(Written By Con Marshall)
A longtime Chadron High School teacher and coach, Curt Holmquist, will soon receive a special coaching award. He will be presented the Ken Cook Award from the Nebraska Coaches Association’s during its annual banquet in Lincoln on Sunday, July 24.
He will be the 16th recipient of the award and the first from west of Lexington. The selection is made by the NCA’s board of directors to recognize coaches “who have made lasting contributions to Nebraska high schools in Girls’ Basketball.”
Holmquist, who primarily taught math, was on the Chadron Schools faculty 37 ½ years and had been the girls’ basketball coach 24 years when he retired at the end of the 2013-14 season with a 316-197 career record.
Nine of his teams qualified for the state tournament. The final three had a combined 68-13 record and each was ranked among the top 10 in Class C-1 by the Omaha and Lincoln newspapers.
While he coached girls’ basketball longer than any of the other sports, he also was Chadron’s head volleyball coach five years, the girls’ golf coach 16 years and the boys’ golf coach six years.
In addition, he helped coach track more than 20 years and prior to taking over as the girls’ basketball coach, had been an assistant for four boys’ hoops coaches in a 12-year span. He also was an assistant volleyball coach both before and after he’d been that sport’s head mentor.
After Holmquist had been at Chadron High 34 years, the administration insisted that from then on he should limit his coaching to two sports a year.
A native of Ravenna, Holmquist was basketball team starter as a senior and a three-year starter on the golf team, graduating in 1971. The following fall he enrolled at Chadron State College, but at the end of his freshman year was drafted into the Army.
He returned to CSC in the fall of 1973 and was working in the cafeteria, when he met and before long married another cafeteria worker, Mary Mendoza of Bayard. The couple has three adult children—Dionne, Courtney and Alec. All three were excellent athletes and as elementary students nearly always were bouncing a ball on the sidelines in the gym while their father was directing practices.
Holmquist’s first girls’ basketball team had a 3-14 record, but the Lady Cardinals were 12-9 the next season and made their first trip to the state tournament in March 1992. Sixteen of his 24 hoops teams had winning records.
He took his second team to state in 1995-96, after it had lost 11 games in a row before winning its last two regular-season games and the three district tournament games to earn the trip to Lincoln. The Lady Cardinals were the eighth seed and lost to top-seeded Battle Creek 68-29 in the opening round.
The next year the Cards defeated Bennington in the first round at state and were ranked No. 6 in Class C-1 at the end of the season.
In 1999-2000, the Cardinals did even better, going 19-5 while playing the games at state extra close. They edged Tri-County 59-56 and Superior 42-41 before being nipped by Arlington 36-34 in the championship tilt. The Omaha World-Herald ranked them No. 2 at the end of that season.
Holmquist’s basketball teams also went to state in 2004-05, 2005-06 and the last three years he coached. The 2011-12 and 2012-13 teams won their first games in Lincoln and finished fourth in Class C-1 both years.
All told, nine of his girls’ teams reached the state tournament. Each of his last five girls’ golf teams also qualified for the state tournament.
Besides coaching three sports most of his career, Holmquist was heavily involved in Chadron’s summer softball and city league basketball programs for more than two decades. He voluntarily handled much of the scheduling, lined up the umpires and referees and made sure the media got the results.