Fergus Falls pastor, Mark Tungseth was a high school junior member of the 1974 Hillcrest Comet team that won the National Christian High School Invitational Basketball Tournament played at John Brown University in Arkansas.
Tungseth was one of five inductees May 23 into the Hillcrest Academy Sports Hall of Fame. The entire team from 1974, known as “the Hillcrest Legacy Team,” were among the inductees in 2018.
This national recognition for the Comets came just two years prior to Hillcrest becoming a member of the Minnesota State High School League.
The Comets finished third in the national invitational in 1973. They came back with confidence the following year, winning the title.
Back in 1974, Fergus Falls residents were glued to their radios listening to play by play in Arkansas by the late Oats LeGrand. The Comet players and coaches, including head coach Bill Colbeck, affectionately referred to LeGrand as “Grand Oats.”
I had the privilege of covering the 1974 Comets, on occasion, for the late Daily Journal sports editor Bruce Bakke.
During halftime of one of the three games during the national tournament in Arkansas, LeGrand interviewed the John Brown U athletic director, Wally Moon. He was a former Los Angeles Dodgers player known for his “moon shot” home runs when the Dodgers first played in the LA Coliseum, prior to completion of the new Dodger Stadium.
In 1959, the year the Dodgers won the World Series over the Chicago White Sox, the coliseum left-field fence was only 250 feet from home plate, but there also was a 40-foot fence.
Moon, a left-handed batter, consulted with friend and baseball star Stan Musial. Moon adjusted his batting stance to emphasize hitting to left field. This proved to be highly successful.
Another inductee May 23 into the Hillcrest Academy Sports Hall of Fame was former Comet assistant coach and statistician Paul Levang. He was recognized as a real “difference maker” in the lives of Hillcrest athletes and students.
In fact, “Difference Maker” appears on his Hillcrest Academy Sports Hall of Fame plaque.
“I was afforded, or found ways to serve my Lord in the classroom, in the office, and in athletics among the Hillcrest students and fellow coaches,” Levang said.
Levang was also a Fergus Falls Junior College classmate of mine in the mid-1960s. We lived through the era of the flamboyant Tommy Matthews who coached the Spartan men’s basketball team prior to the hiring of Dave Retzlaff.
Other 2019 inductees included Hillcrest football star Gerry Erickson, Class of 1964; the late soccer goalkeeper Svein Mella, Class of 2002; and Dan Nersten, outstanding Comet basketball player and 2014 Hillcrest grad.
This was the third Hillcrest Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Charter members in 2017 included Bill Colbeck Scott Colbeck, Jody Christenson, Jesse Keller, Nick Hansen, Jorgen Greve and Jared Schultz.
Members of the 2018 class of inductees were Richard Risbrudt, Pernie Walla, Jeff Martinson, Nick Mundis and Hanne Dale.
It was a highly enjoyable evening on May 23. As Bob Hope used to say, “Thanks for the memories.”
1975 also a good year for the Comets
The Hillcrest basketball team returned to Arkansas to defend its national title from 1974. Mark Tungseth played well his senior year, and Hillcrest finished just short of winning a second national title
“Taking third in 1973, winning the national title in 1974 and taking second place in 1975 was something to be proud of,” said Paul Levang.
In 1975 Tungseth started along with twins Dan and Delbert Haakenson, Myron Olsoe and Randy Trettevik.
“Dan was a fairly tall player, good rebounder and could score around the basket,” Levang said.
Levang also remembers 1982 when Hillcrest played in the first Prep Bowl football finals in the Metrodome, the new home of the Twins and Vikings.
The Comets lost to Westbrook, a town southeast of Marshall in southwest Minnesota.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.