Ceremony to take place September 29 at WSHS Media Center
On September 29 in the Winona Senior High School (WSHS) Media Center, upstairs, 901 Gilmore Avenue, WSHS activities will host its 2018 Hall of Fame class. It will be inducting four members, with David Dreas being inducted as a 2017 Hall of Fame member, during a ceremony at 1 p.m.
The inductees will meet at WSHS on September 28 and ride on a float in the Homecoming Parade to Paul Giel Field at around 5 p.m. Then, during halftime of the Homecoming game, they’ll be introduced on the 50-yard line.
Marni Benson Franzeen — 2004
Marni Benson, daughter of David and Gena Benson, began her swim career as a six-year old in 1994. Her big sister, Brita, was an outstanding competitive swimmer and she wanted to be one, too. Marni broke her first swimming record in the 2002 YMCA State Meet in the 100-yard freestyle and then went on to take first place in the 200 free and 100-yard breaststroke. From there it was “off to the races” under the tutelage of YMCA Swim Coach Jim Pingry. She was an 11-time YMCA State Qualifier with 19 age group state titles. Benson enthusiastically gave back by serving as a YMCA swim coach and was recognized in 2002 as the YMCA Aquatics Department Volunteer of the Year.
Benson continued to dominate at the high school level, making the varsity team as a seventh grader, breaking many Winona High and Big Nine records throughout her career in both freestyle and breaststroke events. Benson graduated from Winona High with a 4.0 GPA, earning All-Conference Honors as well as Big Nine Academic Achievement Awards five straight years, and was named Big Nine Scholar Athlete her senior year. Benson was a four-time State qualifier in the breaststroke earning All-State Honors three times. She broke the Winona High record in the breaststroke each of her final four years and set a Big Nine record in the breaststroke in 2004.
Benson continued swimming with the YMCA, qualifying for six events in the National Tournament in 2002. Benson was also an eight-time state tournament qualifier for USA Swimming, placing in the top six 11 times. In 2005, Benson was the Women’s 100-meter State Champion in the breaststroke.
Marni followed in sister Brita’s footsteps after graduating from Winona High, enrolling at Iowa State University (ISU) where she continued her swimming dominance. Benson lettered in swimming all four years at ISU and was named All Big 12 First Team three times. She set ISU records in the breaststroke three times and was a member of four record-breaking relay teams at ISU.
Iowa State University Head Coach Duane Sorenson summarized Benson’s final season by stating, “As one of our captains this season, Marni Benson was a leader both in and out of the pool. She was the first one in the water every day leading the team in our warm-up set and pushing herself on a daily basis to be the best she could be. She capped off her season by finishing second in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Big 12 Championships. Congratulations, Marni, on being our Most Valuable Swimmer.”
Marni and her husband, Colton, reside in Ankeny, Iowa, along with their two dogs. Marni is a service center manager for Aspen Waste Systems in Des Moines and Colton is a paralegal with the law firm Gray and Hodges.
Elliott Heath — 2007
Elliott Heath grew up in Winona with parents Bob and Linda and older brother Garrett. As a youngster Elliott was always outside playing soccer or shooting hoops. His father described him as a gamer, always thinking about the strategy of the game and how he could perform his skills a little better. As Garrett started experiencing success at the varsity level in cross country and track, Elliott began showing some outstanding potential.
Elliott participated at the varsity level in cross country as a seventh grader garnering six varsity letters, earning five All-Conference Awards and was voted Winona High’s Most Valuable Runner four times. Heath was a three-time Big Nine Conference Champion as well as a three-time Section 1AA Champion in cross-country. Heath qualified for the State Cross-Country Meet four times, finishing 28th, eighth, first, and third. In a tremendous regular-season effort, Heath ran a career best 14:58 for 5k at the Faribault Invite. Heath was selected as a High School All-American in Cross-Country and won the Junior Olympic National Cross-Country Championship in Boulder, Colo., following his senior season.
In track and field, Heath had equally amazing success. He was a four-time All-Conference selection, winning the Big Nine in the 1600 and 3200 in his sophomore through his senior season. Heath was a three-time Section 1AA Champion in the 1600 and a two-time champion in the 3200. Heath took a fourth place and two thirds in the 1600 at the State Meet and was a two-time State Champion at 3200 meters, setting an all-time state record in the 3200 (8:42.8) his senior season.
