By Sue Moore
Jon Kachniewicz is a reluctant candidate for the honor of selection to the Vicksburg Athletic Hall of Fame. Typically, he shies from the limelight, preferring that others should be featured according to his peers, including many who are already members of this group of student athletes at Vicksburg High School, along with many of their mentors and teachers.
Fondly known as Coach Kach, he has been coaching track at Vicksburg for 41 years, the last nine as co-head coach with Dave Smith, who took his place teaching English when Kach retired in 2008. “We’ve done our job working with the kids and love it,” Kach said.
“The payback is watching the kids grow and thrive. The real paycheck is seeing a kid do something they never thought they could do. I certainly didn’t go into it to be in the Hall of Fame.”
On the contrary, Smith said, Kach richly deserves the honor. “He is really good with the kids. I’ve never seen anything like it. When he talks to an athlete he makes them feel like they are the only one on the planet. He gets inside their head and helps them out while treating everybody fairly. I’m the hard-nosed one and Jon keeps them calm and ready to perform. It’s good cop, bad cop and it works perfectly.”
Kachniewicz came to Vicksburg to teach and coach from Grand Rapids via Western Michigan University. He was a half hour late because he got lost on the way but he pleaded with Superintendent Ken Otis to “Please give me a chance,” and got the job anyway.
Besides track, Kachniewicz was head football coach from 1978 to 1985, assistant football coach for nine years and had five track and field individual state champions over his 41 years teaching track. His track teams won regional championships in 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, and Wolverine conference track championships in the same years, plus 2012. He personally was voted Wolverine Conference Track Coach of the Year in the same years. Other individual awards include the Vicksburg Athletic Boosters Appreciation Award in 2009 and the Wolverine Conference Distinguished Service Award in 2015. He was named the Mike Foster Service Recipient by the conference.
Larry Peck who lives in Florida near some of his old Vicksburg High School track buddies, will be back in Vicksburg to be inducted into the athletic Hall of Fame at the April 15, 6:30 p.m. ceremony at Angels Crossing golf course.
High school coach Tom Horn expects to return to do the honors for Peck, who earned five varsity letters in cross country, basketball and track by the time he graduated in 1962. He further distinguished himself in the two sports when he went on to Western Michigan University to set a WMU school record in the two-mile relay at the Drake Relays in 1966.
While in high school, Peck excelled in leadership too as he was cross country team captain in 1960 and track team captain in 1962. He set a school record in the 880-yard run in 1962 and was on the team that set the mile relay school record time in the same year. He was a member of the first Vicksburg cross country team to win in school history.
At WMU he was selected as team co-captain in 1966, the year he posted a personal best time in the mile run of 4:07.8. He was on the cross country team that competed in the national championships in 1964 and 1965. In 2009, Peck was named a member of the WMU Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I feel honored to be given this award,” Molly Waterhouse said on the phone as she and her husband were driving to dinner in Dayton, Ohio last month. She has been gone from Vicksburg for the last nine years but hasn’t forgotten her love for home and her family here.
Waterhouse was an outstanding cross country and track runner from 2004 to 2008 in Vicksburg. She set school records in the distances and was awarded an athletic scholarship to Northwestern University where she earned three varsity letters in cross country and All Big 10 academic honors in 2010-11.
After graduation with a BS in Education and Social Policy, she headed to the University of Colorado for a Masters Degree in Public Health in 2016. The couple is in Dayton where her dentist husband has a job. She isn’t running much but loves hiking and biking to work. They met when Molly had a summer job as a junior in high school. Both were on the outdoor pit crew at Angels Crossing golf course, scrubbing down golf carts for the summer.
While competing in high school, Waterhouse was voted the MVP in cross country all four years she competed, and earned academic all-state honors in those years. Her freshman year showed her championship style with a state cross country meet runner-up placement in 2004. She set the Vicksburg cross country course record of 18.07 in 2006 and was Wolverine conference champion each year from 2004 to 2008. She was state champion in the 3200 meter race in 2007 with a time of 10:49.8. She was named an All-American in 2006 by the USATF Junior Olympics. Vicksburg schools honored her with the Susan B. Little Outstanding Athlete Award.