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First New Richmond High School Athletic Hall of Fame class inducted

Inductees and presenters for the inaugural NRHS Athletic Hall of Fame class include (l-r) Tom Tjader, Tom Green, Judy Weiss, Betty Komula, Holly Spoo, Denise Devereux, Karen Musch-Kennedy, John Otteson, Mike Hebert, Brett Otteson, Al Waschke, Stan Barr, Jason Zahradka, Paul Kittel, John Ball, Chad Fehrman, Paul Mayer and Jim Tjader.1 / 2
The Tjader brothers, Tom and Jim, were among the 12 inaugural inductees into the New Richmond Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday.2 / 2

The top athletes and coaches in New Richmond High School history will now stand together as the inaugural class of the New Richmond High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

The inaugural Hall of Fame class was inducted during a luncheon and program at the high school on Saturday.

Inducted as athletes into the Hall of Fame are former standouts Mike Hebert, Robert Meath, Karen Musch-Kennedy, John Otteson, Holly Spoo, Jim Tjader, Tom Tjader and Jason Zahradka. Inducted as coaches were John Ball, Stan Barr and Betty Komula. National Football League Hall of Famer Johnny "Blood" McNally, a New Richmond native, was an honorary inductee.

Approximately 200 people filled the NRHS commons on Saturday to watch the induction ceremony.

Each of the honorees received a Hall of Fame plaque. Another copy of each plaque will be permanently on display in the high school in the hallway adjacent to the NRHS gymnasium.

The inductees and their presenters spoke on a wide range of perspectives, but many struck on common themes. They spoke about why athletics matter, from learning hard work, team work, overcoming obstacles and standing up for what you believe in, to the positive experience of New Richmond as a community and the appreciation for the time coaches put in with athletes.

Joey Miller was selected to represent the current NRHS athletes. He spoke about how the Hall of Fame inspires students to do more, work harder and keep their individual accomplishments in perspective when compared to others who have gone before.

Here is some information on each Hall of Fame inductee:

John Ball was presented by one of his former players, current NRHS varsity baseball coach Chad Fehrman. Ball graduated from NRHS in 1970. He was one of the winningest varsity baseball coaches in the state, finishing with 554 victories in his 32 seasons coaching the Tigers. Ball also served as the NRHS athletic director for 18 years.

Stan Barr was presented by one of his former athletes, Paul Mayer. Barr moved to New Richmond in 1966. He served as boys track coach for 26 years and athletic director for 17 years. Barr coached the 1982 Tigers to a WIAA state championship, one year after the Tigers finished second at state. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 2007 and he remains active as a highly respected track meet official.

Mike Hebert was presented by his NRHS basketball coach, Al Waschke. Hebert graduated from NRHS in 1986 after earning 12 athletic letters and being named all-conference seven times. Hebert was a three-time state qualifier in tennis, a conference MVP in basketball his senior year and an all-conference performer in football and baseball. He was also class valedictorian and a WIAA Scholar Athlete. He played basketball collegiately at St. John's University, where he was a two-time All-MIAC selection.

Betty Komula was presented by her daughter, current NRHS girls tennis coach Denise Devereux. Komula was one of the pioneers of girls athletics in New Richmond. As a 19-year varsity volleyball coach, her teams won four conference championships, qualified for sectionals seven times and earned a state tournament appearance in 1986. As coach of the boys tennis team for 10 seasons, her teams won six conference championships and had six players qualify for state. Komula was head coach for the Girls Athletic

Association prior to the WIAA recognizing girls sports. She worked diligently for equalizing facilities, equipment, coaching pay and recognition for girls athletics.

Johnny "Blood" McNally was presented by his nephew, Pierce McNally. McNally is one of the most successful and colorful players in National Football League history. He was a charter member of the NFL Hall of Fame in 1963. McNally was known as "the Vagabond Halfback" for his exploits in his 14-year career in professional football for five different teams, most notably the Green Bay Packers where he is enshrined in the Packer Hall of Fame. McNally also coached the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to being renamed the Steelers. McNally graduated from NRHS in 1918. McNally died in 1985.

