Elite 8 set for induction Oct. 5
FAIRMONT – The waiting is over. After a five-year hiatus, the revamped Fairmont Athletic Hall of Fame committee will induct the esteemed institution’s 20th overall class on Saturday, Oct. 5, at Fairmont High School.
“It’s taken a while to get this project back on its feet, but we (committee members) knew if we wanted to do it right, it would take some time and a lot of work,” said Hall of Fame chairperson Mat Mahoney. “I think moving it from early summer to Homecoming weekend will fit into people’s schedules better and at the same time, bring back some of the alumni for both Friday night’s football game and Saturday’s induction ceremony.
“It will also give our alumni the chance to meet our current athletes and the two groups can share some our school’s past and recent history with one another.”
A social hour from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the High School commons will kick off the Oct. 5 event, followed by the banquet from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and then the Hall of Fame program will take place from 7:30-8:45 p.m. in the school’s Performing Arts Center.
Tickets will cost $10 per person, and be available from the Fairmont High School activities office and the Sentinel newspaper office in Fairmont.
“I believe the Hall of Fame will be richer for the four men and four women being inducted this fall,” Mat Mahoney said in reference to the 2013 Hall of Fame members Lee Baarts, Bill Cernoch, Katy Eisenmenger-Fuentes, Barb Hall, Jeff Stewart, Jake Tietje, Marcia (Torgerson) Schaefer and Jill (Wolverton) Svilar.
Here’s a biographical perspective on each of the newest Hall of Fame inductees.
Lee Baarts (1990) – When veteran Fairmont High School sports fans think of the words ‘hustle,’ ‘hard work’ and ‘determination,’ visions of Baarts breaking a tackle on the prep gridiron, dribbling into traffic and delivering an assist on the basketball court, or making a diving catch at third base comes to mind.
The two-time Sentinel All-Area and two-time all-South Central Conference football choice cleared the 1,000-yard rushing mark during both his junior and senior campaigns.
Baarts also recorded 103 tackles from a defensive standpoint during his final prep season to help guide legendary Cardinal mentor Thomas Mahoney’s final football team to the 1989 Class A state quarterfinals.
Baarts doubled his state appearances during his senior year by playing an integral role in guiding fellow Hall of Fame member and legendary basketball coach Ron Hested’s Cardinals to a third-place showing at the 1990 Class A state tournament.
The point guard guided the red-and-white hoopsters to a 20-7 record, the outright conference championship and the program’s first state basketball bid since 1955.
The Cardinals’ MVP also earned selection to the Sentinel All-Area and all-SCC hoops teams in 1990.
Lee Baarts continues to work in his family’s business, Baarts Trucking, out of Northrop. He lives in Lewisville with his wife, Carri, along with his children – Carter, Caden and Kennedy – and enjoys coaching at the grade-school level in the Fairmont school district.
Bill Cernoch (1964) – The 1963 Parade All-American honorable mention football selection played a key role in laying the foundation upon which Fairmont’s storied program was built.
The 1963 WCCO all-state lineman helped guide Fairmont to a 16-1-1 record during his junior and senior seasons.
The three-year varsity football letterwinner also played golf during his sophomore year before switching to track & field for his last two prep spring campaigns. The thrower placed second in the shot put at the district meet to qualify for the regional.
Cernoch earned a full-ride football scholarship to Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he started and lettered for three seasons at left offensive guard.
Cernoch worked in the computer industry for Seagate Disk Drives before recently retiring to his home in Savage. He and his wife, Cathy, have two children – Mike, who works in marketing in Chicago, and Kari, who’s a teacher in Atlanta.
One of Bill Cernoch’s favorite moments was watching his 6-foot-6, 268-pound son play defensive end for the Minnesota Golden Gophers from 1997-2000.
“My advocation in life is to get in another 18 (holes) on the golf course each day,” Bill Cernoch said with a chuckle.
Katy Eisenmenger-Fuentes (1998) – In the rich and storied histories of Fairmont track & field and cross country, Eisenmenger-Fuentes could be considered as the greatest runner of all-time.
The five-year varsity cross country letterwinner won the South Central Conference individual championship during both her junior and senior seasons, in addition to earning top-three finishes during her eighth-grade, freshman and sophomore campaigns.
