Former Scranton track star and five-time state champion Rosemary Holden Hoyt cracks a smile as Kris Curnyn Hagedorn (right) and Adam Jones (left) look on during the 2022 Greene County High School athletics hall of fame induction ceremony Jan. 13 in Jefferson.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALD Jefferson-Scranton graduate Adam Jones speaks during the Greene County High School athletics hall of fame ceremony Jan. 13. Jones is the J-S all-time leading scorer in basketball and is also a member of the Buena Visat University hall of fame.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALDJefferson graduate Erik Strawn (right) captured a wrestling state title in 1982. He was inducted into the Greene County athletics hall of fame during a ceremony Jan. 13 at the high school.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALDKris Curnyn Hagedorn (middle) is joined by her family following the 2022 Greene County High School athletics hall of fame induction ceremony Jan. 13 in Jefferson. Curnyn Hagedorn won three state titles in the discus in the 1990s for Jefferson-Scranton.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALD

Second Greene County hall of fame class honored in memory ceremony

By Brandon Hurley
Managing Editor

news@beeherald.com

@BrandonJHurley

The greatest female track star in county history was forced to rely on her creativity.

When senior year rolled around in 1975 and Rosemary Holden Hoyt began preparing to win a historic third straight state title, the Trojans didn’t have a track to practice on. If space allowed, they’d sketch out a dirt track and make due — bouncing from spot to spot each spring, wherever land was available.  
“It moved every year,” Holden Hoyt said. “It would be a grass patch with stakes in the ground.”
That massive disadvantage did little to dispel the former Trojans’ competitive fire, propelling her to greatness and an eventual Greene County High School athletics hall of fame distinction, joining the Class of 2022 during induction ceremonies on Jan. 13.
Holden Hoyt captured five state titles from 1972-1975, including four individually, – three consecutive 880-yard run championships and a mile victory, to go with a relay title in the one mile distance medley.
Holden Hoyt’s achievements were a few of several highlighted during the small reception in the Greene County high school auditorium.
Nine state titles, a handful of individual records, All-American accolades and next level dominance punctuated the school’s second hall of fame class.
In all, five former student athletes were inducted during the 2022 ceremonies. Holden Hoyt was joined by 1982 wrestling state champion Erik Strawn (Jefferson-Scranton), East Greene’s all-time leading scorer Pamela Slock Sanders (basketball), three-time discus state champion Kris Curnyn Hagedorn (Jefferson-Scranton 1991-1994) and all-time Jefferson-Scranton leading scorer and Buena Vista hall-of-famer, Adam Jones.
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Hoyt overcame Scranton’s structural shortcomings by way of a fierce competitiveness and vivid imagination. Her final year in the black and gold was perhaps her most challenging - having only 300 yards of track space at her disposal in addition to a late-coming battle with mono. Those obstacles likely would’ve derailed even the most elite. But she persevered, capturing a remarkable third straight state title in the 880-yard dash, rocketing her way to Iowa State University. Holden Hoyt excelled as a Cyclone, winning a collegiate national championship in the 880-yard run (Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women). She also helped pilot a two-mile relay team to a Big 8 Conference championship, later earning All-American honors from the AIAW.

Holden’s tremendous accolades earned her an induction into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union hall of fame, inducted in 1987. Her drive and passion provided valiant fuel during an illustrious track career. She’d run indoors in the winter, lunging up stairs and gliding through the hallways. She’d jaunt around the family acreage as well, visualizing her own version of a 200-yard track.

“I think the strong visualization really helped,” Holden Hoyt said last week during her acceptance speech. “You don’t have to have all the top-notch facilities. You can make do.”
A number of off-season training sessions also required her and her Trojan teammates to play five-on-five basketball when the school and much of the state were playing officially sanctioned six-on-six.
The up and down pace of the game provided a great chance to break a sweat.  

“I loved it,” Holden Hoyt said. “It helped with our conditioning.”

Where Holden Hoyt really secured her running strength was during her freshman year. The relay squads struggled rather mightily, which meant Holden Hoyt would receive the baton as the anchor leg well in last. That only motivated her, pushing her to try and catch at least a few schools. She learned to never give up.

“It was a good experience because I would run runners down one at a time,” Holden Hoyt said. “It really improved me.”
The quarters of a year of losing couldn’t quite prepare Holden Hoyt for her first taste of success. She finally ran the individual 880-yard race for the first time during the district meet of her rookie year. Not only did she run
well, but she came out in first, qualifying for state, astonishing even herself.  

