Kenyon-Wanamingo Stories From the Heart
The 6th class of the Kenyon-Wanamingo Athletics Hall of Fame was inducted Saturday night, October 9, 2021 at the high school.
It was supposed to be the 7th class but COVID-19 meant no Class of 2020.
Area 57 Cafe of Wanamingo catered a delicious Chicken with Cranberry Sauce meal before the honorees and their families went into the theater for the program.
Each inductee has a presenter. All of the speakers were again this year exceptional.
KWHS Activities Director Randy Hockinson put it best at the conclusion of the program by saying they were all, "Great people."
They were all very good storytellers. The stories are not made up. They are true.
I will start with a story that brought a tear to my eye.
After Jordan Flom introduced his father Scott as "The greatest man I know," Scott Flom thanked the community of Kenyon for shaping him into the man he became.
Flom was a 1975 graduate of Kenyon High School (the merger of Kenyon and Wanamingo would occur in 1991). Flom excelled not only in sports but band and choir also.
He played football, basketball and participated in track. The multi-year All-Conference runner broke and assisted in breaking several school records during his six years of running. Something he said, "I hated to do because I threw up all the time."
As a sophmore he broke the 440 yard dash record and was a member of the medley relay and mIle relay teams that set school records.
The mile relay team of 1975 broke the state record and is still the Kenyon-Wanamingo record if converted to meters. His mile relay team at Gustavus Adolphus College also set the school record.
Scott was an All-Conference football running back that led the league in rushing and played in his words, "On possibly the greatest football team in Kenyon history." The 1973 team that played in the state playoffs. They lost to eventual champion New Prague.
Flom was All-Conference in basketball and scored 32 points in a game.
In college he played all three sports and sang in the choir, eventually focusing on basketball and track.
Flom became emotional as he thanked Kenyon residents (pointing out some of them in the audience) for assisting him after his father died of a heart attack when Scott was 15 years old.
At a track meet in Northfield his freshman year he fell 6 tenths of a second short of a school record in the 440. His dad told him not to worry because he would break it the next year.
He did but his father was not there because he died from a heart attack a couple weeks after that meet.
At that point Scott stated, "That's when I found out what Kenyon was like because I lost a dad but I think I inherited about 15 dads, about 18 moms, countless classmates and loads brothers and sisters."
"I found out there was only unique and special people in Kenyon. Every person in this room I know I can tell stories about how God used you to put your fingerprint on my life and changed me forever."
He learned from Kenyon coaches, "It's how you win that defines you not if you win. They also taught me to believe in myself. Wow, that's a big deal. Because how you feel determines how you act."
"So when I left Kenyon I wanted to do everything possible to thank the God who created me. If I could sprinkle little splashes of Kenyon encouragement on everyone I met. God put giants in my life to raise me up. It's contagious. This believing in yourself is contagious."
Flom cited Ephesians in the Bible where he says, "God promises to provide immeasurably more than we need."
He went on to comment, "I have no idea why God made me run fast because I hated it. I really did. I thought it was boring and I threw up all the time."
About that 1973 state playoff football team Flom told those in attendance, "I was fortunate to be on one of Ralph's (Hagberg) best football teams. Maybe your best. (he was in attendance). My junior year we went 8-0 in the Hiawatha Valley. We beat Lake City and Stewartville. They were good teams. John Held kicked the field goal at the end of the game to defeat Stewartville.
"So we go on to the state playoffs and we went to New Prague and it's freezing. The first play of the game I tackled the kick returner and broke my hand. I said to John Held. 'I think I broke my hand.' He goes, 'Wow, you did. You better not tell anybody.' I said, 'You're right nobody needs to know.' "I didn't tell any Stewartville guys coach. I played every snap of that game."
I found out you can't be successful without good people around you. The next year we didn't have all the pieces so they had this MVP Banquet over in Faribault. Ralph is a tough guy and all the surrounding towns are there so he says, 'Well, we didn't have quite as good a year as I had hoped so I brought the MVP of the band and the choir.'
"You were a funny man Ralph. A funny man. It was funny. We did have some great people on that team. In closing it's been an honor to be back here. I had a great Mom. She taught me the gift of appreciation. So this is really an honor to be up here with you (pointed to those on stage) and all of you (pointing to audience) here today. I can't say enough how you lifted me on your shoulders and you carried me around and when people ask where are you from, where's your hometown, I say Kenyon. It's not Heaven but you can see it from there."
"I really take this honor with a humble appreciation and know that Kenyon has been my hall of fame since I was 15. So thank you very much."
Katy Berquam Vrieze graduated from Kenyon-Wanamingo High School in 2000, lettering in volleyball, basketball and softball. The basketball team made it to the State Tournament in 2000.
Softball was her sport. After high school she played at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Mn. where she was a member of the 2003 MIAC Champion team that advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"I was honored to represent Kenyon and Wanamingo," she stated, adding, "I met Scott (Flom) at the football game the other night and he asked if I was from Kenyon or Wanamingo and I said both. It's very true because I grew up about 10 miles from Kenyon and 8 1/2 miles from Wanamingo."