Heath also played basketball throughout high school as well as trumpet in the band displaying the same effort and attitude as he did in every facet of his life.
After graduating from high school, Heath decided to join his brother at Stanford University, which enabled Garrett and Elliott to run together as teammates one last season. Heath went on to have considerable success at Stanford in both cross-country and track garnering All-American Honors 11 times and winning the 3200 at the NCAA Indoor National Championships in 2011. Heath was named to the PAC 10 All-Academic Team a total of nine times in cross-country and track. After graduating from Stanford, Heath continued to run with his Stanford teammates while competing under Nike Sponsorship. Heath finished seventh in the 2012 Olympic Trials in the 5k and was runner-up in the Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He was also a member of the USA cross country team that finished second in the World Championships in Poland.
Heath continued his studies while competing for Nike earning a Master’s Degree in mechanical engineering and is currently working for Nike in the area of product design and development.
David Heise – 1961
David “The Heis” Heise, son of Dr. Herbert and Mildred Heise, was born and raised in Winona. Heise’s love of sports came at a very early age through the inspiration of brother, Bill. Whether playing pick-up ball on the driveway, at the nearby park, or at the YMCA, David was an eager participant and well on his way to becoming a lifelong Winhawk.
Heise was a standout letter winner in basketball and baseball at Winona Senior High and immediately recognized for his skills, tenacity, and leadership. He served as co-captain in basketball and was one of five players selected to the Big Nine All-Conference First Team. In his senior year, his basketball team won the District and Region titles, finishing fourth in the one-class State Tournament in 1961. Heise was also an outstanding baseball player, holding the highest batting average on the team in his junior year.
After high school graduation (1961), Heise enrolled at St. Olaf College where he played both basketball and baseball for the Oles, serving as co-captain on both teams. Heise’s major college basketball highlight came his senior year when the Oles won the MIAC Conference Title.
After earning his chemistry and biology degree, Heise enrolled in medical school at the University of Minnesota. Feeling a tug to do something with his passion for math, he left medical school to pursue a Master’s Degree in math at Winona State. This allowed Heise time to play basketball and fast-pitch softball. Heise played on many city league championship basketball and fast-pitch softball teams, winning some state softball tournaments, at times leading the league in hitting, and always securing the third base position on the team. In his spare time, he could be spotted on the golf course, in the gym, or in the racquetball courts at the YMCA.
After completion of his Master’s Degree, Heise was hired to teach math at Winona High, a position he held most honorably for 47 years. He taught geometry, advanced algebra, pre-calculus and calculus. He was a well respected leader and colleague, serving faithfully as the math department chair, site-based team leader, faculty representative for the district Math Curriculum Committee, and as co-president of the WEA. Along with his teaching duties, he volunteered for youth coaching clinics and has served on the board at the YMCA. Heise has been a lifelong member of the Y and continues to play racquetball several days a week.
During Heise’s coaching career at Winona High, he served in many leadership positions in baseball, softball, and both boys and girls basketball. He was the WSHS girls head basketball coach for 13 years and held the head softball position from its Title 9 infancy until his retirement. He was twice honored as Big Nine Softball Coach of the Year.
At his side throughout this life-long journey have been his devoted wife, Mary, and their daughter, Heather: the apple of his eye. Whether playing, coaching, or just living life, Heise attributes any and all success to a positive mental attitude and an unwavering faith in God.
David Dreas – 2004
David Dreas was born and raised in Winona by parents Tom and Laura. He spent much of his childhood on the Knopp Valley basketball courts and at the John Nett Center, playing pickup games with mostly older friends. He excelled at the junior high level and made the varsity basketball team (sixth man) as a 10th grader. Dreas was named Big Nine Honorable Mention as a sophomore, made the All-Conference Team in his junior and senior seasons, and served as a team captain his senior year. Dreas holds the Winona High record for career points (1,186), career steals (196), career free-throw percentage (86.2 percent), as well as the highest free-throw percentage for a season (90.2 percent).
Rocky Peterson, Dreas’ high school basketball coach, stated, “David truly knew how to train in the off-season, working to make every aspect of his game better while adding a new dimension each year. He is the type of point guard every coach is looking for, making every player around him better, as well as being able to score himself. David Dreas is the whole package.”
