The Siuslaw High School Hall of Fame held its ninth-annual induction ceremony last Friday night, where five individuals and four teams received honors: Scott Parker (1981), Andy Rodet (1992), Bruce Plaep (1972), Raelyn Robinson (2010), Caley Nordahl (2001), the boys 4x100-meter relay teams for 1996 and 1997 and the 1997 girls 4x100 relay state championship team.
“If this was the very first year of the Siuslaw Hall of Fame, and you look at the inductees we have tonight, it’s unbelievable,” said Siuslaw’s Athletic Director and Hall of Fame Chairman Chris Johnson. “We have the best shot putter in school history, arguably the best football player in school history, the only person to win two horizontal jumps in school history, one of the greatest athletes that I’ve ever seen coached, probably the greatest distance runner in school history and four unbelievable relay teams … The fact that it took nine years to get you here has nothing to do with how great you are — it just has to do with the rich tradition of Siuslaw Athletics. It’s unbelievable.”
Current shot put coach Max Perry introduced 1972 alumni Bruce Plaep, the three-sport athlete who played football, basketball and track, in which he still holds the record for shot put (51-1).
“As a young thrower growing up in Florence, I remember hearing the legend of the Siuslaw boys shot put record. People wanted it broken,” Perry said. “Chris Johnson’s first year as a track coach offered any thrower who broke the school record a steak dinner, and I really wanted that steak dinner … Hundreds of people attempted this challenge, but they all failed. In the years since Bruce set that record of 52 feet, 1 1/2 inches, Siuslaw has thrown its strongest athletes at it. We’ve had numerous all-state football players, future collegiate all-Americans, all comers doing their best to break the record for that steak dinner. It’s withstood so many assaults over the years and remains unbroken.”
As Plaep came up to give his speech, Perry handed him a gift certificate for a steak dinner as the crowd laughed.
“Forty-seven years ago — 17,250 days ago — I threw that throw,” Plaep said. “I’m really shocked to see that it’s still standing, especially with some of these bigger kids that have gone through. ... I’m honored and thank you very much.”
Former football coach Steve Galbraith introduced Scott Parker, who was a standout on Siuslaw’s 1981 2A championship football team.
“His sophomore year, I thought to myself, ‘This kid is going to be something
special,’” Galbraith said. “His junior year, we were co-state champions. Any time we walked on the football field I always thought, ‘How much are we going to win this game by?’ The reason for this was Scott. You put a football in his hand, he goes long, there’s no question about it: any time he was on the field, you always had a chance of winning.”
Galbraith stated that Parker was, in the 17 years he coached football, the best runningback the school had seen.
“To be recognized with the past, the present and the future hall of famers is quite an honor,” Parker said, before thanking his parents, his offensive linemen and receivers, and then the coaches. “I’ve been privileged to be with such great people. … Thank you to everybody, and I’m humbled.”
Former track coach Gary Giddons introduced Andy Rodet (1992), who won state titles in both the long jump (21-8.5) and the triple jump (45-1) his senior year.
“The triple jump is the hardest event in track and field to master,” Giddons said. “It takes a balance between three jumps. If you do too much on the first jump, you don’t have enough for the second jump because you have to land perfectly. Andy had an enormous first jump, a little second jump, and an enormous third jump. … He had the most amazing jumping skills I had ever seen. I think he’s part kangaroo.”
Giddons stated that out of all the jumpers he had ever had, Rodet was the best horizontal jumper he ever coached.
Rodet was brief in his acceptance, saying, “Congratulations to all the inductees here tonight, former inductees, and thanks for my folks for being here.”
Caley Nordahl, a three-sport athlete who excelled at volleyball, basketball and track was introduced by Johnson. Nordahl graduated holding the school record in the triple jump (35-0) and still holds the second-best mark in the high jump (5-4).
“Caley was and is an unbelievable all-around athlete. I would tell anyone that she’s on the Mount Rushmore of all-around athletes for females at Siuslaw High School. But athleticism is just one face of being a successful athlete. Caley’s drive, determination and competitiveness were big factors in her success, but there was another attribute that made Caley great. She was, and I’m thinking of the right word here: Feisty, intense, focused, maybe a little cocky, stubborn, hard-headed, ferocious, and maybe a little bit mean.”
Johnson spoke of a conversation he had with former coach Mary Dodson about Nordahl.
