consecutive years he served as Head Referee for the Nebraska High School Track and Field Championships held at Burke Stadium. Other Halls of Fame honors include: Nebraska Football Foundation Hall of Fame, Nebraska Shrine Bowl Hall of Fame, Nebraska Track and Field Hall of Fame (official), Nebraska Basketball Hall of Fame (contributor), and Doane College Athletic Hall of Fame (coach). Al retired January 1, 2002, as the Senior Associate Athletics Director, University of Nebraska.
Few probably would recognize his face, but many knew his voice from radio broadcasts to the public address announcements at many events. Jack Payne provided the soundtrack to numerous high school and college events, including the state track meet, which he announced for 27 years. He also loaned his voice to the Metro Conference track meet for nearly 40 years and the College World Series for 37 years. He began broadcasting football games while a college student in Oklahoma. After military service in World War II, he returned to Oklahoma and began his association with high school sports by broadcasting the field events at the state track meet on state-wide radio. Payne is best known for his 17 years at WOW and WOWTV and his 22 years at KFAB in Omaha. He was on the Husker football broadcasts from 1970-92 and broadcast Nebraska basketball, high school basketball and the Drake Relays.