The three-time Fairmont cross country MVP became the only Cardinal runner to earn academic all-state accolades four years in a row, while also qualifying for the state meet three times during her high school career.
The five-year track & field letterwinner captured the SCC’s 800-meter run title five consecutive years (1994-98) and claimed the conference’s 1,600-meter run four times (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998).
The current school record-holder in both the outdoor and indoor 800 – 2:16.99 in 1995 and 2:25.8 in 1997, respectively – placed fifth in the half-mile run at the 1994 state meet, fourth in 1995 and sixth in 1996.
Eisenmenger-Fuentes also claimed a bronze medal in the mile run at the 1997 state meet, anchored the Cardinals’ fourth-place state 4×400-meter relay team in 1995, and played an integral role in powering Fairmont to the 1998 Class AA True Team state track & field championship.
The 1998 Minnesota State High School League’s Triple A award winner earned athletic and academic scholarships to Division I Kansas University, where she earned All-American accolades in the indoor 1,600 run via a ninth-place showing in 2002.
The three-time academic All-American runner also won the 1,500-meter run at the esteemed 2002 Drake Relays.
Eisenmenger-Fuentes earned an undergraduate degree in genetics and biology from Kansas before spending 2 1/2 years in the Peace Corps, teaching in Mozambique.
The multilingual KU graduate then earned a masters in public health and a masters in medical science-physician assistant from Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa.
Katy works as a physician assistant in family medicine at the Smart Clinic in Fairmont.
She and her husband, Luis, have two children – Danika, 7, and Joaquin, 3 – while expecting a third child this fall.
Barb Hall (Coach) – The coaching pioneer helped bring about the growth of girls gymnastics throughout the state of Minnesota starting in 1964.
Hall created the girls gymnastics program while teaching at the Butterfield-Odin school district from 1965-67, eventually guiding her student-athletes to the first statewide gymnastics meet – which involved 45 schools and 300 qualifiers – in 1966.
Hall, who did her student-teaching at Fairmont High School in 1964, returned to teach physical education three years later and proved instrumental in forming a girls gymnastics program that would later become part of the first-ever Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned girls sports programs in 1969.
During the 1960s, Hall displayed her coaching expertise by instructing summer gymnastics camps at Carleton College and throughout the state.
Fairmont’s assistant varsity gymnastics coach and GAA advisor in the early 1970s also earned her certification as a judge en route to scoring meets at the regional level.
Hall also coached track & field and cross country at the junior high and middle school levels in Fairmont until eventually retiring from both teaching and coaching.
Hall lives in Fairmont, but still enjoys traveling throughout the United States and abroad. She reads, works in her garden and fishes “up north” during her spare time.
Jeff Stewart (1972) – The four-year varsity track & field letterwinner qualified for the state meet in the high hurdles, the low hurdles and the 220-yard dash during both his junior and senior seasons en route to a fourth-place state medal in the low hurdles at the 1972 competition.
The two-year letterwinner in basketball also earned varsity letters on the prep gridiron during 1970 and 1971. Stewart played an integral role in helping power the Cardinals to an undefeated football season and the 1970 South Central Conference championship.
Stewart went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement from Mankato State University, where he helped coach football for two years.
The 1972 FHS graduate later earned a masters of divinity and a doctorate of ministry degree from Bethel Seminary.
Stewart works as the director of the Minneapolis Chaplain Corps. He also coached the offensive line for Minneapolis Washburn’s football program for the last 16 seasons until retiring from the part-time endeavor last fall.
Stewart and his wife, Pamela, reside in Minneapolis. The couple have a son, Josh – a Minneapolis police officer – and a daughter, Sarah – who’s a senior financial analyst at Abbott Northwestern in the Twin Cities.
Jill (Wolverton) Svilar (1992) – One of Fairmont’s greatest relay runners on the track and top-notch students in the classroom etched her name in the Cardinal record books and then proceeded to get even better at the collegiate level.
The 1992 Minnesota State High School League’s Triple A state winner played a key role in engineering legendary Cardinal mentor Bob Bonk’s track & field team to the 1992 True Team state crown by excelling in the maximum four events that meet.
The 1992 South Central Conference 400-meter champion and 1991 state qualifier in the long jump still holds seven different top 10 relay times at FHS, including the No. 2 all-time mark of 4:01.59 in the 4×400-meter relay set with Alysia Zielske, Mari Schuh and Leah DeVries in 1991.
