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Four individuals, two teams inducted into Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame

HOT SPRINGS – Approximately 200 people filled the Mueller Civic Center auditorium this past Saturday night as the second annual induction banquet of the Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame was held, to recognize four former Bison standout athletes, as well as two teams.

Being honored were former athletes James “Duke” Kocer (football, 1928-1931), Barb Donnell Highstreet (track, 1963-1966), Pat Weiss (wrestling, 1978-1981), Bud Hamilton (track, 1988-1991) and the back-to-back state champion volleyball teams from 2000 and 2001.

Former Lady Bison volleyball coach Kelly Northrup introduced the two volleyball teams and admitted that she did not remember some of the specific details of the school’s first-ever volleyball state championship in 2000, but what she remembers vividly is being down to Clark by a score of 3-11 in an elimination game with side-out scoring.

It was at that point in the game, she said, in which she pulled out each one of her seniors – Karina Hauck, Kelli Johnson, Randi Norton, Mele-Ann Rae – and asked them, “Is this how you want to go out in your senior year?”

From that point on, the team rallied from nearly being eliminated to come from behind and win not only that game, but the rest of the way out.

During the team’s second consecutive state title bid, Coach Northrup recalled the team sailing through the regular season quite easily. She said when the team would practice, and she would split them in half to play on another, those two teams were each better than any other school they would face on their schedule.

While the wins may have seemed to come relatively easy for the 2000 and 2001 teams, Northrup acknowledged how hard both teams had to work in practice and in the off-season to make that happen. While many of their individual records may have fallen over the past 16 to 17 years, the overall accomplishments of the teams during that era in Lady Bison volleyball have not.

“We went to a lot of state tournaments during that time,” she said. “But these two teams are the only ones that won. And they won it twice.”

During the individual induction presentations, Kocer was the first, who was inducted posthumously following his death in 2003, was introduced by family friend Bill Coffield of Hot Springs, who also served as the evening’s emcee. His award was accepted by his son Jim, who was a standout athlete as well from Hot Springs High School. “Duke” Kocer was one of only 11 players in the state named to the 1930 All State Football team.

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Barb Donnell Highstreet was introduced by her classmate and teammate Kay Sieg Huxford, who competed with her, and also placed at the state amateur track meet in 1964. During her acceptance speech, Highstreet spoke of how walking everywhere in Hot Springs while growing up here was part of her training. She said her mother Beulah Donnell rented a bus in order to take she and her 11 female teammates to the state amateur track meet in 1964, which is where she set new state records in high jump and broad jump.

Hot Springs’ first-ever state wrestling champion Pat Weiss was introduced by his younger sister Dana Nachtigall, who is the current head coach of the Hot Springs gymnastics team. She spoke of how her brother Pat’s story of going winless as a freshman to ultimately winning a state title by his senior year, still helps to inspire young Bison athletes, as she tells his story every season to her gymnasts, describing how one should never give up.

Bud Hamilton, who holds three current school records (high jump, long jump and triple jump) as well as the state record in triple jump, was introduced by his teammate Lindall Janis of Hot Springs.

During his acceptance speech, Hamilton said he was once told by someone that he was a “natural athlete.” He however said that the statement however didn’t really describe his story, and then went on to say how he was born with a club foot and had to overcome many other physical struggles as a youngster. He spoke of how he had trouble learning to skip as a young boy, and how one day, his mom Leni taught him how to skip. He credited that moment as something which helped him immensely when setting the school and state record in the triple jump. He also spoke of how his father Jumbo was able to motivate him with just the right “balance of pressure.”

All four individuals and the two teams will each have a plaque displayed in Case Auditorium to officially and publicly enshrine them in the Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame.

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