She thanked all her coaches from high school. All of her teammates.
"The last group of people I want to thank are my family. So my Dad grew up in Wykoff, Mn. on a dairy farm and he was blessed with four daughters. He taught us all how to pitch a softball. He would hook up the milkers and we would throw between those times. I am so honored to be a part of this class."
Vrieze earned her PHD at the University of Iowa. She lives in St. Paul with her husband Tyler and sons Jay and Cam. Katy works in the pharmaceutical industry where she supports medical education and scientific exchange.
Rick Ryan is the father of former K-W wrestling Head Coach Matt Ryan, now the Principal of KWHS. Matt gave the presentation for his "emotional" Father saying he bet him he couldn't make it through his speech without crying.
Rick Ryan "was instrumental" in assisting the K-W wrestling program becoming one of the top programs in the state. He started the elementary program when Matt started as Head Coach in 1998 and ran the program until 2019.
Matt stated Rick coached 12 K-W Elementary Wrestling teams that qualified for the NYWA State Touranment. They won the State Team title in 2018. There are no classes in NYWA. All schools compete in one division. Rick was named NYWA State Youth Coach of the Year in 2018.
Matt was right Rick did not make it through his presentation without getting emotional and one of his grandaughters finished his thank you speech.
Roz Hagberg Schack graduated in 1978 from Kenyon High School. The first female recipient of the Picha Award for outstanding scholar, leadership, citizenship and athletic ability.
Yes she is the daughter of Ralph Hagberg and said it was great growing up with a coach for a dad. She added, "Kenyon, Minnesota was a great place to grow up. In our small town we were fortunate enough to have a swimming pool, golf course, tennis courts, football and baseball fields. I could walk or ride my bike anywhere and do all the sports that I loved. I was one of several girls in my class who loved playing football. In 5th grade during recess that was our game of choice until the teachers announced we wouldn't be allowed to play tackle football with the boys anymore."
Schack called Kenyon coach and teacher Diane Nikunen (presented her) "the best volleyball coach I ever had."
She was a high jumper and member of the mile relay team in high school
She would go on to play four years at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Mn where she lettered and played every season and was Co-Captain the last two years with fellow Kenyon gradate Beth Ronning.
Schack also played third base in softball at St. Olaf her freshman year and lettered in golf her senior year.
The former Kenyon Viking was an Assistant Volleyball Coach at St. Olaf for a season after graduating. Then spent the next ten years traveling the east coast with the USVBA Volleyball Team.
Roz still enjoys participating in volleyball, golf, tennis and her new favorite is pickleball.
Bruce Vermilyea could not make his induction in 2019 so he thanked those responsible for allowing him to come back and deliver his appreciation this year.
Vermilyea was a 1971 graduate of Kenyon High School. There was one class in all sports then and he was in the State Cross Country Meet, State Boys Basketball Tournament and State Track Meet.
He went on to participate in sports at Division I Bowling Green State University in Ohio where he was a Mid-America Conference Champion in the 880 in 1974. Qualified for the National Cross Country in 1972. National Indoor Track Meet 1973, 1974, 1975. Qualifed for National Outdoor Track Meet in 1973.
MAC All-Conference, Division I All-American, member of the American Record setting 4 x 1 mile relay team in 1973. Vermilyea ran with Dave Waddle a future Olympic Champion.
Vermilyea received the Bowling Green Distinguished Service Award and was the school's representative as The Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1975.
Bruce married his college sweetheart, Trish, in 1975, then went to the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. He practiced Dentistry in Richland Center, Wisconsin for 36 years, raised 3 children.
Bruce and Trish are now happily retired at their cabin in northern Wisconsin where they love to fish and, "Thorougly enjoy their seven grandchildren" (all under the age of 9).
Johnathan Reppe was born in South Korea and adopted at the age of 2 1/2. His family moved to Wanamingo in 1976 where he graduated Salutatorian of his Class of 1984.
He attended Hamline Law School graduating in 1995. He is President of Reppe Law Office.
Reppe could not attend the banquet due to a family wedding and will give his induction speech next year. He was a three year letterwinner in football at Gustavus and one year letterwinner and school record holder for a brief time in the Javelin.
The team inducted was the first Kenyon girls basketball team to participate in the State Tournament.
I was honored to call their games and there were some familiar faces there Saturday.
Deb Quam spoke on behalf of the team remembering the bus driver who took them to all their games and was proud to do it. Head Coach Steve Alger also talked about the team as well as Assistant Coach Jim Sviggum.
Alger pointed out the team set a state record in their Sate Consolation Round win over Esko by making 25 of 30 free throws. The 25 made free throws was a state record. Pam Dahl Nutter was 6 for 6 in the game.
Sviggum stated the team members have gone on to raise families and make a positive impact on society.
It was another special night in Kenyon-Wanamingo High School hearing stories from the heart.
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