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Examiner
  • Blue Springs’ Don Neil takes place with brother Herschel in Northwest Hall of Fame

  • Don Neil never got to race his brother Herschel, but this Friday they’ll both have reached the same finish line.

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  • Don Neil never got to race his brother Herschel, but this Friday they’ll both have reached the same finish line.
    This Friday Don, a Blue Springs resident, will join the 2010 “M” Club Hall of Fame Class at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo. He’ll join his brother Herschel (a 1982 inductee) who is probably the most famous track athlete in Northwest history. Every athlete who now competes for the Bearcats practices and competes on Herschel Neil track every day.
    Herschel was an MIAA All-Conference performer for four years, won 17 titles, set eight Northwest records and won the NCAA triple jump championship in 1936-37.
    Don said it was Herschel who got the family involved in track in the first place.
    “He was ahead of me,” Don said. “He just had tremendous athletic ability. I just followed in his footsteps.
    “We were the first ones (in our family) that ever competed in athletics like that.”
    At a ceremony Friday night, Don will take his place by his brother.
    “It’s kind of humbling, but it is quite and honor,” Don said.
    Don earned his fair share of awards as well. He was a nine-time MIAA champion, including six outdoor championships and three indoors.
    He was the high-point scorer on the 1949 MIAA championship team and the second-highest scorer when the Bearcats defended their title in 1950.
    Both of those teams were inducted into the M Club back in 1991.
    Neil’s individual outdoor titles came in the 880-yard relay, the 220-yard dash and the 100-yard dash. He claimed indoor titles in the 60-yard dash and mile relay. Still, Don is uncertain of his place in Northwest’s history.
    “I feel like maybe I’m not quite up to their standard,” Don said.
    It’s not until later in the conversation that Don mentions he accrued all of his accomplishments in just three years of competition.
    Don’t forget track conditions six decades ago are a far cry from the high-tech facilities college athletes use today. Don recalls a track surface that was a mixture of cinders, mud and water.
    He said most of the time the track was so bad the team rarely had opportunities to practice before the state indoor meet. Most of their practices were held on grass, he said.
    A better track might have expanded his running career and his list of accomplishments.
    “I’d have loved to run that fourth year if they had a track like they do now,”  he said. “I look back on it now. They’ve come a long way.”
    However, Don cut his career short, but did spend a couple of years coaching for Northwest.
    Page 2 of 2 - Then he moved to Blue Springs in 1954 where he taught drafting and industrials arts in the Blue Springs School District. In 1971 he became the director of buildings and grounds until 1981, which ended nearly three decades of service at Blue Springs.
    Friday, Don (’50) will return for his induction into the M Club where he’ll join Brad Ortmeier (’87), Lindsey Borgstadt (’99), Tucker Woolsey (’01), Seth Wand (’03) and former baseball coach Jim Wasem.
    Joining him on his trip will be his wife of 63 years, Brennan, as well has his daughter, grandson, sister, brother and their families. He said Herschel’s daughter Cheresa and her husband are also coming back for the ceremony.
    Don joked it was going to be quite the family reunion.
    One things for sure, on Friday night he’ll be forever reunited with his brother in the Northwest Sports Hall of Fame.
    M CLUB CRITERIA: According to Bryan Boettcher, sports information director at Northwest Missouri State, all M Club inductees start out as submissions sent to Northwest Athletic Director Dr. Bob Boerigter.
    Boerigter brings those submissions to the attention of an M Club committee composed of various people connected to Northwest athletics. The committee judges the submissions and narrows them down to a list of 10 to 15 people. Then the committee listens to the people.
    “We post those names online and invite people to vote on them,” Boettcher said.
    Voters vote on top individuals and top teams. Those votes help the committee reach a conclusion on which people or teams get inducted into the Hall of Fame. The number inducted fluctuates each year.
    Boettcher said there is no quota that must be met each season.
    Including the 2010 class, there are currently 100 individuals in the M Club, which inducted its first class in 1980. There have been 38 teams have entered the hall since teams started being inducted in 1989.
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