Gary Hartmann was attending the final high school dance recital for his 17-year-old granddaughter, Kiley Hartmann, a couple of weeks ago. The recital was held at New Prague High School. Gary was a 1971 graduate of New Prague and moved to Shakopee in 1977.
Hartmann decided to walk past New Prague’s expansive collection of trophies and memorabilia in the hallway. He was shocked to discover a photographic tribute to New Prague’s first cross-country team in 1970 was part of the school’s Hall of Fame.
Hartmann and his close friend Ed Hrabe were seniors and received permission from athletic director Paul Flick and the school board to put together a cross-country team that fall.
The stipulation was that they find enough interested runners. “We wound up with 19 runners, including Ed and me,” Hartmann said. “We ran in our track uniforms and the school gave us a bus to go to meets.”
Hartmann found himself getting tears as the memories came back. A couple of days later, he called up Hrabe — still a New Prague resident — and took him to the school for a surprise look at the photos.
“We were standing there and a student came walking past,” he said. “He looked at us, looked at the photo, and said, ‘Is that you guys up there?’ ”
The student was senior Trevor Prelesnik, a cross-country runner in the fall and distance runner in the spring.
“He found the other distance runners, and they were so interested in our stories — where we were running, what were our times — from 50 years ago, it was amazing,” Hartmann said. “What great kids.”
Hartmann’s desire to organize did not end with New Prague’s first cross-country team. He wasn’t a ballplayer — couldn’t hit — but founded the Shakopee Coyotes town team in 1999. He now runs an over-60 slow-pitch league.
Most important, he founded a long-running euchre tournament — called Euchremania — intended to discover the finest player of that Bohemian/German card game in Scott County and beyond.
Who was the best player? “I’d have to say it was me,” Hartmann said.
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.
A New Prague athletic Hall of Fame starts with the late Ron Johnson, greatest high school basketball player (by era) of my lifetime:
• A 6-7 center, he led New Prague to one-class state tournaments in 1955 and ’56. The first came with him scoring 39 points in a Region 4 victory over St. Paul Central at Williams Arena.
• Johnson scored 94 points in three tournament games as the Trojans finished third in 1955 and 109 points (with 48 points in his last game) as they finished fourth in 1956.
• Johnson was an outstanding Gopher. In three seasons ending in 1960, he averaged 19.6 points and 12.1 rebounds. The full schedule for three seasons then was 68 games.