Ten members of the St. Louis Park Hall of Fame make up the Class of 2017 in addition to Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Jeff Passolt and Fran Libby.
Passolt, a proud 1975 graduate of Park and longtime anchor at Fox 9, is a hall of fame member and has emceed each hall of fame banquet ceremony.
Libby founded the Parkettes cheer team in 1956 and served as coach until 1970. The group was the first cheerleaders for the Minnesota Vikings that was based in St. Louis Park.
Libby’s daughter, Debbie Danielson, explained how much it means to the family to know she will be honored in such a unique way.
“It’s wonderful,” Danielson said. “She was really a woman who came before her time in the 1950s and 60s.”
In addition to being a housewife and raising a growing family, she dealt with organizing the cheer teams not only at the high school level but for the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers and eventually the Minnesota Vikings.
“As a child at the time I didn’t appreciate what she did but looking back now as a grown women who raised a family, it’s amazing what she was able to accomplish. She really made a difference in their lives, gave the girls a team to work with that taught them many things like punctuality, responsibility and how to work together as a team.”
When the Parkettes originally formed, the group was more of a chorus line, as compared to the competitive dance programs that have grown tremendously over the last two decades.
“It’s become so athletic now,” Danielson explained. “It’s so professional now, a lot more athletic than dancing where we were more of a chorus line than what teams are doing today but you had to start somewhere.”
As for what her mother would think of how the sport has evolved into today, Danielson said: “She would be astounded at where its at now.”
The Parkettes performed during halftime of the final preseason Vikings game on Aug. 31 at U.S. Bank Stadium and before that had a 50-year reunion in 2006 that was well-attended. Danielson was at a rehersal ahead of the performance and noted how heartwarming it was to see all of the former Parkettes catching up.
State basketball champs
Two state championship-winning Orioles teams will be honored as the Teams of Distinction including the 1990 girls’ basketball team and 1961 boys’ cross country team.
The Orioles state championship basketball team was coached by Phil Frerk who recalled the season fondly as it was part of an amazing stretch of 13 seasons for both the boys and girls basketball programs at Park.
“That season brings back many wonderful memories,” the longtime coach said as they appeared in six state tournaments from 1978-91 compared to three more from the boys program. “What a wonderful time it was to be a Park basketball fan. The kids loved it because they were used to getting out of school to watch the teams at state.”
That season, the Orioles struggled early, losing four times early on.
Frerk and the coaching staff wasn’t sure what type of team the Orioles would be coming into the season. Senior guard Jill Anderson tore an ACL in her knee before the season but decided to play through the injury, which turned out to be a good decision at the time.
“She didn’t know what to do, either have surgery or play through it on one leg and she got through it,” he said. “Jill was our little play maker.”
“We learned a lot about ourselves during that stretch and began playing solid basketball during our 10-game winning streak into the state tournament.”
Park won three regional games to qualify for the two-class state tournament.
“My teams always ran,” Frerk said as this group was made up of seven seniors. “Played full press but this team we had to change it to a half-court zone trap (defense) and they mastered it. We had to play to the strengths. They got really good in the half-court stuff and peaked at the right time.”
Ironically, Park cleared a major hurdle in the state opener defeating St. Paul Harding which were the favorites going into the tournament. Top-seeded Harding beat the sixth-seeded, in the final Associated Press poll, Orioles in the season opener before the roles were flipped at Met Stadium in Bloomington. Park won the first round meeting by 13 points.
“That was the highlight of the year,” Frerk said as they went on to defeat Rosemount by two points in the semifinal and beat out Elk River who was 17-7 at the time 60-50 for the state title.
Anderson agreed about the highlight of the season being the upset of Harding. “Mr. Frerk and (assistant coach) Mr. Wold prepared us so well with a very strategic game plan and every player did their part to execute it,” she said.
As for the experience of playing at Met Stadium, Anderson will never forget the pregame moments.
“I will never forget what it was like to run out from under the stadium and see a sea of orange St. Louis Park fans going crazy,” she said, going to play four years at St. Olaf College and coaching in the SLP traveling program for seven years in the late 1990s. “The state final game had nearly 8,000 people in attendance – not to mention it was televised on Channel 9. Such an amazing experience.
“The support we got from the entire community was truly incredible. We felt so loved and supported like local celebrities. Everyone from the high school seniors to kindergartners, SLP City Hall to the nursing homes, the rotary to the churches and synagogues, everyone in the community took such pride in our accomplishments and were cheering for us every step of the journey.”
“As coaches we are honored to play a part in the lives of so many young people and I’m anxious to share in the memories 27 years later,” Frerk said.
Follow Jason Olson on Twitter @SunSportsJason.