In just her second race ever, at the state track meet of all places, she finished fourth, kick-starting the greatest three year stretch in 880-yard history. She’d win the event title each time from sophomore year on, snagging the mile title as well during her junior season.
Most shocking of all, Holden Hoyt won her five titles while possessing a below average love of running. In fact, she never once loved the sport, even when piling up the victories.

“I didn’t love it, I just happened to be good at it,” Holden Hoyt said.
What inspired her was a desire to stay active and the intriguing antics of a morning fitness show.
Jack LaLanne proclaimed “exercise is king” when hosting a daily fitness show at 9 a.m. during the 1970s. It’s what hooked Holden Hoyt.

“I would exercise with Jack and Elaine and their dog Lucky in the morning,” she said.

Her support system really pushed her through the early years and the long nights of travel as well. If it wasn’t for the extra work, she likely wouldn’t have been as successful.

“My parents made sure that I got to the extra meets that I needed,” she said. “They took me to Federation meets, I was in the junior Olympics. They made sure I got to places.
The whole family would go to some of these meets.”

One Holden sibling in particular made sure Rosemary always stood tall. Mary Jo was tasked with meeting her sister at the finish line at the 1975 state meet. Rosemary’s bout with mono had left her slightly under conditioned, but she was determined to defend her 880-yard title for the third year. Problem was, she didn’t want to collapse once she crossed the finish line. Those who did embarrassed themselves, she felt. Which is where her system came into play.  

“I hated it when people collapsed after a race,” Rosemary said. “There was a lot of pressure on me to win. I had been visualizing it for weeks. I told her to meet me at the finish line.”
Holden Hoyt was true to her word, prevailing for a third year in a row, with Mary Jo sticking to her promise at the finish line. As Rosemary exhaustingly found her way into her sister’s arms, she had strict instructions.

“Get me off the track,” Rosemary recalled. “I don’t want to go down. And she got me right out of there.”

Despite all the obstacles, the little engine that could is now forever cemented in Greene County lore.

– • –

Erik Strawn’s battle with the flu was no match for his pursuit of an undefeated title in 1982.

Never mind he hadn’t eaten for the two days leading up to his senior conference meet. A perfect record was on the line. If he needed sleep, he’d catch some before the match.
His teammates awoke the sleeping athlete moments before his first round match in Carlisle, where pinned the guy in the first period and immediately went back to sleep. He awoke for just enough time to pin his opponent yet again in the first period of the semifinals, earning a spot in the championship match.

The real challenge came after Strawn’s third nap. He really wanted to keep his perfect record in tact, but the flu was breaking him down, falling behind early.

“I hadn’t really been tested,” Strawn said. “But this kid from Ogden threw me on my back. I think I was pretty close to being beat, but I don’t know. I hadn’t been there very often.

I dug myself a pretty good hole and my unbeaten season was about to slip away. I slowly worked my way back and took him to his back and won.”
Strawn was Jefferson’s second wrestler to ever win a state title, compiling an undefeated record during his senior season at Jefferson High, culminating with the 126-pound state title. He also finished runner-up at state as a junior, earning a scholarship to Utah State University.

By the time Strawn had left Jefferson he’d set the school record for total wins (109).
Though he romped through his senior year of high school without a loss on the mat, Strawn was nearly defeated by the taunting evil of sugary snacks.
He began stockpiling the treats – squaring away 20 whoopee pies and 14 chocolate chip cookies  – waiting for that final whistle marking victory so he could indulge in his temptations.

“Wrestling can be hard on you emotionally and mentally,” Strawn said. “I think I had a psychotic break. I never stopped stockpiling the (treats). I even made a list of what was in (my parents freezer).”
His greatest treat of all was his from a friend who’s mom baked him a delicious red velvet cake in the offseason, celebrating the monumental triumph.
A state championship never tasted sweeter.

“That was always enough to get sick on,” Strawn said.

–– • ––
Adam Jones was born to be a Ram. He wore his No. 33 football jersey everywhere.

To him, the red and black of Jefferson-Scranton wasn’t a choice, it was a way of life.

The 1998 Jefferson-Scranton graduate eventually suited up as his childhood heroes, channeling his passion to become the greatest scorer in J-S basketball history.
Jones cut his teeth at the 8 p.m. Wednesday night Jefferson men’s league, joining his dad during weekly competitions in sixth grade.

