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Kavanagh inducted into Tribune's Hall of Fame

Chuck Kavanagh watches the final moments of KMS' Class A semifinal win over Springfield Nov. 15. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

WILLMAR -- After a stellar high school and collegiate athletic career, Chuck Kavanagh went on to become a successful coach at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg.

That three-prong career impressed voters, who elected Kavanagh as the 21st member of the Tribune Sports Hall of Fame.

Kavanagh was named on 17 of the 23 ballots returned. He received five first-place votes and finished with 114 points overall based on a 10-7-5-3-1 point system.

The top vote-getter among our 10 finalists, plus anyone averaging 7.5 points or more get inducted into our Hall of Fame each year. The Hall of Fame began in 1999.

"This is quite an honor," said Kavanagh. "You look at those elected before and there are some awfully elite people in the (Tribune) Hall of Fame. To even be considered with the people that are in there means a lot to me."

Showing the strength of the 10 finalists this year, nine received at least one first-place vote.

Norm Sixta, a 1954 Willmar graduate who went on to play football for the Minnesota Gophers, was second in the balloting with 83 points. Cindy Haugejorde, a 1976 New London-Spicer graduate who later become a standout basketball player for the Iowa Hawkeyes, was third with 65 points.

Kavanagh retired as KMS head football coach four years ago, but continues to assist the KMS football program. In 26 seasons as head coach at KMS, he compiled a 129-102 record that included seven Prairie Conference titles and two state tournament appearances. He was inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

"It takes every kid to make a team," said Kavanagh. "I had some pretty good kids and (assistant) coaches along the way. It's not all just one person."

Kavanagh was a standout four-sport athlete at Murdock and finished runner-up to Rob Anderson in the Tribune Hengstler (now Hengstler-Ranweiler) Award for top male high school athlete in the area. He was in football, basketball, baseball and track.

In his prep basketball career, Kavanagh scored 943 points and holds the Murdock single-game scoring mark of 44 points.

He was a three-sport athlete at Willmar Community College (now Ridgewater College) and was an All-American football player. He rushed for 1,946 yards and 29 touchdowns and also had 11 touchdown receptions in his two seasons there. In one game, Kavanagh rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns in only seven carries.

He also qualified twice for the nationals in the high hurdles and averaged 12.1 points-per-game for the Warriors' basketball team. He was named the Outstanding Male Athlete at Willmar Community College in 1969.

He then went on to play football for two seasons at South Dakota State University and was all-conference both years.

After his athletic career came to a close, Kavanagh joined the coaching ranks and began as an assistant coach at SDSU for two seasons and then as an assistant football and head track coach at WCC for three years.

He then was hired as the head football coach at Osage (Iowa) High School, where he spent two years. He then came to KMS in 1979 and was the boys basketball head coach for four seasons and the girls head coach for 11 seasons. He even spent one year as athletic director.

Kavanagh and his wife, Collette, now spend a lot of time at their cabin on Ottertail Lake near Battle Lake. He now enjoys pheasant hunting, fishing and woodworking.

"I still get to a few games around the area," Kavanagh said. "I'm really liking this retired life."