ESCANABA - Three pioneers of female sports were among 11 inductees into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame here Saturday.
Joell (Johnson) Krejcarek of Carlshend started the basketball, softball, track and volleyball programs for girls at Lincoln Alcona High School. Barb Perry started the girls basketball and track programs at Norway High School and the late Cheryl (Dorais) DePuydt was the first women's coach in basketball, volleyball and cheerleading at Michigan Tech University.
Three Delta County athletes were also inducted at the Danforth Place during the 41st induction: Con Yagodzinski and Jeanette LeCaptain of Escanaba and Shari (Ahola) Byerly of Gladstone.
Dennis Grall | Daily Press
The Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame grew by 11 members Saturday at The Danforth Place in Escanaba during the 41st annual induction banquet. Inductees include: front row from left, Jeanette LeCaptain of Escanaba, Erica Ledy of Drummond Island, Barb Perry of Norway, sisters Nancy Adams and Lila Hermanson representing their father, the late Carl Matson of Pelkie, and Shari (Ahola) Byerly of Gladstone; back, Rob Barkle of Kingsford, representing his late father Larry Barkle, Terry Sayen of Gwinn, Con Yagodzinski of Escanaba, Keith Mugford representing his late father Jack Mugford of Laurium, John DePuydt of Hancock, representing his late wife Cheryl, and Joell (Johnson) Krejcarek of Carlshend.
They were joined by the late Larry Barkle of Iron Mountain, Erica Ledy of Drummond Island, the late Carl Mattson of Pelkie, the late Jack Mugford of Ahmeek and Terry Sayen of Gwinn.
Krejcarek's tenure began when girls were restricted to a half-court game with three players from each team restricted to each side of the court. She noted at first girls were allowed one dribble, then that increased to three dribbles.
"Looking back you thought girls were pretty wimpy," said Krejcarek, who did not play basketball at Gwinn High School because the program was not offered. "I never had the chance to compete at the level I wanted," she said.
Figuring all the sports she coached, Krejcarek said she coached 59 seasons before retiring in 1997 from basketball with a 392-215 record. Several of her former players attended.
Perry also did not play in high school, at Iron River. She played on Northern Michigan University's first field hockey team and later played women's fastpitch and slowpitch softball, basketball and volleyball for many years.
She led the Knights to the 1979 Class C state championship, then Ledy and DeTour High School beat Norway in the 1980 quarterfinals.
"This is very, very special to me," said Perry of her induction. "I'm proud to be a member of the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame."
She said NMU field hockey coach Barb Patrick instilled a key lesson in sports participation. "Barb taught us to play the game just for the love of the game," she said.
Several members of that title team attended, including Mary Kay Raiche, whose daughter, Megan Kangas, was one of four high school athletes who received UPSHF academic scholarships Saturday.
Jaime Madalinski of Bark River-Harris, Andrew Kelto of Munising and Zach French of Westwood also received scholarships.
DePuydt was represented by her husband, John. He read a letter compiled by Cheryl's father, John Dorais of Marquette, who died earlier this year. Her sister, 1994 UPSHF inductee Amy Beiderweiden, was in attendance.
DePuydt, who died in 2005, also led formation of the Marquette Figure Skating Club and directed annual ice shows in Houghton and Marquette.
LeCaptain, at 86 the oldest of the inductees, was flattered to be selected. She did a little soft shoe routine after accepting her plaque from UPSHF president Rod Guizzetti that earned a huge ovation.
She recalled using Club 314 and the Civic Center for her skaters to help them become familiar with their routines. "We never cancelled practice because of ice conditions," she said, noting natural ice surfaces were the vogue in an era when Look magazine came to Escanaba for a feature article about the ice skating program.
"All of my (skating) line girls had beautiful costumes," she said, noting their fathers did extensive work on the props for the ice shows that were billed as "The Biggest Small Town Ice Revue in the World."
Her final two shows, in 1985 and 1986, were done primarily with girls whose mothers skated in those previous shows, LeCaptain said.
Ahola, an All-American skier at the University of Wyoming, is the sister of 2008 inductee Terry Ahola. "I feel really honored," she said, noting in particular she was part of a record six female inductees.
"This is a very humbling moment. It is impressive for me to make it from this hill (at Gladstone Golf Club) to those mountains (in Wyoming) and to be part of a national championship (team). That is quite an experience."
Yagodzinski, who with Sayen had the largest gathering of supporters, thanked his former coaches for helping develop a solid basketball foundation. They included Cliff Frazier, Elroy Zimmerman and Tom Dufour with Escanaba youth teams, freshman coach Bill Lancour and Escanaba Holy Name High School coach John Butrymowicz, along with NMU coach Stan Albeck, a UPSHF inductee who later coached in the NBA.
"Through athletics I met a lot of my best friends," said Yagodzinski, a 1983 NMU Sports Hall of Fame inductee whose selection to this Hall of Fame was long overdue and was strongly supported by several UPSHF members.
Sayen is one of those friends, as was Mugford. Sayen led Munising to the 1980 Class D state football championship and is now an assistant football coach at St. Norbert College. Several of his SNC colleagues attended, along with former Munising players.
Sayen, who did not play football at Gwinn High School, learned the game and his coaching manners while in the U.S. Marine Corps. "I used a lot of their philosophy," he said of the Marines.
"The most important thing was to pay attention to detail," he said, adding it is also important "to trust your buddy, he will have your back."
Keith Mugford, representing his father, "encouraged us to do our best." He also recalled his dad playing catch with former major league pitcher and UPSHF inductee George Brunet and choked up when he talked about the late Joe Ricci of Escanaba, a 2008 UPSHF inductee who grew up in Hancock with the elder Mugford.
"I see Joe and my dad shagging fly balls in the outfield (in heaven)," said Keith Mugford, also referring to when they were Copper Country teammates with late UPSHF inductees Walt Kitti, Fred Barry, Joe Mishca and Johnny Whittaker.
Ledy pumped her fist when Perry talked about the Knights losing to DeTour in 1980 and gave Perry a big smile at that reference. Now a basketball coach at New England College, she said coming across the Mackinac Bridge is a thrill but taking the ferry boat to Drummond Island is the highlight of every trip home.
"I love the U.P. That is why this induction means so much to me," said Ledy, who led DeTour to the 1983 Class D state basketball title. She said one of her favorite sayings is "all it takes is all you have. If you do that, you will never lose."
Ledy played and coached at Lake Superior State and has also coached basketball at Northwood University and Northern Colorado College. She was accompanied by her father Darrell, a former DeTour coach, her brother Rich, a former NMU player and now assistant Marquette High School girls coach, and her 94-year-old grandfather.
Carl Mattson, who died in 1985, was represented by his daughters, Lila Hermanson and Nancy Adams. They asked Ken Mattson, a "nephew twice removed," to make the acceptance speech for their father, who is in the Detroit Red Wings' Hall of Fame after working as a trainer and locker room attendant from 1929 to 1958.
"He would be pleased as punch today, you betcha," said Ken Mattson. "This honor would be equally, if not more important (than the Red Wings' Hall)."
He said Carl Mattson was responsible for legendary Gordie Howe's decision to wear No. 9 on his NHL jersey. "He (Howe) wanted No. 17 but Carl said if you take No. 9 you would get a lower berth (on the train trips)."
Rob Barkle accepted for his father, who spent more than 40 years with youth baseball programs and was affectionately known as "Mr. Little League" in Dickinson County. "If his health had stayed, he would still be doing it," said Rob Barkle. "That is how much he loved it."
The elder Barkle led the project that raised $26,000 to have lights installed at the Little League field.