“They let me play and I learned how to play (the game),” Jones said. “I played basketball with those guys for years. That’s how I learned how to throw a pass, set a screen and cherry pick. That’s where I learned to love basketball and how to play.”

Jones’ early crash course in the basics of basketball paid off when he got to high school. The now father of four earned first team, all-state recognition in 1998 after scoring 1,538 points in four years, earning a scholarship to
Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. Jones excelled at the next level, earning four all-conference distinctions, two conference MVPs, a second team, All-American honor as a junior and a first team distinction his senior year, which eventually led to a 2002 D-III National Player of the Year honor thanks to a scoring average of 19.3 points per game. Jones is first all-time in three-pointers made in Buena Vista history (269), and second in career points (1,831 points), distinctions which helped propel him to an induction into the BVU hall of fame in 2012. Jones is currently head coach of the Dallas Center-Grimes girls’ basketball team, though he’ll never forget the atmosphere which helped mold him.

“I grew up in a community that had tons of support and a lot of pride,” Jones said during his GCHS hall of fame acceptance speech Jan. 13. “The more I think about it, looking back, the values I learned from the teachers and coaches, like consistency and work ethic and being team-orientated and disciplined, those came from the people I was around daily.”

Jones entered high school as an unknown commodity. He didn’t take long to make an impact despite a slow start. He was instructed to shoot from early on.
Jones launched Jefferson-Scranton’s first seven shots of his first game freshman year – and missed them all.

“We called a time out and Will Nailor said to me, ‘keep shooting,’” he said.

Jones rarely passed up an opportunity to shoot from then on, launching himself into the Ram record books and the eventual hall of fame.

–– • ––

The Roses and the Daises never captured Kris Curnyn Hagedorn’s imagination quite like the discus did. While softball did have a few throwing elements to it, those jean-clad, t-shirt top uniforms of the local minor league softball outfit could do little to cage the greatest thrower in Jefferson-Scranton history.

She was headed for greatness, and only time held her back.

Curnyn Hagedorn, a 1995 graduate, won three state discus titles in the 1990s in addition to a Drake Relays title in 1993, later catapulting herself into an illustrious career at Iowa State University. She’d earn All-American honors twice to go with a Big 12 discus championship and three school records.

The accolades, victories and records were nice, but it was the moments leading up to it that stuck with Curnyn Hagedorn most.

“It wasn’t the games, not the competitions but the teammates and the relationships, the friendships and the coaches and all the things I experienced along the way,” she said. “I remember the bus trips, singing to the radio and making as much noise as we possibly could. We probably drove the coaches crazy.”
Curnyn remembers a trip to Des Moines most vividly. The confusion of the big city may have gotten to the Jeffettes.

“We went to state in basketball my freshman year,” she said. “I remember getting stuck in the elevator with the entire basketball team, the cheerleaders and the coaches for half an hour. That was a memory that vividly sticks in my mind.”

The celebration after the Jefferson-Scranton Jeffettes won the 1994 team state track and field title was what stuck with Curnyn Hagedorn most. The police escort into the school parking lot was just as thrilling as capturing the school’s only girls’ state title.

“Everybody was there waiting for us,” she said.

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Pam Slock Sanders’ high-arching, over the head set shot lit up gyms across the state some 60 years ago. Her prolific shooting allowed her to lead the state in scoring at 52.6 points per game her senior year in 1961, guiding East Greene to a 17-0 regular season record and a game short of the state tournament. Slock scored a career-high 78 points twice against Rippey, leading to a school-record 2,873 career points, earning her an eventual first team, all-state honor. She led the Hawkettes to a 39-4 during her final two seasons, which was rewarded with a Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union hall of fame induction in 1973. Slock Sanders was not in attendance at the induction ceremonies.

Greene County activities director Todd Gordon was emcee for the evening, introducing each honoree with brief mentions of their biographies. The 2021 introduction was canceled due to COVID concerns, which meant the second class waited two years for their honors.

“I tell people this is the highlight of the year for me,” Gordon said Jan. 13. “It is so good to see the graduates comeback. To see that there is somebody from Scranton, from East Greene and Grand Junction, I think it’s special.
It’s obvious this is a special place. These people have been impacted by some great teachers and coaches,” Gordon added. “They in turn are impacting people as well. It’s a special night. Congratulations to each one of you and thank you for inspiring us.”

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