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2023 Officials Distinguished Service Award

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 2:42 PM

The Minnesota State High School League annually recognizes contest officials who show commitment and excellence to the officials' programs that support the member schools. 

The following individuals were recognized on Saturday, March 25, 2023,  with Distinguished Service Awards during the League's Boys Basketball State Tournament at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. 

Learn more about the award here

Please join the League in our salute to officials. 

Jim Christensen

Jim Christensen, 2023 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Jim Christensen, Northfield

  • MSHSL Registered Official, 35 years
  • MSHSL Observer/Evaluator, 15 years
  • Co-founder of Officiating Program, Northfield Community Education

“Not only did Jim observe many officials, he also gave high quality observations. He knew what to look for, was very observant and wrote great reports that were of value to both our state tournament selection committee, and more importantly, to the officials, giving them great suggestions for improvement. Whenever Jim recommended an official for the state tournament, I knew that person was ready. Without a doubt.”  Kevin Merkle, retired MSHSL Associate Director

Rick DeGardner

Rick DeGardner, 2023 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Rick DeGardner, Vadnais Heights

  • MSHSL Registered Official, 41 years
  • Gopher State Officials Association, 36 years
  • Gopher State Baseball and Softball Assignor
  • Gopher State Basketball Assignor
  • Gopher State Officials Board of Directors
  • Gopher State Officials Clinician
  • Official in Football, Basketball, Softball, Adapted Athletics

“Assigning officials for any sport is a thankless task that carries with it plenty of opportunities for failure and criticism. The biggest quality a successful assignor needs is availability. Schedule changes are constant and often need to be made at the last minute. There has never been a time when I’ve tried to contact Rick and he has not failed to return my call or respond to my email within a reasonable amount of time. Rick does a tremendous job of balancing the association’s officiating needs with the needs and preferences of the officials.” Eric Gray, MSHSL Regional Official Coordinator and Gopher State Officials member

Duane Hoecherl

Duane Hoecherl, 2023 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.


Duane Hoecherl, Bloomington

  • MSHSL Registered Official, 60 years
  • Minnesota Gymnastics Judges Association, 60 years
  • Founding member, president, assignor, clinician, Minnesota Gymnastics Judges Association
  • Minnesota Coaches Association Hall of Fame
  • University of Minnesota Gymnastics Hall of Fame

“Duane Hoecherl is a legend in the Minnesota gymnastics community. He actually formed the Minnesota Gymnastics Judges Association in the 1960’s. He gave his own time to train a group of past and present gymnasts the techniques of judging gymnastics. . . . Duane’s opinion has always been very highly regarded by both coaches and other officials. He is an outstanding teacher and mentor of gymnastics.” Mike Amidon, MSHSL Gymnastics Coordinator

Wes Knutson Officials Distinguished Service Award

Wes Knutson, 2023 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Wes Knutson, Crookston

  • MSHSL Registered Official, 51 years
  • Crookston Officials Association, 51 years
  • Association Trainer, 25 years
  • Basketball Official, 51 years
  • Football and Volleyball Official, 44 years

“All of the items that Wes accomplished had a huge impact on the Crookston Officials Association. When Wes took over the association, it was beginning to dissolve. He revitalized the association to make it strong. To this day, the association is alive and thriving because of the education, leadership, mentoring and hard work by Wes. We feel our association is one of the strongest associations in Northwest Minnesota because of his dedication.” Wayne Folkers and Fred Parrow, Crookston Officials Association

Barry Langen

Barry Langen, 2023 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Barry Langen, Kennedy

  • MSHSL Registered Official, 34 years
  • Northwest Basketball Association, 34 years
  • Northwest Basketball Association Assignor, 29 years
  • Northwest Basketball Association Clinician and Observer, 27 years
  • Founding member, Kennedy Officials Association, which became Northwest Basketball Association in 1984

“Since 1984, Barry Langen has served countless student-athletes, coaches, school administrators and the Minnesota State High School League by keeping basketball fair, safe and fun throughout Northwest Minnesota. He is well aware that the games are for, and about, the students, and his role as a basketball official is to serve them to the very best of his ability each and every game. Barry is a highly-skilled official who appreciates his avocation with great humility, high integrity and enthusiasm for sport and the people he serves through it.” Stacey Warne, Northwest Basketball Officials Association

Tom Madura

Tom Madura, 2023 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Tom Madura, Apple Valley

  • MSHSL Registered Official, 40 years
  • Minnesota Swimming Officials Association, 40 years
  • Lead Association Member for Diving
  • Diving Clinician, Minnesota Swimming Officials Association, 30 years
  • MSHSL State Meet Official, 30 years
  • MSHSL Rules Liaison, 30 years
  • Minnesota High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame
  • Prior Lake High School Hall of Fame

“In addition to coaching, Tom stood out amongst others as an official. Although his love was diving, he put in many hours in the swimming end as well. Tom was dedicated to creating an officiating team that was well trained. He spent time with new officials, helping them understand the rules and reasoning behind the rules of diving. Tom also created a community of officials that worked together, brainstormed new ideas and worked to solve issues.” Tracy Torgerson, MSHSL Official and Minnesota Swimming Officials Association

Pete Vrieze Distinguished Service Award

Pete Vrieze, 2023 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Pete Vrieze, New Richmond, Wis.

  • MSHSL Registered Official, 22 years
  • Minneapolis Officials Association, 22 years
  • Assignment Secretary, Minneapolis Officials Association
  • Featured speaker, Minneapolis Officials Association
  • Lead Clinician, Minneapolis Officials Association
  • Board of Directors, Minneapolis Officials Association
  • MSHSL Officials Recruiting Forum presenter
  • Multiple state tournament appearances in Minnesota
  • Director and clinician, annual clinic at University of Minnesota
  • Director and clinician, Minnesota-Duluth Officials Camp

“For more than a century, the Minneapolis Officials Association has provided football and basketball officials to the member schools of the Minnesota State High School League. To achieve that kind of longevity and rich tradition of success, it takes leadership, drive and a vision that sustains the growth and excellence of one of Minnesota’s biggest and best officials associations. Pete was the driver of that strategic goal with the tireless work of providing member schools with gold medal-standard officials while building that pool of new officials and under-represented officials to sustain growth for another 100 years.” Tim Leighton, Minneapolis Officials Association Board of Directors

Frank White

Frank White, 2023 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Frank White, Woodbury

  • MSHSL Registered Official, 35 years
  • St. Paul Capital City Officials Association, 45 years
  • Board of Directors, St. Paul Capital City Officials Association
  • MSHSL Basketball Rules Clinician
  • MSHSL Officials Advisory Committee
  • MSHSL Multicultural Diversity Committee
  • MSHSL Sportsmanship Advisory Committee
  • MSHSL Basketball Evaluator
  • MSHSL Board of Directors

“Frank has spent countless hours dedicated to not only recruiting, training and mentoring young officials, but has also worked tirelessly to be an ambassador to the community and a champion of the needs of the people he serves. Beyond his efforts to grow the craft of officiating, Frank represents the standard to which all officials can, and should, aspire: knowledge of the rules, commitment to improvement of self and others, and impeccable communication skills on and off the floor.” Teron Buford, Minnesota Alliance of Officials of Color

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Boys Basketball, Class AAA semifinal: DeLaSalle 67, Orono 61