ELK RIVER HIGH SCHOOL HALL OF FAME 2007
John Dietz, Frank Kopetka, Wally Malmstrom, Paul Martin, Mag Johnson, Phil Johnson, Rick Larson, Ken Lockwood, Sara Belanger Pepin, Tammy Christiansen Pudlick
John Dietz (1967) John Dietz, longtime Star News sports editor and former city council member (1991-2006) and Rotary Club president, had an outstanding sports career as an athlete, coach, and organizer. A three-year starter in baseball (first base) and basketball (guard) for the Elks, he was all-conference in both as a senior and was co-valedictorian and co-athlete of the year. He played town baseball for Elk River and Nowthen including six state tournaments, and helped the Legion fast-pitch softball team win a slew of league and tourney titles (1972-83). He coached the AME Red-E-Mix women's softball team to four state titles, four national trips and over 450 wins (1983-98) and served as association president. With two daughters in sports, he coached youth softball and basketball. Dietz, whose main occupation is management for AME, doubled as sports editor for the ER Star News from 1977-2004 and twice earned second-place in the state newspaper contest for sports sections.
Frank Kopetka (1971) Frank Kopetka, a physical education teacher and junior high coach in District 728 for 29 years, was a college basketball star at Bemidji State after a productive three-sport career at ERHS. He was a two-year starter and had one all-conference award each in football (halfback, defensive back, punt and kick returns, and punter), basketball (guard) and track (long-jump and relays), and took fifth in the state in long jump. He played on a 20-4 basketball team and 7-2 football team his senior year. As Bemidji's point guard, he made all-NIC three times, was team MVP twice, led the team in scoring three years, and totaled 1,272 points, including 20 peg as a senior and a high game of 37. Kopetka teaches at Salk Middle School and has coached in the bsaeball, football, track, tennis and softball programs over the years.
Wally Malmstrom (1966) Wally Malmstrom was a high-achieving prep athlete and an even better prep coach. He earned 12 letters, captained the football, basketball and track teams, took third and fourth in the 880 at state, and holds the oldest Elk track record on the books with his 1:54.9 half-mile in 1966. He was a three-ear starter at wide receiver for Mankato State. In his coaching career at Mahtomedi, he led the Zephyr track team to the 1995 MSHSL state title and the 1996 and 1997 state true-team titles, while posting a 115-29 record as head football coach with three final-four appearances and a state crown in 2005. He was a longtime assistant coach and won the state Butch Nash award in 1994. Mahtomedi accorded Malstrom its Teacher of Distinction honor in 1996. He retired from teaching this past January.
Paul Martin (2000) Rare among the many high school stars we've admired are those with the talent and resolve to eventually become a big-leaguer, Paul Martin is one of the few with all the right stuff. At 26, he's among the best young defesemen in the NHL, a three-year member of the New Jersey Devils, one of the league's top teams. As a senior he was Minnesota Mr. Hockey, metro player of the year, and the Mount Olivet Award winner as the state's top scholar athlete. He then starred for the Gophers for three seasons and helped them win NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003, making second-team All-America in 2003. At ERHS, Martin was equally brilliant as a football wide receiver, setting state career records of 189 catches and 3009 yards while making all-metro three times and all-state as a senior. He racked up three all-conference awards in hockey, two each in football and track and one in baseball.
Mag Johnson (1931) Elk River had a "Mag Johnson Day" in 1987 and honoree received the WCCO Good Neighbor award, too, benefitting his many years of service to hometown and country. Mag's WWII experience included participation in the Battle of the Bulge and the loss of a finger, shot off by the Germans. He started the Elk River Quarterbacks Club in 1957 when he noticed farm kids on the football team needed rides home quickly to do chores. Mag (nobody called him Walter) ran the little bowling alley downtown from 1945-60, and when Elk River bowl opened, he turned his building into a real estate business. He was a football halfback and basketball guard for the Elks, helped St. John's football team go unbeaten and unscored-upon in 1932, played town-team basketball and baseball (for Nowthen) from 1934 until the war, and was named to "Who's Who in Minnesota Athletics" in 1941. At age 93, he's living at Guardian Angels.
