Seven Selected for Blugold Hall of Fame
By: Tim Petermann, Athletics Consultant
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (UWECBlugolds.com) - Four athletes who participated on four consecutive conference championship teams during their careers are among seven athletes selected for induction into the UW-Eau Claire Blugold Hall of Fame next month.
The 2011 class, which will be inducted September 24, includes baseball-football players Craig Jilek and John Furrer; diver Jim Brennan; swimmer Sara (Shimanski) Drozdowicz; track athlete Shelly Roth, basketball player Bob Coenen and tennis player Scott Nesbit.
This group represents the 35th class of men's inductees and the 22nd class of women's inductees and brings the number of athletes, coaches and administrators who have been honored to 187.
The Blugold Hall of Fame was established in 1973 to pay tribute, give deserved recognition and enhance school tradition by honoring former athletic letterwinners, coaches or administrators who showed distinctive, unique or exceptional ability while on the campus at Eau Claire and have distinguished themselves in their profession or personally since leaving the institution.
For women athletes, there must be a lapse of 12 years from their final season of eligibility before they can be considered for induction and for men 15 years.
The class will be recognized at halftime of the football game vs. UW-River Falls Saturday, September 24 and inducted that night during a banquet in the Council Fire Room of the W. R. Davies Center on campus. A social hour will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the banquet, which will also include presentation of the 2010-11 Blugold Super Six Salute award winners and several other recognitions, are $25 and can be obtained by contacting the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association at (715) 836-3266 or email@example.com. WQOW TV 18 sports director Bob Bradovich will present the 2011 Hall of Fame inductees.
Brennan won seven out of eight conference diving titles during his Blugold career and was runner-up to a teammate the only time he did not win. He also had four top four finishes at nationals including a second on the 1-meter board in 1978. Drozdowicz won nine individual conference titles and was on 12 gold-medal winning relay teams. She was a seven-time NCAA first team All-American with her best finish being a fourth in the 100 freestyle in 1995. Nesbit was a two-time conference singles champion and three-time conference doubles champion and participated in three NAIA national tournaments. Coenen was a two-time All-Conference player for Ken Anderson's powerhouse teams of the late 70s and early 80s and played on four NAIA tournament teams. All four of those inductees were on teams that grabbed four straight conference championships.
Roth was an outstanding all-around athlete, winning the conference indoor pentathlon title three consecutive years. She also won the outdoor javelin crown twice. She was a three-time All-American, placing in the top eight in the javelin, high jump and heptathlon. Furrer and Jilek both came to Eau Claire for football as their primary sport but made their mark with the Blugold baseball team. Furrer started 16 of 20 games as a defensive back during his freshman and sophomore football seasons for Coach Link Walker but left the school with most of the school's offensive records in baseball. Jilek played three years as a linebacker on Jim Lind and Greg Polnasek-coached football teams and then played on the two winningest baseball teams in school history and ranks among the school leaders in most offensive categories. He was a two-time All-WSUC pick as well as an NAIA All-Area IV selection and an NCAA All-Region first team honoree for coach Craig Walter.
Coenen is currently a business teacher in the Pulaski school system near Green Bay. Nesbit teaches physical education and coaches the men's and women's tennis teams at St. Olaf College. Jilek is a physical education instructor at Hudson High School as well as owning and operating a Safety & Respect Driving School in Hudson. Roth is a geophysicist for Esso Australia Pty. Ltd., working in Melbourne, Australia. Brennan is Vice-President for sales & marketing for Arlington Industries in Waukegan, Illinois. Furrer is a Senior Financial Advisor for M&I Bank in Menomonee Falls and a basketball official for the WIAA and WIAC. Drozdowicz is currently Director of Operations for the School of Health & Natural Sciences at Dominican University in San Rafael, California, transitioning to a new career as an elementary school teacher after obtaining her teaching credential this past spring.
