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Five individuals who made their mark at Evanston Township High School have been added to the ETHS Athletic Hall of Fame after being selected by a committee of administrators, coaches and community members.
Eddie Cole, Diving
Body control, feeling, timing, coordination and balance are ingredients needed to become a state champion diver.
And for two-time state champion Eddie Cole, Class of 1954, those traits also paid off in an NCAA championship – in men’s gymnastics.
One of the most versatile athletes ever to come out of ETHS, Cole didn’t focus on gymnastics until he went to the University of Michigan. His work ethic and physical ability translated to even more success for someone who never lost a diving competition in high school as a junior or senior.
At ETHS, he was undefeated in dual meets as a varsity athlete; won Suburban League diving titles both years; and earned back-to-back Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State crowns, establishing a State record as a senior with 218.15 points.
Cole’s two titles came under different scoring criteria used by the IHSA. As a junior, his point total was a combination of preliminary and final dives over two days. As a senior, only the finals counted. Those two individual titles helped put the Wildkits over the top in pursuit of team championships both years, too.
At Michigan, Cole placed fourth in 1-meter diving at the NCAA Championships, then switched his focus to gymnastics. He won Big Ten Conference titles in 1957, 1958 and 1959, and placed third in the NCAA Championships in 1957 and again in 1958 before earning the NCAA crown in 1959.
He was a member of the USA National gymnastics team for three straight years and earned acclaim as the “World Professional Diving Champion” featured on ABC-TV’s Wide World of Sports in 1962.
John Dunkas, Soccer
Want proof that good things come in small packages? John Dunkas, Class of 1979, left an impact on the Evanston soccer program as the only Wildkit ever chosen to the Parade All-American team while listed at a robust 5-foot-6, 135 pounds during his playing career.
As a junior, Dunkas teamed with All-State teammate Joe Smith at forward to form one of the best front lines in school history. He was selected all-conference and all-sectional that season.
As a senior, he led the Wildkits to a runner-up finish at the Illinois High School Association State finals. As team captain, he earned all-conference, all-sectional and All-State honors and was also selected to the all-tournament team at the state finals.
Head coach Ken McGonagle described Dunkas as “135 pounds of dynamite. He was a forward who had an unusual flair for the game,” he said. “He had spectacular skills.”
Former ETHS coach Tom Chmela gained an appreciation of Dunkas while trying to stop him as the head coach at Gordon Tech.
“John was one of the finest and most dangerous players I’ve ever coached against,” Coach Chmela said. “He is truly deserving of this (Hall of Fame) honor.”
Dunkas arrived at ETHS just as soccer was starting to take off when it came to interest and State-wide participation in the sport. And, at his size, he knew football or basketball were not really options.
“I was too short to play basketball or football, and I thought baseball was boring,” Dunkas recalled. “But I was always very fast, and in soccer your size really didn’t matter. I started late, in a park district program when I was in sixth grade, and I really started to play competitive soccer when I was a sophomore.
“My freshmen and sophomore years soccer gained some recognition at the high school, and it really gained a lot of traction my junior year. People really started to follow us then. There was a big caravan when we went Downstate as a senior. I still follow the soccer team and I’m very, very proud to be part of the soccer tradition at Evanston.”
Evanston compiled an 18-2-3 record en route to that runner-up State finish in the fall of 1978, losing only to Glenbrook North early in the season before bowing to Granite City, 2-0, in the State title game at Illinois State University.
“I think I was the only returning player that year, and everyone wrote us off. We weren’t ranked in the top 20, but we just kept knocking off teams right and left,” he said. “I remember playing at New Trier West for their Homecoming game, and some girls passed by me on one of their floats and said, ‘we’re gonna cream you.’ Instead, we beat the pants off them, 2-0, and the coach from Indiana University made a point of coming up to me and saying that was the best game he’d ever seen. That was a culminating moment for me.”
Dunkas delivered one goal in a 4-1 State quarterfinal victory over Chicago Roosevelt, and contributed one goal and one assist as the Kits edged Forest View, 3-2, in overtime in the semifinals. That set up a championship showdown with Granite City.
