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John’s Journal: Bloomington Kennedy Celebrates Title IX

Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Showcases Female Athletes

Posted: Monday, September 19, 2022 - 11:35 AM


Friday night’s football game between Minneapolis Washburn and Bloomington Kennedy at Bloomington Stadium was a lot of fun. The athletes from both teams played hard, the coaches worked hard and fans from both teams gave their full support as Washburn came away with a 23-20 win.

As is always the case with high school football, there was more to the event than what happened on the field of competition. At halftime, in particular.

The Kennedy Kolleens dance team, coached by AnnMarie Engebretson, Johanna Engebretson and Jessica Toensing, performed at a high level. The Kennedy cheerleaders, coached by Carolyn Tate and Zamarca Stanely, also displayed great talent and skill. And throughout the evening the Kennedy pep band, led by John Engebretson, provided solid sounds.

The key halftime event came when four female former Eagles were inducted into the Kennedy Athletic Hall of Fame. During this 50th anniversary of Title IX leveling the playing field for female athletes, the halftime ceremony was a splendid celebration.

The four are absolute legends…

--Debbie Driscoll, Class of 1973, was a state champion gymnast who became one of the top high school gymnastics coaches in the state. She has been the coach at Mahtomedi since 1977, where her teams have won 10 team state championships and 44 individual state titles. She was inducted into the MSHSL Hall of Fame earlier this year.

--Robin (Smith) Hanson, Class of 1998, won 14 letters at Kennedy in tennis, basketball and softball. She was also a member of the National Honor Society and Student Government and graduated with honors.

--Kristine (Kruger) Kading, Class of 2000, was an All-State soccer player and a 1999 All-American Honorable Mention selection. She was a top 25 player in the state in scoring for four years at Kennedy and ended her career as the school’s all-time scoring leader.

--Jenna Smith, Class of 2006, led the Eagles to a state basketball championship and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year and Miss Basketball. She was a three-time team MVP at the University of Illinois, where she set several school records, including scoring and rebounding. She was a four-time All-Big Ten pick.

Also invited to the induction was Vanessa Clarida, a 2004 graduate who set state track and field records in the sprints while winning multiple state championships. She was not able to attend and is expected to be inducted next year.

The Kennedy Athletic Hall of Fame is star-studded, with a lengthy list of inductees that includes Kent Hrbek, author Steve Rushin and wrestling legends Marty and Gordy Morgan.

From 1973 to 2006, the new Hall of Fame class exemplifies what female athletes can do, but also how they are role models for current and future athletes. The four Kennedy Hall of Fame inductees treasure their time in high school, savor their memories and appreciate how those days at Kennedy shaped their futures.

“Athletics gave me confidence in myself and the motivation that I could succeed in college,” said Driscoll, who was part of a national championship gymnastics team at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Kading said being a high school athlete prepared her for life beyond high school in many ways.

I quickly realized that the foundation of hard work I learned at Kennedy was critical in becoming a successful college student-athlete. Most importantly, it taught me that hard work will help you excel in every facet of life.”

Kading, who was a varsity soccer player as an eighth-grader, added, “My time as a high school athlete started when I was young. It was a real challenge to play with such bigger players, but that helped me grow so much as a player.  

“My favorite memories as a high school athlete are all the friendships that I made. Many of those friendships have lasted throughout the years and I still enjoy them today.”

Smith said her top memories from high school sports involve sleepovers, team parties, team dinners and team bonding.

“I try to remind my own girls that you don’t remember the wins and losses; it’s the memories with your teammates that will stick with them,” she said. “I also remember how nice the older girls always were to me when I was the young one on the team.”

Smith also treasures memories of her team winning the first girls basketball state championship in school history.

“I grew up playing with most of them,” she said. “It’s a time that I will never forget. All the blood, sweat and tears we put in. I still talk to them now. We pushed each other. We made each other better on and off the court. We all worked so hard. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

“My time as an athlete in high school taught me discipline. It taught me how much teamwork really means. You can’t do anything alone. It started the drive and discipline in me that I carry in every aspect in my life.”

After each of the four inductees was presented with a Hall of Fame plaque, current and former Kennedy female athletes stood behind them on the football field. As the ceremony ended, all those girls crowded in tight with the new Hall of Famers. The scene was spectacular, embodying Title IX and the importance of opportunities for all athletes.

Congratulations to all.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 

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