FHS to induct 8 standouts to Hall
FAIRMONT – Sequels in the cinematic world usually fall short when compared with the original motion pictures.
That scenario, however, does not hold true in reference to the latest cast of characters to represent the second edition of the recently-revamped Fairmont Athletic Hall of Fame.
One legendary coach, six record-setting athletes and one devoted supporter of the school’s numerous activities will be the marquee headliners representing the 21st overall class of the Fairmont Athletic Hall of Fame during this fall’s Homecoming weekend.
“I consider it both a privilege and an honor to be joining such an incredible group in this year’s Hall of Fame,” said 2014 inductee and current Cardinal cross country and track & field mentor Bob Bonk.
Ironically, the Minnesota high school coaching icon served as the director behind the scenes of three of this year’s Hall of Famers’ storybook prep careers – long-distance running extraordinaires Neil Hanson and Leah (DeVries) Jorgenson, along with track & field standout and gymnastics phenom Diane (Hill) Serk.
Basketball and tennis star Tim West; baseball and football idol Jon Wilson; state gymnastics champion Daryl Simon; and long-time Fairmont Booster Club concessions director Roger Sanders round out this year’s inductees.
The elite eight will be recognized during halftime of the Fairmont Cardinal football team’s 7 p.m. Homecoming game on Friday, Sept. 26, against the New Ulm Eagles at Mahoney Field in Fairmont.
The induction ceremonies will kick off with a social hour at Fairmont High School, including a tour of the facility’s Hall of Fame section, from 4:15-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, before moving to the high school commons for the banquet from 5-6 p.m. The induction program, including the recognition of last year’s most valuable players, will begin at 6 p.m. in the high school’s Performing Arts Center.
Here’s a biographical perspective on each of the members of the Class of 2014.
Bob Bonk (Coach) – The coaching legend has been affectionately described as “a human encyclopedia” due to his photographic memory and vast knowledge of nearly every statistic pertaining to his fall and spring sports throughout the state of Minnesota.
The Minnesota State Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame member enters his 39th season at the Cardinal program’s helm Monday on the heels of being selected as the Section 2A head coach of the year in 2013.
The former Fairmont academic counselor has guided 20 boys teams and 20 girls lineups to the state meet, including the high school’s first-ever state championship in any athletic endeavor by either gender when his Cardinal girls harriers struck team gold in 1988. Bonk then doubled his state titles in 1989 when his Fairmont boys cross country lineup brought home the top prize.
Bonk also has engineered a state runner-up boys cross country team showing in 1990, while pacing the girls program to runner-up state accolades in both 1986 and 1987.
The long-distance coaching legend also has had 47 girls and 35 boys qualify for the individual state cross country competition, while generating 21 South Central Conference championships in the girls division and 18 more league crowns in the boys ranks.
Bonk also has assembled an equally impressive coaching resume in the sport of track & field, generating a stellar 87 percent winning percentage during his 37-year tenure as the Cardinals’ boys mentor.
The master of the stop-watch captured the Class AA True Team state boys track championship in 1998 prior to earning runner-up state accolades in 2006. The track tutor also led the Cardinals boys track & field program to the 2008 Minnesota State High School League’s Class A state crown, while capturing second place in 2006, 2007 and 2011.
While serving as the Fairmont girls track & field mentor, Bonk’s rosters have won five True Team Class AA state championships, four runner-up True Team state showings and seven True Team third-place state finishes to help fuel a 92 percent success rate during his 32-year reign in that capacity.
Bonk also has qualified 18 girls teams for True Team state, while generating 22 SCC girls team crowns.
“Some coaches talk about the sacrifices made by their families as a huge part of their success, but I truly believe that Deb has never thought of it as a ‘sacrifice.’ She seems to have embraced it and has liked getting to know the athletes and enjoyed being a part of their lives,” Bob Bonk said in reference to his wife.
Leah (DeVries) Jorgenson (1991) – Fairmont’s all-time leading cross country point generator – 1,601 – placed in the top 10 at the fall state meet five consecutive seasons during her esteemed varsity career.
The 1989 section champion and runner-up section harrier in 1987, 1988 and 1990 posted a third-place state showing in 1988, while claiming fourth place overall in both 1989 and 1990. The six-year cross country letterwinner also logged a seventh-place time at the 1987 state competition, while netting 10th overall in 1986.
The five-time all-South Central Conference runner, who captured the league crown during her junior and senior campaigns, generated one of the best 2-mile cross country times in school history with an 11-minute, 26-second pace before the MSHSL changed the girls’ distance from 2 miles to 4K after 1991.
(DeVries) Jorgenson also excelled on the tarred surface in the spring, capturing state runner-up honors in both the open 800 and 4×800 relay in 1991.