“I still remember the day the final took place,” Dunkas said. “The weather was so bad that we begged them to wait another day to play it, but they didn’t. There was heavy rain and sleet on the Astro Turf down in Normal, and we didn’t have the right shoes. It was like a skating rink, and we played in tennis shoes or flats. Granite City had all of these boxes of turf shoes, and that’s why they beat us. The final score was not indicative of the game.”
Dunkas gained some consolation after the season, when Parade magazine named him to its first ever All-American high school soccer 40-man team. The magazine had previously picked all-star teams only in basketball and football.
He played at Miami University in Ohio for three years after leaving ETHS and started all three seasons. The school was forced to shut down the men’s program his senior year because of funding issues and the introduction of Title IX legislation.
“I don’t even know what any of my stats were back in high school, because we were all about the team back then,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed and very honored by the selection to the Hall of Fame.”
Tameeka McFarlane, Track
No high school girl competing in the 300-meter hurdles event ever really masters that race.
There is always some tweaking to do, and that can lead to a lot of frustration during season-long training and competition, even for those who are winning races.
But everything clicked for Tameeka McFarlane on the final day of her high school career in 1997. She climaxed her four-year run at ETHS with three gold medal performances and smashed the 300 hurdle State record while leading the Wildkits to their second IHSA team championship.
For her career, McFarlane hauled home a staggering 14 medals from the IHSA finals. But winning the 300 hurdles for the second straight year proved to be something special.
“It seems like there’s always something in the hurdles,” said McFarlane, now an assistant coach at Evanston. “Whether it’s missed steps, or you’re too high on a hurdle, there’s always something to work on. Then for me, that last race of my high school career was when everything came together. I ran a perfect race.”
She repeated as the 300 champ with a record time of 42.33 seconds, won the 100 hurdles event in 14.62 – the only runner to break 15 seconds in a race she never really focused on until her season season – and capped off her career with a solid leg for the victorious 1600-meter relay team that posted the fifth fastest time in Illinois history.
McFarlane helped set the hurdles standard for other Wildkit greats who followed her, like Natasha Foreman and Shalina Clarke, who also won state titles. She is also part of a line of succession that started with Renee Murphy and Gabrielle Mead before her.
“I had a good career, and I really feel honored to go into the Hall of Fame,” McFarlane said. “I remember when I used to walk past (former great) Pam Page’s plaque in the hall at school, and now it’s really humbling to be put in that category of excellence.
“My freshman year I sucked in the hurdles, and it got to the point where I told the coaches don’t ask me to run it again. But my sophomore year I had a good time in the (open) 400 and they said why not try it again? So Ok, I trusted the coaches. The first time it was ugly, but I did have a good time that day. And I never lost a 300 hurdles race after that.”
McFarlane earned a full scholarship to Northeast Louisiana State University, where she was the 1999 South Conference champion in the 400 hurdles and still holds the school record of 59.67 in that race.
She then transferred to the University of Georgia, where she ranks 6th on the all-time list in the 400 hurdles. She qualified for the NCAA indoor and outdoor nationals in 2001 as a member of the 1600 relay team for the Bulldogs.
Shirley Nannini, Coach/Athletic Director
When the ETHS administration decided to use two people instead of one in the position of athletic director back in 1981, there were not enough hours in the week for Shirley Nannini to also continue coaching both girls tennis and girls badminton.
So she chose badminton along with her athletic director duties, and the rest is ETHS history.
Nannini is the only female coach in school history to win an IHSA State championship, in 1992, and guided the Wildkit girls program to six other top three finishes at the State finals before retiring in 2010.
That State title was just a small part of the Highland Park product’s contributions at ETHS. She served as co-athletic director for 16 years with the late Willie May and oversaw the unparalleled growth of opportunities for female athletes at the school. She also fought for gender equity on the coaching pay scale, served as president of the Badminton Coaches Association, was a multiple winner of the Coach of the Year state award in badminton, and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Illinois Athletic Director’s Association.
But her greatest satisfaction was teaching a sport, badminton, that few of her players had ever been exposed to before walking into ETHS.
