Drendel gets due; KHS mainstay inducted into coaches’ hall of fame

by Mike Slodki

When asked to reflect on the recent honor bestowed upon him, former Kaneland track coach Ralph Drendel simply said, “I’ve got a lot of Kaneland in my system.”

It might be that all-encompassing take on his career that inducted Drendel into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame on Jan. 10 in a ceremony at Oak-Park River Forest High School.

Drendel was accompanied to the ceremony by coaches Eric Baron, Joe Thorgesen, Matt Smith, Barney Callaghan, Randy Olesen, Robby Bieritz and Chad Clarey, along with the rest of the Drendel family.

“I’ve never had a more passionate coach,” Clarey said. “He stressed working hard and putting on the best home meets possible.”

A KHS teacher from 1978-2005, Drendel coached track and field athletes to over 60 State medals and two State trophies (90-99), and was coach of the year on three occasions (90-91-99).

Fellow former Kaneland coach Bruce Peterson is also a member of the Hall of Fame. Current Kaneland assistant coach Randy Olesen was also honored with the Dave Pasquinini Award for Assistant Coach of the Year. Current boys track coach Eric Baron was given the award in 2001 for cross country.

Other honorees at the hall-of-fame gathering were OPRF coach Glenn Cothern, Springfield Lanphier’s Mike Garcia, John Lemke of Rolling Meadows, Barrington’s Debbie Revolta, OPRF coach Josa Sosa and Champaign Central’s Dike Stirrett.

Drendel, who’s resume includes being the point man for home track invites and doing P.A. for athletic events, was humbled by his peers joining him in the hall, and about those who already reside there.

“You sit there and watch all these great coaches and these guys are really good. You can’t believe you get to join them,” Drendel said. “I just wanted to do a good job at being in charge of the events.”

Drendel joins the the elite brethen, but not without remembering what it took to get there, and with whom.

“Eddington, Bob Pederson, Bruce Peterson, Joe Thorgesen, these are pretty important people in my life. I learned from guys like them,” Drendel said.

Upon learning of the honor, Clarey asked Drendel to be at KHS to give a talk to the cross-country team before the WSC meet, where Peterson and Drendel’s family joined in announcing the honor.

“It was after practice, and I was so excited and proud that they would choose my dad,” said current sophomore volleyball coach Kelsey Drendel, Ralph’s daughter. “I most want to emulate his ability to motivate his athletes to always give their best effort and to reach for something higher than they could even imagine.

The hall-of-fame member of the Drendel clan summed up his continuing Kaneland story.

“I went to Kaneland, my kids went here and it’s a good place to have your kids grow up. At the end of the day you did this for the kids and tried to do the best you could.”