Members of the Gardner Edgerton High School 1996 boys basketball team gather around Coach Don Bechard, center. Bechard is listed individually in the school’s hall of fame. The team has also been inducted. File photo

Members of the Gardner Edgerton High School 1996 boys basketball team gather around Coach Don Bechard, center. Bechard is listed individually in the school’s hall of fame. The team has also been inducted. File photo

The Gardner Edgerton Athletic Hall of Fame, established in 2000, pays tribute to former GEHS athletes and teams. Not every athlete or team to walk the halls of GEHS is eligible for the honor, however.
The hall of fame recognizes individuals and teams, who through their athletic achievements, brought honor to the school and community. Athletes, coaches, varsity teams or special contributors to the athletic program are eligible for membership. Each year since 2000, the district has inducted teams, athletes, coaches and special contributors to the prestigious hall of fame.
Current members of the GEHS Hall of Fame include:
• Duane McIntire. McIntire, class of 1955, was the inaugural inductee into the GEHS Hall of Fame on Oct. 7, 2000. A multi-sport athlete at GHS, McIntire captained the 1954 and 1955 district champion basketball teams.
He was also captain of the undefeated-1954 football team, however his track and field accomplishments are legion. He won six state championships and finished second four times. He held seven school records in track in the 100-, 200-, and 440-yard dashes, the shot put and discus.
Upon graduation, McIntire played football and ran track at the University of Kansas and Emporia State University.
• Jeff Buckingham. Buckingham graduated from GEHS in 1978, and was an inaugural inductee into the GEHS Hall of Fame. While Buckingham boasted an incredible high school track and field career, he is best known for qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials in pole vault four times.
While in high school, he set several pole vault records, won four league championships and three state championships. He ended his high school career with a world record for 17-year-olds. His Kansas State record of 17-feet and a half-inch, still stood upon his induction into the hall of fame. After high school, he continued his track career at the University of Kansas, where he won the Big Eight Conference Championship three times. He is also an NCAA record holder in pole vault.
Two athletes, one coach and one team were inducted into the GEHS Hall of Fame in September 2001 – Mark Welch, Leorange Watson, Jr, Coach Kermit Welch and the 1995-1996 GEHS boys basketball team.
• Mark Welch, class of 1979, held five school basketball records including season, single-game, and career scoring as well as a season free-throw percentage record. He was named to the Kansas All-State Basketball Team in 1978 and 1979, and played in the prestigious Kansas-Illinois All-Star game. A multi-sport athlete, Mark also excelled in cross country and tennis. In cross country, he earned all-league honors three of his four high school seasons. In tennis, he boasted a .822 winning percentage.
• Leorange Watson, Jr., or Leo, was a multi-sport athlete at GHS and one of the first African American families to attend the school. In football, the 1968 GHS graduate set school records for pass receptions, receiving yards and interceptions. In basketball, he held school records for single-game rebounds and steals. He was named to the 1968 All-State basketball team. He was a four-year letterman in track, and held records in the 880-yard run and the triple jump.
As a senior at GHS, he was named Most Inspirational Athlete – the school’s highest athletic honor at the time.
Post high school, he played basketball at Concordia Junior College.
• The 4-A State Championship, 1995-1996 boys basketball team was also inducted in 2001. The squad, led by Coach Don Bechard, was the winningest team in school history with a record of 24-2. Three members of the team continued to play in college. Team members were Brett Bartmess, Logan Bond, Phil Burk, Brian Cordell, Aaron Eastland, Aaron Eaton, Jared Lard, Ryan Miller, Kevin (Jay) Pyle, Chris Shaw, Eric Thompson, Ryan Vandenabeele. Pete Adams and Fred Thomas were assistant coaches.
• Math teacher and boys and girls tennis coach Kermit Welch was the first coach inducted into the GEHS Hall of Fame. In his two decades of coaching, Welch’s teams amassed 15, top-four finishes in singles or doubles at the Kansas State Tennis Tournament. He also coached two state championship doubles teams and one state champion singles player. He coached from 1972 to 1994 and was twice voted Kansas High School Tennis coach of the Year. In addition to his membership in the GEHS Hall of Fame, Welch is listed in the Kansas Tennis Hall of Fame.
The first woman in the GEHS Hall of Fame was inducted in 2002.
• Suzy Stevenson, a 1980 GEHS graduate, rewrote the record books, setting records in the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes. She also competed on record setting relay teams.
She is a 12-time Frontier League Champion and a four-time Kansas State Champion. She was awarded GEHS Most Inspirational Athlete in 1980.
Post high school, she attended KU, where she ran track and participated in cheerleading.
• GEHS Coach and Athletic Director Ralph Snavely coached in 1,812 high school athletic contests. He coached and taught math in Gardner schools for 39 years, and was inducted into the GEHS Hall of Fame in 2002.
When he retired in 1995, his record included coaching athletes in five different decades. One of his boys basketball teams finished fourth in the state tournament in 1975, and his 1990 girls basketball team is the winningest girls basketball team in GEHS history with a 21-2 record.
• George Buckingham, a world-class pole vaulter, was inducted into the group in 2003. A 1979 GEHS graduate, he set the state pole-vault champion in 1979, and the runner-up in 1978. He held the state pole vault record for Kansas 4A. His 16-foot, 8-inch vault in 1979 was the best high school vaulting performance in the nation. That year, he was named an Adidas High School All American.
After high school, he competed as a member of the KU track and field team. He was named Most Valuable Track Athlete in 1982.
• Joe McNulty received a special award and induction into the GEHS Hall of Fame in 2005. McNulty served as a junior high and high school coach in the school district from 1957 to 1986. As a junior high coach, McNulty was one of the first to shape many GE athletes in football, basketball and track.