Brennan, who prepped at Notre Dame High School in Niles, Illinois, competed on the 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981 Tom Prior-coached swim teams that not only won four WSUC crowns but placed second twice, sixth and fourth in the NAIA Nationals. Besides winning seven conference titles in four years, Brennan set WIAC records in 1979 and 1980 and was voted NAIA District 14 Swimmer/Diver of the year in 1980. As a four-year All-American, he finished second on the one-meter board in 1978 and third on the three-meter board in 1980 while accumulating eight top 12 finishes at the NAIA national meet. He was a three-year captain and Blugold team most improved once and team MVP once. His Blugold diving coaches were Prior, Jo Casey and Bob Clotworthy.
After earning his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1981, he worked 13 years in Chicago for IBM as an advisory marketing representative, area staff representative and marketing manager in General Business and Higher Education. After one year as product manager at Systems Group, Inc. in Schaumburg, IL; Lexmark International, Inc. was his next stop for 15 years, serving as District Sales Manager, Systems Engineering Regional Manager, Director Software Alliances, Director of Practice Development and Director of Systems Engineering-US. Over his career he has been recognized for his ability to successfully develop and build high performance teams.
Jim has worked with the local community Adventure Guides youth organization and for the past 15 years has coached age group soccer and basketball for the Spring Lake Sports League.
Brennan and his wife Erin have three sons: Logan, age 20; Connery, 19; and Case, 12.
Bob Coenen, who prepped at De Pere High School, was a member of four Blugold teams that combined for a 109-22 record during the period from 1979 to 1982. They were 54-8 in conference play during that time. The Blugolds advanced to the NAIA Nationals all four seasons, going 10-5 in national tourney play and reaching the Final Four in 1980 and 1981. The 6-foot-8 power forward started 66 consecutive games his junior and senior seasons, averaging 10.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game with 90 blocked shots, 55 steals and 169 assists. His 127 games played for his career is tied for the third best in school history, trailing the 131 games played by Tony Carr and the 130 games of Mike Prasher. He served as team captain his senior season. He also signed with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1982 but did not make the final roster.
Coenen spent two years as a business education teacher, freshmen boys basketball coach and track coach at Antigo High School before heading to Chippewa Falls High School where he served as a business teacher and varsity boys basketball head coach for 12 years. He has been at Pulaski High School since 1997, serving the first eight as the boys varsity head coach and the past six years as advisor for the Future Business Leaders of America. In 2005, he had the privilege of serving as head coach in the Wisconsin boys basketball All-Star game. For the past five years, he has coached the Pulaski Purple Aces girls club team.
He and his wife Jackie, who was a Blugold dance team member while attending the university and is a fifth grade teacher in Pulaski, have two daughters – Brooke, age 20; and Megan, 17.
John Furrer, who prepped at Janesville Craig High School, played two years for Glenn Meidl and two years for Steve Carson on the Blugold baseball teams of 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983. He was a two-time All-Conference pick as well as the team MVP in 1983. He broke the school single season home run record in back to back seasons with eight in 1982 and 10 in 1983. Furrer led an assault on the school single season record book in 1983 by setting new standards for at bats (114), hits (46), RBI (37), doubles (10) and home runs (10). His .404 batting average was the second best in school history and he finished the season with a .754 slugging percentage. The 16-14 record in '83 was the first winning record in a dozen years and the most wins by a Blugold baseball team in a season at that time. Furrer batted .318 in 116 career games with 21 home runs and 24 doubles for a .558 slugging percentage. He also stole 37 bases in 45 attempts.
Following his UWEC graduation in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in marketing, Furrer attended Western Illinois University for advanced studies in Sports Management. Following an internship with the Tucson Toros, he was hired by the Chicago White Sox and spent nine years with the major league team, leaving in 1994 as the Director of Group Sales and Private Party Sales.
He joined Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company for five years as an insurance agent, dealing in life and disability insurance and annuities.
In December, 1999, he began work for his current employer, Marshall and Ilsley Bank.
