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Geneva honors new hall of fame inductees
By Craig Brueske | Daily Herald Correspondent

Geneva's Sarah Landau celebrates after clearing 13 feet 3 inches during the pole vault in class AA at O'Brien Field on the campus of Eastern Illinois University on Saturday. Landau won the event, setting a new state record.

 

Daily Herald File Photo

Above: Ron Johnson, on the right and pictured with St. Charles East athletic director Jerry Krieg when the Saints' named their Thanksgiving tournament after him, was one of three Geneva grads enshrined into the Vikings' Hall of Fame Saturday night. Below: Another inductee, Sarah Landau, celebrates after setting the state pole vault record at the 2004 state meet.

 

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Published: 1/30/2010 11:29 PM

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Three familiar names in Geneva High School athletics - Ron Johnson, Sarah Landau and Todd Searcy - became the newest members of the Viking Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night in the Contest Gym.

The three former standouts were officially inducted during ceremonies held at halftime of the Geneva-St. Charles East boys basketball game (the Saints won 39-34).

It was fitting that the one-time Little Seven Conference rivals were pitted against each other for Johnson, who was a 2-year starting guard/forward at Geneva High School (Class of 1950) and went on to enjoy an illustrious career as head basketball coach at St. Charles High School from 1963-98.

"It's nice coming back," said Johnson, who ranks 12th on the all-time IHSA list with 710 career victories - 602 of them coming at St. Charles. "We got to play Geneva all the time when I was up there at St. Charles.

"It's kind of like playing 1-on-1 in the driveway with your brother. You don't want to lose. We had some great games with Geneva."

Johnson, who guided the Saints to 20 regional crowns and a pair of sectional titles, had the opportunity to play for his father, Mel, who was inducted posthumously into the Geneva Hall of Fame in 2001.

"I learned everything from him and probably added to it a little bit as time went on," Johnson said of his dad. "I couldn't have asked for a better place to play or person to play for."

Johnson, who received all-state and all-conference recognition while leading the Vikings in scoring, went on to play at Bradley University before becoming Kaneland's first basketball coach from 1957-63 (108-51 record).

"This is a nice award for anybody, especially when you've been away from it a couple years," he said.

Landau (Class of 2004), the youngest Hall of Fame inductee, made her mark on the Burgess Field track infield as a 2-time Class AA girls state pole vault champion. The 3-time all-conference selection set a state record by clearing 13-3 in 2004 - a mark that still stands today.

"What I remember most probably was all the support and team chemistry we had," said Landau, who is currently an account executive with 40/29 News (ABC affiliate) in Fayetteville, Ark. "We had such a strong group of girls on the team."

Landau went on to Miami of Ohio, where she was a 2-time All Mid-American selection and still is the school's record holder in the pole vault (13-8), before transferring to the University of Arkansas.

At Arkansas, Landau achieved All-American status by virtue of her eighth-place finish (personal-best 13-9 1/4) in the pole vault at last May's NCAA Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

"I can't believe I've been out of high school for five years," she said. "This is such an honor and it's so nice to be back here and see everyone.

"It's really nice to come back and be able to say thank you to everyone who helped me along the way."

Searcy (Class of 1983) was a 2-time all-conference linebacker and offensive lineman and conference MVP who played for coach Jerry Auchstetter's Vikings. He was a member of the 1982 football team that went 9-0 during the regular season and advanced to the 3A state semifinals before losing a 30-24 double-overtime decision to eventual state champion Bishop McNamara.

"The whole time was really special - especially senior year," said Searcy, who went on to become a 3-year letterwinner at the University of Illinois. "It was the most fun I've had even with all my time in college.

"I played in the Rose Bowl (1984) and Peach Bowl (1985) but nothing compared to the group of people that we have here (at Geneva)."

Searcy, who played guard in college, is widely regarded as "one of the best linebackers in Viking history." His older brother, Mark, was a 2006 Hall of Fame inductee.

"This ranks up there as one of the biggest accomplishments for me," said Searcy, who works as a general manager for Thermal Products Corp. in Tucson, Ariz. "It's a fantastic feeling."