Editor's Note: “A Look at Times Gone By” is an in-depth look at weekly Times Gone By entries compiled since 2015. These articles will appear in each edition as local teams anticipate new seasons, whenever they should resume.
The 1961 Dana College track and field team returned five conference champions, 10 lettermen and added a standout class of recruits in hopes of repeating as Tri-State Conference champions.
Team expectations were quite high, according to Enterprise Media Group reporting at the time.
“Coach (Darrell) Zimmerman commented with enthusiasm about Dana's prospects in this year's competition,” the newspaper read that March.
The Vikings' returning champions — Emory Anderson, Tom Frank, Larry Swanson, Hans Willadsen and Dean Henricksen — returned with a schedule that started with a triangular at Doane University in Crete, included a touted Illinois road trip and ended with the conference title.
Dana was the back-to-back conference champ.
The Vikings competed in its triangular opener and eventually finished fourth in Rock Island, Ill., at the 11th annual Viking Olympics. Bill Bracker claimed the Blair team's only event win, but Zimmerman was elated with his team's performance with seven new school records. Those records came against competition from schools with twice as many students.
Not long after, Dana accomplished its goal with seven more school records at the Tri-State meet it hosted. The Vikings won with 192 points to Midland's 142.5. Yankton was third with 65 points, while Concordia (45.5), Westmar (33), Sioux Falls (14) and Northwestern College (0) followed suit.
While Midland Warrior Larry Collier stole the show with 29.5 points earned, Dana College won nine of the track meet's 16 events.
Bryce Olsen and Anderson each won two 1961 Tri-state championships. Olsen was the 100-yard dash and low-hurdle winner, while Anderson won shot put and discus.
Willadsen won the 440 dash in 51.4 seconds, while Byron Jensen won the high hurdles event. John Laughunn ran and won the 880, John Seburg earned the two-mile run title and the Vikings' mile relay squad finished first in 3:30.2.
Overall, the Dana cindermen, as they were often referenced to in print, met every expectation. The Vikings set or tied 11 team records and finished as the dominant team in their conference.
Despite all that, coach Zimmerman — who led both the track and football teams — resigned in mid-May to take a position at Valparaiso University. He'd arrived in Blair from Farmington, Minn., in 1958 and left with two track titles in just three years' time.
“In commenting about the change in position, Zimmerman made it clear there were no underlying factors in his resigning,” the newspaper report read. “He simply could not refuse the chance for advancement.”
According to a 2019 Tracy (Minn.) Area Headlight Herald obituary, Zimmerman died at age 91. He was a member of four hall of fames as a coach, was on USA Coaches Hall of Fame ballots for five years and was the State Department-appointed coach of the Ecuador National Track Team in 1968 through1970.
The coach's last Dana College team left quite the impression as well with all of its success in 1961.