Eight new members will be inducted into the New Richmond High School Athletic Hall of Fame this year.
Those eight inductees will be enshrined on the NRHS 2018 Homecoming weekend of Sept. 21-22.
Five inductees were voted in the Athlete Division: They are Blake Berger, Abby (Demulling) Christensen, Charlie Johnson, Ayla (Mitchell) Helland and Gary Stephens. Two former NRHS coaches are being inducted. They are Wally Dunn and Jim Saliny. Being inducted in the Distinguished Service category is Bruce Emerson.
The 2018 induction class was selected by the New Richmond Athletic Hall of Fame Committee, at the committee's meeting on April 2.
Berger was a standout in four sports for the Tigers, including putting together one of the greatest seasons in New Richmond High School baseball history.
Berger is a 2007 NRHS graduate. He lettered twice in basketball and three times each in baseball, football and tennis. Berger was the Wisconsin Baseball Association summer baseball Player of the Year in his senior season. He set Tiger program records that season in home runs, hits, runs scored and runs batted in. Berger was an all-state football lineman as a senior and he was a two-time entrant in the WIAA boys state tennis tournament.
Berger went to UW-Oshkosh, where he was one of the program's top players. He was a three-year letterwinner with 21 homers, 120 RBI, 97 runs scored and a career .362 batting average. He was an All-WIAC selected as a senior.
Abby (Demulling) Christensen
Christensen was a four-year standout in cross country and track for the Tigers, graduating in 2002. Christensen was an eight-time qualifier for the WIAA state track meet, including being part of the Tigers' state championship 3,200 meter relay team in 2002. She also ran in the WIAA state cross country meet in her junior and senior seasons. This was when the Tigers were in the Big Rivers Conference. In track, she was either first or second six times at BRC track meets. She was also an All-BRC cross country runner as a senior.
Christensen continued her running career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Her career concluded with a fourth place finish in the 800 meters at the NCAA indoor national championships in 2006, her senior season. She was a varsity cross country runner in all four of her seasons at UMD. She was a four-time NSIC champion in track and a two-time NSIC champion in cross country. She received four academic all-conference honors in college. Christensen still holds the UMD track in the 500 meters and remains in the top 10 in a number of other middle distance races.
Ayla (Mitchell) Helland
Helland is one of the most successful runners in New Richmond history, with state and national championships to her record.
Helland was part of two state championships during her high school. Helland, Abby (Demulling) Christensen, Kara Peterson and Leslie Sorum earned a WIAA state track championship in the 3,200 meter relay in 2002. Helland won the WIAA Division 2 800 meter state track championship in 2005 for New Richmond.
In cross country, Helland ran at the WIAA state meet in all four of her high school seasons. She finished 16th at state as a freshman, ninth as a sophomore, sixth as a junior and eighth as a senior.
Helland began her college career at the University of Minnesota, before transferring to UW-Oshkosh.
In 2009, Helland won the NCAA Division 3 national indoor championship in the 1,600-meter run. Two weeks earlier, Helland captured WIAC championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. As a junior, Helland finished in second place at the national level in the 1,600 meters. Helland was a two-time WIAC individual cross country champion at Oshkosh.
As a senior at Oshkosh, Helland won the 1,500 and 5,000 meter women's outdoor national track titles in 2009. She finished third in the NCAA women's Division 3 cross country national championships in 2008. Because of her standout performances in cross country and track, Helland was named the WIAC Female Athlete of the Year for 2009. Between track and cross country, Helland was an NCAA Division 3 All-American nine times in her three seasons at Oshkosh.
In 2012, Helland was named to the WIAC All-Time cross country team.
Charlie Johnson was a three-sport standout at NRHS in the late 1950s. Johnson was an imposing 6-6 athlete and that size benefitted him in baseball, basketball and football. Johnson was one of the top scorers in Tiger boys basketball history, averaging 24.5 points per game as a senior. He set the NRHS single game scoring record with a 51 point performance in 1958, his senior season. As a sophomore, he scored 44 in leading the Tigers to a playoff win over Grantsburg.
The Tigers reached the sectional championship game in 1957, losing to Mondovi. Johnson was the top player in the sectional tournament, scoring 35 against Mondovi and 32 in a win over Abbotsford.
Johnson was a premier baseball player, earning all-district and all-state honors as a junior and senior. He led New Richmond to the WIAA state tournament after the 1956 and 1957 state tournaments. Johnson pitched a one-hitter in defeating Medford in the opening round of the 1956 state tournament. Johnson was the workhorse of the staff as a junior. He pitched the sectional championship game and both the Tigers' state tournament games that year. He defeated Frederic 5-3 in the sectional final. In the opening round at state, he defeated Markesan, 5-3. In the state semifinals, Johnson and the Tigers were beaten by Eau Claire, 8-1. Eau Claire went onto win the state title, with the Tigers placing third.
Johnson was the NRHS Athlete of the Year in 1958.
Johnson had several scholarship offers and had several pro baseball teams scout him. He decided to play basketball at UW-River Falls. In his one season with the Falcons, he averaged 17.3 points per game, including scoring 35 points in a game against La Crosse.
Stephens was part of the 1965 senior class at NRHS that won numerous Middle Border Conference titles. Stephens was the tailback on the 1964 undefeated Tiger football team. He was a two-time MBC champion and two-time state qualifier in wrestling, including a fifth place finish at state. Stephens was a four-time letterwinner in wrestling and track and he won three letters in football.
Stephens started in his first year of football at UW-River Falls. A farm accident then ended his football career.
Dunn coached for less than a decade at NRHS, but he made a major impact in that time. He was the Tiger wrestling coach from 1965 to 1971, coaching the Tigers to a 61-6 dual record. His wrestlers won the Tigers' last MBC team wrestling championships. Dunn coached three state champions, 34 MBC champions and 24 state qualifiers.
Dunn coached the Tiger football team. His 55-22-1 record gives him one of the best winning percentages in Tiger history.
Dunn also coached the Tiger baseball team in 1965. He was a WIAA wrestling official for many years after leaving coaching.
No New Richmond coach has amassed more conference championships or state tournament appearances than Jim Saliny. Saliny coached the Tiger hockey team from 1987 to 1997 and the Tiger boys golf team from 1987 to 2017. His teams have won 15 conference championships. He led eight teams to state tournament appearances and seven advanced as sectional champions. He coached the Tiger golfers to three state team championships (1992, 1993 and 1999). He also coached two Tigers to individual state championships (Scott Cole and Chad Kovaleski).
Emerson seemed to dedicate every day of his life to New Richmond and Tiger sports. His shining moment was when he became the first New Richmond track athlete to win a WIAA state championship, winning the 880-yard run in 1969. He was part of a Tiger 3,200 meter relay team that set a school record in 1968, and that record stood for more than 30 years.
Emerson competed in track, basketball and football at NRHS. As an adult, Emerson helped to establish the New Richmond Basketball Association. He coached multiple sports at the youth, middle school and high school levels, including 10 years as the varsity coach of the Tiger girls basketball team.