The athletic/activities department has countless people to thank for the work that is done behind the scenes. Through this series we aim to shine some light on these people that put in many hours of their time to make the experience of our student athletes the best it can be. This week we shine the spotlight on Rick Werenicz (pictured left). You may have seen Werenicz behind the scorer’s table at Huskies games over the years. We asked Werenicz to answer a few questions for us in the below Q & A.
What’s your connection to / history with SAVHS? How long have you been a part of the school community?
My wife Jeanne and I grew up in northeast Minneapolis. We fell in love, got married, and after renting for one year, bought our first house in St. Anthony in 1976. We built our next house on the vacant lot next door in 1988 and continue to live there now. We have one daughter, Christina, who attended Wilshire Park, SAV Middle School, and SAV High School, graduating in 1999.
In what ways have you helped SAVHS?
I have been the official scorekeeper for the boys and girls varsity basketball games for the past 22 years. While our daughter was growing up I volunteered to coach youth girls basketball for the Boosters organization. Around 1995 the St. Anthony parents involved with basketball formed the organization known as the Court Club. Its purpose was to raise funds and support the basketball programs in any way possible. I was the first Vice President of the Court Club and I organized several pancake breakfasts that were successful fundraisers.
I retired from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in 2004 and then worked part time for 2 years as a security monitor at the SAV Middle and SAV High Schools. The middle school was going to address bullying and begin implementing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. I was asked to be the Coordinator of the program and assist with training staff and teaching students on recognizing bullying and what to do in those situations.
I was also asked if I would be willing to put on a 9 week class on crime scene processing and the solving of crimes for the Enrichment Cluster flex period at the middle school. I took this opportunity because there were so many popular TV shows called CSI on TV that were not entirely accurate. They made it appear that any crime could be solved in a matter of 45 minutes, the length of the TV show, and that evidence is always found that you could just plug into a computer database and the suspect would instantly appear. I called my enrichment class “The Real CSI” and the class filled up immediately with 21 students signed up. I drew upon my 30 years of law enforcement experience, much of it as a Detective handling criminal investigations as well as Lieutenant supervising the Hennepin County Crime Laboratory Unit, to give the students a taste for how crimes are solved in the real world. I feel strongly that many people in the community have unique life experiences, through employment or otherwise, that can be used to benefit the youth in our schools if given an opportunity to do so.
Why do you do what you do?
Gary Palm, former Athletic Director, attended one of the Court Club meetings along with the boys basketball coach Dave Bratland. They informed us that due to a rule change, students would no longer be allowed to operate the scoreboard or keep the official scorebook at varsity basketball games and those duties must be handled by adults. They were looking for volunteers and I then offered to do the scorebook and have been doing it to the present day, 22 years later.
I find that volunteering for the school is a great way to give back to the school and the community. There are so many little things that people can do that do not take a whole lot of time or effort but contribute to the overall success of our schools and make life easier for school administration and the students. Athletics have always been an important part of my life, from participating when younger, to now mostly viewing as a spectator. I especially enjoy basketball, and in particular, high school basketball. That is because this game is still basketball at its purest level where the kids are not playing for millions of dollars but for the enjoyment of the game. By keeping the scorebook I get to see a lot of great games, see our students compete and improve their skills, and all of this is from the best seat in the house.
What have been the highlights of your experiences at SAVHS or your best memories?
There are many good memories but obviously, my best memory would have to be of my daughter becoming the first girl in SAVHS history to score over 1,000 points in her basketball career. What made this so memorable was witnessing the tremendous support she received from the school community when it looked like she would reach this milestone at a home game. The gym was packed to capacity, there were banners and signs over all the walls, and the kids were screaming their support. Unfortunately, Christina fell short in points that night but she did make it at the next game away at Mound. Several more girls have reached the 1,000 point mark since Christina and I consider myself lucky to have witnessed all of them do it. What makes this enjoyable for me is watching the girls develop their basketball skills from their first varsity game to when they play their last as a senior to see how far they have come. On the boys side, I really remember and enjoyed the fast paced games when Jibran Ike played for St. Anthony, Troy Bell for Holy Angels, and Alan Anderson for DeLaSalle. St. Anthony played those teams at home and the gym was packed with Division 1 college scouts. Ike averaged 35 points a game his senior year and made keeping the scorebook a real challenge.
On the non-athletic side a fond memory I have is of students in my CSI class processing the crime scene I constructed in the class room on the last day. The scene was a robbery/murder that involved a man being shot in his work office. Did you know that the ketchup packets from the lunch room make excellent blood stains? I divided the teams by grade; 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and had each team process the scene to see which team gathered the most evidence from the 18 items of value. They all did equally well with each team finding all the pertinent hidden evidence and clues. It was great to watch their minds working through the process, taking this very seriously, and applying what they had learned the past nine weeks.
What keeps you coming back and continuing to contribute to SAVHS?
I really enjoy what I am doing. It also provides me with a small way that I can give something back and contribute to the schools and the community. Early on when I started to keep the scorebook at the varsity games, Dave Bratland pulled me aside and asked where I had learned to do the book the way that I do. Dave told me he was amazed to see that I did the scorebook in the exact way it should be kept with all the proper notations and markings that really tell the story of the game. He said we have never had anyone at St. Anthony do this. I guess Dave’s appreciation kept me going all these years and I hope the other coaches at least like the consistency of having the same person keep the book. It also makes life easier for Troy Urdahl, the Athletic Director, to know he can count on a person to always be there.
What is your favorite thing about St. Anthony and/or SAVHS?
Getting to know all the people that have been involved with supporting the basketball programs in St. Anthony and the many different ways people support the school community in general. My two years working as a Security Monitor in the middle and high schools gave me first hand insight as to how caring the teachers and staff are toward all the students. They truly do care about all the students and their interaction is truly amazing. I can see why our high school is one of the top rated in the state and nation.
Are there any funny stories or fun facts about you and St. Anthony you are willing to share?
A story that comes to mind is from when I put on “The Real CSI” enrichment course. One of the topics in the course was about fingerprints and how people all have unique prints with different patterns that can be used to identify suspects who commit a crime. I felt the best way to teach those patterns would be to fingerprint each student, all 10 fingers, like in real life and then have the kids study their own patterns and identify whether they have loops, whorls, or arches and so on. Having started my career as a Deputy at the Hennepin County Jail for five years, I had literally fingerprinted well over a thousand people so I thought fingerprinting 21 kids would be no problem. What I did not plan on was the fact that while I was printing each student, I forgot to have another activity for the waiting kids to occupy their time. Needless to say the kids found their own way to keep busy in loud and rowdy ways, and I realized that I had lost complete control of my classroom. I quickly learned just how hard a job teaching is and this made me appreciate even more the work our teachers do on a day to day basis in our schools to give our kids a first rate education.