Becky Weinhandl appreciates that she grew up in a time when girls’ and women’s sports were gaining popularity.
That allowed Weinhandl to do something that was rare even then – and impossible now – playing five sports at Greenville (Ill.) College near St. Louis.
“In the early 1970s our seasons weren’t as long, and they went one right after the other and didn’t overlap,” Weinhandl, who grew up in St. Louis before attending Greenville, said. “I don’t know if I was that good at any of them. I was probably best at volleyball and softball.”
Weinhandl laid the foundation for her career while at Greenville. She came to Marengo and has coached and taught for 33 years, working the last 13 as athletic director. She has been understated there as well, while reaching more high school athletes than she probably ever will realize.
Weinhandl is retiring at the end of the school year. Marengo paid tribute to her last Tuesday at its final regular-season home boys basketball game.
Before the game, she was honored with a crystal trophy with the inscription: “You went the extra distance for the children.” She also had a surprise when five former Greenville teammates attended the game.
“I didn’t know they were coming,” Weinhandl said. “I saw one of them in the stands and thought she looked familiar, but then I thought, ‘Oh, right.’ ”
Rich Weinhandl was the culprit there, setting it up with Becky’s old teammates. After the game, at Weinhandl’s house, they called two of their college coaches up to chat.
“It was like we never left college, the things we were talking about,” Becky said. “You could never [play five sports] now, even at a small school. The softball and tennis overlapped a little, but our coach let me and my partner have a separate practice. I don’t think I missed any matches.”
Weinhandl played volleyball, field hockey, basketball, softball and tennis at Greenville, where she graduated in 1974.
She has coached several sports at Marengo, with her most successful teams in girls basketball.
From 1979-86, her teams were 124-46 and won four Class A regional championships. Those four teams lost to the eventual state champion teams in the sectional each time.
Marengo won its first team state title in school history last spring when the Indians softball team brought home the Class 3A state championship trophy.
Marengo principal Scott Shepard said he has been thrilled in his four years at the school to work with Weinhandl.
“She is a great example for the coaches and students for what it is to commit to something and dedicate her life to serving kids,” Shepard said. “As AD, you look for someone to organize things and she truly goes above and beyond. She’s a cheerleader for the kids and a mentor for the coaches, a real positive energy person. A lot of people don’t understand how much she loves Marengo and what she does for the kids.”
Weinhandl said one thing she will miss in retirement is the interaction with the athletes, although she will remain a big Indians fan and still attend a lot of games.
“I love athletics, I love the arena and watching kids play and compete,” she said. “I love being at Marengo, a place that loves athletics. They took care of me and did a lot for me. I’m so blessed to have the privilege and honor to teach and coach here at Marengo. Marengo’s done more for me than I’ve ever done for Marengo.”
• Joe Stevenson is the senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.