The fifth class ever to be honored, this year’s Kenyon-Wanamingo High School Sports Hall of Fame inductees included KHS alums Ray Strandemo, Danny Quam, Lawrence Picha, Jeff Schoenfelder, Bruce Vermilyea, as well as Wanamingo alumni Roger Hostager, Kyle Wallaker.
The banquet also honored three teams during its Saturday banquet: 1950 Kenyon Vikings football team, 1973-74 Wanamingo Bulldogs girls basketball teams and the 2007-08 K-W wrestling team.
The Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations to fund its ventures. It provides plaques for the inductees, certificates for team members, and plaques to display in the Commons, mailings, printings and other activities necessary to continue the program.
Seven individuals, three teams. Each deserving of recognition at the banquet, and to the public as well. What are their stories? Well, let’s take a look
Strandemo was raised on a farm south of Kenyon, the youngest of six children with two older athletic brothers. He was a three-sport athlete at Kenyon High School — running back in football, scrappy guard in basketball, and in baseball, a second baseman who could hit with power. In his senior year, the 1942 basketball team went 25-2. Though tey were upset by Austin in the region finals, he was named to the All-Region tournament team.
After high school, he played football at St. Olaf College and started at running back as a freshman. After his father died, he left school to help run the family farm. He played baseball for Faribault in the Southern Minnesota League for several years and then finished his playing career with many years of town team ball and numerous horseshoe championships.
During the last 25 years of his life, he found joy in giving rides home to farm kids after their sports practices. He had a passion for the Picha Field — keeping it in-game ready shape.
In the last few years of his life, he closely followed all the Kenyon Vikings games to players and coaches who thoroughly enjoyed listening to them.
He died in 2004 at the age of 81.
Hostager was a 1952 graduate of Wanamingo High School and lettered in basketball and baseball. He was co-captain of the 1952 basketball team that had a record-breaking year of 26 wins and two losses — the most successful season in the school’s history. His high scoring games, plus brilliant defense by teammates, ended with capturing their first Hiawatha Valley League Championship with a record of nine wins and one loss. They went on to win the District Championship.
This team was inducted into the K-W High School Hall of Fame in 2016.
He went on to play basketball at St. Olaf College and following his 1956 graduation, served two years in the U.S. Army. He played basketball on a church recreation league team in the 1980s and at 50 started running marathons.
Hostager gave thanks for life-long friendships, amazing fans, and outstanding coaches like Wayne Gilleland and Merle Mayer. He worked for the State of Minnesota for 31 years and retired in 1996.
He died of cancer in 2007 and his survived by wife, Marcy, four children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
It was Picha’s dedication to the Kenyon High School athletics program from the 1920s through the 1960s that established competitive high school teams. Picha was a long time Kenyon High School industrial arts teacher, coach and athletic director.
A member of the Kenyon High School Class of 1912, Picha was known as a gifted athlete. He attended Stout Institute of Manual Training for Teachers. He then served in the U.S. Army during WWI. Picha taught in other districts before returning to Kenyon in 1922. He coached football, basketball, baseball, track and golf.
His football coaching record was 90-45-6. A tall man with a commanding personality and a voice that demanded respect, he was a superb coach whose teams were respected by their opponents. The 1927-28 football team set a state record for holding their opposition scoreless. They played Faribault, Owatonna, Rochester, Northfield and Red Wing.
As a basketball coach, Lawrence had 180 wins and a Kenyon Leader article written in 1946 stated, “Coach Picha has the enviable record of winning the Sub-District title every year he has coached.”
Picha retired in 1965 after 43 years. He passed away two months later. In 1970 the Kenyon community honored Picha, a man of great integrity, by naming the athletic field after him in recognition of his commitment to the students and athletes of Kenyon High School. The new K-W Middle/High School sits on the site of Picha Field.
Quam graduated from Kenyon High School in 1969 and Concordia College in 1973 with a bachelor’s in math and business administration. He started a business career that lasted 43 years in varying capacities that culminated in the sale of his own business in 2016.
In 1977, he purchased the family farm from his parents and it has been their home ever since. Quam and wife Sharon (Nesseth) have three children. Traci (Jason) Rude, Jason (Stacy) Quam and Jaimee (Aaron) Winchell in addition to seven grandchildren.
