One in 1980. Two in 1981. Two more in ‘82 and another in ‘83. And don’t forget one apiece in ‘87 and ‘88.
There’s a reason -- or eight, really -- why the 1980s were dubbed “the glory decade” of Bemidji High School boys track and field.
“In my mind, most of it gets pointed to (longtime coach) Dick Phelps,” said Nick Berg, a 1983 graduate and the last in a four-year string of state champions. “He demanded people buy in, work hard. He didn’t put up with any halfway. We all had to go all the way. And there were some talented athletes who bought in.”
The Lumberjacks produced eight individual state championships during the 1980s, easily the program’s most dominant and decorated era. And if you ask the man in charge, that bunch had the combination needed for success.
“Bemidji’s got a talented group of boys and girls every year,” Phelps said. “When, all of a sudden, preparation meets opportunity, they happen to come (to fruition).”
Perhaps part of the equation is Phelps, who was an assistant at the start of the decade and had risen to the head post by the end of it. His former players lauded his mind and his influence.
“Coach Phelps, he worked us really hard all season long,” Berg said. “He was just outstanding at (a taper program). By the end of the season, we all felt the bounce in our legs and felt like we could outrun the wind and jump over the moon.”
“We were always competitive in everything,” Hoven added. “The one common denominator was Phelps. I wouldn’t have done it without (our coaches). They’re the ones that pushed me.”
Phelps, however, isn’t so convinced.
“The big thing was the pride for BHS,” Phelps said. “They did it for blue and white. They’re not doing it for Dick Phelps. … It was for Bemidji.”