Denfeld News

Sept. 29, 2007
Duluth News Tribune

UMD inducts five into Hall of Fame
By Andy Greder

As an adolescent in the 1960s, Linda Larson couldn’t comprehend why she could play sports with her brother, Don, on the streets of their hometown Chicago, but not in organized leagues.

“I didn’t understand why women couldn’t play,” Larson said Wednesday. “The only difference was that he was a man and I was a woman. It was unfair.”

Larson worked to change that inequality as Minnesota Duluth’s coordinator of women’s athletics from 1975 to 2002. During her 27-year tenure, she also coached volleyball, softball and women’s basketball.

Larson, Scott Gernander, Shjon Podein, Ed Lundstrom and Diane Ruhl will be inducted into UMD’s Athletic Hall of Fame today at the Kirby Student Center Ballroom.

As volleyball coach, Larson’s teams totaled 287 wins (an 83 percent winning percentage), with consecutive 59-6 seasons in 1977 and 1978, five straight Minnesota Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships and three Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference titles.

“[Current volleyball coach Jim] Boos was very appreciative of the foundation of a strong program,” said Larson, 58. “It’s great to see how much success the current team has had. It’s exciting to see what we started with and what has happened now. It’s also important for the new people to know the history. I hope people don’t forget that [women’s programs were not] always there.”

Larson, who lives in Shoreview, Minn., won the 1999 President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the University of Minnesota system and the UMD Outstanding Woman of the Year Award bears her name.

“We worked hard and it’s great to see growth,” Larson said. “With the Girls Scouts, the YWCA, I would talk about UMD athletics and get involved wherever possible.”

About the other inductees:

* Football and basketball player Scott Gernander earned UMD’s Outstanding Senior Athlete Award for 1968-69, but he said a compliment from then-football coach Jim Malosky was his highest honor at the school.

With UMD’s starter attending his father’s funeral, Gernander was named starting quarterback against Gustavus Adolphus in 1968, despite having a broken thumb.

With the cast removed, Gernander threw a touchdown pass and led UMD on a late drive that stalled in a 10-6 loss.

As the Bulldogs left the field after the game, Malosky approached Gernander, who typically played split end and defensive back.

“Malosky didn’t take to losing too well,” said Gernander, now 59. “He grabbed me by the facemask and said, ‘You were a man out there today.’ That was it. It was the greatest compliment I got in sports and was something that I will always remember.”

Gernander, who grew up in Duluth, reflects on Malosky while coaching basketball at San Jacinto College in the Houston, Texas, area.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him or how he would have dealt with a situation,” Gernander said. “It was everything he did — from his work ethic to the way he treated his players.”

At San Jacinto, Gernander has carried over the Malosky mentality while earning a 542-128 record and two National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division I second-place finishes in 1997 and 2003. He also coached future NBA guards Sam Cassell and Steve Francis.

* Shjon Podein of Rochester, Minn., played three seasons for the Bulldogs hockey team and posted a team-leading 39 points in 35 games as a senior in 1989-90. Podein’s professional career included 826 NHL games for Edmonton, Philadelphia, Colorado and St. Louis from 1992-2003.

* Ed Lundstrom of Two Harbors set single-season UMD football records for pass competitions (50), passing yards (870) and total offense (1,107).He earned four letters in football, three in basketball and two in track from 1958-61. After graduation, Lundstrom had a 41-year career with UMD’s Health, Physical Education and Recreation department.

* As an outside hitter, Diane Ruhl of Hopkins, Minn., led UMD’s volleyball team to three NSIC championships in 1980, 1981 and 1983. With the 1984 softball team, the right-handed pitcher posted a 9-1 record, allowed one run in 67 2/3 innings and her 0.10 ERA remains a school record.

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