(Corning/Villisca) -- Each weekday from now until August 26th, KMA Sports will be announcing the inaugural KMA Sports Hall of Fame class. Throughout the 2016-17 sports year, these 20 inductees will have special induction ceremonies, but August is designed for the announcements.
Today, we announce our final two state championship teams that will go into the inaugural KMA Sports Hall of Fame class. Previously, we introduced the 1956 Clarinda boys cross country champion, the 1987 Tri-Center baseball champs and the 1996-97 Creston boys basketball champions.
Our champions today represent two different schools from the past that are now merged into one school. Villisca won the 1966 and 1967 state track titles, and 10 years later, Corning finished off a three-peat in winning the 1975, 1976 and 1977 track championships. Now, the two schools are merged as Southwest Valley, so it only seems right that they share this honor together.
Phil Wertman (Villisca) and LeRoy McCuen (Corning) were the two stars that led the way for the schools. Wertman is one of just two Iowa preps to win the pole vault state championship in three consecutive years.
"I started in the backyard and progressed," Wertman said. "I started out on a Swedish steel pipe and was in the era that switched over to fiber glass. I never did quite get the hang of (fiber glass) until I got to college. I was very fortunate to have a pretty good high school career."
In 1967, Wertman also ran on the state championship winning 440, 880 and mile relay teams. That's a fact he says stands out about that particular state championship year.
"We scored most of our points, outside the pole vault, on the relays," he said. "The '66 team was spread out a little bit more. We had some individual points we scored. They were both pretty good solid teams. We had a good all around group."
Ten years later, McCuen and his Corning squad finished off a dominant three-peat in winning Class B titles from 1975 to 1977. In '77, McCuen won the 180 low hurdles, the 120 yard high hurdles and the long jump. That completed a career that featured eight individual state titles.
"I guess it was just the ability to have speed and to jump," he said. "We didn't have facilities to practice on. If you've been to the races in Corning, there's a pad on the east side of the old 4-H building. That was our high jump pit."
McCuen says their long jump pit was basically a long sidewalk with some sand at the end of it. Despite that, he was able to capture two high jump titles (1975, 1976) and two long jump championships (1976, 1977). In 1977, he set and still holds records in the 120 yard high hurdles and in the 180 yard low hurdles. Both stand to this day.
As for the 1977 Corning team, Iowa High School football Hall of Famer Shamus McDonough scored points in the throws, and Randy Walters tied for sixth in the pole vault to send the Red Raiders to their third team title.
Both Wertman and McCuen had glowing things to say about their respective coaches, George McVicker of Villisca and Vince Hurley of Corning.
"Coach McVicker was a young guy that just got out of Tarkio College," Wertman said. "He really got the track program going at Villisca. He was a good guy to work with and pretty inspirational."
"(Hurley) was a good guy," McCuen said. "He was enthusiastic and ready to win. Our assistant coach was the same way. They pushed us and got us where we needed to go."
The Villisca and Corning teams will be inducted as part of the inaugural KMA Sports Hall of Fame class at a future date to be determined.
KMA Sports will announce a new inductee each August weekday morning during the 7:50 AM sportscast. Track the Hall of Fame announcements/inductees below:
Football: Announced August 26th at 7:50 AM
Team: 1967 Villisca Boy's Track & 1977 Corning Boy's Track State Champions (Induction: TBA)