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Carpenter, Nei to join Hall of Fame

Dick Carpenter and Gene Nei will be inducted into the Park Rapids Athletic Hall of Fame during this year's All Sports Banquet on May 20 at the Area High School gym.

Carpenter served as the Panthers' girls track and field coach from 1985-1999, the girls cross-country coach from 1987-1998 and the boys cross-country coach from 1990-1998.

Nei, a 1951 Park Rapids graduate, was a four-year letterwinner in football and a two-year letterwinner in track and field for the Panthers. Nei went on to play football at Gustavus Adolphus, earning All-American honors his senior season.

Carpenter and Nei will become the eighth and ninth inductees into the Hall of Fame. They will join 2007 inductees Amber (Bohman) Olson, Mark Costello, Darril Larison and Tammy (McGrane) Fox and 2008 inductees Jane Besler, Andy McCarty and Beth (Morris) Hirt.

The induction of Carpenter and Nei will be among the highlights of the 32nd annual All Sports Banquet. Tickets for the banquet are $12 and can be purchased in the office of the Park Rapids Area High School. The reservation deadline is Friday, May 15. Seating for the banquet begins at 5:30 with the banquet starting at 6:15.

Dick Carpenter

Bringing athletes to state became a regular trip for Carpenter during the 1990s.

During Carpenter's 15 years as the Panthers' head girls track and field coach, Park Rapids won the Subsection 29-A title 15 times, captured the Section 8A title twice, won the Section 8AA True Team title twice and scored points at the state meet 11 times.

The Panthers brought home 26 individual and relay medals from state during that time and finished third at the state Class A meet in 1992 and 1993 and fifth in 1994. Carpenter coached seven state champions: Amber Bohman in the 100 and 200 in 1992 and 1993; Bohman, Tracie Popma, Jill Klotz, Jill Carlson and Beth Morris in the 4 x 200 relay in 1994 and 1995; and Morris in the 300 hurdles in 1998. The Panthers won the Section 8A and Section 8AA True Team titles in 1994 and 1995 and were the section runners-up in 1985 and 1993.

Carpenter, who graduated from Park Rapids in 1958, also led the Park Rapids boys cross-country team to seven consecutive state meets in the 1990s.

Park Rapids won the Section 8A title in 1992, 1994 and 1995 and was the section runner-up in 1991, 1993, 1996 and 1997. At state, the Panthers finished sixth in 1995 and eighth in 1994 with Dane Larson earning all-state honors both years. The Panthers also won the Mid-State Conference title in 1992 and 1994.

Carpenter also led the Park Rapids girls cross-country team to state in 1997 as the Section 8A champs and in 1998 as the section runner-up. The Panthers also won the Mid-State title in 1993.

"It is very rewarding watching young people develop confidence, self-esteem and the importance of team work," said Carpenter, who coached for more than 30 years. "Many young athletes learned that hard work and dedication are important life-long aspects which pay dividends."

Gene Nei

Nei had an outstanding high school career at Park Rapids before becoming an All-American football player at Gustavus.

At Park Rapids, Nei was a varsity letterwinner in football four years, capping off his senior season by earning Minneapolis Star & Tribune all-state honorable mention honors in 1951. Nei also lettered in track two seasons.

At Gustavus, Nei played right guard on four MIAC championship teams. He was co-captain his senior season in 1954. Gustavus went 23-1 in conference play during Nei's four years. Nei was an all-conference selection in 1952 and 1954, was named the Gusties' Most Valuable Player in 1954 and was an Associated Press First Team Small College All-American in 1954.

After graduating from Gustavus, Nei was a teacher and coach at Hawley from 1956-1958 and at Prior Lake from 1959-1989.

Nei was inducted into the Gustavus Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Prior Lake Hall of Fame in 2004.

"I feel that through athletics you establish a feeling of who you are and self worth," said Nei. "While at Park Rapids and Gustavus, I had the good fortune of having great parents, teachers, coaches, classmates and teammates. It was a real community effort. I took many of these concepts and tried to incorporate them into my work, my family and my life."