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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Honoring a Eureka coaching icon

  • Retired Eureka Middle School basketball coach Craig Gerdes had a victory count of 1,016.

    The number of students and athletes the 35-year middle school educator and coach positively influenced is countless.
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  • Retired Eureka Middle School basketball coach Craig Gerdes had a victory count of 1,016. The number of students and athletes the 35-year middle school educator and coach positively influenced is countless. Gerdes was rewarded for his impact in a ceremony Dec. 16 in which he learned the Eureka Middle School basketball court would be named in his honor. Between seventh- and eighth-grade games, Gerdes and wife Karen were called onto the court, where they were joined by many of the coach’s former athletes. “The memories that I’ve had in this gymnasium are many, but this will be the biggest memory of all,” Gerdes said after the presentation. Bob Gold, the school district superintendent, was a three-sport athlete under Gerdes. “In my mind, he had the ability to make the least talented player on a team feel like the most important player on a team,” Gold said. “That’s hard to do. That, to me, kind of summarizes Craig a little bit. “The amount of respect he has from guys that played for him is just unbelievable.” During the presentation, Gold read an email he received from Don Rood, who played under Gerdes. “Craig Gerdes is a testament of leadership,” Rood wrote. “He cut me from the basketball team and rarely played me on the baseball team during our run to the state finals, and I still love the man.” The court-naming project was started by a group of Eureka Middle School graduates. Those giving on-court testimonials to their former coach included Tampa Bay Rays All-Star Ben Zobrist and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Andy Studebaker. “Remember that baseball that I signed for you that said, ‘To Coach Gerdes, Eureka Middle School. The most fun I ever had playing ball.’ I still mean it and I still believe it,” Zobrist told his former coach. The event was considered the kickoff to the fundraising campaign to pay for the court naming project. Organizers estimate between $16,000 and $20,000 will be needed to completely repaint and refinish the court, which will be highlighted by the “Craig Gerdes Court” insignia. The work is expected to be completed over the summer. For information on how to donate, go online to www.youcaring.com/gerdes. Gerdes guided Eureka Middle School to a seventh-grade state championship in 1986. He also was a longtime coach in baseball (440 wins, five sectional titles) and track and field (21 sectional titles) at the school. Gerdes, with his distinctive voice, is in his 30th year as the public address announcer for Eureka High School football and boys basketball games. “I’ve been announced on a major league field many times now, and to this day, the fun of being announced by Coach Gerdes as a starting point guard for the EHS basketball team tops the list,” Zobrist said. “We could go on all night telling great stories ... “ Studebaker told Gerdes. “I just want you to know we all love you and care for you very much.”
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