Living so close to his grandchildren has been a blessing and allows them to follow their activities and enjoy their presence in their everyday living.
Schoenfelder graduated from K-W in 1998. During his athletic career, he was a two-sport athlete, playing basketball and baseball.
In basketball, Schoenfelder was an All-Conference selection and voted Chairman of the Boards by his coach and teammates. He was part of the 1998 State Tournament team that placed 4th and was selected to the All-Tournament Team.
In baseball, Schoenfelder was a four-year varsity player. He was All-Conference for three years, All-Sub Section for three years, and was a member of the State Tournament team of 1998. He also played in the State All-Star game in 1998. He still holds numerous K-W school records in baseball.
After high school, Schoenfelder played amateur baseball with the Dundas Dukes winning back-to-back state titles in 1998 and 1999. He threw a no-hitter during his 8 years with the Dukes and finished his baseball career with the Cannon Falls Bears in 2006.
In 2002, Schoenfelder graduated from South Central Technical College in Faribault with a degree in Machine Tool Technology. He now lives in Cannon Falls with wife Emily and their three kids ranging in age from 10 to 14. He enjoys coaching baseball and basketball.
Bruce Vermilyea was a Kenyon High School graduate in 1971. Minnesota still had one class for sports competitions. He qualified for state in cross country, basketball and track his junior year, then again track as a senior.
Vermilyea continued his education and athletic career at Division One Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He was the Mid-American Conference Champion in the 880 (1974), qualified for the National Cross Country Meet (1972) and qualified for the National Outdoor Track Meet (1973). He was also a MAC All-Conference athlete, Division One All-American and a member of the American record-setting four-by-on mile relay team (1973).
Vermilyea received the BGSU Distinguished Service Award and was BGSU’s representative as the Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1975.
After marrying his college sweetheart, Trisha in 1975 he furthered his education at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. He set up his practice in Richland Center, Wisconsin for 36 years and has raised three children.
He and Trisha have happily retired to their cabin in La Valle, Wisconsin and say they thoroughly enjoy their grandchildren (six all under the age of seven) and fishing.
Wallaker, who graduated from Wanamingo High School in 1986, lettered in football in 1984 and following knee surgery, decided not to continue with the sport — a decision he says he regrets.
Wallaker was a three-year letter winner in basketball and two years All-Conference. He was named to the Class A Preseason All-State Team during the 1985-86 season, was the top scorer in Region One in 1986 and ranks second on the all-time scoring list for Wanamingo with 1,088 points.
Wallaker went on to play hoops at the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse, but contracted an illness and later fractured his leg, sidelining his dream of playing college basketball. He was also on the baseball team and was selected All-Conference 1985 and 1986. He was All-District in 1986. He graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato with a major in sociology and a minor in corrections. After working several years in corrections, he became a small business owner.
Wallaker and his wife Kelly live in rural Goodhue on a hobby farm with kids Luke, 17 and Ava 11. He enjoys running, teaching Sunday School and cheering for his kid’s sports teams.
1950 Kenyon Vikings football team
This powerhouse went an undefeated 8-0. Along the way, they beat Farmington 25-12, Lake City 13-6. They also won the HVL title by downing Cannon Falls 28-21 in their homecoming game and securing the Brown Jug in the process. It was the largest crowd ever for a game at Memorial Field.
1973-74 Wanamingo Bulldog Girls basketball team
This team was pioneers for girls sports in Minnesota high school. The team went 6-2 and won the Wasioja Conference Championship. The season ended when they lost to Rochester Lourdes 47-24. Lourdes had been the defending Independent state champions the previous season.
2007-08 K-W wrestling team
Finished their season 27-3. They participated for the first time in The Clash, a nationally recognized wrestling event held in Rochester and had a 4-2 record against nationally ranked teams.
The Knights were 11-0 in the Hiawtha Valley League Conference and won the title for the first time since 1975.
The team won the Section 1A Championship and advanced to the state wrestling tournament for the first time in school history. At the state tournament, they placed 5th after losing in the first round to the eventual state champion.
Eight individuals from that team earned All-Conference. There were five state qualifiers, including a State Champion, 4th Place, 6th place.
Special thanks to K-W for providing statistics, personal bios, and records of the inductees and honorees for the purpose of this article.