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2024 Officials Distinguished Service Awards

Posted: Monday, April 15, 2024 - 6:04 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 23, 2024, with Distinguished Service Awards during the League's Boys Basketball State Tournament at Williams Arena 

Learn more about the awards here

Tom Fischer

Tom Fischer, 2024 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Tom Fischer, Anoka

  • League-registered Official, 51 years
  • Track and Field, Cross Country, Basketball, Football
  • State Meet Head Clerk of Course
  • Track and Field Official, 47 years
  • Coordinator of Track and Field Officials Group
  • Coached track, cross country, and cross country/Nordi skiing

“I know for a fact that I am not the only one that is a major supporter of Tom. He keeps up with many of his old students from the Anoka Area, especially on social media. He is always positive and always looking for a way to brighten someone's day. I cannot express enough how deserving Tom is of this recognition. He has dedicated his life to the development of young people and will continue to do so for years to come.”  Keelie Sorensen, Park Center High School Activities Coordinator

Owen Gustafson 2024

Owen Gustafson, 2024 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Owen Gustafson, Maynard

  • League-registered Official, 33 years
  • Western Minnesota Officials Association, 32 years
  • Basketball official
  • Founding member of WMOA in 1992.
  • Served as president, treasurer, assignor, and clinician
  • Remains active as an official

“Owen has been a great ambassador for the League and the WMOA throughout his officiating career. He is a presence in so many schools in the area. People know him by name and greet him wherever he goes. He continues to engage fans, coaches, student-athletes, and spectators with a smile, a kind word, or a correction of negative behaviors. He always does it with a smile and leaves people feeling better for the interaction.” Richard McLain, Western Minnesota Officials Association

Jim Hirsch 2024

Jim Hirsch, 2024 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Jim Hirsch, Bloomington

  • League-registered Official, 40 years
  • Remains an active soccer official
  • Twenty-year assignor with JAH Scheduling
  • Assigns approximately 75 percent of the metro and city schools

“Jim is a very distinguished official, assignor, and a friend. His contributions to soccer in Minnesota at all levels set him apart and warrant him receiving this Distinguished Service Award for officials." Berry Arrowsmith, Blaine High School Varsity Boys Soccer Coach

Paul Pranghoffer 2024

Paul Pranghofer, 2024 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Paul Pranghofer, Golden Valley

  • League-registered Official, 30 years
  • Minnesota Adapted Athletics Association, 30 years
  • Adapted Athletics: Soccer, Floor Hockey, Softball
  • Has officiated in 87 League State Tournaments
  • Official and Board Member, We Love to Play, 28 years

"Along with serving student-athletes of the League's member schools, Paul has dedicated himself to community service, providing introduction to various sports to underserved youth in other parts of the world. Paul has made 17 missionary trips to Haiti, Slovakia and Liberia connecting with disabled youth in those countries and demonstrating what they are capable of doing if they put in the effort.” Jim Muckenhirn, Minnesota Adapted Athletics Association

Gary Sipe 2024

Gary Sipe, 2024 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Gary Sipe, Rockford

  • League-registered Official, 32 years
  • Gopher State Officials Association, 32 years
  • Football, Basketball, Softball official
  • Clinician and well-known advocate for officials' recruitment
  • Worked five League State Tournaments

“Gary is a professional. He was an advocate for officiating and a constant voice for the good of the MSHSL. Gary saw the big picture earlier than most and knew that officials' numbers were declining. He was always talking to officials about staying in the game.” Tim Litfin, Gopher State Officials Association

Rick Tibesar 2024

Rick Tibesar, 2024 recipient of the Officials Distinguished Service Award.

Rick Tibesar, West St. Paul

  • League-registered Official, 35 years
  • St. Paul Hockey Officials Association, 35 years
  • Boys and Girls Hockey official
  • St. Paul Hockey Officials Association President (12 years) and Board of Directors (20 years)
  • Worked five State Tournaments
  • Girls Hockey Supervisor of Officials, 29 years
  • Boys Hockey Assistant Supervisor of Officials, 32 years
  • Worked with USA Hockey to transition officials to the high school game

“During his many years in St. Paul Hockey Officials Association, Rick was an integral part of mentoring and developing numerous officials. I know I benefited greatly from Rick's guidance and would not have developed as an official without him. Speaking from experience, from a player's perspective, you always knew that Rick was going to call the game in a very fair and professional manner.” Bill Danielson, St. Paul Hockey Officials Association Board Member

Minnesota Swimming Officials Association 2024

Minnesota Swimming Officials Association, 2024 recipient of the Association Citation Award.

Minnesota Swimming Officials Association

  • Incorporated in 1972
  • 175 League-registered officials in Girls and Boys Swimming and Diving
  • All new swimming officials are assigned a mentor upon joining the association
  • Representation on the NFHS Rules Committee
  • League Rules Coordinator Jim Marshall hosts numerous in-person and virtual clinics
  • Through mentoring and training, the association keeps its roster strong
  • Established a scholarship in partnership with the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association
  • The group provides officials to youth, high school and collegiate levels


St. Paul Capital City Officials Association 2024

Saint Paul Capital City Officials Association, 2024 recipient of the Association of Excellence Award.

Saint Paul Capital City Officials Association

  • Founded 100 years ago
  • 223 League-registered officials in football and basketball
  • In learning the reasons why new officials were not retained, St. Paul Capital City revamped and expanded its training for football officials. 
  • Four to six weekly preseason clinics prepared officials to be placed on varsity football crews.
  • New basketball officials are introduced through a classroom clinic and on-court instruction.
  • The Board of Directors position includes a Mentoring Program Coordinator
  • All officials are educated on the importance of sportsmanship during pregame conferences with players and coaches. 
  • Several association members send Praise Reports to the League to celebrate that great sportsmanship.

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