Edina is Home to Many Accomplished Athletes and Coaches

Paul Nitz

In 1996, former athletic director for Edina High School Steve Dove reached out to Sun Current sportswriter John Sherman with an idea. He suggested they create a Hall of Fame to honor some of Edina’s great athletes. “Steve briefed me on the project,” says Sherman, “and before he finished the first sentence, I said, ‘Count me in!’ ” The following year, the first group of honorees was inducted. Now, a yearly banquet sponsored by the Edina Athletic Booster Club is held on the Thursday before the EHS Homecoming game.

Since 1997, the ceremony has been an opportunity, says the booster club’s website, “to conduct an event which brings honor to the school by highlighting the accomplishments of its alumni, coaches and friends.”

Event organizer Patty Dronen says it’s inspiring. She remembers fondly when hockey coach Bob O’Connor was inducted this past fall. “Every member of one of his teams showed up, even professional hockey players.” O’Connor passed away months later, but not without this last honor from his hometown.

Bruce Carlson, inducted in 2000, has been on the selection committee for the past seven years. “There is a depth of athletic talent in Edina,” he says noting how sports in Edina affect the broader community. The banquet itself is “like a mini-reunion,” says Carlson.

Administrators like Rollie Ring, principal at EHS for 28 years, still cherishes his plaque. Top state athletes like Tom Moe, whose daughters, Jackie Moe Kramer and Jennie Moe Coughlin, have also been inducted, are grateful for the sports that gave them close friendships and brought them together. Pacy Erck, inducted as a pioneering athlete to whom future girls credit their success, was an educator at EHS for her career. The inductees are often familiar as well as inspiring.

The Hornets have a long history of greatness. Sherman says finding worthy candidates each year has never been an issue, “I don’t feel we will ever have a shortage of good candidates.”

One thing is missing, though, according to Carlson. There is not a display location for the honorees. They are only listed on the booster club’s website. However, Troy Stein, assistant principal and current athletic director at EHS, says that after renovations on the high school are finished, they hope to “assess the different locations to display the rich, proud traditions of the Hall of Fame.”

Paul Nitz (graduated 1987, inducted 2013)

Nitz was born with a spinal cord injury that left him confined to a wheelchair. He never let it slow him down. He says, “I was shuttled by my parents to wheelchair basketball practice in Golden Valley.” It was during those days that Nitz discovered he had a competitive side. He lettered in basketball and played in college. He went on to a career that lasted more than 20 years as a Paralympics track and field athlete, winning a gold medal in the 100 meter three times, as well as being a world record holder. His parents played the biggest role in his athletic career by giving him “such a normal childhood,” says Nitz.

Lynda Peterson Seasly & Julie Peterson Burrows (1977, 2015)

These identical twins were pioneers in the 1970s. When they started as tennis and cross-country ski athletes, only one in 27 girls played a sport, says Burrows. They played doubles tennis, becoming a fearsome team. After a devastating loss their junior year at the state tournament, they practiced six to eight hours a day, even developing their own language. The duo went undefeated during the regular season their senior year. “The administration at Edina was very supportive of girls athletics,” says Seasly.

Andy Tanghe (1995, 2014)

To know Tanghe is to love him, says Julie West, who nominated Tanghe in 2014. Born with Down syndrome, he’s never let anything hold him back. At EHS, he was a member of an adaptive athletic team called the South Suburban Flyers, his mother, Mary, says. Tanghe played floor hockey, indoor softball and soccer, winning three letters, and is now involved with the Minnesota Special Olympics. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame “was a proud moment,” he says, not just for Tanghe and his family, but for the many who love him.

This is just a sample of the many who have contributed to the great history of sports in Edina; also read about the Hankinsons online at edinamag.com. If you'd like to learn more or know someone you'd like to nominate or would like to attend a banquet, visit edinaboosters.com for information.