Welcome to Harding High School Athletics & Activities

St. Paul, Minnesota

Alan Weiss
Graduated from Harding in 1959

     Al was born and raised in the Daytons Bluff Neighborhood.  Growing up, he was instilled with the values of loyalty, pride, and commitment.  He developed a strong sense of loyalty to his family, friends, teammates, and the kids he coached.  Al felt a deep responsibility to give back to the area he loved and respected.  He did more than coach his teams in the fundamentals of the sport.  Al strove to instill these same qualities in each and every  one of his players.


     Al was a two-year letter winner in hockey.  This includes playing on the 1958 State Runner-up team and the 1959 Co-City Championship team.  Upon graduation, Al enlisted in the US Army and received an Honorable Discharge upon the completion of his tour.  Al then got married and settled down in the Hazel Park Neighborhood.  The happy couple recently celebrated their 5oth Wedding Anniversary while residing in the same home.  Al began a career working for the Ford Motor Company.  A career that spanned over four decades. 


     Aside from his career at Ford, Al dedicated most of his adult life to coaching kids on the Eastside.  In 1969, he was one of the founding fathers of the Harding Area Hockey Association.  Al was selected as Head Coach of the first bantam team, a position he held for 12 years.  During the 1970’s, Harding sent four teams to the State Tournament and an additional two teams reaching the Section Finals.  Harding also captured three Conference Titles during that run of dominance.  The last team to represent Harding at State was the 1979 squad.  Goalie Chuck Weiss stonewalled a heavily favored South St. Paul team for an improbable 1-0 victory.  That victory allowed Al and Chuck to become the only Father and Son duo to represent Harding in the State Tournament.

This is just a snapshot look at the indelible mark Al has left on the Harding Community as a whole it stands as a testament to his core values of loyalty, pride, and commitment. Al’s legacy is that of his love and devotion for the Eastside and his deep pride in Harding High School.

 


Frank Illi

Graduated from Harding in 1971

     Frank began his athletic career learning to run away from his two sisters and playing hockey at the neighborhood playground.  Frank was also introduced to track and field at Hazel Park Junior High.  Frank’s athletic career at Harding as a two-sport athlete in 1968-1969 (his Sophomore year). In the winter, he played on the B-squad hockey team and made the Varsity track team in the spring.  Frank excelled in four events: the 100-yard dash, the 220-yard dash, the long jump, and as a member of the 880-yard relay team.  The 1969 trackmen of Harding finished third in the conference, under the Senior leadership of Frank’s teammate and fellow Hall of Stars inductee, Mike Slack.


     Not making the cut for the Varsity hockey team the following year, track became the sole focus of Frank’s remaining athletic career at Harding .  In 1970  (his Junior year), Frank went undefeated in the Conference in each of his events.  This helped the 1970 trackmen of Harding finish second in the Conference (behind Highland Park), and Frank received All-Conference honors.

His Senior year, Frank was elected Captain of the 1971 trackmen of Harding and was extremely honored for that appointment.  In their very first meet of the season, Harding beat Highland Park (the defending Conference Champions).  The win over Highland Park was a huge catalyst for the rest of his events and earned All-Conference honors.  For the first time in several years, Harding finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record and won the Conference Championship.  His Senior year, Frank finished with personal records at the Regional meet, with a first place finish in the 100 yard dash (10.0s), a first place finish in the 220 yard dash, and a first place finish in the long jump (22’3”).  Frank’s success at the Regional meet qualified him for three events at the 1971 State meet.


     Not one to like school, but one to work hard, Frank took an entry level job at Webb Publishing, once a very prominent printer/publication company.  He went on to attend Saint Paul Technical Vocational Institute and received an apprenticeship from Webb.  From there, Frank began a very long and successful career in the printing industry.  After 44 years of surviving endless corporate acquisition/mergers, adapting to constant changes in the industry’s technology, and serving as a valued mentor to countless coworkers, Frank decided to take up long jumping again, this time into retirement.  As of this past September, he is finally living life at the Lake with his best friend and wife of 41 years, Paula (Slavin), a fellow Harding Alum.


     More than any of his other accomplishments, Frank is most proud of raising a family with Paula and devoting his life to his two children, Sarah and David. Both of Frank’s children were student-athletes at Harding; Sarah was a swimmer and graduated in 1997 (also a member of the Hall of Stars); David was a three-sport athlete and graduated in 2001.  David married his high school sweetheart, Harding gymnast Katherine (Fehrman).  Together they have blessed Frank with two grandsons, Dawson and Gavin, to spoil and keep him young.  Grandpa Frank can currently be found cheering from the sidelines of the soccer and baseball fields and running the Go-Cart pit crew at the Lake!!!