After graduating from Winona High, Dreas enrolled at St. Cloud State University (SCSU), where he took his game to the next level. Dreas’ high school basketball career was outstanding, but his college career was phenomenal. Dreas, who played in every game in his four-year career at St. Cloud, was a three-time North Central All-Conference selection and led the Huskies in scoring for three consecutive seasons. Dreas still holds the all-time SCSU record for three pointers with 250 and is second on the Huskie all-time scoring chart with 1,802 career points. As a sophomore, Dreas led the entire North Central Conference in scoring. Dreas was a three-time Daktronics All-North Central Region selection and garnered a number of NCAA Division II All-American Honors as well as being selected to play in the Division II All-Star Game. As a senior, Dreas served as a team captain, leading the Huskies to their second straight Regional Playoff berth, and was named to the NCC Academic All-Conference Team. Dreas was named the Noel Olson Honor Athlete Award winner as a junior and was selected as a North Central Conference Honor Athlete in his senior season. In 2007, Dreas was named St. Cloud State University Male Athlete of the Year.
St. Cloud State Head Basketball Coach Kevin Schlagel categorizes Dreas as, “A tremendous basketball player, a good student, and a great person.” Schlagel continued, “David had a solid work ethic and was very coachable — a leader by example. His parents instilled core values that have stayed with him throughout his life.”
Dreas was a member of a number of volunteer organizations while at St. Cloud, including Kids against Hunger and Husky Hot Shots, and participated in a reading program where St. Cloud State Athletes read to elementary students in the St. Cloud area.
Dreas graduated from St. Cloud State with a major in marketing and is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. After graduation, Dreas was employed with Wells Fargo and Edward Jones in the investment field before opening his Arizona Training Lab, a personal fitness center, which he owns and operates in Phoenix.
Dan Laak – 1978
Dan Laak, son of Jack and Pat Laak, was born and raised in Winona, along with older brothers, Mike and Steve, and younger brother, Bob. He enjoyed going down to the YMCA, where he would jump on the trampoline and swim in the pool. He was a good student and a good diver on the swim team, qualifying for the state meet in diving as a junior under the guidance of Larry Clingman. Dan Murphy, another great diving coach, followed Clingman and introduced Dan to some new diving techniques and expanded his repertoire.
After graduating from Winona High, Laak enrolled at UW–La Crosse (UW-L) and went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in recreational administration. While at La Crosse, Laak’s diving career took off. He set three diving records and was a four-time All-American (1979-1982) at UW-L. Head coach Barry Schockmel describeed Dan as a great teammate — quiet and focused with an even keel disposition and a positive mental attitude. Dan was Schockmel’s first All-American and was inducted into the UW-La Crosse Wall of Fame in 2003.
After graduating from UW-L, Dan served as diving coach at Tennessee for two years before going to the University of Georgia where he has remained for the past 31 years. While at Georgia, Laak helped coach his Bulldog Swim and Diving Team to twelve Southeast Conference Championships, was named SEC Diving Coach of the Year four times as well as the NCAA Division I National Diving Coach of the Year three times. Two of Dan’s divers, Chis Colwill and Laura Ryan, collected five NCAA Diving championships under Dan’s tutelage. Laak also served as Chairman of the NCAA Diving Rules Committee from 1997-2000. Dan was inducted into the Georgia Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame in 2017. Dan was also selected to coach the USA divers in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and served as the Brazilian Diving Coach in the 2016 Olympics.
Trip Hedrick, former Winona High and Iowa State Swim Coach, described Dan as one of the most respected diving coaches in the country, with a calm demeanor and sense of fairness, honesty, and personal integrity that separates him from the field. Although Trip only coached Dan for one year, he remembers Dan as having strong leadership skills, even as a freshman in high school.
When Georgia head swim coach, Jack Baurle, was asked about Dan, he said the word that comes to mind is “loyalty.” Dan served as his meet coordinator and took on many organizational and management duties in the Bulldog program. He was a tremendous diving coach, but was completely immersed and constantly looking for ways to make the entire program better. Dan was all about the team and has put an indelible stamp on the Georgia Bulldog program.
Laak has recently accepted the position of high performance director of USA diving, one of the most prestigious jobs in the country for a diving coach. Dan said he loved every minute of his coaching position at Georgia, and did not want to leave, but could not turn down the opportunity to serve at the USA level.
Dan and his wife, Kim, who works as a Health Care Marketing Specialist, have two sons, Tyler and Justin.