In retirement, McNulty continued his support of the USD 231 athletic program as a volunteer and staff member. At his time of induction, he had been involved with USD 231 athletics for 49 years.
• Eric Thompson, a 1997 GEHS graduate, competed and lettered in football, basketball and baseball. Thompson earned All-League and All-State honors in all three sports. Known as a fierce competitor, he helped lead the Blazer teams to the 1996 football playoffs, the 1996 state championship in basketball and the 1997 state baseball tournament.
Post high school, Thompson played both football and baseball at Barton County Community College. He continued to play collegiate baseball at KU, where he earned the Fireman of the Year Award as a pitcher. He was inducted into the GEHS Hall of Fame in 2005.
• Gayla Rothers Ward was a pioneer at GEHS for girls cross country. A 1980 graduate of the school, she competed on the boys cross country team in the absence of a girls squad. Two of her state records held at the time of her induction in 2006: In 1976, she set the girls cross country two-mile record at 11 minutes and 54 seconds. In 1978, she set the girls track record in the 3200 meter with a time of 11 minutes, 31 seconds. Her 1600 meter record time of five minutes, 16 seconds, was eclipsed the year prior to her induction into the GEHS Hall of Fame. She set school records in the 800 meter run and in a relay team event.
She continued to participate in track and field and cross country after high school. Running for Pittsburg State University, Ward was an NAIA All-American in both cross and track and an NAIA Academic All-American.
• Danielle McNaney held school records in the 100 meter hurdles, the 300 meter hurdles, the high jump, the long jump and the triple jump at the time of her induction into the GEHS Hall of Fame in 2006. A three-sport varsity letterman in volleyball, basketball and track, she excelled particularly in track and field. In addition to school records, McNaney, a 2001 GEHS graduate, set records at the Frontier League Meet and was a champion high jumper at the KU Relays. She medaled in four events at the Kansas State High School Athletic Association State Track Meet, and was the state champion in 300 meter hurdles her senior year. She was ranked first in her class academically.
As a college athlete, she set multiple records at Liberty University, was ranked as one of the best heptathletes in the nation, and graduated with a 4.0 grade point average.
• Kelly (Hancock) Gretencord was also excelled in track and field. A 1990 GEHS graduate and 2007 inductee, two of Gretencord’s school records remained at the time of her induction: her 12:32 second time in the 100 meter dash and her 25:37 second time in the 200 meter dash.
As a freshman at GEHS in 1986, Gretencord qualified for state in two events, placing second in the 200 meter dash. Her sophomore and junior seasons, she ran 80 consecutive races without a defeat. The string of victories included conference, regional and state, championships, nine regional titles and qualification in 13 events in the state championships.
At the state level, she would earn 11 medals, including four state championships, four silvers, two third-place medals, and a fourth-place medal.
After high school, Gretencord set records at Johnson County Community college in indoor and outdoor track, placing at the Junior College Championships. She finished her college career at Pittsburg State University competing in the National Championships both years.
• Coach Don Bechard was a highly recognized coach throughout the Kansas City Metropolitan area and the state. A social studies and physical education teacher, Bechard amassed more than 500 wins as a head coach at GEHS. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 2008.
Under his tutelage, GEHS boys basketball teams earned four league titles, two sub-state championships and his 1996 team earned the state championship – the first in school history.
As a head volleyball coach, Bechard’s teams won five league titles, three sub-state championships and a fourth-place finish at the state championships in 2000. He earned the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award in 1996, and the Don Jones Memorial Coaches Courage Award in 2007.
• Ted Propst was a three-sport athlete at GEHS. A class of 1981 graduate, Propst earned varsity letters in football, wrestling and track. He was inducted into the GEHS Hall of Fame in 2009.
In wrestling, he was a three-time state qualifier, taking third place in the 1980 state tournament. He was undefeated his senior season, culminating in an individual state championship in wrestling.
He was a defensive lineman and fullback for the GEHS football team, helping capture the school’s first football district title. Propst was named Most Inspirational Athlete in 1981.
Post college, he attended Wichita State University where he played football and majored in education.
• With a 5A state championship, the GEHS 2003-2004 cross country team was inducted into the hall of fame in 2009. The title was the first state championship for the school in 5A competition and the first state title for the GEHS cross country boys team. Five of the top seven team members continued to compete at the collegiate level in cross country or track. Team members included Aaron Ballew, Ronnie Lavoie, Tolan Lichty, Nate Thiesfeld, Tim Haer, Scott Brant and Erik Watson. Team alternates were Stephen Morrison, Wesley Schick and Billy Pelkey. Larry Ward was the head coach and Gordan Thiesfeld was assistant coach.
• Gregg Plank earned all-league and all-state honors in football and all-league and all-KC Metro honors in basketball. A 1981 graduate of GEHS, Plank was inducted into the hall of fame in 2010. He set multiple records for GEHS in both football and basketball. Known as a fierce competitor, Gregg excelled on the football field as a linebacker and offensive lineman, helping his team to capture two league titles. Gregg Plank continued his football career at Kansas State University, where he was a starter at offensive guard and a member of the first bowl team for the Wildcats.
• Janet Wittkopf earned a special award and induction into the GEHS Hall of Fame in 2012. A 1974 GEHS graduate, Wittkopf was the GEHS band director for 33 years, directing the band in countless pep assemblies, pep performances and marching band performances. Wittkopf joined Gardner Edgerton staff after teaching one year at Chase County High School. Known as an exemplary educator, her bands consistently received high ratings and excelled in all their performances. Wittkopf worked tirelessly to assure that students in grades 5-12 had the opportunities to develop their musical talents.