Holecheck recalls fun of winning two state titles

Chief deputy sheriff drives in parade that son is a part of

 

Ryan Hermens

Seniors on this year's state title team stand alongside Jim Holecheck and the state championship trophy from 1970.

"This is something they'll never forget ...

something they can never take away from you."

– Jim Holechek, member of Sidney's 1970 state championship team

On Sunday, a parade made its way through Sidney, beginning near Interstate 80 and travelling down 11th and 10th avenues before turning onto Illinois Street and ending at the high school.

The sirens – echoing off homes and businesses – were heard first, sounding from a pair of fire trucks and a handful of police and sheriff's vehicles. A few dozen other vehicles followed, honking their horns.

The weather even seemed to cooperate. The weekend rains lifted, and an elusive sun warmed those who stood on the sidewalk, cheering and taking photographs.

Members of the Sidney High School boys' track team sat atop one of the fire trucks. Clutching a state championship trophy won less than 24 hours prior, the athletes waved and smiled.

At the high school, a crowd formed a semi circle around the fire trucks.

Sidney Public Schools Superintendent Jay Ehler was the first to speak. He praised the effort of the girls' team at state before saying the boys' 4x400 relay team's performance – which earned first place and gave the underdog Raiders a team championship – was amazing.


Head Coach John Ganser was next.

"These guys can say they're state champions – and that's what they are," the coach said, to cheers and applause.

The athletes then took turns speaking. Seniors on the team, who graduated last weekend, thanked family, supporters and coaches.

As the speeches concluded, a man near the back of the crowd spoke up.

"This is something they'll never forget," he said. "I was a member on the team 45 years ago, and this is something they can never take away from you."

• • •

Monday, May 25, 1970.

Forty-five years ago, almost to the day, a headline in The Sidney Telegraph stretched six columns across the page: "Raiders Rob Class B Treasure Chest."

For the second time in two years, the Sidney boys' track team won first place in its division in the state of Nebraska.

That championship came as the result of hard-earned points: a second place finish in the 880-yard relay; a pair of second places in the 120 and 180 hurdles; a third in the discuss and 100-yard dash; and a lone first-place medal – the 440 by Jim Holechek.

Holechek, who moved to Sidney in ninth grade, competed on the varsity track team from 1968-'70. He also ran cross county and played football.

"It was a good time for Sidney," he said in an interview on Monday. "There were a lot of good athletes."

Sidney had also just dropped from Class A to Class B a few years before – meaning it was a big fish in a small pond.

"We really dominated the track meets out in Western Nebraska those two years," he said. "We won almost every meet we went to."

Much like last weekends championship, Holechek said the 1969 victory was helped by depth points – top-five finishes in many events as opposed to a few outright first-place finishes.

"In 1969, I'd say we were expected to win, but we weren't necessarily supposed to win in 1970," he said.

Listening to the athletes speak on Sunday, Holechek said it reminded him of the bond he shared with his teammates.

"We were a close knit group and team oriented," he said. "A lot of memories came back [Sunday] when they talked about how they felt about one another. It was very, very similar."

Holechek, who lives in Sidney, said he was following this year's team throughout the season.

His wife, Jane Holechek, just retired from Sidney High School, where she was an English teacher for 36 years.

On Saturday, she saw a post on Facebook that the Raiders had won the championship.

"I'm absolutely pleased we finally won another," Holechek said. "When we won first in 1969, it was 17 years since the last one."

A comment in the paper at the time said many of those athletes had only just been born or were merely thoughts when the 1952 team won, he added.

"I did the math, and the parents of these guys who just won probably weren't even born the last time we won," he said.

The championship was long overdue, Holechek said.

To this year's team, he said it's something they won't forget.

"Be proud of what you did, and you'll remember it for years," he said. "I still remember it. It's something no one can take from you."

• • •

Among the line of cars in Sunday's parade was a Cheyenne County Sheriff's Office truck driven by chief deputy Fred Wiedeburg.

For the deputy, this parade was personal. His son, Jachob Wiedeburg, a Sidney High graduate earlier this month, was one of the track athletes being honored. In Omaha, he ran a personal best 1,600 meters, finishing sixth overall, and was on the second-place 4x800 relay team.


"I've watched my own son really train for that moment for six years," Wiedeburg said. "He's been running all through middle school and high school. This was the culmination of those efforts, for all those kids."

The deputy said the team had sacrificed much to earn the championship.

"I'm very proud of my son," he said. "He's the young man I wish I was at his age."

Sidney High Athletic Director Mike Brockhaus said this past weekend's success is a testament to hard work of coaches and students.

In Omaha for the state meet, Brockhaus said watching the 4x400 relay was exciting.

"The boys did their best," he said. "They ran their hearts out."

And even before departing for Sidney, the athletic director was busy making plans for another honor for the team's achievement.

"We will be getting a banner made," he said, which will hang next to the 1952, 1969 and 1970 banners. "We do have it ordered. I emailed the guy right after the race on Saturday."

The Sun-Telegraph Archives

Sidney's Jim Holechek crosses the finish line to win the state title in the 440 in 1970.

 

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