Jan. 24, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS – It will be Alumni Day on Saturday for the women’s gymnastics team and Hall of Fame Day for the men’s team, and the weekend kicks off with the 15th Annual University of Minnesota Gymnastics Hall of Fame and Minnesota Gymnastics Foundation Recognition Banquet on Friday evening at the Minneapolis Metrodome Hotel.
The event is sponsored by the Minnesota Gymnastics Foundation, a non-profit organization started in 1998 to help support the gymnastics community in the state of Minnesota.
This year's class of inductees consists of five individuals: Alumni - Brian Yee and Kathy Ness Lentz; Lifetime Service Awards - Sid Wolfenson and Deb Hertzenberg; and the Abby Szott Courage Award recipient - Karen Thorud.
Kathy Ness Lentz
This year’s women’s team inductee is Kathy Ness Lentz (Class of 1991), an integral member of the Golden Gophers during 1988-91, where she competed for coaches Gabor and Katalin Deli and Scott Sherman. Kathy Ness came to the University of Minnesota after attending Coon Rapids High School, and she earned four letters and helped lead the team to Big Ten titles in 1988, 1989, and 1991. As a freshman, she placed fifth in the Big Ten on balance beam, and she was sixth in the conference on bars as a junior. As a senior, despite missing most of the season with a leg injury, she won the Big Ten title on beam to help Minnesota earn the team title.
Ness has twice been inducted into the University of Minnesota’s Athletics Hall of Fame, as a member of the Gophers’ 1988 and 1991 Big Ten Championship teams, and she was named to Minnesota’s 1980’s all-decade team for women’s gymnastics. In the classroom, Ness earned a degree in business management and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and a two-time National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women Scholar All-American. She currently lives in Andover, Minn., and has worked for the past 14 years as an IT systems analyst for the state of Minnesota.
This year’s men’s team inductee is Brian Yee (Class of 1996), who came to the University of Minnesota from Houston, Texas, where he was coached by former Olympian Jim Culhane. Yee earned four letters for the Gophers during 1992-95, serving as team captain as a senior and helping Minnesota earn a pair of Big Ten titles (1992, 1995). A two-time NCAA All-American (1992, 1995) and All-Big Ten selection (1993, 1995), Yee received the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor as a senior and was a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award, which is annually presented to the nation’s top collegiate gymnast.
A three-time Academic All-Big Ten member, Yee graduated with a degree in psychology and speech communication in 1996. Following his collegiate career, Yee was a member of the 1995 World Championships team, and a three-time selection to the USA Gymnastics Senior National Team. Yee currently lives in Santa Fe, N.M., where he works as a massage therapist and instructor.
The women’s gymnastics Lifetime Service Award recipient is Deb Hertzenberg, Director of North Shore Gymnastics Association (NSGA) in Maple Plain, Minn. In 1978, shortly after graduating from St. Cloud State University, Hertzenberg was hired by a group of parents who were managing the club, which was controlled by the Orono Community Education Department and housed in Orono Middle School. The parents were interested in developing a competitive program for the 60 children who were participating at the time.
As the NSGA’s Director, Hertzenberg selected a Board of Directors to serve as advisors, and the club began to thrive. In 1987, with more than 600 gymnasts, NSGA leased a facility in Long Lake and held classes at the new facility and at Orono Middle School. In 1988, NGSA moved to an 8,000-square foot facility designed specifically for its use, and that building was expanded to 11,000-square feet in 1993.
In 2003, North Shore Gymnastics moved into a 16,000-square foot facility in Maple Plain, and that facility expanded to 21,000-square feet in 2011. NSGA offers programs for gymnasts in preschool through high school, with highly-successful USA Gymnastics competitive teams for boys and girls.
An all-around competitor for Mound-Westonka HS and St. Cloud State, Hertzenberg was SCSU’s team captain during her junior and senior seasons. She has served as meet director at countless large competitions sponsored by NSGA, and has been a judge for Minnesota State High School League meets. She has also served the USAG as Minnesota State Chairperson and as a State Board member.
The men’s gymnastics Lifetime Service Award recipient is Sid Wolfenson, a 1940 graduate of the University of Minnesota. Wolfenson was a member of the men’s gymnastics team, earning varsity letters for the Golden Gophers during his junior and senior seasons. His best event was tumbling, which at the time was performed on a narrow mat padded with horse hair. One of Wolfenson’s early achievements was to convince his good high school friend, Newt Loken, to attend the University of Minnesota and to join the gymnastics team, and Loken went on to capture the NCAA all-around title in 1941.
After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering, Wolfenson worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority before moving to Houston, where he oversaw 1,000 electricians during the construction of World War II Navy destroyers at the Brown Shipyard. He later accepted a position at Brown & Root, as a design engineer for electrical systems. In 1960, he began Wolfenson Electric, Inc., from his garage. His company eventually developed into one of the largest electrical contracting companies in the state of Texas.
Throughout his life, one thing has remained constant – Wolfenson’s love for Minnesota gymnastics. Wolfenson initiated two endowed scholarship funds for the men’s program – The Sid Wolfenson Fund and The Ralph Piper Fund. Wolfenson was such a gymnastics fan, he once funded the travel expenses for both Minnesota and Michigan, then coached by Loken, to come for a tri-meet at Houston Baptist University. He also started the Newt Loken Fund at Michigan, where his former friend served as coach for 36 years.
The recipient of the Abby Szott Courage Award is Karen Thorud. An accomplished Special Olympics athlete, Thorud was the Minnesota Special Olympics 2011 Female Athlete of the Year. More than 10 years ago, she co-founded the Special Olympics Rhythmic Gymnastics Program at Mini-Hops Gymnastics, and that team is now the largest of its kind in the state of Minnesota.
Thorud also was part of the Minnesota delegation at the inaugural Special Olympics National Games in Ames, Iowa, where she captured the gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics. She has earned many gold, silver, and bronze medals for both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics at area and state competitions, and has participated in bocce ball, basketball, and bowling, as well. Thorud has found success in spite of having to undergo surgery on her ankle, battling arthritis in her knees, and having challenges with gross motor skills and coordination.
Thorud serves as a Global Messenger and Special Ambassador for Special Olympics, and engages in public speaking on behalf of the organization.
The Abby Szott Courage Award is presented each year to someone who has displayed or incorporated their love of gymnastics, while encountering or overcoming obstacles in their lives. The Minnesota Gymnastics Foundation decided to name the award in honor of Abby Szott, an accomplished gymnast at Eagan High School and TAGS South who lost her battle with cancer in March, 2006. Abby’s parents, Kaye and David, have since established a foundation in her name to help support parents who have a terminally-ill child.
No seats remain for Friday evening’s Hall of Fame Banquet. Saturday’s gymnastics meets at the Sports Pavilion begin with the No. 7 Minnesota men’s team facing Air Force at 1:00 p.m., followed by the No. 12 Minnesota women’s team playing host to top-ranked Michigan, No. 20 Central Michigan and Iowa State at 6:00 p.m.
For ticket information, call the Gopher Athletics Ticket Office at 612.624.8080 / 1.800.UGOPHER, or visit www.mygophersports.com.
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