Fun, Emotional Night for 3 Coaches Inducted in GHS Hall of Fame
Julie Koivula, then Jerry Vitton, then John Barton stepped to the center court and received recognition for their decades of coaching at Geneva.
For John Barton, who was Geneva's head basketball coach for some it its most memorable victories in the 1980s, the Saturday night's induction into the Geneva High School Athletic Hall of Fame was a chance to see old friends.
For Jerry Vitton, who coached some of Geneva's greatest pole vaulters, the event held at halftime of Saturday's basketball game meant recognition for working so hard behind the scenes.
For Julie Koivula, who spearheaded girls athletic at Geneva from club pastime to full-fledged interscholastic sports, it was acknowledgement that her contributions and tennis coaching successes would be remembered.
More than 1,000 people came the high school gym to enjoy the basketball and pay tribute to the three inductees.
If you weren't able to be at Saturday night's ceremonies, here is the induction script, courtesy of Kurt Wehrmeister and the Geneva Athletic Hall of Fame:
Tonight’s first inductee was a pioneer in leading Viking girls’ sports from the era of one-piece gym suits and weeknight GAA intramurals, to full-fledged interscholastic equality with boys’ sports. In the process, she established Geneva as a perennial state power in girls’ tennis.
Our honoree was hired as a girls’ P.E. and health instructor for the 1971-72 school year—and it was shortly after the end of that school year, in June 1972, that an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, called Title IX, was signed by President Nixon, requiring equal access to all educational programs—including athletics—for females as well as males.
Geneva High along with schools nationwide began scrambling to meet the new requirements. Our inductee, along with her colleagues Bonnie Gardiner and Pam Robinson, were given the charge to create a respectable array of girls’ interscholastic athletic teams—from scratch, and in a hurry.
The IHSA mandated that girls’ varsity athletic competition would begin with the 1974-75 school year with volleyball and tennis in the fall, basketball in winter, and track in the spring. With no way to significantly increase athletic budgets in a recession, and suddenly nearly twice as many sports to pay for, our inductee and her colleagues recalled having to make the same basic tops-and-shorts uniforms make do for several different sports.
Our honoree was the first coach of Viking girls’ tennis in 1974, and over the next 23 years, she led the Viking girls to 12 conference titles, eight sectional crowns, and two fourth-places and a third-place finish at the Illinois state meet. In 1993 she was honored as Illinois Coach of the Year by the Illinois Tennis Coaches Association.
In the six years before she retired in 2004, our inductee became the first-ever coach of the Viking girls’ golf program—and she led that team to a pair of conference championships. Please welcome tonight’s first Hall of Fame inductee, Ms. Julie Koivula!
Our next inductee this evening came to Geneva High in the fall of 1966 as a science teacher—but he would also serve for 25 years as an assistant football coach, and for fully 37 years as a coach of track-and-field.
In football, he alternated between the varsity and sophomore teams as an assistant; he also served as a freshman-level basketball coach in winter. But he made his biggest mark on our program by far, at the track in springtime, coaching sprinters, hurdlers and relay teams. He did serve as head track coach for two springs—in 1976 and ’77—but his most prominent specialty was working with Geneva’s pole vaulters in what is a very difficult and highly specialized event.
In all, he trained more than 100 young Viking vaulters over the years, both male and female—but there were five standout prodigies of his, coming near the beginning of his career, then the end. Mark Schick, Class of 1977, set a new Viking boys’ record of 13-6 before going on to star in the event at Augustana College, before subsequently embarking on a medical career.
Twenty-two years later, Cliff Carlson blew that mark away with 14-9 in 1999, and the next spring Ryker Jones bested it at 14-10. A few years later in 2004, Sarah Landau won the second of two consecutive state titles in the event with what is still a girls’ state record vault of 13-3, before going on to NCAA stardom at the University of Arkansas. And just in the last two years, in semiretirement, our honoree came back to coach Allie Pace, who finished second in the state meet in 2009, then won the state title in her senior year of 2010.
Please welcome the man who coached all these great vaulters, our second Viking Athletic Hall of Fame inductee this evening, Coach Jerry Vitton!
And, our final inductee came to Geneva High in summer 1967 as a P.E. instructor; he later would also teach health and driver’s education. But coaching was his passion.
He immediately signed on with rookie head football coach Jerry Auchstetter, and together they coached the Vikings to a record of 35-4-1 over the first five years. In the springtime, he served as an assistant track coach for the most part, along with baseball and golf briefly—but his first love and primary concentration was basketball in the winter.
He served through the 1970s as sophomore basketball coach, preparing players for Head Coach Bob Schick’s varsity. Finally in spring 1980 then-principal Donald Marcotte named him as head basketball coach.
In many ways, the most memorable of his nine seasons was his very first, 1980-81. That year the Vikings, led by forwards Tim Pease and Mark Searcy, and point guard Pete Temple, went 22-7, beat Batavia for the first time in nearly a decade, won the Little Seven Conference title, won the Batavia Regional—and then in the sectional, in front of 4,000 screaming East Aurora fans, on the Tomcats’ home floor, shocked East High 74-70 with a stirring come-from-behind second half.
Another highlight came three years later, when over in Mack Olson Gym, Geneva beat St. Charles 65-64 for the first win over the Saints in 12 years (with junior forward Tom Rogers sinking two crucial freethrows for the win with 7 seconds left.)
This coach’s Viking teams won two conference titles and four regional championships and posted a 136-102 record over nine seasons, before health concerns convinced him to step aside in spring 1989. He retired from Geneva High in 1996 and we’re thrilled to have him with us tonight; please welcome Coach John Barton!
Among the Hall of Fame inductees from the past nine years attending were retired Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Jerry Auchstetter; from the Class of 1981, both Dr. Peter Temple and Mark Searcy; from the Class of 1984, Jeff Cesarone; the founders of today’s GHS All-Sports Boosters, John and Ann Burns.
Our congratulations to them and to all members of the Viking Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted over the last decade, beginning with the very first induction was 10 years ago this winter, on Feb. 2, 2001, over in Mack Olson Gymnasium to our southwest, while this gym was being built.
Viking fans were invited to join us for refreshments, and a reception honoring our new Athletic Hall of Fame inductees, in the north balcony overlooking this gymnasium following the conclusion of the game!