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Greg DeVillers / Forum News Service, Published June 25 2013

Shanley coach honored

GRAND FORKS – If high school coaches were awarded rings for state championships, Rod Oksendahl would be down to his thumbs for available jewelry space.

Oksendahl has been head coach on eight state high school championship teams in North Dakota – three in baseball and five in football. Tuesday, in Des Moines, Iowa, the former Cavalier High School coach and current Shanley High School football coach was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

That national honor can’t trump the feeling of being associated with a championship team.

“Those teams were more special,” the 62-year-old Oksendahl said. “I got to work with kids who worked their tails off and won the state championship. There’s nothing more special than that. Nothing will overshadow that.

“But, individually, this is a tremendous honor. It’s pretty special, for a guy from a little town in North Dakota to make it. Whoever would have thought of this back in 1973 when it started?”

Oksendahl will enter his 40th season as a high school coach this fall at Shanley. The bulk of that time was spent in Cavalier, where his teams won four state football championships (1987 and 2002-04) and three in baseball (2002-04).

“That was pretty unusual, to win three in a row in baseball and football in the same years,” Oksendahl said. “And it was a lot of the same kids on both teams each of those years.

“That success says a lot for the kind of kids we had. You can go on and on with the names – Brady Trenbeath, Tim (Oksendahl, the coach’s son), Joey Kemp, Joe Contreras, guys like that – were great athletes in both sports. We had other great athletes, too. We were pretty consistently competitive in Cavalier.”

Oksendahl called Cavalier home for a long time.

Oksendahl graduated in 1973 from Valley City State, where he pitched for the Vikings’ baseball team. He spent two years teaching in South Dakota, three at Wyndmere, N.D., then he spent 28 years at Cavalier.

“My goal when we went to Cavalier was to eventually get into a bigger town and coach in the big-school ranks,” Oksendahl said. “I figured it would be four or five years at Cavalier and move on. But it never worked out.

“I had a few chances to move to a bigger school, but my wife (Joan) was a teacher and she wasn’t guaranteed a job if we moved. So financially moving wasn’t in the books. But I’m glad we stayed on at Cavalier. It was a great place to teach, coach and raise a family. And we had a lot of friends there, so we stayed.”

Oksendahl retired from teaching and coaching in the spring of 2006 and moved to Fargo.

Retirement lasted one year. Oksendahl returned to coaching in 2007 when Cavalier alum Steve Laqua was named Shanley coach and asked Oksendahl to assist. Two years ago, Laqua left Shanley to coach at Minnesota State Moorhead and Oksendahl became the Deacons’ head coach.

Greg DeVillers is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald