HOT SPRINGS – Following the induction of the inaugural class into the Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame in October 2016, the Hall of Fame committee recently announced its second class of inductees who will officially be enshrined as the 2017 class during homecoming weekend, on Saturday, Sept. 30, at a banquet planned to take place at the Mueller Civic Center.
This year’s inductees include the 2000 and 2001 Hot Springs Lady Bison volleyball teams, and athletes James “Duke” Kocer (Class of 1931), Barb Donnell Highstreet (Class of 1966), Pat Weiss (Class of 1981), and Bud Hamilton (Class of 1991).
The Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame, which is a committee of the Hot Springs Bison Booster Club, began as an idea in the fall of 2015 amongst a handful of HSHS Alumni – most of whom graduated during the late 1970s.
One of the primary goals of the organization is to recognize and celebrate the athletic achievements of the individuals whom have become synonymous with “Bison Sports” during the school’s long and storied 121 year history.
Nominations for this second group of inductees included all of the previous nominees from the inaugural year in 2016 and also new nominees sought from the general public for the past several months. This past May, the 11-member Hall of Fame committee voted which resulted in the aforementioned five member class.
The inaugural induction Class of 2016 of seven members included athletes Chet Bruce, Gerald Collogan, Quinten Hofer and Paul Oberpriller; coach/administrators Dave Scott and Jim Tays, and the members of the 1974 state champion Hot Springs Bison Football Team. Their plaques are currently on display in Case Auditorium.
Following is a summary of the 2017 class of inductees:
2000 & 2001 Lady Bison Volleyball Teams
These two Lady Bison volleyball teams earned back-to-back Class “A” State Championships, and were the two highest placing teams during Hot Springs’ volleyball dynasty, which included 11 consecutive state tournament appearances from the 1996/97 school year to the 2006/07 school year. Over that span – first coached by Kelly Northup and later Dennis Northrup – the Lady Bison earned the two aforementioned state titles, along with one runner-up finish, six third place finishes, one fourth place and one eighth place.
That one eighth place finish occurred during the 1999 state championship, when the Lady Bison entered the tournament as the state’s No. 2 seed.
Looking back at that pivotal season in Hot Springs Bison sports history, Coach Kelly Northrup, recently said, “Sixty-four other teams would have been ecstatic with that trophy, but we had begun our quest and it was devastation for most of us. That summer we refocused and made some big changes in positions that I felt would be most beneficial for THE TEAM.”
Northrup said the team persevered through the changes and came together to earn a 43-1 record the following year in the 1999/2000 regular season (volleyball was a winter sport at that time), and would later go undefeated in the then-double-elimination state tournament to earn the school its first-ever volleyball championship.
During the 2000/01 season, the Lady Bison went undefeated during the regular season with a record of 42-0-3 (the three ties were due to splitting two-game tournament sets).
“Our motto that year was NO MERCY!” Kelly Northrup said. “Volleyball is a game of momentum and it is easy to play to the level of your competition. At that time, our conference wasn’t the strongest so we decided out goal was to win big every match, so we were ready for state. It worked! These girls kept their focus and drive throughout the entire season and that isn’t an easy thing for high school students to do.”
“Our ‘nice’ motto for the year was ‘New Team, Same Dream.’ Dreams do come true if you work hard enough. Winning back to back titles was not luck!” Northrup added.
James “Duke” Kocer
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A three-sport athlete for the Bison from 1928 to 1931, James “Duke” Kocer was one of only 11 players in the state named to the 1930 All State Football Team. In addition to playing halfback in football, he was also a decorated track athlete who once held the Black Hills Region meet records in both shot put and discus, while also excelling in high hurdles. On the hardwood, he was also once named second-team All State in basketball. Following his high school playing days, Kocer went on to play football collegiately for Creighton University in Nebraska.
In a Hot Springs Star Letter to the Editor from 1967, when an effort was underway to nominate Kocer into the South Dakota Athletic Hall of Fame, one of his teammates from high school, Don Howe, recalled the 6-foot, 180-pound Kocer earning at least 11 varsity letters during his time as a Bison.
“He was a long-striding, fast runner with a devastating stiff-arm and high knee action,” Howe said. “He could both kick and throw the ‘fatter-than-today’s’ football well over 50 yards, and he thoroughly enjoyed offensive blocking and defensive line backing.”
Barb Donnell Highstreet
The first woman to be inducted into the Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame, Barb Donnell Highstreet was one of the early pioneers in girls’ athletics in Hot Springs.
A graduate of the Class of 1966, Donnell was very active in sports despite growing up during a time when there were very few options for girls to compete in athletically in high school. She was a Cheerleader for three years, on the Girls Athletic Association for three years, and also a member of the Tumbling Team for two years.
But where she excelled the most – and earned statewide recognition – was in Track & Field, where she at one time held the state record in both the high jump (4-09) and the running broad jump (16-6.5) which were both set in 1964. During her high school career (from 1964-1967), her state track meet accomplishments included two firsts and one third place finish in the high jump; three firsts and one third place finish in the running broad jump; and a fourth and a fifth place finish in the 100-yard dash.
A graduate of the Class of 1981, Pat Weiss was the school’s first-ever wrestling state champion, competing at 98 pounds.
After finishing his freshman year without winning a single match (0-18), Weiss dedicated himself to improving over the off-season and went on to earn a 12-13 record his sophomore season. As a junior, he improved immensely to earn a 22-3 record overall and made it all the way to the championship match at the state tournament that season, but finished as the runner-up. Finally, as a senior, he won his state Class “A” championship, finishing with a 28-2 record overall.
Weiss went on to compete collegiately in wrestling at Chadron State College.
One of only five South Dakota high school athletes to every jump 7 foot in the high jump, Bud Hamilton was a three-sport athlete at Hot Spring High School, from 1988 – 1991.
In addition to track, Hamilton was also an All-State football player and a dominating center on the basketball team. After 26 years, he still holds the state record in the triple-jump (47-11) and is the only high jumper in the history of South Dakota high school athletics to clear seven-foot at a state meet, but finish in second place (Nick Johannsen of Miller jumped 7-1 that year to set a new state meet record).
He currently holds three Hot Springs High School records, including triple jump (47-11 in 1991), high jump (7-0 in 1991), and long jump (22-11 in 1990).
Following his successful high school career, Hamilton earned a Div. 1 scholarship to the University of Wyoming, where he continued to excel for the Cowboys and set a school collegiate record in the high jump of 7-3, which stood for more than 20 years.