Putnam County High School will honor former standout athletes Erin (Entwistle) St. Germain, Steve Safranski and Doug Veronda for their contributions to PC athletics with induction into the school’s hall of fame.
The class will be honored at Friday’s home boys basketball game against Ottawa Marquette.
“Putnam County High School is very proud to welcome back Steve, Erin and Doug for this year’s hall of fame ceremony,” Putnam County athletic director Dave Garcia said. “Steve Safranski’s contributions to our track team in the mid-1970s helped Putnam County gain its identity in the early years of the consolidation.
“Erin Entwistle is the first female to be inducted. Her accomplishments to the basketball at Putnam County were tremendous for four years. She had a great career at Western Illinois University and continued on in the front offices of Oregon State University.
“I cannot say enough about Doug Veronda. As a player, his numbers and accomplishments speak for themselves. He was a great basketball player here at PC and has given 15 years back to PC as a coach, and I cannot tell you how thankful we are to have Doug be part of our basketball program. This is a great class and Putnam County is proud to welcome back these alumni.”
Erin (Entwistle) St. Germain
A three-sport athlete, St. Germain played volleyball and softball for the Lady Panthers but excelled on the hardwood.
A three-time All-Tri-County Conference pick in basketball, the 1998 PC graduate averaged 14 points per game in her varsity career and twice earned NewsTribune All-Area honors.
St. Germain, who currently works for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, credits the love of basketball she developed at Putnam County with helping her go on to play at Western Illinois University and later become Director of Women’s Basketball Operations at Oregon St. University from 2002-10.
“I definitely have memories of everybody just kind of lived for basketball,” she said. “The gyms were always packed for games. It was a great community sport and I’m glad to hear that it continues.
“I’m not the kind of person who thinks back to a specific game and the score and who won — because I forget stuff — but I definitely have a lot of great memories of friends and teammates and even all the competition we had in the Illinois Valley. There were some great teams we had to play. It was a great four years, definitely.”
St. Germain said becoming the first female inducted into the PC Hall of Fame is a great look back at her playing days.
“It kind of solidifies all the memories I have, all the great experiences I had at Putnam County,” she said. “It’s kind of a special place in your heart, that I was thought of as one of the great athletes that have come through there. “It’s just a great feeling to know that I was appreciated as much as I appreciated the time that I spent there.”
Safranski is no stranger to the PC Hall of Fame.
The 1976 alumnus is already in the hall of fame twice as a member of both the 1975 PC runner-up boys track and field team as well as the 1976 state champion boys track and field team.
During his standout track career, Safranski earned five individual state track and field championships in the sprints and long jump.
“It was kind of everybody’s goal on the team to come back and try to win (state),” said Safranski, who won individual state titles in the long jump and 200-meter dash both his junior and senior years and added a win in the 100 his senior year.
“It was very emotional for everybody on the team, including the coaches, because everybody had worked very hard to try to achieve that.”
However, Safranski’s numerous talents weren’t limited to the track as the three-sport athlete was the first Putnam County athlete to be selected in the MLB Draft as he was picked by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976.
Safranski elected not to pursue the professional interest and instead attended Western Illinois University.
At WIU, he continued his distinguished career on the Leatherneck track and field squad, on which he earned All-American status three years in the long jump and three years in the 400-meter relay.
In 1978, Safranski and his teammates set a WIU record time of 39.74 seconds in the 400 relay and the mark still stands today.
Also, Safranski’s career-best long jump of 25-7 ½ is the third-best all-time at WIU.
He still remembers his time at PC fondly.
“It’s quite an honor to be remembered,” Safranski said. “There’s been quite a few quality athletes that came out of Putnam County. Just to be recognized is quite an honor.”
Safranski said his time at PC helped set the foundation for his future success at WIU.
“It was just a wonderful atmosphere there with the teachers, the principal, the superintendent, everybody — and the community itself,” he said. “They all backed the sports program and came to see everybody no matter if it was track, baseball, basketball. That’s what I remember the most, just the community support and the support of everybody.”
The former PC all-time top scorer in basketball with 1,335 points over his four-year varsity career, the standout 6-foot-7 center credits his time at Putnam County with leading him to the coaching ranks, where he has spent the past 15 years as a Panthers varsity assistant and freshman coach.
“Ever since basketball started in sixth grade, I’ve loved the sport. Once it was over for me, I wanted to give back to Putnam County what it gave me,” said Veronda, who led the Panthers to back-to-back TCC titles and was an IBCA All-Star his senior year of 1987.
“Putnam County is a good school. It’s been good to me,” Veronda said. “There’s a lot of excitement once the basketball season starts at Putnam County. They’ve got some good fans, some loyal fans.”
His contributions to PC hoops continued after the 1987 alumnus graduated from high school as he helped coach a new generation of premier Panther post players, including Carlton Fay, who broke Verodna’s career scoring record.
Veronda said helping Fay and the Panthers to the Class 1A state tournament in 2007 as an assistant coach is one of his favorite coaching memories.
“We have had a lot of good athletes come through Putnam County,” said Veronda, who admits it will be a “neat thing” to see his former No. 34 jersey retired from the Panther basketball program. “To see something hanging in the school with my name and my number kind of gives me goosebumps. It kind of makes me wander back to the days I was playing.
“My junior and senior year, I really did like my coach, coach (Ken) Jenkins. If I had a problem, I knew I could go to him and he’d help me out. I really, really appreciate coach Jenkins. To this day, I still appreciate him.
“I really looked up to him and after his day was done and he got his awards for coaching and all that jazz, I kind of wanted to be like that. I wanted kids to look up to me. If they have problems they can always come to me - kind of like I was with coach Jenkins.”
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.