Crowd honors Kingsland Hall of Fame inductees

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Sarah Kohn introduces her husband, Brent Kohn, as a KABC Hall of Fame inductee.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Cindy Herr shares about her experiences as a physical education teacher and coach as she accepts the KABC Hall of Fame award.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Laurie Hendrickson introduces KABC Hall of Fame inductee Cindy Herr during the KABC banquet held Saturday evening.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

 “We are gathered tonight to honor two people being inducted into the Kingsland Athletic Booster Club’s (KABC) Hall of Fame,” welcomed Kingsland teacher and athletics enthusiast Stephanie Derby, standing before a large crowd at Five Wynds Event Centre this past Saturday, April 6. She introduced the individuals who have been chosen to receive KABC’s highest honor – former Spring Valley physical education and health teacher and girls’ sports coach Cindy Herr and longtime golf coach Brent Kohn.

Herr and Kohn were then introduced by friends and family, beginning with former LeRoy-Ostrander athlete and Kingsland physical education and health teacher Laurie Hendrickson, who also coaches some Kingsland teams, giving Herr respect and a hearty “congratulations,” and Kohn, by his wife, Sarah.

Herr advances girls’ sports

Hendrickson outlined Herr’s career, citing that she’d come to Spring Valley in 1972, when girls’ athletics were on the verge of becoming a reality, “when Title IX finally allowed girls to participate. She worked to give girls a chance to compete at a high level…in 1973, it was track, in 1974, volleyball at the state level. She not only started things going in Spring Valley, but she worked to keep things going throughout the state.”

Among Herr’s accomplishments were coaching the 1975 track and basketball teams and the 1978 volleyball team to victory. “In 1982, she coached the first-ever state championship girls’ 300-meter hurdle competitor,” said Hendrickson. “She was a mentor and a role model, and others agree.”

Hendrickson read notes from Herr’s former students, athletes who grew up to be good citizens because of her influence. They related that Herr taught them how to work hard, to love the game that they were playing and that they were valued. A note by Bruce and Rita Hartert pointed out that if a student couldn’t afford participation fees or shoes, Herr might have contributed to give that student a chance to play.

“Congratulations to you on your Hall of Fame induction,” Hendrickson concluded.

Herr recounted all the days she spent teaching and building up the Spring Valley girls’ athletics programs.

“It’s great to be here tonight…when I started in Spring Valley, there was nothing but the Girls’ Athletic Association, or the GAA,” she said. “To be honest with you, it was a struggle to get gym time, to let people know that we were here to stay. It was a culture shock to the young men whose girlfriends used to be waiting for them, and all of a sudden, the boys had to pick up the phone and call up their girlfriends because they were busy in practices.”

Those young men became fans of the girls’ teams, however, and Herr appreciated that.

“It was great to see how supportive they were,” she stated.

“We had rules and requirements that the girls had to follow…one thing they learned was that it didn’t matter whether you were the best player or the hardest worker. The rules were the same for everybody,” Herr said.

She went on to highlight how she took a volleyball team to state, and lessons were learned in practice and in the competition – valuable ones that led the girls to approach their coach to acknowledge their doubts about what she’d been trying to show them.

“They said, ‘Well, Coach, sometimes you know what you’re talking about.’ There are a lot of good memories,” she noted. “The girls were so knowledgeable that they were sometimes telling the officials the rules before I could get on the floor.”

She added that she made it a point to teach her athletes what is fair and what is not, and that they meant so much to her. For that, she observed, she’s been rewarded.

“A lot of them keep in touch with me, share their stories. Girl or boy, it’s the same – you as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have to be there for them. I want to thank you all for your support,” Herr said. “Over the years I coached, I got so many compliments from the officials about how knowledgeable the Spring Valley students were. I want to thank you for everything, for the good wishes shown me here tonight. Thanks again – it’s an honor and pleasure.”

Golf becomes part of Kohn’s life

Sarah Kohn opened for her husband by outlining his long-term career as a golf coach as something she initially was pleased to see him take on. She was quite enthusiastic about it, enough to invite the students to their house for the first golf banquet – but has since come to see as a companion that has moved in and won’t move out. Her county highway maintenance foreman spouse spends his winters plowing roads and his springtime chasing little white dimpled balls with a metal stick.

