Three area contributors have in different ways made an impact on area sports for more than a quarter century.
Central Valley coach Kim Brunelle, longtime sports official Rich Hobson and journalist Mark Nelke are this year’s Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters 25-Year Award winners. They will be recognized at halftime during Saturday’s finals of the State 2B and 1B basketball tournaments at the Arena.
Kim Brunelle announced her retirement this winter after 41 years as a gymnastics coach, the last 30 at Central Valley. She initially coached at the club level beginning in 1975.
During her tenure, the Bears had five top-four team finishes at state, won five district titles, two GSL titles, a regional championship and 12 individual state finalists.
Brunelle was named GSL Coach of the Year nine times, including this season, and was named this year’s state coach of the year, her second such honor.
She also was a head golf coach at CV.
Rich Hobson is a familiar fixture as a softball umpire and volleyball official for 35 years. He’s worked all levels of softball from middle school through Division I colleges, including five years in the Pac-12. He also has officiated all classifications of high school volleyball.
Rich has worked five high school state softball and numerous national ASA tournaments and earned recognition for behind-the-scenes administrative contributions, among them the Washington Officials Association Meritorious Service award, and is a member of the Inland Empire Softball Hall of Fame.
A cohort wrote, “quite frankly, he is the stabilizer within the Spokane Softball Umpires Association. In the 1980s when the organization was splintered, he was the glue that held it together.”
Mark Nelke, a Mead High School, Community Colleges of Spokane and Eastern Washington University graduate, has spent the bulk of his 34-year career writing high school sports in North Idaho.
Nelke applied for an opening at the Sandpoint Daily Bee in 1982 and, as is the case at small newspapers, wrote stories, first on a typewriter, and took pictures at high school events after teaching himself photography.
He became assistant sports editor at the Coeur d’Alene Press and has been sports editor since 1998, primarily covering high school sports and also North Idaho College. He is an active member of the Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters.