By Sue Moore
Four new members will be inducted into the Vicksburg High School (VHS) Sports Hall of Fame March 21 at Angels Crossing club house. Former inductees to the Hall of Fame are asked to attend to welcome the new members at the 6 p.m. event.
The Hall was established in the mid ‘80s by Coach Tom Horn and honored athletes from as far back as the 1920s who excelled in sports at VHS.
After a lapse, it was resurrected several years ago due to the efforts of Dr. Tom Willmeng and Vicksburg Athletic Director Mike Roy. A committee of former coaches and players in Vicksburg sports circles was asked to recommend each year’s inductees. Their choices for 2015 include Doc Willmeng himself, for all he has done as team physician through the last 40 years, Missy Guetschow Murchie for her many cross country records, Dennis (Denny) Burns for his cross country and track records, and teacher Jack McCauley for his 23 years of coaching in Vicksburg.
The commendation for Willmeng cites the time he has freely given to treat any serious injuries sustained in competition without compensation over forty years of practicing medicine in Kalamazoo. He and his wife, Maryann, have also contributed their organizational talents to the Athletic Boosters while serving as president and in charge of many special events. Maryann has for many years put together a keepsake photo booster book to sell at home games, showcasing the teams and the senior athletes. Doc, as he is lovingly called, also served as team doctor for Portage Central for 25 years, Hackett Catholic Central and Western Michigan University for ten years, and team physician for the Girl’s World Softball Tournament in Kalamazoo. He ostensibly retired in 2013, yet can still be seen roaming the sidelines of this year’s VHS football games. The couple live on the southeast side of Gourdneck Lake.
Missy Guetschow Murchie graduated from VHS in 1994 and still holds the school record for the 3200-meter relay race that year. She was a leader throughout her four years of competition, being selected team captain of cross country and track in 1993-94. She was selected Wolverine all-conference in all four of her high school competitive years, Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) region cross country for four years, and MHSAA all-state cross country in 1993, and MHSAA scholar athlete. She went on to compete at Grove City College where she was selected all-conference and MVP in 1997.
“I love to run,” Murchie said. But was on a fluke that she began running in the first place.
“I had no interest in running until 7th grade when a friend invited me to go with her to be on the team. The first meet, I took second place and my dad said, ‘Maybe we should buy you some running shoes’.” She fondly remembers her coaches, Steve Miller, Jon Kachniewicz and Ed Knapp. “Athletics teaches you discipline. You have to commit to the workout and what the coaches tell you. Being part of the team was extra special for me. I still run, but it’s hard with four children, the youngest being just 10 months old.” She still competes in 10K races and half-marathons. Her husband who is a physician in Richmond, Va., sometimes runs with her.
Coach Jack McCauley taught industrial arts at VHS from 1960 to 1987, when he moved to teaching at KVCC. He retired in 1993 and with his wife, Ruth, moved to Houghton Lake in northern Michigan. Through his teaching and coaching, he made a lasting impact on his students and athletes for his joy of working with young people. The most lasting record: In 1965, he coached the Junior Varsity team to an undefeated and unscored upon season. Some of the players on that team that he remembers with fondness were Bill Cohrs, Mark Fox, and Ron Mayo. He served as JV football coach for 18 years, and freshman basketball for 20 years at VHS.
McCauley played football in high school at Godwin Heights and then at Grand Rapids Junior College when his team was the eastern division champion and played the western division in the Rose Bowl. That’s when he knew he wanted to coach. He graduated from WMU and came to Vicksburg in 1960. A player that stands out in McCauley’s mind at the JV level is Scott Plankenhorn, the current owner of the Hide-A-Way who went on to play football at Valparaiso University. “He was so much stronger and hit so much harder than the others, I actually had to slow him down [to save the other players on the team from injury].” McCauley’s son, Kent, played center for him with Ron Davis at quarterback. For the four years they played football for VHS, they never had a bad snap or a fumble from 1976 to 1979. “The sport has changed so much. Now it takes all 12 months of the year, working on agility, speed, and strength. Back then, a guy could play three sports but now they have to concentrate on just one, [to have much chance of playing].”
Denny Burns graduated in 1967 from VHS after an illustrious career running cross country. He was Wolverine all-conference in 1966/67 and took 5th place at state that year while serving as the team captain. He was MHSSA all-state in track and field in 1967 when he also captained the VHS team. He earned two varsity letters when he went on to run for WMU’s cross country and track teams, placing in the top 50 in the NCAA division I championship cross country meet. He returned to VHS in 1978/79 to coach the girls’ track team.