On Friday, Sept. 21, during halftime of the football game, North Branch Area Public Schools inducted four new members into the Viking Hall of Fame for Athletics and Activities. The four new members include Dave Boots, Grant White, Ward Gilkerson, and Jim Johnson.
North Branch has a proud tradition in athletic and activities and all four individuals made significant contributions to that tradition over the years.
Dave Boots: Dave Boots, is a 1974 graduate of North Branch Area High School. During his career, Dave participated in football, baseball and basketball. It was on the basketball court where Dave would shine and earn countless accolades throughout his career. Boots earned All-Conference and All-District honors during his junior and senior season. Dave would serve as Team Captain and earn Team M.V.P. honors as a senior. He would also be named All-State during his senior year. Dave would go on to earn All-Conference and All-District honors at Augsburg College before serving as head coach from 1982-1988. In 1988, Boots became the head coach at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, S.D. Throughout his 31 years at the helm for the Coyotes, Boots has been named Coach of the Year nine times and earned 608 wins to become USD’s all-time most winning coach.
Grant W. White: Grant White is a 1952 graduate of Stillwater High School in Stillwater, Minn., but calls North Branch home, spending the majority of his professional career working in various roles for the school district. White participated in track and field for the Ponies, as well as a member of the Drama Club and National Honor Society. He earned his undergraduate degree from Winona State University and his masters and education administration degree from Mankato State College. Prior to his career in education, White served in the United States Navy during the Korean Conflict from 1954-1956. Upon returning to the United States, Grant entered into education and would come to North Branch in 1970. During his 20-plus years working for North Branch Area Public Schools, White would serve in many roles including; Assistant Principal, Principal, Athletic Director, and Transportation Director. While in North Branch, he would also serve as chairman of the Rum River Conference.
Ward Gilkerson: Ward Gilkerson is a native of Minneapolis and a 1969 graduate of Patrick Henry High School. Gilkerson excelled in cross country, cross country skiing and track and field for the Patriots and competed in the MSHSL Track and Field Championships his junior and senior year. Gilkerson served as head Boys and Girls Cross Country from 1974-2006, head Boys Track from 1975-1984 and was an assistant coach for Boys and Girls track from 1985-2007. His Cross Country teams were Section 7 champions in 1975, 1976, and 2006. His 1975 team took fifth place at the State Cross Country Meet and the 1976 team took third place. His cross country teams earned conference championship trophies in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Ward was voted by Section Cross Country Coach of the year by his peers. Ward Gilkerson is one of the most decorated Viking coaches of all-time.
Jim Johnson: James “Jim” Johnson is a 1945 graduate of North Branch Area High School. During his time at North Branch Area High School, Jim lettered in football, basketball, track and field and band. Following high school, Jim served the United States by enlisting in the U.S. Army. While in the Army, Jim played for the fifth Army Basketball Team and earned a scholarship to New Mexico State which he would turn down and return to North Branch. Following his return to North Branch, Johnson became extremely active in his home town working with youth while serving the community. He founded the Boy Scout Drum and Bugle Corps in 1966, coached youth sports, served as a City Council Member and volunteer firefighter for the City of North Branch all while owning a retail business on Main Street in North Branch.