 

Phillip Williams

Graduated from Harding in 1979

     Phillip remembers when he decided which high school to attend.  He fell in love with Harding when he visited, regardless of the distance from his home.  Phillip is still very proud to be a Harding Knight.  He is impressed by all the progress the school has made and excited to see the increased diversity in the classroom.  He is honored to be recognized by this great program.  His memories are both on and off the court.  One memory that stands out the most, is Mr. Webber’s graphic arts classes which he took for three years.  It was like earning a graphic certificate and Phillip is proud to say that he has had an amazing 35 year career in printing at Thomson West.


     Mr. Keenan was a great basketball coach.  He made it fun by increasing the IQ of the game which was essential  as a point guard; Phillip learned how to set his teammates up for success with a perfectly timed assist.  He will never forget his best moment, defeating Central, when he was just a Freshman.  The worst moment being when Phillip and Coach Keenan had a disagreement during halftime of a game versus Cretin.  Phillip’s proud that his coach always had his back and pushed him through times, both good and bad.  The mental and physical toughness that he developed at Harding made him into the man he is today.  He prides himself on always giving his all, as the great Michael Jordan said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you.  If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up.  Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” Life wasn’t easy for him growing up as he lost his parents at a very young age, but he’s proud he hasn’t let any obstacles stop him.


     Looking back at his career at Harding, if he knew then what he knows  now, he would have done things differently.  But, he did the very best at that moment.  As Phillip has grown, he has tried to pass on his experiences to his own children and the numerous kids he has coached over the years.

Joe Schwartz

Graduated from Harding in 1984

     Joe Schwartz was a tremendous three-sport athlete at Harding.  Not only did he excel athletically on the fields and in the rink, but Joe was a great leader as well.  As a Senior, Joe was selected as captain for football, hockey, and baseball.  During his days at Harding he was awarded All City honors in  hockey by WCCO and awarded the prolific Harding ‘H’ Blanket in 1984.


     After graduation, Joe played in the US Hockey league for the St. Paul Vulcans until 1986 (when he was elected Captain once again).  During that time, he was selected for the USHL All Star Team and represented Junior Team USA in the Switzerland Coupe de Beard Tournament.  Following his Juniors hockey career, Joe was the recipient of four full scholarship offers.  He accepted a full WCHA Division I offer to play for the Fighting Gulls at the United States International University in San Diego, California.


     After two years, Joe became a Tiger after transferring to Colorado College.  In 1989, he was named captain of his team (once again!!!).  Upon completion of his collegiate career, Joe played for the German team, Moosburg Division 2 from 1990-1992 and was named player and coach.  He continued and concluded his hockey career  back at home where he played in the American Hockey Association for the Saint Paul Fighting Saints.

Jennifer Gonerka

Graduated from Harding in 1999

     At Harding, Jennie was a three-sport athlete playing soccer, basketball, and her true passion, softball.  In her three year Varsity career as a starting pitcher, she amassed a win/loss record of 58-12, an ERA of 1.1, and struck out 414 batters.  Jennie’s leadership and dominance on the mound helped lead the Knights to back-to-back Conference Championships in 1997 and 1998, Twin Cities Champions in 1997, 3AA Sectional Runner-ups in 1998 and 1999, and 3AA Academic Softball Team of the Year in 1997 and 1999.  Jennie also earned a list of individual awards and recognition including: Team MVP (‘97 &’98), All-Conference (1997-1999), All-Region (‘97&’98), All-Metro (‘98), All-State (‘98 and ‘99), Softball Scholar of the Year—Honorable Mention 1998, Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, and KARE 11 Athlete of the Week 1999.  When not on the mound, Jennie excelled academically graduating third in her class.  Her combination of athletic participation in softball, soccer (also All-Conference Honorable Mention 1998), and basketball, plus her academic accomplishments helped her become Harding’s Athena winner and earn the coveted ‘H’ Blanket for top female athlete in the Class of 1999.


     Following Harding, Jennifer continued her softball career at St. Mary’s University in Winona, MN while majoring in Chemistry.  Under the guidance of legendary softball coach John Tschida, St. Mary’s  became the 2000 Division III National Champions.  The championship team, the season leading up to the playoffs, and the Championship Title were some of the most remarkable and life-changing experiences in her athletic career.  During her Sophomore year, St. Mary’s made another National playoff.  This time, falling just short, with a 4th Place finish.  Jennie ended her collegiate career with a win/loss record of 34-10, a 2.13 ERA, 10 shutouts, and a batting average of .300.  All of this plus All-Conference, All-Region, and All-Region Tournament Team in 2001.  To date, her career pitching stats for fewest walks allowed/seven inning game, most shutouts, lowest ERA, most saves, lowest opponent batting average, most games started, most wins, and most games finished all remain in the top ten all-rankings for St. Mary’s University.  She also holds single season records in the top ten for fewest walks allowed/seven inning game, lowest ERA, and highest fielding percentage for the 2001 Season.


