ST. IGNACE – When Dorene Ingalls took over the St. Ignace girls varsity basketball program in 1999, few could imagine the powerhouse she would go on to create in the ensuing decade and a half.
From its beginnings as a David and Goliath story to its current state as a perennial title contender, Ingalls has led St. Ignace to five state championships, three state runner-up finishes and 360 wins in 17 years.
Now she can add one more accolade to her resume: Hall of fame coach.
Ingalls joins nine other athletes and coaches in the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame’s 2016 induction class that will be honored at the organization’s annual banquet Saturday at Island Resort and Casino in Harris.
"It’s definitely a group effort. I’m just the face that they’re putting on that award,” Ingalls said.
It’s hard to imagine a time when St. Ignace wasn’t included in the conversation of potential state championship contenders, but for Mandi Johnson, a member of the 1999 state championship team, that was very much the case when the Saints steamrolled Sandusky for the program’s first title.
"She brought out the best in all of us. She pushed us to a potential we didn’t think we could get to,” she said. “Obviously, we did not see a state championship, even in the future, since the year before we had only made it to regionals.
"When we all kind of knew about the fall of fame, she didn’t make it a big deal. The more important things are the trophies up here and the relationships that she has formed. We still have a very close relationship with her, where, she’ll be in our lives forever.”
The Saints would go on to win four more state titles (2000, 2011, 2013 and 2015) across Class C and D and finish runner-up in Class C in 2002, 2010 and 2014.
Newberry girls basketball coach Fred Bryant knows firsthand the type of leader Ingalls is, having coached against her in the 2015-16 Straits Area Conference title race.
"Everything that she has worked for, she deserves,” Bryant said. “This honor of being in the hall of fame, at such a young age, just speaks volumes of the kind of person she is, the kind of coach she is, and I couldn’t be happier for her."
Though the case of trophies and running slate of victories certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by Ingalls, she cherishes most the lifelong relationships she’s established with her players.
"Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing,” she said. “All those trophies are wonderful, but it’s the relationships that you build with these kids and they’re long lasting. I mean, I still get texts from kids at college, I get texts from kids that are at their jobs and to me, that’s the best."
Ingalls will be inducted alongside: Herb Boxer (Hancock), Bob Carlson (Gladstone), Larry Danbom (Calumet), Jeff Gressick (Menominee), Dave Ghiardi (Munising), Byron Johnson (Bessemer), Frank Novak (Marquette), Rich Salani (Hancock) and Mandi Zemba (Menominee).
Saturday’s induction banquet begins at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25.
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