By Randy K. Anderson
Just about 20 years ago, during this time of the year in 1999 to be exact, I was sitting in my office at the Yukon Review with longtime Yukon resident and former sports editor Darren Heusel. Many of you who attend Trinity Baptist Church know Darren and Diana Heusel and know what good people they are. Darren is one of those guys that I can call a friend, even though we don’t see each other much anymore and don’t get to talk that often.
Anyway, we were sitting there in my office brainstorming for ideas for the paper when it came to us that we needed to do some research to figure out who Yukon’s athlete of the century was. Our idea got us both real excited so we began a survey throughout the community for our answer.
Darren wrote his column that week and asked everyone to submit to us who they believed was Yukon’s best all-time athlete of the millennium. The responses soon began to pour into our office and we got to meet readers who we didn’t even know existed.
I got a big kick out of seeing Darren go crazy every day when someone new would call him or bring in photos and a story about who they thought was best.
I had recruited Darren, his wife Diana and their kids, from the Seminole community. Our then-sports guy, Chuck “the Oklahoma Legend” Reherman, had taken the Publisher job down at the Frederick Leader and I knew I had to find someone to fill Chuck’s big shoes.
Darren told me his wife needed a job too. She was a schoolteacher. Now those of you who know Diana, know the caliber of schoolteacher she was so I needed to make sure I got her a good job in the Yukon School District.
I called then Yukon School Superintendent Terry Dean. I told Terry that I had a situation and that I needed to find this girl a job immediately because I needed her husband to come to work for the paper.
Terry told me, “Anderson, you know I don’t make deals and promise jobs like that. What is the matter with you? … You think you can just call me up and tell me what to do and expect me to jump through hoops?”
I apologized to Brother Dean for my Randel Grigsby-esque behavior. Although I knew Terry Dean wanted our Yukon High School newspaper Insight to win another national championship and was probably going to help my arrogant ass!
Diana Heusel had a job in the Yukon Public School District the next day and she won the Teacher of the Year Award nine months later.
That’s why Terry Dean has been, in my opinion, the best superintendent we have ever had.
Now, back to Darren. This man started working toward putting all the information regarding the athlete of the millennium into the paper. By the end of the year we had names of athletes like Kelli Seikel, Tony Kirkegard, Randy Wright, and Jason Jacoby. We had friends of athletes and family members of athletes that brought us photos and artifacts that we never knew existed.
I remember how Darren took charge of this project with passion and dedication. It all culminated at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce banquet in early 2000 when he got to present a special recognition plaque to the winner.
Do you remember who the winner was? Can you recall his name? Come on, it’s only been 20 years. Call me or email me the correct answer and I will get you some Eischen’s fried chicken and okra.
So here we are in December of 2019. Chuck Reherman is here doing sports. The question is: Who has been the best athlete of this millennium? It’s really simple to calculate. From 2000-2019, what Yukon athlete has made the biggest mark in Yukon’s sports history? What did this person accomplish that has never been done? What feat did they make happen that can stand the test of time?
Send us your answers and photos. Tell us the who, what, where, why and how.
We are planning a special section of our top ten athletes of the last 20 years (2001-2019). I am going to ask Darren to write a special story for this section that will look back at the time he spent on determining the athlete of the millennium.
Please send us the information and any photos you have.
It was very exciting for me, 20 years ago, to have the Kirkegard family bring in the 20-dollar-bill that was issued from Yukon National Bank, back in the 1920’s, signed by then bank president John F. Kroutil, along with a note, from then bank president John F. Kroutil, congratulating Tony Kirkegard for being Yukon’s first-ever All-State football player. Tony Kirkegard … what a great football name!
I will start the debate, by declaring that former Dallas Cowboys and current Minnesota Vikings kicker Dan Bailey is the best Yukon athlete of the last 20 years. The University of Oklahoma softball pitcher Jennifer Stewart from the early 2000’s is right there with Dan.
Thanks so much for reading. I will see you next Saturday. Would you like a Progress?