Outstanding Bulldogs: Mahomet-Seymour recognizes second Hall of Fame class

To some, Mahomet is just another dot on a map, but to the second annual Hall of Fame inductees, Mahomet is a special place — one that unites them all.

"There is a tie to that geographic place," said Brian Haag, a Hall of Fame inductee. "There's a lot to be said for that place."

Haag is one of six inductees in the Mahomet-Seymour Education Foundation's second annual Hall of Fame class. He is recognized as this year's fine arts inductee for his musical talents.

Three athletes were also chosen for this year's roster, including basketball standout Craig Buchanan, girls' track and field star Sharon (Farley) Goff and prominent wrestler Rob Porter.

Longtime football and boys' track and field coach Frank Dutton was also one of this year's inductees. James Kroner more than fit the bill for this year's lifetime achievement recognition for his work as a chemist in the Manhattan Project.

This year's Hall of Fame class will be recognized in a two-part series beginning with Dutton, Haag and Kroner. Next week, The Mahomet Citizen will profile Buchanan, Goff and Porter.

An induction ceremony was held before last Friday's homecoming football game.

 

Frank Dutton

The year was 1971 when Dutton became the M-S head football and boys' track coach.

The Illinois State University alumnus not only lettered as a tackle from 1963-65, but also in the 1965-66 season, he became the Illinois Interscholastic Athletic Association All-Conference offensive tackle.

Dutton coached at ISU and other high schools such as Lincoln Way and Wheaton Central before making his mark with the Bulldogs.

His 21-year career at M-S began after a series of rigorous interviews for a similar coaching position at Olympia High School, where he was beat out by another individual in the final round of interviews.

"I was about gassed out on interviewing when I got the call from (then principal) Fred Reifsteck about Mahomet," Dutton said.

He brought in a playbook that still had all of the Olympia High School wording on it. Nonetheless, Dutton was a shoe-in for the job.

"He looked at my playbook and said, 'I think you'll do a good job here,'" Dutton said.

But Dutton never ended up working with Reifsteck as he went on to become the principal and later the superintendent at Rantoul Township High School.

Dutton's first impression of Mahomet indicated that he had quite a bit of work ahead of him.

"I drove up to the school and the football field was overgrown with grass, the press box was falling apart — it needed painting — and there was very few stands. I don't know if it was 10 bleachers high," he said.

But there is a reason Mahomet-Seymour's football field is named after him. In 1977, just six years at the helm, Dutton's Bulldogs won the Class 2A state championship — the first team title in school history.

His '82 and '86 teams would advance to the state semifinals, and he would go on to have three more teams advance to the state quarterfinals in 2A.

In his career, Dutton coached three Big Ten scholarship football players and eight NCAA Division IA athletes. In 1994, the Bulldogs' legend was inducted into the Illinois Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

In boys' track and field, Dutton led his 1980 team to a third-place Class A finish at state, and in 1987, his team was the state runner-up.

Over the years, Dutton's track teams would go on to win four more sectional titles. He saw 18 of his athletes become individual state placers, and 10 relay teams earned medals at state.

"I had a really great situation here," Dutton said. "I had a lot of coaching friends that I knew were really fine coaches and they never got a situation where they could be successful.

"You've got to have athletes and you've got to be supported."

"I wasn't loved by everyone," Dutton added, "but I know this: The people here really supported athletics, and I was very fortunate."

Dutton has a piece of advice for current Bulldogs: "Enjoy it," he said.

"I used to tell them before big games, 'You guys are the luckiest guys. You're playing. I dream about football all the time and I guarantee you I don't dream about coaching it. I dreamed about playing it,'" he said. "Win or lose, it's a wonderful experience, and it tells you a lot about yourself."

 

Brian Haag

Haag's high school career entailed playing trumpet for the Marching Bulldogs and singing with the madrigals. He considers becoming the student director of the madrigals to be his greatest high school accomplishment.

