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Fairmont Hall of Fame induction postponed to next fall

Deb Heinrich

FAIRMONT — “I can’t think of one aspect of life that hasn’t been affected, in some manner, by the current coronavirus pandemic,” said Fairmont High School activities director and Fairmont Athletic Hall of Fame chairman Mat Mahoney. “So, it comes as no surprise that the selection committee and I made the decision to postpone this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies to the weekend of our 2021 Homecoming.

“Our committee and school district not only want to honor our inductees in the best way possible, but we also want their families, friends and our Fairmont fans to feel safe at every event held on campus now and in the future.”

Mat Mahoney, who will enter his 14th season at the Cardinals’ perennial powerhouse football program this fall, will join cheerleading coach Deb Heinrich, football and baseball assistant coach Tom Seifert, and former student-athletes Brad Hested (1992), Shanna (Dawson) Hood (2004), JR Pooley (1994), Jamie (Rooney) Sternke (2004) and Josh Tietje (1991) in comprising the 25th overall class to be enshrined in the Fairmont Athletic Hall of Fame next fall.

Not only will Mat Mahoney, Deb Heinrich, Brad Hested, Tom Seifert and Josh Tietje join the Fairmont Athletic Hall of Fame’s extended family, but also will follow in the esteemed footsteps of actual family members next October.

Mat Mahoney will join FHS Hall of Fame creator and legendary football mentor Thomas Mahoney Sr. — his grandfather — and former Cardinal and Minnesota Gopher football standout Thomas Mahoney Jr. — his father. Thomas Mahoney Sr. was enshrined in 1995, while Thomas Mahoney Jr. was inducted in 2004.

Mat Mahoney, a multiple letterwinner in football, basketball and track & field at FHS, has compiled an impressive 95-43 overall coaching record — a .688 winning percentage — during his first 13 years at the Cardinals’ football helm.

The Minnesota State University-Mankato graduate and 1999 FHS alum has produced four state appearances, including a pair of runner-up showings in 2018 and 2011. He also earned the only Big South Conference football crown in 2014, shared the 2018 South Central Red District championship and won the outright South Central Silver District title in 2019.

Mat Mahoney, his wife Leanna, and daughters Nevaeh and Amaya, reside in rural Fairmont.

While the Mahoneys represent three generations in the HOF, Deb Heinrich earns the distinction of becoming FHS’ first wife-husband combination to merit selection.

Rod Heinrich, Deb’s spouse, took his rightful place in the HOF as one of the Cardinals’ all-time basketball greats in 1994. Ironically, Deb’s brothers-in-law — Les and Wes Heinrich — were later inducted in 2007.

Deb Heinrich merited a spot in the 2021 HOF class through her dedication to the school district as a coach in cheerleading and dance. She served as the Cardinals’ head cheer mentor from 1998-2018, in addition to organizing 35 elementary cheer clinics and 10 elementary dance clinics during her esteemed tenure.

Deb Heinrich also is still an active member in raising cancer awareness in the community by playing an integral role in both Fairmont’s Tackle Pink and Coaches vs. Cancer fundraising events each and every year.

Heinrich is still active in community-wide events in Fairmont.

Like Mahoney, Josh Tietje will become his talent-laden family’s third member to grace the walls of FHS for his outstanding athletic achievements in football and wrestling.

The 1991 Minnesota State High School League 189-pound state wrestling champion will join brother Jake Tietje, who also was a 189-pound state champion on the canvas, and three-sport standout and sister Jenna (Tietje) Gilday. Jake Tietje was inducted into the 2013 class, with Jenna Gilday being enshrined in 2015.

Josh Tietje, who was chosen to the Minnesota high school all-star football game in 1991, competed on both the gridiron and wrestling mat at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business communication.

Josh Tietje serves as the director of operations at the Ankeny, Iowa-based Mom’s Meals — an organization that works with more than 500 health and nutritional plans across the nation.

Josh, his wife Susan, and their children Aaron and Anna make their home in Ankeny, Iowa.

Similar to Tietje, Brad Hested also will join two family members in the Fairmont HOF, but it will be his father and brother. Brad Hested will take his place alongside his prep basketball coach Ron Hested, and older sibling Tim Hested, an all-state hoops choice like Brad. Ron Hested was inducted in 2002, while Tim was enshrined with the class of 2016.

The former state qualifier in football, basketball and tennis earned a bachelor’s degree in history, with a minor in English, from Minnesota State University-Mankato en route to currently being a territory sales manager with Duluth-based Ritchie Bros. — the largest industrial auctioneering company in the world.

Hested, wife Shalaya and their children Noah and Lauren make their home in Hermantown.

In reverse order of the Hesteds, Tom Seifert enters the HOF after his son Kyle Seifert — an all-stater in both football and baseball — was chosen in 2015.

Tom Seifert, a 1974 FHS graduate who also qualified as a prep football and baseball standout, will officially be enshrined for his dedicated longevity as a coach in the Cardinals’ baseball, softball, football and basketball programs during the past four-plus decades.

Tom Seifert served as an assistant varsity baseball coach for Mike Katzenmeyer, the Brad Huse-led Cardinals’ state runner-up team in 1993, and Jerry Brooks, in addition to making valuable contributions to Fairmont’s Kiwanis, VFW and American Legion baseball programs in the summer.

Seifert, who is a member of Fairmont’s football chain gang crew on Friday nights, ran the CER flag football program and recently coached the sport at the junior high level for Mat Mahoney. He also coached junior high boys basketball for the Cardinals before serving as a varsity softball assistant under Haley Loerts’ tenure in Fairmont.

The head of building custodian at Fairmont Elementary School and his wife Kris reside in Fairmont.

While Shanna (Dawson) Hood and Jamie (Rooney) Sternke are not related, the two both graduated from FHS in 2004 and competed on legendary mentor Bob Bonk’s state champion track & field teams during their esteemed careers.

Hood struck gold in the 2004 Class A state triple jump to complement a silver medal in pole vault to close out her prolific prep track & field career.

Hood went on to earn NCAA Division III All-American status in the pole vault at Gustavus Adolphus College before earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in coaching and geology in 2008.

Ironically, Hood and Sternke both completed their master’s degrees in school psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, with Hood finishing a three-year program and a two-year program concurrently in 2010.

Hood, who’s a school psychologist in the Mankato area, her husband Drew Hood, and their children Gabe and Lauren reside in Mankato.

Sternke, a perennial all-stater both athletically and academically in high school cross country and track & field, went on to compete in cross country for the Minnesota Gophers as a freshman before a torn tendon in track ended her collegiate career.

Sternke moved from the psychology work force to becoming a personal trainer and Level I coach at CrossFit in 2013 en route to being a current CrossFit coach at Detour Athletics in Rochester.

Sternke, husband Adam, and their children Denison and Rooney make their home in Rochester.

JR Pooley rounds out the elite eight to be selected to FHS’ Athletic HOF on the heels of winning a national football championship in 1995 as a wide receiver for the University of LaCrosse in Wisconsin.

The 1994 Minnesota Outstate All-Star football selection went on to play football his freshman year at Morningside before transferring to LaCrosse.

Pooley, who earned his business management/administration degree from UW-LaCrosse in 1998, joined his family’s business as owner of Pooley’s Scrap Iron in Fairmont and New Richland.

Pooley, who has coached both youth football and baseball in Fairmont, his wife Rachel and their children Levi and Brayden reside in Fairmont.

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