(Wolverton) Svilar also played a pivotal role in guiding both the Cardinals’ 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams to third-place state medals in 1992, in addition to running legs on the third-place state 4×4 in 1990 and the fourth-place state 4×4 relay in 1991.
“Jill was our leadoff (runner) in the relays and she just went for it out of the blocks,” said Bob Bonk.
(Wolverton) Svilar also served as the 1991 co-captain for the Fairmont cross country team that placed eighth at the MSHSL state meet.
But her skills were not limited to running, as the fleet-footed guard played an integral role in propelling the Cardinal basketball team to an appearance in the 1992 District 5 championship game.
She then earned athletic and academic scholarships to the University of St. Thomas, where she lettered for four seasons in track & field and one year in cross country.
The academic all-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference trackster helped guide St. Thomas’ women’s team to a four-year sweep of both the MIAC indoor and outdoor championships.
The Tommies’ 1996 track & field co-captain qualified provisionally for that season’s indoor national meet in the triple jump before placing ninth with a leap of 38-6 at the outdoor nationals.
The 1996 Tommie of the Year finalist merited all-MIAC honors in the high jump, pentathlon, heptathlon, 4×800-meter relay, 400-meter dash and long jump during her brilliant collegiate track career.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from St. Thomas, and teaches that subject at WestSide High School in Wenatchee, Wash.
Jill (Wolverton) Svilar lives in Leavenworth, Wash., with her husband David and 2-year-old son Emil. The couple are expecting a baby boy “yet to be named” this month.
Jake Tietje (1997) – The fourth and final sibling in the highly-skilled Tietje family earned college scholarship offers in football, wrestling and baseball.
The rare six-year varsity letterwinner in grappling captured both the South Central Conference and sectional crowns at 171 and 189 pounds as a junior and a senior, respectively.
After qualifying for the state meet as a junior, Tietje captured the 189-pound state championship in 1997.
The two-time Sentinel All-Area and two-time all-SCC baseball selection accepted both baseball and football scholarships to Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. Tietje later transferred to Winona State University, where he opted for four seasons of playing football.
The 1997 Minnesota Outstate All-Star football choice established Fairmont’s then single-season rushing yards record with 1,450 during the fall of 1996, in addition to recording the program’s then single-season mark for tackles with 167.
The Minnesota Associated Press all-state linebacker led Jim Simser’s Cardinals to an undefeated SCC football crown, an appearance in the Class A state quarterfinals and an 11-1 record in 1996.
The two-time Sentinel All-Area football player of the year and two-time all-SCC selection went on to earn four letters in football at WSU.
The Warriors’ hard-hitting linebacker earned all-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference honors all four seasons.
The Winona State co-captain topped the team’s tackling charts (83) during as a junior, guiding the Warriors to the 2001 NCAA Division II national championship game.
Tietje capped his collegiate football career by finishing in the No. 2 spot in tackles during his senior season.
Tietje earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 2003 before meriting a masters in education in 2006. He then earned a masters degree in educational administration earlier this year.
Jake Tietje started his new job as the principal at Windom Area Middle/High School this summer, and resides in Fairmont with his wife Nikki and recently-newborn daughter Elsie.
Marcia (Torgerson) Schaefer (1967) – The three-year gymnastics standout proved a trail blazer in the Minnesota high school ranks, performing at a high level prior to the Minnesota State High School League officially sponsoring girls prep sports in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Fairmont’s three-year co-captain competed as both a member of the Cardinals’ state-qualifying GAA team and as an all-arounder in the state individual meet.
(Torgerson) Schaefer went on to compete for one season in the floor exercise and on the balance beam at Division I Kent State University.
She later earned bachelor’s degrees in physical education and health, as well as elementary education in social studies and language arts, from Central State University – now the University of Central Oklahoma – in Edmond, Okla., and continues working toward a masters.
(Torgerson) Schaefer coached gymnastics for nine years in Oklahoma in the both the public and private sectors, helping guide both Broken Arrow High School and a private gymnastics academy to state competitions.
(Torgerson) Schaefer continues to teach middle school social studies and language arts near Columbus, Ohio, where she lives with her husband, Ted. The couple have two sons, Daniel and Nathan.