Danville, IA- Saturday was a time to celebrate and relive the achievements of two legendary figures in Danville’s history as the 2017-2018 Girls’ Track and Field team and Boys’ head Basketball coach Ken Laffoon were officially inducted into the Danville Athletic Hall of Fame for the 2024 class.
The celebration took place between the boys’ junior varsity and boys’ varsity basketball game against Davis County as the Bears junior varsity had just finished dismantling the Mustangs to start off the afternoon.
The 2017-2018 Girls’ Track and Field team was introduced first as this team finished in the top 11 in ten events to claim Danville’s first Track and Field state championship. On their way to the hardware, Alyssa Pfadenhauer grabbed four medals as she finished in first place in the 400-meters, joined Grace Grothe, Alexis Bauer, and Kathry Luers in the first place Sprint Medley team, McKenzie Speer replaced Luers in the 4×400-meter relay team for gold, and a third-place finish in the 200-meter.
Also grabbing gold was the team of Grothe, Bauer, Speer, and Luers in the 4×200 meter relay. The same team took second in the 4×100 meter relay. Luers claimed 7th place in the 200-meters. Speer leapt to a 9th place finish in the high jump. Lastly, Addison Parrott took 10th in the 3000-meters and 11th in the 1500.
The full team included Kaley Eisenmann, BreAnn Yaley, Kenzi Downing, Drew Fox, and Breanna Teel. Assistant coaches Lucas Gourley and Amanda Richardson also attended, moreover, head coach Natalie Ford was happy to have her team reunited again,
“It’s a pretty amazing honor, you know, its really great to see all these faces back here and get all the girls back together and we were all just talking about how different, you know, things are even five years later. It’s a really cool thing to do, I’m glad Danville does something like this. It gives a lot of past athletes a chance to come back and get honored, so it’s very cool.”
In a season full of memories, Ford had trouble picking out her favorite, but she finally settled on the one featured at the induction ceremony.
“Coaches aren’t usually allowed down on the track at state, so once we got that trophy, we were all down there together for the first time and, you know, they got all the roses, the trophy, all the medals, so we just soaked it up once last time all together down on the track. So, probably that.”
The other member of the 2024 class is one familiar throughout southeast Iowa as he was inducted into the Iowa basketball coaches Hall of Fame back in 2019 and a mainstay at the state tournament as the leader of Bears varsity boys’ basketball team. Ken Laffoon, a six-time District/Substate Coach of the Year recipient, got to enjoy his moment in the limelight, but if it was up to him it would’ve gone to the community,
“When I was hired in Danville in the 1994-95 school year, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I was blessed to get this job and to keep this job for 25 years after that. The Danville community is just that good, so any award I get like at the state Hall of Fame or the Danville high school Hall of Fame that’s a reflection of the community. They support you like crazy.”
Laffoon led the Bears to seven state tournament appearances, which included back-to-back state championships back in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons, and runner-up finishes in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
From Jake Wenig’s three-point shot to win the state championship, the development of Michael and Steven Soukup along with Brock Ita, or a wild shot in a freshman game that went rattling around frame holding the basket up, there was always a sea of blue that would follow and cheer on the Bears, something that still sticks with Laffoon to this day.
Since his departure from the sidelines, the Soukup twins have led Danville back to the state tournament as they co-coach the Bears. Despite his legacy of collecting a career record of 508-181, which includes 433 wins at Danville, he’s happy to see Michael and Steven make the program their own,
“One of the things that I like about what Mike and Steven have done is that they’ve put their own mark on the team. You know when I watch them [the team] play, I’m like ‘we didn’t do that’ or ‘we didn’t do this’ and I’m not one of those guys that tell Mike and Steven ‘you know, do this and do that’ if they ask for a question, I give them an answer. But they put their own mark on the program, and they’ve been successful, I mean, they’ve already been to the state tournament, took me a lot of years to get there! So, I’m very proud of them, I’m very proud of every kid that’s ever played for us.”
The Bears put an exclamation point on the weekend when the varsity team went on take down Davis County 60-43 after the ceremony. Another win for a school that has become accustomed to the feeling.