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2020 Coach of the Year: Jon Ruyle

Jon Ruyle coaches Kearney Catholic softball team to Class C title game
Published: Jan. 1, 2021 at 2:37 PM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Taking over a program is no small feat for any coach but taking over a program whose coach just passed away is something else entirely.

This is what Kearney Catholic softball coach Jon Ruyle navigated as his team dealt with the passing of Russ Hiemstra, who died from a stroke this spring.

“I came into it with just a ton of respect for what had already been done and wanted to make sure that everyone knew that from the very get-go,” Ruyle said.

Coach Ruyle did not shy away from the hurt his players were going through, but embraced it so his team could play for something bigger than themselves.

“He was very considerate of the positions we were in,” Kearney Catholic senior Sydney Owen said. “Having just lost our coach and he came in fully supporting us and helping us grow as players and as people.”

“We just work for things bigger than ourselves,” Kearney Catholic senior Jacee Nore said. “We were working for family members. For Russ.”

The Stars played “For Russ” all the way to the Class C state title game where they finished runner-up.

With 2020 in the rear view mirror, Ruyle said he will remember the practices the most from his first season at the helm.

“Just learning how to manage all these different relationships and still stay positive through a 37-game season,” Ruyle said. “Those practice times and those talks in center field are something I’ll never forget.”

Ruyle coached Kearney Catholic to its first runner-up finish in school history, giving Stars fans something to remember in a year many want to forget.

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