Ralph Halvorson

by Randy Olson, Bonanza Valley Voice

Born to lifelong Belgrade farmers, Gordon and Anna 
Halvorson, Ralph Halvorson was the second to youngest of six boys and two girls raised on the Halvorson farm south of Belgrade and Georgeville.
Halvorson, a 1976 Belgrade high school graduate, has many memories from an active Redmen athletic career.
"Games were always a part of growing up on the Halvorson farm. Whether it was playing football or baseball in Larson’s pasture, playing softball at Bible camp during lunch hour, clearing off the snow to play hockey on the ice with the Nicklaus's, moving hay to play basketball in the barn or playing no dribble basketball in the mud."
According to Halvorson, the games would start innocently with mild horseplay, but usually they ended with some type of wrestling match.
"The score didn’t seem to matter. Once that event was over, everything was right in the world and we could go back to chores and whatever else was going on."
Organized school sports were a privilege that the Halvorson family embraced.
"We had a family rule that we could go out for one sport of our choice. It was an automatic choice for me to choose football, as I heard from teachers and coaches all through school asking if I was going to be as good as my brothers that played. As a senior I went out for wrestling to add to an already talented wrestling team."
For Halvorson and his peers, football really started to mean something starting in ninth grade.  A few of the ninth graders were asked to dress for the varsity games. 
"The excitement, intensity, fun, and team camaraderie of the sport was special. Prior to my sophomore year, Belgrade had a bit of a revolving door for head football coaches with three head coaches between 1970 and 1974." 
The revolving door bit changed when Tom O'Neil came to Belgrade in 1974.
"Coach O'Neil and his assistant coach, Dennis Weimerskirch, were the coaches that we all looked up to. We wanted to do well for them. They got the best out of us."
In Halvorson's junior year, the Redmen returned to the top of the West Lake Conference for the first time in 10 years. They tied Clara City for the title that year, with Halvorson earning the first of two All-Conference football awards. The Redmen actually knocked off Clara City when they were undefeated, but a week later winless Raymond upset Belgrade to forge the conference co-championship.
"The state playoff system was nothing like it is today, and our 1975 team missed out on the playoffs by a point system. In my senior year, we made the playoffs but met a much bigger Sartell team and lost in the first round of Class B playoffs."
In the regular season, the 1976 team was undefeated in the West Lake Conference and finished the season 8-2. Halvorson was named Most Valuable Player in the conference.
"Once our Belgrade teams became successful, individual awards followed for many of the players. We placed many players on the all-conference list. I was fortunate to be one of them."
Halvorson's high school career included all-conference honors in wrestling as a senior on top of a laundry list of football honors: team captain as a senior, the WCCO Prep Parade in '75 and '76, All-Area teams for the Willmar Tribune and the St. Cloud Times plus theKMSR Radio Lineman of the Year.
Beyond athletics, Halvorson was a member of choir and band, an active member of Crow River Lutheran church, Mr. Minnesota Teen in 1976 and a member of the Belgrade Homecoming court as a junior and senior.
Halvorson's oldest brother, Doug, played football at Concordia-Moorhead and paved the way for him to follow in his footsteps.
"It was a very magical time to be at Concordia. I joined a team of very talented coaches and players. During my four years of attendance, we were MIAC champions for three years and NAIA national champions one time."
Individual college football awards he earned were: team captain in 1980, MIAC all-conference 1979 and 1980, MVP of MIAC in 1980, NAIA Division II All-American, All-District 13 in 1980, UPI and AP Division III All-American in 1980.
Upon graduation in 1981, Halvorson took his B.A. degree in Physical Education and tried out unsuccessfully for the Ottawa Roughriders in the Canadian Football League. He then utilized teaching and coaching as a path to stay involved with athletics.
In 1985, Halvorson earned an Adapted Physical Education certificate from Mankato State and then a Certified Athletic Administrators certificate in 1999.
Halvorson's teaching and coaching career began in Thief River Falls in 1981 and continued at Concordia, Sauk Centre, Rocori and Rockford up to 2002. At Rockford from 1985 to 2002, Halvorson served as head football and girls' basketball coach and also a junior high track coach. He was Activities Director at Rockford from 1991 to 2002 and RHS Teacher of the Year in 2002.
From 2002 to 2011, Halvorson worked as Activities Director at Academy of Holy Angels high school in Richfield. He won the Noonan Award in 2008 for co-creating a Faith in Action program.
Since 2012, Halvorson has been junior high athletic coordinator, high school intramural director and Community Education youth athletic coordinator at Stillwater Area Schools.
In 2001, Halvorson and his fellow members of Concordia's 1978 national championship team were inducted into the Cobbers Hall of Fame. Individually, he was inducted there in 2003.
In 1986, Halvorson married Melissa Jo Lehto, owner and operator of GH Specialties and Account Executive for Vernon Promotional Products. They've been blessed with three wonderful children: Chad (22), in Oklahoma City; Alexis (20) who is at Augsburg College where she plays LaCrosse; and Logan (18) who is attending Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, MI where she will play lacrosse and is planning to major in Sports Marketing/Administration.
"I try to convey the message to student athletes that you should play the game for fun, first and foremost, and secondly play the sport because you want to, not because someone else wants you to. If you can use athletics as a vehicle to achieve greater goals, that is awesome. But athletics is only part of who you truly are. I’m grateful for my parents, siblings, relatives, and community that I grew up in that shaped me into the person I am today."
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