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Somerset schools beginning Hall of Fame

Dean Martell is shown when he was a standout runner at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Two of Somerset's most successful and storied graduates will make up the first class of the Somerset High School Hall of Fame.

The idea of forming an SHS Hall of Fame has been in the works for several years and has become a reality.

The first two inductees into the SHS Hall of Fame will be Jen Hansen and Dean Martell. Hansen went on to become one of the most successful collegiate gymnastics of all time at the University of Kentucky. Martell was a standout runner at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the 2018 Somerset High School graduation ceremony.

Somerset High School principal Shannon Donnelly said the idea branched from the school district strategic plan to seek, cultivate and develop leaders in the student body.

"One of the results was recognizing some of the outstanding accomplishments of Somerset graduates," Donnelly said.

The hall of fame will select inductees in several categories. They include fine arts, academics, activities and athletics, and overall service within the community.

A survey was sent out to members of the Somerset community seeking nominees for the Hall of Fame. A committee of school district staff members combed through the nominees, deciding that Martell and Hansen should be the first class because of their exemplary accomplishments.

"Each year, we plan to make this a little bigger and better," Donnelly said.

There has not been a place designated for a Hall of Fame display in the school district. The plans for a location are in discussions.

"It exists as a concept. But we hope that someday we have a physical space," said Somerset High School teacher Dennis Potter, one of the staff members active in the Hall of Fame project. "We figured that we shouldn't wait for a physical space before starting to honor those who are deserving."

Donnelly said the push for a Hall of Fame came from the idea that it is important for current students to see paths that other Somerset graduates have taken to success.

Jen Hansen

Between 1993 and 1996, Hansen won eight NCAA championships (three all-around, five individual) by herself. Hansen earned All-American honors 13 times. She was the first gymnast ever to win the NCAA all-around title three years in a row. In 1994, she won the Honda Cup as the top women's amateur athlete in any sport. That same year, she was voted the Kentucky Sportsman of the Year by our state's sports media. In 1995, she was Southeastern Conference Female Athlete of the Year.

Hansen also qualified for the WIAA state track meet in five different events while at Somerset High School.

Since college, Hansen has been in the entertainment industry. She has done stunts and been a trainer for numerous television shows and a performer at several theme parks.

Dean Martell

Martell was inducted as a member of the Class of 2016 in the Wisconsin Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Martell had a tremendous high school and college running career. He earned headlines all around the state with his performance at the 1967 state track meet by running the mile in 4:19.6. He was competing in Class C for the smallest schools, but his time broke the Wisconsin state meet record for all three divisions.

This was the second straight state championship in the mile for Martell. He had won the 1966 Class C state championship in 4:32.5.

Martell was a four-time Dunn-St. Croix Conference champion and finished as the mile champion in all four WIAA sectional meets. He ran at state all four high school seasons. He finished seventh as a freshman in the mile and second as a sophomore.

Martell was the Big Ten Conference champion in the three-mile run event in 1969, setting a new Badger team record with a time of 14:07. That helped the Badgers win the 1969 Big Ten team championship.

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 more than 30 years.

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