Sports complex to carry Cornelsen's name
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 09:36
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
“It’s a great day to be a Redskin.”
Anyone who spoke with Gary Cornelsen during his tenure as a Liberal High School instructor and coach knew that phrase well.
And Cornelsen made those words come true for Redskin athletes and fans many times during a 13-year stretch of his coaching career that saw Redskin track teams and the football program combine for 26 state champioships.
Earlier this year, the USD No. 480 School Board approved a plan to add a title of “Gary Cornelsen Sports Complex” to the Burial Grounds at Redskin Field. The complex encompasses the field, track, stadium, practice facility and weight room, all facilities that Cornelsen enhanced and used to produce some of the most successful thletic programs in Kansas.
The 13 consecutive track chamionships actually grew to 14 with one more title added by coach Troy Neaville. That streak is in the top five of all high schools nationwide, all-time.
“He built a legacy that any time you mention track or football, it’s like no one else ever coached here but Cornelsen,” Liberla high School ahtletic director Scott Hinkle said. “That is the legacy he built here.”
Cornelsen retired from Kansas in 2004 and moved to Texas where he continued his coaching career. But his most successful run was in Liberal, and while the current student body may not have played for him, Hinkle said they are aware of what Cornelsen did.
“Even though kids today don’t know who he is, there are not many discussion with football or track without his name being included,” he said.
School Board president Reid Petty was a student during Cornelsen’s tenure, and he also recognized the unique contirbution made by Cornelsen.
“What Coach Cornelsen did for Liberal will never be matched,” Petty said. “Not only was his accompishments on the field amazing, but also his ability to develop and teach high school students how to become successful in whatever they do in life.”
Cornelsen had the ability to get students to participate, and that relationship between student and coach continued to drive push athletes to be their best.
“Coach Cornelsen never gave up on a student or athlete,” Petty said. “He felt that everyone was capable of being the best, no matter how much talent they had.”
The ceremony to honor Cornelsen is scheduled to take place Sept. 30 during homecoming festivities at Redskin Field. Former athletes are invited to come join in the celebration along with the community as a whole.