"I had never been in choir until about halfway through high school," he said. "They were making really good music, and I wanted to be a part of it. I went from never singing at all to singing with a group that I still consider an amazing achievement, and that's due to the director, Mrs. (Janet) Watkins."

Haag will never forget when the Marching Bulldogs won the University of Illinois' marching band show his senior year.

"I remember when we won, it was like it felt like it had been forever since we had been working on it," Haag said. "I remember thinking we worked so hard and so long on it; it was just cool."

Haag's efforts set precedent at "the beginning of a dynasty" as the Marching Bulldogs would continue on a hot streak, continually becoming the grand champions for the next nine years.

But that wasn't the end of the road for the 1989 Mahomet-Seymour grad's music career. Haag went on to study finance at the University of Illinois and joined the ranks of the renowned Marching Illini.

"It was awesome to be a part of it," he said.

Haag now lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he manages the development of software for Flow Traders. When he found out he was selected to this year's Hall of Fame class, Haag was "honored."

"I thought it was really cool that they were making the point that it wasn't just athletes," he said. "But there's also that sort of second deeper level of flattery or gratitude. I am by no means the most talented kid to come out of that high school. To be singled out as a musical inductee having made a contribution worthy of being celebrated is satisfying.

"It was a really, really fun time in my life, and we worked really hard at many different things. We were lucky enough at a place and at a time surrounded by adults that we had lots and lots of success."

Haag encourages current Marching Bulldogs and madrigal singers to enjoy the time they have making music in high school.

"Most people will not go on to careers in professional music, which means the time they make music is in high school and in college is more than likely it," he said. "The vast majority, they don't play anymore (after school) and what that means is that incredibly magical experience of making music with other people is one you should pay attention to and one you should enjoy while you have it because there's really nothing quite like it."

 

James Kroner

Kroner was acknowledged as this year's Hall of Fame class life achievement award winner. Kroner was the salutatorian of Mahomet High School's class of 1939. He lettered in both basketball and track.

The UI graduate earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1943 before being recruited by the federal government to work on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago.

A year later, he transferred to Oak Ridge, Tenn., to research and study plutonium and uranium isotopes for two years. Kroner developed ways to isolate the elements for the atomic bomb.

The Mahomet-Seymour graduate's signature was one of 67 on a petition addressed to President Harry Truman that recommended before the weapon "be used without restriction in the present conflict, its powers should be adequately described and demonstrated."

In 1946, Kroner left his work with the federal government and began working on acetylene research in Indianapolis for Union Carbide and Lindy Air Products. Two years later, he returned to Chicago to conduct research for the American Petroleum Institute.

But in 1951, Kroner decided to return to his native Mahomet, where he worked as a grain farmer north of the village for more than 30 years. He died on June 20, 2014, and is the father of Fred Kroner, who was a longtime sportswriter for The News-Gazette, former editor of The Mahomet Citizen and a Mahomet-Seymour graduate himself.

"If my father were here today, he would be very uncomfortable because he never liked the spotlight to be on him," Fred Kroner said.

If asked to speak, Fred Kroner said his father would likely make two points, with the first being "not to accept everything you are told," he said.

"He would say to question, do independent research and corroborate information before reaching a conclusion or rushing to judgment," Fred Kroner said. "So often people may have an agenda and may interpret events in a manner to suit their purpose or belief. Take the time to study, make sure of the facts and then reach a decision based on what you know, rather than what you are told."

The second point James Kroner would likely make would be to recognize that behind one person's achievements is the efforts of many.

"There is always someone else who deserves a part of the credit," Fred Kroner said. "This is true of scientists. A discovery might be made, but only after other experiments have been conducted to eliminate other possibilities and narrow down the field."

Though James Kroner was unable to accept the award on his own behalf, Fred Kroner said the achievement is an "honor" and "privilege" for the entire Kroner family "to have one of its own recognized" in the Hall of Fame's second class.

Standing in for James Kroner was his grandson, Devin Kroner of Covington, Ky.

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