By RICK PETERSON
It's been a while since Ben Meseke and Rick Strecker, who combined to win an amazing 17 state championships in four sports, left Hayden Catholic High School.
But then again, the coaching greats, who both now live in the Kansas City area, never really left.
Meseke and Strecker were back on campus Saturday night as part of the first class of inductees into the Hayden Hall of Fame and said as soon as they walked through the front doors of the school they knew there were home.
"They wanted some pictures so I was looking through yearbooks and then you walk in the doors and I feel my classmates from the '70s and I feel the students who I taught and all the wonderful people that I worked with,'' said Strecker, who filled a variety of roles at Hayden, including serving as the school's president for nearly two decades.
Meseke said he can't think about Hayden, and his two decades-plus at the school, without getting a flutter in his heart.
"It's never left,'' Meseke said. "I don't get it, it's there.''
Meseke and Strecker were inducted Saturday night along with the late Ken Bueltel, former Wildcat star player Mark Turgeon and Ken McGarity.
Strecker was inducted for alumni achievement, Meseke and Bueltel for staff achievement, Turgeon for student athletic/activity achievement and McGarity as a Hayden contributor.
Strecker, who continues to teach and coach girls basketball at Blue Valley West High School, said it meant a lot to him to be inducted alongside Meseke.
"It means a tremendous amount because I looked up to him so much over the years and he was kind of a role model for both Kathy (Strecker) and I, and being able to be recognized with him is I think a huge honor for me, just to be mentioned in the same breath and in the same function,'' said Strecker, who coached Hayden to five state championships in girls basketball and girls track. "And then to top that off with the other people I've admired, like coach Bueltel and Mr. McGarity and Mark Turgeon is a real blessing.''
Turgeon was a star for Meseke on back to back state championship basketball teams in the early 1980s, including the 1983 team that posted the first perfect season in city boys history.
Another star on that team, Kansas Sports Hall of Famer and Washburn University national champion Tom Meier, was in attendence Saturday and Meseke said that athletes like Turgeon and Meier and countless others had a huge impact on his success -- six state titles in basketball and six in cross country.
"They had everything to do with it,'' Meseke said. "And it wasn't just the kids, it was Bobby Taul, Jerry Simecka, Rick Strecker, Kathy Strecker with cross country. It was all of them.''
And although Meseke is also a member of the Topeka Shawnee County Hall of Fame and the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association shrine, he said that Saturday's honor holds a special place for him.
"Any time it's associated with Hayden, it just means so much.''
Hayden Hall of Fame inductee capsules:
KEN BUELTEL -- Buelet was posthumously inducted as one of two inductees for Hayden staff a chievement. Bueltel was Hayden’s basketball coach from 1953 to 1972, compiling a 309-152 record. He was inducted into the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1988 and theTopeka Shawnee County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. Nicknamed “the Silver Fox”, Bueltel also taught history and served as Hayden athletic director and was among those who helped to get the Ken Bueltel Activities Complex built in the early 70's.
KEN McGARITY -- McGarity was the 2021 inductee for Hayden contributor achievement. McGarity volunteered at Hayden from 1977 to 2017 and accumulated over 16,000 hours of volunteer work. He volunteered in a number of capacities during his 40 years at Hayden, including concessions, spirit wear and the Parents & Alumni for Catholic Education auction. McGarity assisted with the implementation of what is known as PACE and was the treasurer until his retirement in 2017. Ken’s five children are graduates of Hayden.
BEN MESEKE -- Meseke was one of two inductees for Hayden staff achievement, along with Bueltel. Meseke's boys basketball teams made 13 state tournament appearances in the Class 4A tournament, claiming six championships, including a perfect season in 1983. During the two decades-plus he spent at Hayden from 1973 to 1997, Meseke also coached 19 out of 20 cross country teams to state berths, winning six state championships. Meseke taught mathematics courses, including advanced classes in algebra and geometry, for 23 years.
RICK STRECKER -- Strecker, a 1976 Hayden graduate, was selected as the 2021 inductee for Hayden alumni achievement. Strecker was the 1976 student council president and athlete of the year. He taught physics and chemistry during his career at Hayden and served as the president of Hayden Catholic High School for nearly two decades. Strecker also served as the head girls basketball coach and track coach, winning five state championship titles. Strecker's wife, Kathy, was also a highly-successful state championship cross country coach at Hayden.
MARK TURGEON -- A 1983 Hayden grad, Turgeon was selected as the inductee for Hayden student athletic/activity achievement. Turgeon was a star guard and helped Hayden capture consecutive Class 4A state championships in 1982 and 1983, including a perfect season in '83. Turgeon played at Kansas for coach Larry Brown and played in the 1986 Final Four before going on to a successful college coaching career. Turgeon was inducted into the Topeka Shawnee County Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.