Outside of his work responsibilities, Furrer has spent his career coaching baseball and officiating basketball as well as utilizing his business capabilities in community service. He has been a member of the Menomonee Falls Optimist Club for 10 years; is a past board member of the Menomonee Falls Leadership Foundation; has been a coach, board member and treasurer for the Menomonee Falls Falcons select baseball program; has been a board member and treasurer of the Menomonee Falls Youth Basketball Association, has been a board member of the Menomonee Falls High School Scholarship Foundation and is a past member of the WIAA Officials Advisory Board.
Furrer has been a WIAC basketball official since 1998, working the conference championships in 2008 and 2011. He has also done three NCAA Division III sweet 16 games. He has officiated five WIAA state tournament games including three state championship games. He worked the 2002 girls' Division I state championship game between Hudson and Waukesha South with his father.
In 2009, Furrer was honored with the Menomonee Falls Friend of Education Award for his volunteer work with youth activities in the village as well as presentations to high school classes on money management and teaching in the local Junior Achievement program.
Furrer and his wife Cheri, a teacher's aide in the Menomonee Falls School District, have two sons, Ryan, age 19; and Michael, 17.
Craig Jilek, who prepped at Glenwood City High School where he was All-State in football, basketball and baseball, set most of the Blugold career offensive records while playing for Craig Walter in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. He owns the marks for career home runs (28), RBI (135), hits (177) and runs (104) while sporting the second best batting average at .388. His .462 average in 1993 is second best in school history and was also seventh in NCAA Division III nationally that year.
Jilek played on the two winningest teams in Blugold history as the 1992 squad was 28-17 and the 1994 team was 28-11. During his career, the Blugolds fashioned an 88-69 mark and were 45-16 in conference play, twice winning the Northern Division title and finishing second once. Jilek was a two-time All-Conference selection as well as a two-time NAIA All-District 14 pick. He was the District 14 player of the year in 1993 and the WSUC Northern Division player of the year in 1994. He was named to the NAIA All-Area IV team in 1993 and the NCAA All-Region first team in 1994. Twice he was the Blugold team MVP and once the team Rookie of the Year.
Jilek continued his career with the Eau Claire Cavaliers, earning team Rookie of the Year honors in 1992 and team MVP in 1995 when he set a club single season home run record with 36. He was founder and instructor of the Cavaliers' Youth Baseball Camps from 1993-96 and was named the Eau Claire Male Athlete of the Year in 1996 by the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.
After graduating from UWEC with a kinesiology degree in 1995, Jilek spent two years in the Eau Claire School district. He was the Memorial High School JV baseball coach both years. He has been in the Hudson school district since 1997 as a physical education teacher. He also served four years as the varsity baseball coach after one year as an assistant. He was the varsity football head coach for three years after three years as an assistant.
Jilek spent the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons as an assistant coach to Dale Varsho with the Eau Claire Express baseball team of the Northwoods League.
Jilek and his wife Carrie, a National Account Manager, have three children: Will, age 12; Nick, 8; and Delanie, 6.
Scott Nesbit, who prepped at Edina East High School, was the Blugold Scholar-Athlete Award winner in 1978, at a time when only one student-athlete was picked for the entire program each year. He was also an NAIA Academic All-American tennis award recipient that year.
Nesbit contributed to the four consecutive conference tennis championships by winning the No. 2 singles championship as both a sophomore and junior. He also was the No. 3 doubles champ as a freshman and the No. 1 doubles champ as both a sophomore and a senior. He compiled career records of 71-35 in singles play and 70-34 in doubles competition. Three times, he was named to the NAIA All-District 14 tennis team.
The Blugolds also won the NAIA District 14 championship three times, advancing to the NAIA nationals in Kansas City, Missouri where they placed 15th, 16th and 14th. During his four years on the varsity, the Blugolds amassed a 50-24 dual meet record.