Robert Meath was presented by NRHS Athletic Director Casey Eckardt. Meath, who lives in Oregon, was unable to attend. A 1950 NRHS graduate, Meath had a celebrated college boxing career at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. While boxing for the Badgers, Meath was a three-year starter, finishing third in the nation his junior season and winning the 156-pound title his senior season. After his senior season, Meath was named team MVP and won the John S. LaRowe Award as the nation's top collegiate boxer. As a high school boxer, Meath lost only one bout during his three seasons going undefeated as a junior and senior.

Karen Musch-Kennedy was presented by Judy Weiss, her NRHS track coach. Musch, a 1985 NRHS graduate, earned 10 letters in cross country, volleyball, basketball and track. A three-year all conference runner in cross country, she was Middle Border Conference individual champion her junior and season seasons. A three-year letter winner in basketball, she was all conference all three years as she led her team to the MBC championship her junior year setting single season and career rebounding records. Musch was most decorated in track and field, participating in 11 events at the state meet during that time. That culminated in individual state championships in 1984 (400 M Run), and 1985 (200 M Dash), becoming the first New Richmond female athlete to win a state title. After high school, Musch received a full ride scholarship to United States International University to run cross country and track.

John Otteson was presented by his son, Brett. A 1969 NRHS graduate, Otteson participated in football, wrestling and track. He was a three-year starter in football, earning all-conference honors his senior year. In wrestling, he was a two-time conference championship and wrestled at the state tournament his senior season, losing in the semifinals after dislocating his shoulder. A four-year letterwinner in track, he set the school record for pole vault his freshman year and participated in the state meet as a junior in the 880 M relay. After high school, Otteson continued his football career at Gustavus Adolphus College where he was a three-year starting linebacker.

Holly Spoo was presented by her NRHS track coach, Judy Weiss. A 1994 NRHS graduate, Spoo was one of the top basketball players in the history of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. A four-year all-conference player in the WIAC, she started her career at UW-River Falls and then transferred to UW-Oshkosh. She won a national championship in 1996 with the Titans, was a two-year captain, team MVP, WIAC player of the year (1998), and Kodak All-American. Spoo was an all-state basketball player at NRHS, setting many team scoring records. Still the record holder in the 300 hurdles, Spoo captured a state individual championship in 1992, as well as second and third place finishes at state. She has become a highly respected basketball coach, having coached at Nebraska-Omaha, Wayne State and UW-Milwaukee.

Jim Tjader was presented by his brother, Tom. Jim Tjader was a superior all-around athlete earning 10 letters in football, basketball and baseball. A 1976 NRHS graduate, he was an All-Northwest selection in all three sports. He won a national junior college championship in baseball with Council Bluffs, Iowa and was selected to the National Junior College Hall of Fame. After transferring to the Texas Longhorns, Tjader was the starting second basemen for the Longhorns in the college World Series. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers, playing three years of professional baseball at the minor league level.

Tom Tjader was presented by his high school teammate, Tom Green. Tjader earned 10 letters in football, basketball and baseball before his graduation in 1971. Tjader remains one of the all-time leading scorers in Middle Border Conference basketball history as well as New Richmond High School all-time leading scorer. He was three-time all-conference, two-time all-Northwest, two-time scoring champion and led the Tigers to a MBC title his senior season, being MBC Player of the Year. A four-year starter in the baseball, Tjader led the Tigers to four straight Middle Border Conference titles when he pitched, played shortstop and led the team in every offensive category. He was recruited to play baseball at the University of Minnesota, but was drafted into the Army and stationed in Germany.

Jason Zahradka was presented by his friend, Paul Kittel. Zahradka, a 1987 NRHS graduate, led the Tiger basketball team to three conference titles, including his senior year in which he was all conference and team captain. In golf, he lettered all four years and was all conference three times and team captain his senior year. Zahradka was an individual qualifier for the state golf meet three times and the Tigers also qualified as a team three times. In baseball, he was all conference three times, team captain as a senior and twice named all-state. During that time, the Tigers won two conference championships and appeared in the 1987 state tournament. After high school, Zahradka competed for four years on the UW-Stevens Point golf team earning Freshman "Male Athlete of the Year" for the Pointers and earning Academic All-American Honors in 1990 and 1991.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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