Mention the word marathon in Fergus Falls and the name Eric Loeffler quickly comes to mind.

The 1995 Fergus Falls High School graduate, who starred in cross country and track for the Otters and was an all-conference performer in those same sports at NDSU in Fargo, will be inducted into the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame on July 20.

“Fergus coach Terry Harrington, now retired, is responsible for starting me on this journey,” Loeffler said.

He had support of family, friends and the community of Fergus Falls in general as he chased goals into his mid-years.

Witness the year 2015.

That’s when Loeffler was the Fargo Half Marathon champion and finished in the top 15 at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth.

He was an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier at Houston in 2012 and at Los Angeles in 2016. He’ll be in Olympic trials competition at Atlanta in 2020 when his fans in Fergus Falls will again give him their utmost support.

His lifetime personal bests include 4:18 in the mile run, 1:04:30 in the half marathon and 2:16:48 in the marathon.

Loeffler is the former FFHS 3200 meter school record holder. He was North Central Conference All-Conference cross country with NDSU in 1997 and North Central Conference All-Conference track and field in 1999.

More about Chamber Sports Hall of Fame

The Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame will honor six new inductees in 2019.

A ceremony, open to the public, will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, at the Fergus Falls VFW with Craig Olson as MC.

Inductees for 2019 include Eric Loeffler, Justin Arneson, Scott Colbeck, Cindy Harthun Waasdorp, Linda Knutson Brophy and Jon Kretchman.

This brings to 90 the total number of inductees into the Chamber Sports Hall of Fame. Charter members were inducted in 1986.

A permanent display is in place at the front entrance to Kennedy Secondary School. Visitors can sign in at the main office and see the display during regular school hours. The display can also be seen when the school is open for various evening occasions.

Honorees include not only Fergus Falls High School graduates and coaches. Other inductees include members of the Fergus Falls Red Sox town baseball team, Hillcrest and M State athletes and coaches, trapshooters, snowmobilers, boxing club coaches, barefoot water-ski participants, members of the sports media, outstanding Otter fans and others.

Barefoot waterski sport recognized

Recognizing sports “outside the box” is an ongoing goal of the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of commerce Sports Hall of Fame selection committee.

An example is the selection of Jon Kretchman, a 1990 graduate of Fergus Falls High School, who helped in the establishment of the Upper Midwest Barefoot Water ski Team.

His hometown of Fergus Falls was proud to host the 1996 and 2000 world championships, on the reservoir of the Otter Tail River near Pisgah Dam on the west side of town.

That’s where Kretchman was also the owner/operator of Jon Kretchman’s Water Sports from 1990 to 2000.

A year ago, Kretchman was inducted into the USA Water Ski Hall of Fame.

On the world stage, he was a five-time world champion USA Barefoot Water Ski Team member, being captain of three teams.

He broke nine world records while competing and went on to coach another three world championship USA teams after retiring.  He attained four national championships, four US Open championships, 10 national records, 11 consecutive Midwest Regional Overall Championships and was Minnesota Overall Champion 15 consecutive years.

In 1996, during ESPN X-Game competition, he won the silver medal in barefoot jumping.

At Fergus Falls High School he was an outstanding all-around Otter athlete, lettering in football, hockey and track.

His brother, Len Kretchman, was inducted into the Chamber Hall of Fame in 2012.

Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.

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