Meet the final four inductees into this year’s Tiger Hall of Fame

Published 9:02 pm Friday, September 3, 2021

Earlier this spring, the Albert Lea Tiger Athletic Hall of Fame committee announced it would induct 12 new members in its 2021 ceremony.

Here are the final four inductees into this year’s class:

Marilyn Claassen (1976)

Athletes are typically known for their dedication, but how about foregoing a school trip to England as it would involve missing too many practices and interrupting training? Meet Marilyn Claassen, a four-sport athlete for Albert Lea, with track and field being her strongest sport. During her four-year track and field career, she competed in both speed and strength events. Claassen won championships in the Big Nine, districts, and regions. She competed in the state tournament and was named an All-American in 1976, as well as the Prep Track and Field Athlete of the Year. She also had the distinction of playing on the first ever girls golf team for Albert Lea.

Claassen lives in Albert Lea, and has worked at The Thorne Crest Senior Living Community for 45 years. She also works at Bonnerup Funeral Service. Marilyn teaches CPR and first aid for the American Heart Association, and volunteers at the St. Theodore’s Cemetery.

Chuck Schneider (1956,
in memoriam)

Chuck Schneider was not only a multi-talented athlete, he was a multi-talented person. Chuck was a halfback on the football team, point guard on the basketball team, played several positions in baseball, and was a superb golfer. Schneider was a nine- time letter winner for ALHS, and served as a captain for the track and basketball teams. Schneider competed in several events for the track team, and set some school records which stood for many years.

He attended Cornell College where he competed in both basketball and golf. Schneider then won a scholarship to the prestigious Julliard School of Music which launched a successful career in music. Chuck also has been honored as a Distinguished Alumni of Albert Lea High School.

Coach Don Kropp

50, as in 5-0. 50, as in 5 decades. 50, as in a half century. Don Kropp actually coached 53 years for the Albert Lea Tigers starting back in 1967. Kropp coached for 25 years in the junior high football program, and 30 years in the junior high track and field program, all the while continuing to help with the varsity track and field team. Over the years, Kropp coached five individual conference champions, two state place winners, two section champions, and over 20 school record holders.

Kropp came to Albert Lea after graduating from Winona State where he was a multi-year letter winner in track, shotput and discus. Kropp’s freshman coach at Winona State was also his son Michael’s freshman coach at Winona State years later.

Kropp and his wife, Judy, raised their three sons, Michael, Jeff and Bill in Albert Lea where they were also active as volunteers in several local groups.

Coach Mary Beese

Girls and women’s sports weren’t always given equal treatment with their male counterparts. And getting there didn’t just happen, it required the dedicated work of coaches like Mary Beese. The track program was in its infancy when Beese started coaching for the Tigers in 1977. Over the years, she coached volleyball, swimming and track. Beese coached the volleyball Big Nine championship team, the swimming Big Nine championship team and several track and field champions over the years. In fact, she coached several Albert Lea Hall of Fame athletes including: Nora Turner, Jeri Domes, Chrissy Monson and Mollee Ludtke.

Earlier in her career, she helped start a girls basketball program, and helped inspire a seventh grader who later became a key fixture in Albert Lea athletics, Margo Wayne.

Beese and her husband, Gary, have two girls, Amy and Kari, who were both record holders for the Tigers.

The  committee has announced the 2021 Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet will be Sept. 25 at Wedgewood Cove in Albert Lea. Social hour will begin at 5 p.m. with dinner and inductions to begin at 6 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend, but must register ahead of time.  Registration forms can be found at aledfoundation.org/athletic-hall-of-fame or be picked up at The Albert Lea Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Registration deadline is September 15th.

The Tigers Athletic Hall of Fame was established in 2010 for the purpose of acknowledging athletes, coaches and state champion teams that have made a historical contribution to the Albert Lea Tigers athletic program. Proceeds from the event go to the Albert Lea Education Foundation for the sole purpose of lowering student participation fees. The event in 2018 raised over $7000 and has raised over $50,000 since its inception.

Other inductees in this year’s class are:

The 1978 state champion 200-yard medley relay team of Gary DeRoos, Ray Keating Jr., Jon Schmitz and Jim Wendorff, Chrissy Monson (2013), Karli Kriewall (2013), John Goodmanson (1963) and Bill Dress (1978).