The member of nine relay teams which rank in the Fairmont track & field program’s all-time Top 10 marks in the 4×400, 4×800, 4×200 and medley relays placed in the top six to earn a medal at the state track meet 10 times.
(DeVries) Jorgenson ran a leg on the 1988 Cardinals’ 4×400 state champion relay team that posted a time of 4:00.39 that still remains as No. 1 in the program’s rich history. She also holds the No. 2 all-time marks in Fairmont school history in the open 400 (58.50) and 800 (2:18.25).
Fairmont’s long-distance running phenom then took her spikes to the next level, earning a scholarship to Augusta College in Sioux Falls, S.D.
(DeVries) Jorgenson earned four letters in both cross country and track & field during her collegiate career, including earning All-American cross country honors for two seasons.
She currently teaches Title I reading to grades K-3 in the Brandon Valley School District in Brandon, S.D., along with working with her husband, Matt, at their home decor business – the 1948 Trading Company – in Brandon, S.D.
Leah and Matt, along with their children Evelyn and Christian, live in Brandon, S.D.
Neil Hanson (1999) – When Fairmont fans are asked who’s the greatest male long-distance runner in the school’s history, the name of Neil Hanson readily springs to mind.
Hanson produced the dream senior year by capturing the 1998 Class AA state cross country individual championship in the fall before winning both the Class AA 3,200- and 1,600-meter state crowns during the spring of 1999. Even more impressive, Hanson proved undefeated throughout that entire cross country campaign, and the 1999 track season in the 1- and 2-mile races.
The five-year cross country letterwinner also placed third at state in 1997 and sixth in 1996, while capturing the sectional crown four consecutive seasons – 1995-98.
Fairmont’s all-time boys leading point scorer (1,466) in cross country still holds the fastest 5K time of 15:21 in school history. The five-time all-South Central Conference harrier also won the league’s individual gold medal in both 1997 and 1998.
The Cardinals’ current record-holder in both the 3,200 (9:29.11) and 1,600 (4:15.55) qualified six times for the state track & field meet, including a second-place showing in the mile as a junior and a fourth-place performance in the 1,600 as a sophomore.
Fairmont’s No. 2 all-time career scorer in track (1,055 points) garnered seven SCC championships – four in the 1,600 and three in the 800-meter run – en route to contributing pivotal points to help fuel the Cardinals’ 1998 True Team state championship.
Hanson earned a scholarship to run for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, lettering four times in both cross country and track & field.
He posted top 7 counting times on numerous occasions for the Gophers’ cross country team, while placing fourth two different times in 1,500-meter run at the Big Ten track meet.
Hanson also ran a leg on Minnesota’s All-American distance medley relay team, and played a key role in helping the Gophers capture the 2003 Big Ten outdoor track & field team championship.
Hanson serves as a loan officer for Rabo Agrifinance in an office based out of Mankato. He, his wife Crystal, and children Macy, Devin and Cole reside in Granada.
Diane (Hill) Serk (1995) – The 1992 Class A state vault champion rotated, elevated and planted a Tsukahara for a school-record event score of 9.75 to help fuel a third-place state medal in that year’s all-around competition.
The high-flying (Hill) Serk, who also netted a sixth-place state medal on the floor exercise as a freshman, produced a fourth-place medal on the vault during the 1995 Class A individual state competition.
(Hill) Serk helped guide the Cardinal gymnasts to a third-place showing in the 1992 Class A state team meet and a sixth-place finish at the 1994 state team competition.
Impressively, (Hill) Serk proved undefeated for four consecutive campaigns in the South Central Conference Meet’s all-around, vault and uneven bars, while also winning individual league crowns on the balance beam in 1992 and 1995, and the floor exercise during three of her four letterwinning varsity seasons.
Hill (Serk) struck gold in the all-around at the section meet during her junior and senior seasons after netting runner-up overall accolades as a freshman. She was hurt during the latter stages of her sophomore campaign and unfortunately, did not compete in the all-around in 1993.
One of Fairmont’s best gymnasts of all-time also displayed her incredible athleticism in track & field under Bob Bonk’s tutelage.
The 1993 and 1994 South Central Conference 300-meter hurdles champion contributed key points to the Cardinals’ 1991 Class AA True Team state track & field championship.
(Hill) Serk posted the No. 9 best-ever time of 16.2 seconds in the 100-meter high hurdles, holds the No. 8 all-time mark in school history in the 300 hurdles (48.1) and ranks No. 9 all-time in the triple jump with a distance of 33 feet, 8 inches.
She turned down scholarship offers to compete in gymnastics at the collegiate level to pursue and earn her degree in microbiology from South Dakota State University.