After graduating from UWEC in 1979 with a history major and coaching minor, Nesbit began his teaching and coaching career at Chapel Hill Academy in Deephaven, Minnesota. He spent five years there before moving to the Chicago area where he taught and coached for five more years. During that time he earned his master's degree in sports administration at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He also coached women's tennis at Wheaton College for two years and men's tennis at North Central College for one season. He also was a tennis instructor at four different racquet clubs.
In 1989, he took his current position of physical education instructor and men's and women's tennis coach at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. He has coached over 800 men's and women's matches there, winning nearly two-thirds of them. He was the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times.
He continues to play in United States Tennis Association individual and team tournaments, which he has been doing since 1973 and was a ranked player from 1973-80 and 1992-95. He also still works as a tennis clinician and instructor at various clinics and camps.
Nesbit has served as a chapel speaker at St. Olaf since 1990 and as the faculty advisor for the Fellowship of Christian Oles Group since 1989. He also has been actively involved in his church as an adult Sunday School teacher and outreach board member. Nesbit is an expert in fly tying and fly fishing and recently has become involved in a local stream restoration project.
Nesbit and his wife Elaine have two daughters: Kate, age 21; and Stina, 19.
Shelly Roth, who prepped at Appleton West High School and was a state tournament participant in volleyball, basketball and track & field, was a major points contributor for the Blugold track teams in 1992, 1993 and 1994. In addition to winning the indoor pentathlon three consecutive years and the javelin as both a junior and senior, Roth had nine other top six conference finishes in the pentathlon, heptathlon, high jump, triple jump and long jump. She qualified for nationals six times including the outdoor heptathlon in 1992 and 1994. She set the school record in the pentathlon at the 1994 WWIAC indoor meet.
Roth received the team Most Dedicated Award in 1993 and the Most Valuable Field Award in 1994. She was also a Super Six winner in 1994.
Roth graduated from UWEC with a geology degree in 1995 and earned her master's degree in geology from the University of New Orleans in 1999. She spent the summers of 1996, 1997 and 1998 interning as a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and Mobil Exploration & Production U.S.
From 1999-2001, she was a geophysicist with Mobil Exploration & Production U.S. in New Orleans; then became a exploration geophysicist with ExxonMobil Exploration Company of Houston, Texas. Since 2007, she has been a senior exploration geophysicist with Esso Australia Pty. Ltd. in Melbourne.
While working for ExxonMobil in Houston, Roth played linebacker for the Houston Energy, formerly of the Women's Professional Football League, from 2000-05. The team won three consecutive WPFL championships form 2000-02.
Sara (Shimanski) Drozdowicz
Sara Drozdowicz, who prepped at Hutchinson High School in Minnesota, is the only conference female swimmer to have won four consecutive 100-yard freestyle events. She also won the 200 free three straight years and the 50 free twice. In addition, she was a member of 12 championship relays. When she left Eau Claire, she had her name etched on the school record book for the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle plus the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and the 200 and 400 medley relays. Drozdowicz was named team Most Valuable swimmer all four years at Eau Claire.
Drozdowicz was a seven-time first team All-American with three top eight individual finishes. Her best was a fourth in the 100 freestyle at the 1995 NCAA Division III championships when the Blugolds placed sixth as a team. She was also honorable mention All-American with seven places between 9th and 16th place including five individual events.
Drozdowicz graduated from UWEC in 1997 with a political science major and history minor. She obtained her teaching credential this spring and expects to complete her master's in Curriculum and Instruction next May.
She was a logistics coordinator for Marilyn Burns Education Associates in Sausalito, California from 1998 to 2000. From 2000 until the present, she has been serving as the Director of Operations for the School of Health & Natural Sciences at Dominican University. She was a recipient of the 2005 Sr. George de Lorimier Award which is given annually to an outstanding Dominican University of California staff member for dedication and service to the campus community. Next fall, she will transition careers to become a classroom teacher in Napa.
Drozdowicz and her husband Dominic, a fellow Blugold swimmer and now a Cellar Master at Hall Wines in St. Helena, California, have two sons: Adam, age 5 and Henry, 3.