“I would lean up to her and say, ‘Hey, if we had one girl right now to compete, who would it be?’ She looked at me with the same face that Caley had when she played volleyball and said, ‘Nordahl.’ Coach Dodson was right, she’s a super-standout.”
Nordahl laughed when she took the stage, saying, “That was nicer than I thought it was going to be. … I know I wasn’t the easiest kid to coach or to teach. In the educational field we call that ‘oppositional defiance.’ But I appreciate all my teachers and all my coaches and SHS for accepting me for who I was. I was on the basketball team where there was a rule of, ‘If you cussed or were messing around, you had to run laps.’ I was probably in the best shape of my life that season. I ran so many laps.”
Nordahl thanked her family for their continued support, the coaches that worked with her on continually raising the bar, and the lifelong friends she made.
“I’m a lot nicer now, I really am,” the now-teacher said with a laugh. “Siuslaw meant everything to me.”
Raelyn Robinson won state titles in cross country and the 1500-meter race in track and field. She still holds the school record in the 1500-meters and at one time held the records in the 800, 1500, 3000 and 5000 in cross country.
Robinson participated in track while in the sixth grade, but she had turned her attention to volleyball in the following years. When Johnson expressed interest in her joining the high school track team, she was not interested.
“It was like a punch in the stomach,” Johnson said, seeing her abilities in middle school. “I wrote her a letter. I spent probably four hours writing it — I typed it, spell-checked it, and then I hand wrote it and mailed it to her. In the letter, I said all of the things that would happen to her if she joined. I wrote her mom the letter, because I knew if she read it she would explain it to Raelyn.”
He was asked by some other coaches as to why he did that. “I didn’t know what else to do. She was a once-in-a-lifetime type of person,” Johnson said.
Robinson did accept, and “a star was born.”
Robinson thanked her family for the recognition, saying, “It’s an honor to be inducted. My grandpa was inducted, my uncle was inducted, my mom’s 1984 team was inducted — you could say it’s in my blood. Thank you to everyone for inducting me when I’m in my 20s when I still know how to run.”
As for her decision to join track, Robinson remembered the letter, along with upper classmates telling her she needed to run. “I knew the girls’ team was good. They had won state titles. I started to think to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to be a freshman on a varsity team and win a state title?’”
Robinson thanked Johnson for inspiring her to work hard, stating she had him to thank for her “grit, stubbornness and my state titles. Keep being a great coach.”
Finally, Giddons introduced the team honorees, beginning with the 4x100-meter state champion relay teams for 1996 and 1997.
“It was a unique group that really meshed together and stayed the same for two solid years, and I think that was amazing,” Giddons said of the team, which consisted of Teola Wilkins, Kirsten Daniel, McKenzie McMullen and Alisa Worley. “Maybe we weren’t as fast as others individually, but we were an awesome relay. When I think back to the great runs of 400 relays, I think personality wise, they were my favorite group.”
McMullen accepted the honor on behalf of the team, stating, “I have a lot of good memories of running track and field. We made lifelong friends and, when I look back at that time, it was very special. It wouldn’t have happened without the coaches. We were a hodgepodge. We didn’t look the part. But because of the coaching and people believing in us, we got it done.”
Giddons started with a lesson on relay handoffs when introducing the 1996 boys state champion 4x100 relay team, which consisted of Jeremy Long, Tristan Hartzell, David Richmond and Matt Pearson. Giddons looked at the Olympic French relay team, which had slower individual runners than the U.S., but the relay was faster overall.
“The reason why, according to them, was the handoff. It’s basically an underhand motion, instead of a top-down motion. We decided to switch and try this underhand motion.”
The team worked hard on the motion, practicing every day and sticking with the handoff until they took state.
“That was a pure joy,” Giddons said. “I can’t be prouder of four guys than that.”
As for the 1997 team, which included Pearson, Richmond, Aaron Long and John Jensen, Giddons said, “It was the greatest season I’ve ever coached. It didn’t matter that we ended up being state champions that year, it didn’t matter that we had a lot of great individuals. It was just the attitude of the team.”
The evening closed with Master of Ceremonies Bob Sneddon honoring Ben Voogd and Jesse Schutte, who had to defer the award to 2020 due to conflicting engagements — Voogd is coaching in China, and Schutte is playing in a professional golf tournament.
As for the attending honorees, Sneddon said, “It’s well-earned and congratulations to you all. Your names are in the Hall of Fame, and those are names that people look at and remember. There were great accomplishments that put you there, but also good memories.”