Posted 3/02/11 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
They were referred to as the little basketball team with a big heart, and they were credited with pulling off the biggest sports upset of the year in 1961, when the Arnegard Spuds beat Crary, 64-59 to become the 1961 North Dakota State Class C Champions.
Now, 50 years later you can see a little twinkle in their eyes and a gleaming smile as Myron Olson and Glenn Stenehjem reminisce about their state championship season.
“Winning at state basketball was a dream,” says Olson, a senior on the 1961 Arnegard Spuds team. “It was something you never thought about.”
Olson credits their team’s great year to a young coach, Phil Kahler, who Olson says was ahead of his time.
“We always played teams that were as good or better than us, but we always believed we could win because coach told us we could,” adds Olson. “We were fortunate to have a coach we believed in. He said do this or do that and we didn’t question our ability, we just trusted him and did it.”
Going into the championship game, the consensus was that the Spuds didn’t have a ghost of a chance, but that didn’t stop them from going all the way.
“I think our advantage was that we had a coach fresh out of school while most of the other teams’ coaches had been around forever,” adds Stenehjem, a freshman on the 1961 Arnegard Spuds team. “We did a lot of things that other teams weren’t expecting. We would score a few points, and once they figured out what we were doing, we would change it up again. I specifically remember having a 6’7” center guarding me and leaving Kirby Arnegard wide open, so I just kept passing to Kirby and yelling at him to shoot. The first one went in and then another and another and he just got hot.”
Stenehjem and Olson are looking forward to the 2011 North Dakota State Class B Basketball Tournament coming up this weekend as the Spuds will be recognized for their win 50 years ago.
“I think the 30th year anniversary of the game was better than this year will be because my son played in the state championship game that year,” adds Stenehjem. “But it would have been something great if Watford City had won this year on the 50th year anniversary.”
Coach Kahler and most of the team and cheerleaders plan to be in Minot for the recognition on March 4.
“We’ve really changed a lot and it is going to be nice to see a few old friends that we haven’t seen in a long time,” says Olson. “It was a fun year in 1961 and it is nice to be recognized for it.”
Members of the 1961 Arnegard Spuds included James Norgard, Larry Sorenson, John Olson, Orvis Hagen, Myron Olson, Burton Bruins, Larry Wrolstad, Glenn Stenehjem, the late Gary Stenseth and the late Kirby Arnegard. Cheerleaders were Janice Mjelstad Peterson, Sharon Thompson Whited, Betty Nelson Bartolomei and Kristy Arnegard Coughlin.