“I had to decide which one I’d keep, and badminton was so much more fun,” she recalled. “That’s a sport where you really saw the fruits of your labor. I love teaching and building relationships with kids, and I absolutely loved coaching badminton.
“Being the athletic director was also such a challenging job. There were so many difficulties, but also a lot of satisfaction in having a chance to orchestrate the program and point it in a direction where I could fight wholeheartedly for what I thought the girls deserved. I tried to push and make some incremental changes, and I feel good about what we did. I feel very fortunate to have ended up at ETHS. I can’t imagine a better fit for me.”
Nannini played golf, tennis, badminton, volleyball and softball at Highland Park, then made her mark at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse in both tennis and badminton. In tennis, she was a State doubles champ in 1974 for a team that never lost a dual meet in her three years on the varsity. In badminton, she helped her school to top four finishes in the nation for three years in a row; won State doubles crowns in 1974, 1975 and 1976; was State singles runner-up in 1976; and eventually was inducted into the Wisconsin-LaCrosse Hall of Fame.
One of her most memorable seasons at ETHS came in 1992, when the Wildkits ran the table and outscored Palatine, 18-12, at the IHSA state tournament held at rival New Trier. Linda Li captured the runner-up spot in singles, suffering her only loss in the final match, and the doubles teams of Cara Murphy/Sabina Yun and Nikki Toyama/Stephanie Anderson both scored top six finishes. Brigid McRaith added three more singles wins to Evanston’s point total.
“I’m definitely proud of that State championship, and that was a really nice group of kids,” she said. “But the one thing I remember about that year is the Rodney King incident, when some Evanston students decided to walk through downtown Evanston in protest.”
ETHS was scheduled to host the Central Suburban League championship meet that Friday and Saturday, but anticipating racial problems, five schools decided not to make the trip to Evanston on that Friday night for singles competition.
Everyone showed up on Saturday – “I was really hopping mad at them by then” Nannini said – and the Wildkits scored an unprecedented sweep of all five doubles spots on that day.
Leo J. Samuelson, Athletic Director
When Leo J. Samuelson retired as athletic director at ETHS in June 1975, the administration reorganized the department and divided up his duties among several people.
One of the reasons was that no single individual could take his place.
Samuelson, who guided ETHS from 1942 to 1975, left a legacy that few educators can match. He presided over what some called the Golden Era of ETHS athletics and was largely responsible for that success because he had a knack for hiring talented coaches.
Samuelson hired three coaches – Bob Reihsen, Karl Plath and Murney Lazier – who helped the Wildkits dominate high school football for 25 years. He also hired Dobbie Burton, Ken McGonagle, Jack Burmaster and Ron Helberg, just to name a few.
At a retirement dinner in his honor back in 1975, Samuelson himself recalled that Evanston was not exactly a State or Suburban League power in many sports when he took over in 1942.
“Athletics here were at a low ebb when I got here,” he said. “There were a lot of coaching positions open here at the high school because several of the older coaches had just retired. I went with youth in hiring coaches from the outside, and almost overnight Evanston became a sports power.”
Samuelson, a native of Decorah, Iowa, served as athletic director at four different schools before coming to Evanston. At ETHS, he held every conceivable position except superintendent. At one time or another he was administrative assistant, principal at Bacon School, assistant principal of summer school, home room director, director of special education, faculty adviser for the Booster Club, chairman of the assembly committee, athletics director, supervisor of boys physical education, supervisor of health services, physical education instructor, assistant varsity football coach, and sponsor of the badminton club.
“I sat down and figured it out one day, and they had two athletic directors, two heads of PE and a couple of assistants after Leo left,” said Hall of Fame swim coach Burton. “It cost them about $100,000 (per year) to replace him.”
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the man,” added Burmaster, who succeeded Samuelson as athletic director. “He’s one of the most fair and honest people I ever knew. I was a basketball nut, but he had no favorites. He treated everyone in the program fairly. He went out of his way to help you with whatever you needed. He wanted to win just as much as the coaches did.”