TOPEKA, Kan. – One of Maggie Steele’s biggest fans and greatest-ever pole-vault coaches, Kimbrook Tennal of Centralia, has been named to the Class of 2020 Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame.
Tennal, who retired this past summer, coached volleyball, basketball as well as track in his 43-year tenure at Nemaha Valley and Centralia High Schools.
Perhaps the biggest tribute ever written about the young adult sports novel, Maggie Vaults Over the Moon came from Coach Tennal, who wrote these words as a moonlighting sports columnist for the Centralia’s weekly newspaper, The Courier-Tribune:
“I loved the book and I wish I had written it,” Tennal wrote. “I consider that about as high a compliment on the book as I can make.”
“Maggie counts Coach Tennal as one of her all-time best supporters,” said author Grant Overstake. “His records as a coach speak for itself, and his success as a pole-vault coach is over the moon. His impact on the lives of the hundreds of young people he coached can’t be measured. Certainly, he is worthy of the state’s highest award.”
In announcing the five Hall of Fame inductees, Kansas Pre-Game Sports Review had this to say about Coach Tennal:
“Kimbrook Tennal’s volleyball coaching records and accomplishments are absolutely mind-boggling. In 20 years as a head volleyball coach at Nemaha Valley HS (3A) and Centralia HS (1A), his record was 791-49 (.941). In 19 trips to the state tournament, his teams won 11 state titles (twice winning back-to-back-to-back titles), along with five runner-up and three third place finishes. He coached six undefeated seasons which included a 137-match winning streak and other streaks of 80, 78, 76 and 52 consecutive wins. He finished his volleyball career winning five of the last six 1A titles and posted a 90-1 record in the last two years.
“Tennal also experienced success in his 14 years of coaching girls basketball. His incredible record of 307-48 (.865) produced three state championships, two runner-up and two third place finishes. And, in 16 years he coached 14 gold medal athletes in pole vault, javelin and discus.”
Located in extreme northeast Kansas, Centralia is best known for producing NFL star John Riggins, who attended Centralia High and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Maggie Vaults Over the Moon is set in the fictional town of Grain Valley, which is a lot like Centralia, (Pop. 512). The story climaxes at the Kansas State High School Track and Field Championships, where Coach Tennal saw so many gold medal winners, many of them pole-vaulters.
Coach Tennal says Maggie Vaults Over the Moon mirrors his own golden moments at the state meet, where he and his wife, Kim, saw three of their children crowned Kansas track and field champions!
Tennal dedicated his entire column to Maggie back in 2013, excerpted here:
Maggie Vaults Over the Moon made me laugh and it made me cry and it took me back down onto the track at Cessna Stadium where I had one of the most exciting memorable moments in all of my coaching career.
In 2006, on a 105 degree day late in May with a hot wind howling out of the south, my youngest son, who up to that point was the only person in our family who did not have a state championship medal to his credit, won the 1A state pole-vault championship… My son and I grabbed each other and hugged as the tears sprang into my eyes. All the blood sweat and tears over the last six years to take an average athlete to the top of the podium in his classification was over. …I was the proudest father in that stadium of 20,000 spectators.
Maggie Vaults Over the Moon brought all those memories flooding back. When I had finished reading the book, which I did all in one sitting partly because I didn’t want to put the book down, I thought to myself, “I wish I had written this book.”
I tell my athletes to set goals that give you goose bumps. Maggie Vaults Over the Moon gave me goose bumps! The most privileged and talented athletes don’t always win the gold. Sometimes the gold goes to those with the biggest dreams.“
One of Maggie Steele’s “Hall of Fame” moments occurred in 2013 when the Kansas High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) endorsed the book and put the cover on the cover of its Activities Journal magazine.
“Maggie Vaults Over the Moon captures the true meaning of a high school athlete in Kansas and the opportunities activities can create for young people.” — Kansas State High School Activities Journal
The the Hall of Fame Awards will be presented during 2020 in conjunction with a KSHSAA-sponsored state function/ championship, or locally at the inductee’s request. The time and location of each induction ceremony will be announced at a later date at www.kshsaa.org.
“Whenever and wherever they host the induction ceremony for Coach Tennal, you can bet that I will be there to represent his favorite fictional pole-vaulter, Maggie Steele,” Overstake said.
Do you have an aspiring athlete on your list this holiday season? Hall of Fame coaches recommend Maggie Vaults Over the Moon for its positive message for young people and for the young at heart. The novel is sure to touch the hearts of every reader, from 4th graders to adults.