On Saturday, September 28, 2019, Sauk Rapids-Rice High School Athletics honored three outstanding individuals whose notable accomplishments and leadership have contributed to the success of STORM athletic programs. Athlete Melissa Rajkowski, Athlete and Coach Pete Robinet and former Athletics Director Bill Nielsen were recognized and inducted into the Sauk Rapids-Rice High School Athletics Hall of Fame. Congratulations!
NaDean Schroeder, current Sauk Rapids-Rice activities director welcomed inductees and guests to the event. Pastor Todd Mattson of Living Waters Lutheran Church gave the invocation, and the Sauk Rapids-Rice High School culinary team led by Advisor Mary Levinski provided delicious food for the brunch. Loren Finlayson, a representative from the Selection and Hall of Fame committees recognized past inductees.
Pam Rockensock, former SRR physical education teacher and coach, introduced the first inductee, Melissa Rajkowski. Melissa is a 1996 graduate of Sauk Rapids-Rice High School and is a ten-time letter winner in volleyball, basketball and track and field. She was a member of All-Conference teams twice in both volleyball and basketball. Her volleyball team participated in the Section Championship and Melissa scored 803 total points in basketball–at the time, the third most points scored in school history for girls basketball. That total includes one game when she scored an unprecedented 30 points. During her senior year, Melissa was named St. Cloud Times Girls Basketball Player of the Year and was the first female athlete in school history to earn that honor.
Melissa was part of a school record setting 4×200 relay. Her team competed in both the 1994 and 1995 MSHSL State Championship Meet, placing fifth and fourth. She is still among the top 15 record holders at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School. She placed sixth in the 55 hurdles, tenth in the 100 hurdles and fifteenth in the long jump.
She reports feeling that her coaches always instilled in her the importance of “competitive play,” and always upheld the values of cooperation, respect, understanding, inclusion and gratitude.
Melissa also participated in band, choir, student council, National Honor Society, yearbook and coaching for community education.
Today, Melissa is a cardiac ICU nurse for Esentia Health, St. Mary’s in Duluth. She is a ski instructor and member of National Ski Patrol, Outdoor Emergency Care and County Search and Rescue. She volunteers in the St. Scholastica Registered Nursing Program.
Melissa is also a 2001 graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth and earned a master’s degree from St. Cloud State University in 2011. She is the daughter of Carol Sinotte and the late Ed Rajkowski. She is married to Scott Nelson and they are parents to Emily (22), Liz (20), Keegan (19), Jack (16) and Caeley (16).
Loren Finlayson, Sauk Rapids-Rice physical education teacher, introduced second inductee, Pete Robinet, athlete (Sauk Rapids-Rice High School graduate, class of 1979), former Sauk Rapids-Rice track and field coach (1983–2010) and current physical education teacher at Pleasantview Elementary School. Mr. Robinet was not only a track and field athlete, but also a beloved coach and business owner.
During his high school track and field career, Mr. Robinet lettered in track and field four times and once in cross country skiing. He also lettered twice in boys swim and diving and three times in cross country running. He received All Conference honors and honorable mentions in track and field four years in a row. He set the record for the mile run in 1979—a record that still stands at a time of 4:27.90. As a senior, Pete was named Runner of the Year in cross country after serving as captain and receiving All Conference accolades in grades 10 through 12. In swimming, he was on the school record setting 400-free relay team.
Mr. Robinet was also an outstanding coach as an assistant boys track and field coach for six years. He led the program starting in 1990 and saw the team receive the Rum River Champions title in 2000, 2001 and 2002. As the True Team State Champions, the team took the title in 2001 and also received two second places, three third places, four fourth places and one sixth place. From 1992 to 2010, under Pete’s guidance, sixty-nine male athletes participated in Minnesota State High School League State Championship meets, with 5 individual championships. During 1983 to 2010, one hundred thirty-nine of the one hundred sixty-six Sauk Rapids-Rice school outdoor event records were set, and all of the 72 indoor event records were broken.
Pete coached cross country as a co-head coach and assistant coach where he saw his teams win multiple conference team championships. Three teams went to state championships, including a best team finish of sixth place and an individual finish of fourth place. He also served as head Nordic skiing coach from 1994-1996 and developed a team of 28 students, with the best section finish in team history. He was named Assistant Swimming Coach of the Year in 2008 and led the boys team to a third place finish at the state championship.
Prior to his professional career, Mr. Robinet graduated from St. Cloud State University in 1986. He began teaching in 1993. He will retire in November of 2019. He and his wife, Karen, are the parents of Cal (30), Alex (28) and Tony (28). He runs RPM Athletics, LLC, a manufacturer of track and field products.
Billy and Brent Nielsen, Bill Nielsen’s sons, introduced their father, the third inductee. Bill was the Sauk Rapids-Rice High School athletics director for 30 years. He led an effort to transition the school mascot from the Indians to the Storm and the moved the school from the Rum River Conference into the Central Lakes Conference.
Mr. Nielsen started and finished his career at Sauk Rapids-Rice schools as a middle school and high school science teacher. He served as a coach for more than 20 years. That time included tenures as an assistant coach in football, baseball and basketball. He led the Nordic skiing program for six years.
Mr. Nielsen served on the Region 8AA Delegate Assembly for six years and was an active member of the St. Cloud Officials Association. He is a lifetime member of the Minnesota Coaches Association. Mr. Nielsen was named the Minnesota State High School League Region 8AA Athletics Director of the Year in 2003. He is also the five-year recipient of the Sauk Rapids-Rice Principal’s Award for outstanding service to the school district.
In addition to his professional career, Bill volunteers at Sacred Heart Church and Prince of Peace School. He is a frequent presenter at St. Cloud State University, and has presented at the Minnesota Interscholastic Activities Administrators Association Conference.
Mr. Nielsen graduated from Baudette High School in 1966. He was named Athlete of the Year and was Minnesota Mr. Football winner. He won letters 11 times and participated in football, basketball, baseball and track and field. He played football at St. Cloud State University from 1966 to 1968. He graduated from college with honors in 1970.
Bill and his wife, Sherry, are the parents of William and Brent. They have five grandchildren and like to spend their free time in Canada and watching the Minnesota Twins.
After the induction ceremony, the 2018-19 Storm Activities state championship participants were recognized along with students who had notable accomplishments.
The Sauk Rapids-Rice High School Activities staff would like to thank the sponsors of and contributors to the 2019 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Brunch:
Sally and Robert Bogert Family
Sauk Rapids-Rice Football Alumni
The Copper Lantern Restaurant
Kelm & Reuter Law Firm
North Benton Dental Care
Williams Dingmann Funeral Home
G’s Remodeling and Custom Cabinets
Jimmy’s Pour House
SRRHS Culinary Team
Benton Trophy and Awards
The Sauk Rapids Herald