Phil Johnson (1971) Longtime ERHS science teacher Phil Johnson (wildlife biology) had some dramatic moments in his Elk career, including a grand slam against Mora that won a baseball game 13-12 after his team trailed 12-0, and two free shots with :00 left against Princeton leading to an OT win. He was a 3-year starter in football (quarterback, safety), basketball (point guard) and baseball (shortstop), and captain for all three. He made all-conference in each sport and was a St. Cloud Times all-area football pick. Johnson continued his athletic career at St. John's as a four-year starting infielder in baseball and two-year starter at safety in football, then sparkled in fast-pitch softball in Elk River another dozen years. He has coached in the Elks system since 1987 including sophomore football, JV golf, freshman baseball, varsity softball and freshman basketball.
Rick Larson (1968) Rick Larson was the first Elk to earn a Division I scholarship. While his career at the U of M was cut short by injury, he forged ahead with a successful career in real estate while continuing in sports as a baseball and softball player, youth sports coach and longtime Elk River Country Club president. In a strong era for Elk sports, Larson nabbed five all-conference awards in football (quarterback, safety), basketball (guard), and baseball (pitcher, first base), helping the Elks post four Rum River baseball titles, two basketball titles and a 14-3-1 football record. He was listed as a starter at strong safety heading into his junior year at the "U" but ankle and hip injuries in spring practice finished his career. He left school and entered real estate, eventually co-founding a Century 21 regional office and later a school for real estate and insurance training, Pro Source. As a town-team ballplayer he reached seven state tournaments with Elk River and Nowthen. He has five sons - three of them athletes and the other two performance artists.
Ken Lockwood (1946) Kenneth Lockwood was a three-sport standout for the Elks during the war years, then played some college football and had two hitches in the Army where he played service football for the 25th Division team. At ERHS he was a three-year starter and two-time all-conference pick in football (end, defensive tackle), basketball (guard) and baseball (center field). He played freshman football for the Gophers and a year for St. Cloud State before getting hurt. He continued in sports as a town-team ballplayer for Big Lake and Zimmerman and for many years as a youth baseball, football and basketball coach. A lifelong Elk River area resident (he lives just across CR 35 from the farm where he grew up), Lockwood was a farmer, cement finisher and factory worker. He's now 79 and retired.
Sara Belanger Pepin 1992) A high-scoring, highly-decorated basketball player through high school and college, Sara Belanger was also a soccer star for the Elks. As a 5-foot-9 point guard, she tallied 1,387 career points (No. 2 all-time at ERHS), making all-conference and all-metro three times each and all-state twice. As a sophomore she helped the Elks place second in the state. Her soccer skills earned four all-conference honors and all-metro as a senior. She played in state all-star games in both her sports. A four-year starter at Minnesota-Duluth, she rang up 1,460 points (No. 6 all-time), was NSIC top rookie as a freshman and Player of the Year as a senior, and nabbed three first-team all-conference awards. A mother of two, she lives in Rockford and works for the school district, handling financial matters.
Tammy Christiansen Pudlick (1993) Best known as a diver - she was a state prep champion, then an NCAA All-American - Tammy Christensen Pudlick had a prodigious three-sport prep career. Her resume in swimming, gymnastics and golf included 17 letters, 12 all-conference awards, eight all-state awards, 14 trips to state meets, and the 1993 Mount Olivet Award as the state's best scholar-athlete. She made all-state in diving five times and won gold as a senior, then joined the best collegiate program for diving, the University of Miami, where she was captain two years and took third in the NCAA 10-meter platform as a senior, and participated in two Olympic Festivals. Married to a pro hockey player, she lives half the year in St. Michael (working as a manager for a video game company) and half in Germany, where her husband plays. She was section coach of the year with the Elks in 2002, but left coaching after having twin boys 16 months ago.