The North Bend Eagle


Push by athletes brought girls sports into being

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/3/22

From 1926 to 1971, there were no organized high school girls sports in North Bend, but that wasn’t necessarily the case around the state.

See the Aug. 3, 2022, Eagle for for six pages of history, interviews and stories from the early years of NBC girls athletics.

Though there were no official state tournaments until the 1970s, high school volleyball, track and softball teams could be found around the state, primarily at smaller schools. For the most part, large schools did not offer interscholastic competition.

Lancaster County had a volleyball tournament in 1937. MUDECAS was crowning a volleyball champion by 1945 in southeast Nebraska. Future NBC coach Karen Nicodemus graduated from Mead in 1971 and played volleyball all four years, as did her older sisters. Often times the volleyball games would be played before boys basketball games in the winter.

However, there was no basketball, as that sport was banned by the Nebraska High School Athletic Association in 1926.

Many larger schools, and some medium schools like North Bend, had clubs called Girls Athletic Associations, or GAA, that sponsored intramural sports and tournaments amongst the classes.

North Bend High School organized its GAA in September 1939, which met at the city auditorium several times a week. Its first big event was hosting a girls six-on-six basketball tournament. The freshmen took the title. Boys basketball coach Otis Decker attended and named an all-tournament team of freshmen Barbra Boyd, Janet Sloss, Laverna Barber and juniors Donna Kruger, Phebe Sellhorn and Janet Boyd.

Coach Bill Lambrecht address his team’s huddle during the first NBC girls basketball game on Dec. 11, 1972 against Tekamah-Herman.

In March 1948, the North Bend girls got to test their abilities against other schools when they were invited to a “squaw scrimmage” hosted by the WAA of Midland College. The program consisted of ping-pong, badminton and volleyball, among other games. Eight girls were chosen to represent North Bend: Colette Emanuel, Carol Cherny, Charlene Tawney, Alice Jansen, Marilyn Bloch, Dorothy Karpisek, Jeanne Lux and Celine Emanuel.

As the 1960s wore on, more schools added girls athletic teams. Becky Kucera Hamliton, a 1972 graduate of North Bend Central, was in high school when NBC added its first girls sports teams. She traced the rise of girls team sports to a summer softball program begun in 1968 by Richard “Doc” Halladay.

“He’s the man that stood up and said I’m going to put together a team,” Hamilton said.

Halladay wanted his daughter Elise to have a chance to play ball, so he invited other girls around Elise’s age to play. The North Bend Flyers were good, winning several league titles in the years they played together. Third baseman Becky Kucera was one of the younger players on the team.

“(Halladay) was the greatest gift,” she said. “He came to North Bend and started a team and it was exceptional. We loved it, and we were great athletes. There were many of us. We came together and we had the best of times, but there was talent.”

For many of those talented athletes summer softball, and perhaps swim team at the city pool, was their only chance to compete. For Kucera and others, that would be changing soon.

Read the full story in the print or e-edition.

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