     After St. Mary’s, Jennie went on to the University of Minnesota and completed her MS in Analytical Chemistry.  Jennie has been working at Boston Scientific for the past 10 years as a Laboratory Scientist.  Jennie’s greatest passion is being a full time mom to her daughter, Sonja.  She loves sharing her passion for athletics in their yard. Jennie wanted to share this with her daughter, “Sonja, I can’t wait to see what you achieve.  You have pure athletic ability and share my drive for perfection and competition.  I cannot wait for the day I get to cheer you on and coach you in softball or some other sport.”  Jennie would also like to thank all of the coaches and everyone that believed in her and pushed her to be the best athlete/pitcher she was capable of being.  Thank you to her teammates that made her look so good with their stellar defense and timely hits and to anyone who was brave enough to let her fire balls at them!  Thank you to her parents who were her biggest fans.  They attended nearly every game, traveling all over the country.

 

Coach John Zustiak

1976-2014

     John Zustiak stated, “This is a great honor to be nominated into the Harding Hall of Stars. I was fortunate to coach and teach at Harding for so many years.”


     John helped start two new programs for female athletes.  In 1978 John was the first JV Softball coach and again in 1986 he was hired as the first Girls’ Varsity Soccer coach.  In 1990, John was hired as head coach of the Varsity Softball team.  He also coached JV Boys’ Basketball from 1980-1983.  In 1992, Rich Mayen and John organized building a softball field on the Harding campus with the help of the City of Saint Paul and about 250 student volunteers that helped lay two flatbed trailers full of sod.

John had a great mentor during his coaching career.  He would like to thank Ken Mauer, Jim Davis, and Bruce Virgin.  A special thank you to Gerald Keenan for all the conversations and guidance as both a Varsity Boys’ Basketball coach and Athletic Director.


     He would like to, “thank all my assistant coaches over the years that made my job so much easier.  Special thanks to my longtime assistant coaches, Rich Mayen (softball), Bob Rose (softball), Steve Bartlett (softball), and Jerry Utecht (soccer).  Also, special thanks to Vic and Sue Wittgenstein for all the hours of coaching softball during the summer.”

Finally, John would like to thank all the female student-athletes that he has had the privilege and honor of coaching over the past 30 years.  They made his job so rewarding.  John has so many great memories of games won and games lost.  So many great athletes, he wishes he could name them all.  He has watched these girls grow to become great athletes and very successful citizens.


     “What a great and rewarding career.  THANKS!!!”

 

1987, 1989, 1991

Volleyball Teams

Coach by: Dennis “Aame” Amundson

1987:

     Following a few weeks of coaching and instructed drills by Coach Dennis Amundson, the Knights kicked off their season with a huge victory over archrival, Johnson.  They continued their success and road to the Saint Paul City Conference Championship with a record of 12-0.  The team dominated almost every match resulting in few matches going beyond three games.  At the conclusion of their championship season, they went on to defeat Minneapolis Southwest in the Twin Cities match.  Following their Twin Cities game victory, Harding went on to dominate during regional play ending in a trip to the coveted State Tournament.  Many of the 1987 team members were awarded post season awards and then followed up with successful collegiate careers.

1989:

     The 1989 volleyball team continued to dominate under Coach Dennis Amundson.  The Knights got off to another great start defeating Como Park  followed by a victory over Cretin Derham Hall.  Those victories resulted in a rarely challenged, perfect Saint Paul City Conference record of 12-0.  After clinching the Conference Title, the Knights went on to defeat Minneapolis Roosevelt in four games in the Twin Cities match.  They continued on their quest for perfection by winning Region 4.  Unfortunately, their perfection was disrupted by losing a hard fought battle in the Minnesota State Tournament.  Once again, many of the 1989 roster attained post-season accolades: All-Conference, All-Region, and All-State

1991:

     Much like the 1989 team, the 1991 team started their season with a victory over Como Park under the superb coaching of Dennis Amundson.  They followed their dominance by defeating Cretin Derham Hall.  Unfortunately, the same Cretin team went on to beat Harding in the next round stretching the match to five games and putting the only blemish on their nearly perfect 11-1 Saint Paul City Conference record.  After sharing the Conference Title with Cretin Derham Hall, the Knights went on to defeat Minneapolis Patrick Henry in a very convincing victory in three games: 15-2, 15-6, 15-5.  After their telling Twin Cities victory, the Knights moved on to Region play defeating three opponents, becoming Region 4 champions.  This ensured the Knights would once again move forward to the State Tournament where they fell just short of a State title.  Like the teams before, many of these women earned post-season honors.