(Hill) Serk works as a medical lab scientist at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. She, her husband Cameron, and their children Harrison and Parker reside in Robbinsdale.
Roger Sanders (Special Contributor) – The managing director of the Fairmont Booster Club’s concession stand has satisfied area sports fans’ appetites one delicious bag of popcorn after another for nearly 30 years.
While die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan retired from Harsco Rail in Fairmont after serving as a product manager for 42 years, he – along with his wife Sue and daughter Stephanie – are still going strong in helping raise funds for the booster club since the family got involved back in the mid-1980s.
“My wife and I got involved with the girls booster club in 1985 when our daughter Rhonda was in high school. We worked concessions for the girls sports – they were separate from the boys booster club back then – in addition to all of the football games,” recalled Roger Sanders. “It’s been a labor of love ever since.”
The Sanders’ “family project” and hard work have helped raise thousands of valuable dollars to help fund Fairmont’s extracurricular activities for almost three decades.
Not only does the Sanders’ trio offer its trademark popcorn, but the current concessions menu has expanded to feature pizza, nachos, pretzels, hot dogs, a wide variety of candy, regular and diet beverages, and of course, freshly-baked cookies.
“Our family loves being involved with a great school district like Fairmont. We’ve got great student-athletes here, and our facilities are top-notch.”
Sanders, his wife Sue and his daughter Stephanie can be found helping feed hungry spectators while raising valuable dollars for student-athletes at every varsity sporting event held at Cardinal Gym or Mahoney Field in Fairmont.
Daryl Simon (1965) – One of the pioneers of Fairmont boys gymnastics made his mark by capturing the pommel horse state title during his senior prep season.
The six-year gymnast qualified for the individual state competition in both the pommel horse and the parallel bars for three consecutive seasons, 1963-65.
Simon also captured numerous regular-season invitational and South Central Conference medals throughout his career.
Simon is retired after 32 years of teaching physical education, health and driver’s education at Nicollet High School, but still keeps busy by raising reindeer as a side business.
Simon and his wife Yvonne reside in Lake Crystal.
Tim West (1995) – The No. 9 all-time point producer – 897 – in Fairmont boys basketball history achieved that lofty mark by generating the program’s highest-ever career scoring clip of 20.38 points per game over only two varsity campaigns.
The holder of the fourth-best career free throw-shooting accuracy mark of 77.2 percent – 179 of 232 – also finished his prep playing days at the Cardinals’ No. 22 all-time leading rebounder with 334 for a clip of 7.6 per outing.
But West’s athletic success was not limited to the hardwood court as the lanky right-hander assembled a stellar career on the tennis courts.
West, who qualified for the 1994 Class AA state singles meet as a junior, emerged from the doubles ranks during his early varsity years to become one of the Cardinal tennis program’s leading ace servers.
The hard-hitting netter compiled undefeated seasons at the No. 1 singles spot against South Central Conference rivals during both his junior and senior campaigns.
West earned a basketball scholarship to Morningside College and exited his four-year Division II career as the program’s No. 3 all-time leading scorer with 1,536 points.
The 1999 National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II first-team All-American hoopster averaged 20.5 points per game to earn the North Central Conference’s MVP award as a senior.
The three-time all-NCC choice averaged 14.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per outing to complement a school record 418 free throws made.
West teaches history at Sioux City East High School in Sioux City, Iowa, and also serves as the assistant varsity boys basketball coach.
Jon Wilson (1990) – The 1990 Lions All-Star baseball selection and all-state catcher generated the highest batting average (.454) in the South Central Conference during his senior diamond campaign until former FHS standout Jay Katzenmeyer eclipsed the mark three years later.
The former Little Gophers standout earned all-SCC baseball accolades three times, while meriting all-sectional honors during both his junior and senior campaigns.
But Wilson’s ability to hit with authority was not limited to the baseball field as the two-time all-conference linebacker topped the Cardinal football team in tackles during his junior season.
The SCC’s top punter with a 46-yard average lost only one game as Fairmont’s starting quarterback during his two-year tenure, and played a key role in legendary mentor Tom Mahoney’s Cardinals reaching the state quarterfinals in 1989.
Wilson earned a baseball scholarship to Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, and topped the team in batting average while guiding the Vikings to the NAIA World Series during his freshman season.
The four-time all-Midwest Classic Conference choice and four-time all-Region 4 selection earned NAIA All-American baseball honors each of his first three collegiate campaigns before capturing a spot on the second team as a senior.
Wilson teaches social studies at St. James High School, and serves as the Saints’ head varsity baseball coach.
Wilson, his wife Melissa, and children Michael, Addison and Aubrey reside in St. James.