“Now, I ask him, ‘Can we get a quick vacation in between plowing and golf?’ I do realize that tonight is actually about him and not about me…after 17 or 18 seasons….” she joked.

Brent stood to give his presentation, quipping, “When I was writing this speech, I was amazingly more worried about what she’d say about me than what I would write.”

He gave a short history of the Root River Country Club (RRCC), now a plot of land with an uncertain future, relating that it was originally an iron ore strip mine that didn’t pan out. The owner asked for some trees to be removed upon the land’s restoration so that a private golf course could be built there. Kohn’s father had a membership there in the 1970s, and with it came privileges for his young son.

“It was prestigious to be apart of a country club then. Scott Back and I used to ride our bikes out and carry our clubs on our backs,” he said.

In 1980 when he was in seventh grade, with two games left in the basketball season, he broke his leg while riding a snowmobile. That injury prevented Kohn from taking his place on the ball diamond in the spring, so he chose to explore the great world of golf instead.

“I decided maybe that golf is what I should be doing. In 1985, I made the region golf,” he said.

Post-graduation led him to get married, depart for another state and return home to the Spring Valley area. In 2002, he applied to become Kingsland’s golf coach.

“It was a slow start to go to state. When I first started coaching high school golf, we couldn’t coach our students while they were on the course,” he recalled. “I had students who didn’t like having me coach them while they were on the course, and that took them some getting used to it.”

He stated that he is proud of the students who allowed him to be their coach, such as three-time state golf competitor Simon Broadwater, who graduated last spring.

“It’s been fun doing this with those kids. In golf, you have to call your own penalties, and that means you have to have integrity,” Kohn said. “That teaches good life lessons for kids, such as ‘sports do not build character – they reveal it,’ and ‘be willing to change in order to succeed.’”

He turned to Herr and congratulated her for being a fellow KABC inductee, and Derby took the lectern once more as the audience stood to applaud both Herr and Kohn. She concluded, “One more time – congratulations to both of you.”

KABC supporting students

KABC expressed its appreciation to those who made the banquet’s fundraiser auction and the banquet itself possible, including individuals and businesses that contributed to the 2019 auction. Ody’s Country Meats & Catering provided the meal while Some Like It Hot made the desserts and Racks Bar & Grill had a cash bar. Dick and Julie Schwade and Kevin and Mindy Grabau provided auctioneer services. The proceeds from the auction that night will be going towards bleachers in the Kingsland Café gym.

Projects that KABC’s contributions have underwritten include: more than 50 scholarships to graduating seniors, Gatorade to athletes for away games, the Kingsland electronic sign, gym scoreboards and stat board, defibrillators for the city ambulances and football equipment for the city youth program. Further donations support homecoming including pep fest, parade and games, one-act play stage extensions and scripts, educational trip to play for junior high, baseball fields, over $200,000 in sports equipment for teams, $70,000 in bingo proceeds to athletic teams and bleachers for football and baseball games. In addition, KABC contributed to the team gym banners, concession stand, weight room equipment, gym sound system, PAC kickoff picnic, gym floor lettering, school song banner for gym, football water cart, iPads for video, batting cages, chartered buses, trapshooting simulator, portable scoreboards and a portable sound system for dance. It also helped support the ALICE system for Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department, end of season sports banquets for parents, coaches and athletes, ukuleles and band instruments for the band department, choir folders, end zone cameras, conference team gym banners and gypsum for softball, football and baseball fields.

KABC’s board is comprised of CEO Stacey Rath, President Leslie Schmidt, Secretary Kathy Lange, Treasurer Chari Kruegel, accountant Doug Plaehn and gambling manager Steve Tammel. Its board members are Kristin Beck, Kammy Fenske, Steve Hauser, Tyler Himle, Dan Howard, Cheyanne Kolling, Mike Lecy, Eric Mundfrom, Brett Oeltjen, Pat Pokorney and Jenna Schmidt.