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June 23, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Two local coaches join sports hall of fame Two local coaches join sports hall of fame (June 23, 2004)

By Jennifer Nuckols
Special to the Almanac

Two local coaches -- Plato Yanicks, who led his Menlo-Atherton High School track and cross-county athletes to 17 league championships, and Lars Jensen, who wrestled at M-A and went on to coach San Francisco State's wrestling team to a national title -- will be inducted this week into the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame.

They will join eight other new inductees, which will bring the total number of hall of famers to 162. These include baseball's Barry Bonds and former NFL coach John Madden.

"I feel that it's the greatest honor I've ever received," said Yanicks, who coached track and cross country at Menlo-Atherton High School from 1964 to 1994. "Here I'm a little peon high school coach next to such big names in sports."

In addition to the league championships, Yanicks -- who also coached at Alameda from 1958 to 1962 and at Hillsdale from 1962 to 1964 -- led his track and cross country athletes to three regional championships. He coached 30 state-meet qualifiers, 24 All-Americans, a PAC-10 champion, and Olympian Trish King.

Yanicks began the cross-country program at M-A and is considered the father of the state cross-country meet, a 5-kilometers or 3.1-mile event.

"One of my greatest contributions was creating a dynasty at M-A," said Yanicks, who lives in Mountain View. "They have tradition (now)."

Although he graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1949, he jumped at the opportunity to coach at M-A.

"M-A ... has great diversity," he said. "I'd have everything. We were so well-balanced that we were hard to beat."

Yanicks is also the founder of the M-A Sports Hall of Fame.

Some of Yanicks' former athletes, even from as far away as Long Island, New York, plan to attend the induction ceremony.


Lars Jensen's greatest accomplishment as a coach, he said, was in 1997 when he led the San Jose State wrestling team to the school's first NCAA Division II national championship, without any scholarship players.

Jensen also coached eight individual national champions, 48 All-Americans, and 83 NCAA Division II national qualifiers. Six times his teams have placed in the top 10 in the nation.

But Jensen, who grew up in Menlo Park, said it's not the recognition that he enjoys most about coaching.

"Over a three- to four-year period, you see the development of the students and their improvement," he said. "It's not so much the awards -- they take care of themselves. It's when (the athletes) come back after five or six years and say, 'Even though you were tough on me, you taught me discipline, respect and confidence.'"

Jensen wrestled for M-A High from 1971 to 1975, and then for two years at College of San Mateo before transferring to San Francisco State, where he competed in two NCAA Division II national championships, in 1979 and 1980.

Yanicks tried to recruit Jensen to join the track team as a freshman.

"I saw this great specimen of a man and I could just see the potential in this kid," said Yanicks. "I tried to get him to come out to do shot put or discus, but he chose wrestling instead."


The San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame is sponsored by the San Mateo County Times. Ticket sales have closed for the banquet, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, at the Bay Meadows Racecourse Clubhouse, 2600 South Delaware St. in San Mateo. Proceeds benefit the YMCA Camp Jones Gulch. For more information, call Virginia Kroger at 340-4119 or check, and click on "Sports Hall of Fame."

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