Five to be inducted into AHS Athletic Hall

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Austin High School Athletic Hall of Fame Committee will be inducting five new people at halftime of the boys basketball game between Mankato East and Austin in Packer Gym on Friday.

The class includes: Warren “Pete” Lade, Debbie (Diggins) Van Leeuwen, Dr. Pat Landherr, Dena Diggins, Dr. Beau Webber, and Lynn Gulbrandson.

The Hall of Fame weekend concludes with the Saturday luncheon in the Fellowship Hall at St. Olaf Lutheran Church, 306 2nd St. NW. The media and the public are invited to attend. The luncheon begins at 12:30 p.m.

To make a nomination for the Hall of Fame, contact DeeDee Marx at 507-433-8764 or at ddmarx@yahoo.com.

Warren Lade

Warren “Pete” Lade, Class of 1929

Lade was a three-sport athlete. He won 11 out of 12 possible letters starring in football, baseball and basketball. Basketball was his best sport. Lade started for the then named Scarlets in ninth grade and was known for his scrappy play and sure shot. He was a two-time All-District and All-Region team honoree and a two-time member of the All-State Tournament team.

Lade was the Big 8 Conference scoring leader in 1929.

Prior to serving in the army during World War II, Pete worked as a typesetter for the Austin Daily Herald. After the war, he continued his printing career in the Twin Cities where he and his wife Dorothy lived for many years.

Debbie Van Leeuwen

Debbie (Diggins) Van Leeuwen, Class of 1978

Van Leeuwen lettered in softball and volleyball. She was a pioneering member of the Packer’s first softball team after the Minnesota State High School League sanctioned interscholastic softball competition for girls in 1977.

Van Leeuwen played second base, batted .375 and helped lead the Packers to a second place finish at state.

Van Leeuwen was the AHS volleyball team’s setter in ninth grade. Her consistent play helped the Packers earn a berth to the 1976 state tournament. She won the team’s Grace Gaarde Award her senior year.

Van Leeuwene and husband Duane are realtors in southern California. They have three children and five grandchildren.

Dr. Pat Landherr, Class of 1979

Pat Landherr

Landherr was a terror on the football field and even his teammates dreaded practicing against him. Playing linebacker and on special teams, Pat set new school records for most tackles in a single game (22) and for most tackles in a single season (154). He was voted by his teammates both the 1978 team MVP and its Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.

Besides being named All-Conference, Landherr also made the All-State Team of the Week and the All-State Team of the Year plus he was selected to play in the 1979 Minnesota All-Star Football game as a member of the outstate team.

A highlight of Landherr’s career was scoring the winning touchdown his senior year in the game against Faribault when he stripped the ball from the Falcon running back and returned it 33 yards for the score.

Landherr also played football at Austin Community College where he was team captain and at Macalester College in St. Paul, earning defensive honors at each stop. Landherr graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Clinical Pharmacy; the focus of his practice has been the hospital setting. He lives in Savage, Minnesota.

Dena Diggins

Dena Diggins, Class of 1983

Diggins played basketball and softball earning three letters in each sport. She was the softball team’s first baseman and designated hitter. Diggins’ clutch hitting her sophomore year was key to the Packer’s undefeated 1981 season. She drove in the winning run in the state tournament title game despite playing with a broken thumb.

She was the team’s Grace Gaarde Award winner her senior year.

Diggins played softball at Golden Valley Community College in Minneapolis and Emporia State University in Kansas where she received a full ride. She developed into an outstanding pitcher throwing several no-hitters while garnering team MVP, all-conference and second team All-American honors .

Diggins has had a 27-year career in municipal government serving southern California communities. She is currently the Director of Community Services for the city of Irvine. She and her partner Cindy live in Long Beach.

Beau Webber

Beau Webber, class of 2003

Webber began his illustrious AHS diving career in seventh grade and by the time he graduated,

Webber was a four-time All-Conference honoree; the KAUS Athlete of the Week and KAAL Sports Prep of the Week. He set two Austin dive records.

The Conference Champ set a Big 9 Conference pool record as well. Webber’s record-setting performance continued at the 2003 state meet which he won. The team captain received the Big 9 Conference Ben Noetzel Award; was selected to the 2002-03 All-American Diving first team; won the Bud Higgins outstanding athlete award and the Red Hastings memorial scholarship.

Webber is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of Minnesota. He conducts and publishes cancer research and is a noted speaker at cancer-research symposium. Webber lives in Andover, Minnesota with his wife Lindsey and two children.

Lynn Gulbrandson

Lynn Gulbrandson, coach

Gulbrandson spent 34 years at the helm of the girls’ swimming and diving team and 33 years as head coach of the boys’ team. Over this time, his girls’ teams made 33 state meet appearances and his boys’ teams made 30.

Gulbrandson’s teams had several top-10 finishes at state. A number of swimmers earned All-Big 9 and All-State honors; two became high school All-Americans. By the time he retired, his swimmers had set 24 school records.

Gulbrandson had a knack for putting together relay teams for post-season competition and for tapering his athletes’ practice loads for peak performance at that time.

His success earned many coaching honors, including boys’ and girls’ team Big 9 Coach of the Year; boys’ and girls’ team Section Coach of the Year; boys’ and girls’ team State Coach of the Year finalist; and 2002 girls’ team State Coach of the Year.

Gulbrandson also served as an assistant softball, boys’ and girls’ track and wrestling coach for many years.

Gulbrandson is retired and living in Ely, Minnesota. He and his wife Kristie have two children and four grandchildren.