Hall of Fame Inductee - Bob Distlehorst

If you look up the word “dedication” in Webster’s dictionary, don’t be shocked to see Bob Distlehorst’s picture there to help illustrate the meaning. No one has been more dedicated to a single althletic program at Quincy High School. Distlehorst spent 42 years as the head coach of the QHS rifle team, leading the Blue Devils to 19 Illinois High School Rifle League state championships and into the national rankings four times. Aside from the honors and accolades, what Distlehorst did was show how commitment and perserverance can lead to great results. He was part of a $65,000 project in 1994 that improves the safety, ventilation and lighting at the shooting range in the basement of Quincy Junior High School. In 1997, he applied for and received six grants from the National Rifle Association to purchase rifles, scopes, shooting stands, shooting coats and other gear. Overall, he helped the QHS rifle program receive $21,800 in grant money. Distlehorst also showed that shooting sports aren’t for boys alone. In 1967, his second year as head coach and the program’s first year as a varsity sport, the rifle team had the first girl in school history to earn a varsity letter. In 2008, Distlehorst retired as the rifle coach, turning the reins of the program over to Jim Holtman. Distlehorst, who also taught at QHS, and his wife currently live in Las Cruces, N.M.

Acceptance Speech

“It is a great honor for a coach of a ‘minor’ sport to be inducted into the QHS Sports Hall of Fame, and I humbly accept. This honor recognizes the many successes my teams have had in my 42 years as rifle coach. “A dream that began when I met members of the Quincy High rifle team in a restaurant in Jacksonville in 1961 came true in 1966, when Athletic Director Sherrill Hanks and Principal R. S. Brockman hired me as the rifle team coach, after a serious discussion on their part whether or not to continue the rifle program. “I worked with six athletic directors over the years. Working with each was a unique experience, and I thank them all for their support and encouragement. After coaching the Rifle team from 1966-2000 by myself, I was pleased to be joined by an excellent volunteer coach, Mr. Jim Holtman, who added his experience and knowledge to the program. He is now the head coach. “I was privileged to work with many outstanding young people whose drive and determination accounted for our team’s accomplishments. I did not cut anyone from the team, but allowed those who were not interested in competition to learn marksmanship, firearms safety and improve their skills. “The rifle team became a varsity sport in 1967, and that year the first girl at QHS earned the block Q varsity letter. Yes, she was a two-year varsity shooter! At that time, the rifle team was the only interscholastic sport in which girls could participate (until the passage of Title IX in 1972). Girls continue to be vital team members to this day. “A few of the many accomplishments of the Rifle Team over the years were: 19 Illinois High School Rifle League state championships (including an 11-year straight run), national rankings in 1969, 1970, 1977, 2005, and two national championships in 2006. QHS teams and individuals have qualified for and competed in the National Junior Olympic Rifle Championships and in the USA Shooting National Championships. “QHS rifle teams have won first, second, fourth and sixth places in the Montgomery Bell Academy Rifle Classic (in Nashville, Tennessee), which is the largest high school tournament in the United States. Several team members have gone on to compete on collegiate teams. “I was able to start a highly successful precision air rifle program on the varsity and junior varsity levels. The equipment necessary for this program was purchased with competitive grants totaling $21,800 over 10 years. “Recognizing the need for improvements, in 1994 the Board of Education approved the request of the Junior High administration, the athletic director and the coach to upgrade the safety, lighting and ventilation systems of the rifle range, which was first used in 1936. “I must thank the many parents who drove vehicles countless miles to get our teams to matches and tournaments, helped at tournaments and encouraged their sons and daughters, to Coach Holtman for eight years of volunteer coaching, and to my wife, who traveled with the team as a chaperone, and patiently kept dinners warm! “Since my retirement in June 2008, my wife and I have moved to Las Cruces, N.M., and have bidden farewell to Illinois winters. I am now shooting competitively and working with the local Cub Scout and Boy Scout shooting programs. “Again, I thank you for the nomination to the QHS Sports Hall of Fame. As a Las Cruces radio sports enthusiast says, ‘It’s all about the kids!’ ” — Bob Distlehorst

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