Hall of Fame – Tom Haase

Tom Haase Inducted in

Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame

Published Wednesday
Aurora News Register

Haase a Husky Hall of Famer

Coaches say former star had combination of speed, athletic ability and leadership skills

by Kurt Johnson

Twenty-one years after hanging up his Husky uniform, one of Aurora’s most celebrated athletes has added another honor to his resume.

Tom Haase will be one of 18 honorees inducted in September as new members of the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. The multi-sport star, now a medical supply salesman in Omaha, said he was humbled by the news.

“High school sports was a long time ago, but at the same time I know the only reason I’m being inducted is that I was surrounded by a lot of good athletes,” Haase said. “We grew up together and we all made each other better.”

Indeed, 1986-87 was a continuous highlight reel for Husky fans.

With Haase under center the football team lost two games early, then got on a roll and made it to the state finals, where they lost 28-12 to Schuyler.

The basketball team went 22-3, winning the state championship 67-56 over Lincoln Pius.

And the track team made headlines all season long, none bigger than Haase’s record-setting long jump. His mark of 24-6.5, set on the Aurora track in district competition, still stands as the longest jump in Class B history.

Among his many accolades, Haase was named Athlete of the Year in 1987 by both the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star.

Looking back, Haase said Aurora’s tradition of success and some excellent coaching helped him reach his full potential.

“I’ve been around a lot of coaches over the years and I would put my three main coaches in high school up against anybody,” he said. “They were able to mold a team out of the athletes they had in front of them and I was very fortunate to be around some good athletes. We all made each other better and the coaches were able to get us to gel at the right time.”

Jack Guggenmos coached Haase in football, a sport the young Auroran went on to play as a Husker quarterback.

“I think Tom was one of those young men who had the right combination of everything,” Guggenmos recalled. “He had speed, great physical skills, leadership skills and psychological skills. He was a great young man to coach because he could do so many things and do them well.”

Former Husky coach Stan Greenfield had a lineup full of talent during the 1986-87 basketball season, led by an unselfish point guard.

“Tom led by example,” Greenfield said. “He worked really hard and had all the natural ability in the world, but he was very unselfish in the way he played.”

Greenfield remembers Haase as an excellent ball handler, shooter, passer, defender and floor general, the kind of player who elevates the level of play from everyone around him.

“We really pushed the ball up the court and he was very good at doing that,” he added. “The thing that stands out in my mind is how consistently he played throughout the whole season. He came to play and played hard on a nightly basis and it really helped that we had a lot of good players on that team who all got along extremely well.”

Haase admitted that the basketball championship stands out as his favorite high school sports memory.

“I enjoyed basketball the most of all the sports I was involved in, partly because we had more success there and won a state title,” he said. “At the time we were one of the top scoring teams in Class B all time with guys like Kirk Penner, Mike Boss and some of the other kids who went on to play college basketball.”

John Farrand mentored young Haase during the track season, knowing full well at the time he was working with a special athlete.

“Some people have the ability to take horizontal runway speed and convert it into a vertical lift, being able to carry that speed up and out,” Farrand recalled. “Tom was very good at that and a lot of athletes today just don’t have that combination.”

Farrand recognized Haase’s exceptional talent, deciding during that senior year to enter him into the Kansas Relays, a premier, invitation-only event which drew top high school athletes from across the country.

“That was probably the only time in Aurora school history that someone has gone to an event like that,” Farrand said. “He won the high school division long jump (with a mark of 23-6) and to me that might have been one of his biggest achievements. When he had a chance to compete with fresh legs with all classes of kids he proved his ability there.”

A team player

Another memory that helps define Haase’s approach to athletics is a decision he made at the state track meet his senior year. Having qualified in four events, with the finals of the 200, 400, long jump and 1600 meter relay all falling on the final afternoon, Haase was getting tired before competing in his best event, the long jump.

“I asked if he wanted us to substitute someone else for his leg on the 1600 relay, but he said ‘No.’ He said if he ran, his teammates would have a better chance to medal than if he didn’t so he had to suffer the consequences of that, which was that he was tired for the long jump.”

Haase medalled in all four events that day, finishing second in the long jump with a mark of 21-6; third in the 200 at 23.27; third in the 400 at 50.18; and sixth in the 1600 meter relay (3:29.19) along with teammates Mike Boss, Kirk Penner and Rod Wilson.

“Tom was one of the best team athletes I’ve ever had,” Farrand said. “A lot of people look at track and field as an individual sport, but it’s also a great team sport. Tom was a person of great character and just a tremendous competitor.”

That kind of character, combined with raw athletic ability, is what the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame is designed to honor, noted Guggenmos, who serves as the organization’s vice president.

“The whole idea is to kind of honor the past and promote the future of high school athletics,” he explained. “It’s been around for 13 years and it’s a tremendous honor for any person to be selected.”

A committee spends the entire year researching nominees, validating information and comparing statistics and records. Honorees are chosen in three categories — athletes, coaches and contributors (including officials and athletic directors) — though most are athletes.

“I don’t think you could have a finer individual representing Aurora in the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame than Tommy Haase,” Guggenmos said. “He just had it all.”

A Sept. 28 ceremony is planned at the Lied Center in Lincoln, where 11 athletes, five coaches and two contributors will be inducted.

Haase and his wife, Jennifer, now live in Omaha with their two children, Brandon and Allison, ages 5 and 2.