District Communications - News Room



Alonzo "Lonnie" Tapp – Benson High School

Alonzo Tapp graduated from Lincoln High School in 1968, Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1972 and completed graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1982. In high school, he participated in football, wrestling and track and played on the All-City football team in 1967.

At Wesleyan, he earned Offensive Freshman of the Year, was a four-year letter winner in football and a three-year letter winner in wrestling. Following graduation, he taught in Lincoln Public Schools from 1972-1977. He began his coaching career as a JV football coach at Whittier Junior High in Lincoln, Nebraska, and later coached football at Wesleyan while earning his master’s degree. His first coaching position was as a defensive coordinator at Thomas K. Gorman Catholic School in Tyler, Texas. He was hired as a teacher and head football coach at Benson High School in 1985 and retired in 2007. Today, he is a running back coach at North High School with Larry Martin.


Kimera Bartee – Central High School

Believed to be the first Central graduate to play in baseball's major leagues, the speedy Bartee has made his mark as a rangy outfielder for three teams and now as a coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Central all-state player accepted a scholarship to Creighton, helping the Bluejays to their only appearance in the College World Series in 1991. Drafted by Baltimore in 1993, he made his major-league debut with the Detroit Tigers in 1996.

Over parts of six seasons with the Tigers, Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies, Bartee became best known for his speed on the base paths and slick defense. He swiped 36 bags in his career, successful on two-thirds of attempts. In 1996, he led the American League in range factor, a measure of ground covered in the outfield. Now he's passing on his knowledge to the next generation of players. He spent nine seasons as Pittsburgh's minor league base running and outfield coordinator and managed the team's Class A affiliate in 2011. Then in 2017, he returned to the major leagues as the Pirates' first base, outfield and base running coach.

He believes his biggest accomplishment is raising his three children: Andrew, Amari and Taeja. He is also grateful to his mother, father, sister and brother who have been his biggest fans throughout his life and have given him unconditional support.


Daniel Warthen – North High School

Daniel Warthen was born on December 1, 1952 in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated from North High School in 1971. In high school, he was an All-American quarterback, tight end and linebacker.

Warthen was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the 1972 Major League Baseball Draft. He made his debut with the Expos on May 18, 1975, pitching a scoreless eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched four seasons in the major leagues with Montreal, Philadelphia and Houston. He finished his major-league career with a 12-21 win-loss record and a 4.31 ERA.

Warthen began his coaching career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1981, following that with coaching in the minor league organizations of San Diego and Philadelphia. Warthen was the pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers (1999-2002), San Diego Padres (1996-1997) and Seattle Mariners (1991-1992), also serving as the Mariner bullpen coach in 1991. He was the pitching coach for the Triple A Norfolk Ties from 2003-2005.
Warthen served as the bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodger under manager Grady Little from 2006-2007. On June 17, 2008, he was named the New York Mets pitching coach, replacing Rick Peterson and remained there until 2017.

Today, Warthen is the assistant pitching coach for the Texas Rangers.
-Wikipedia Website


Roland Munro – Burke High School

Roland Munro grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended Burke High School, Midland University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
At Burke, he participated in soccer, cricket and volleyball. In college, he played tennis. After graduation from college, Munro was a British Guiana National Volleyball team player and later, coached at Midland College.

He joined the Omaha Public Schools as a science teacher at Morton Junior High and taught there for 31 years. He later became a soccer coach at Burke High School, where his teams were five- time runners-up and won the Nebraska State Soccer Championship in 1990 and 1994. During this time, he also coached city league soccer in Omaha for 27 years. Munro says he is grateful for bringing soccer to the Omaha area.


Damon Benning – Northwest High School

Damon Benning was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and graduated from Northwest High School in 1992 and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1996.
While at Northwest, he played basketball, football and baseball and earned All-Metro, All-State and Super State honors.

Benning joined the Huskers in 1993 after earning a scholarship at the IB position. At UNL, he was a four-year letterman who helped the Huskers to back-to-back national titles. He finished his career carrying the pigskin 270 times for a total of 1,562 yards. Benning also caught the ball 12 times for a total of 134 yards and returned 32 kickoffs for 770 yards. He finished his Husker career with 2,625 all-purpose yards.

After college, he was signed as a free agent by the Carolina Panthers in 1997; the Lincoln (IFL), 2000; Lincoln (AF2), 2001; and Lincoln (NIFL, 2002, 2004).
Today, he is part of The Sharp & Benning in the Morning on 1620 The Zone.


Lad Nemecek – South High School

Lad Nemecek was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and was a 1960 graduate of South High School. He went on to attend Arizona State and graduated in 1964. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1972.

While at South, he played football and baseball. His baseball team earned the Intercity League All-Star Baseball Award and he was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl. At South, he has the state record for 27 strikeouts in an 11 inning game vs. Central at Rosenblatt Stadium. Some of his fondest memories are winning the state football championship and winning the intercity baseball championship. As a senior at South, he had seven professional baseball teams offer him a contract, but he opted to play for Arizona State.

During his career at Arizona State, he had the opportunity to play in the College World Series. He is one of two OPS players to play in the College World Series and to be featured on a memorial plaque behind home plate at the infield at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

He began his Omaha Public Schools’ career as a math teacher and coach at Marrs Junior High School. He went on to coach for 30 years at South High School.


Phil Wise – Technical High School

Phillip Wise was a 1967 graduate of Technical High School and graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1972. He participated in football and wrestling at Tech and football at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His fondest memory at Tech was winning the state baseball championship and meeting so many outstanding athletes.

Following college, he was selected by the New York Jets in the sixth round (136th overall) of the 1971 NFL Draft. Wise played in nine NFL seasons from 1971-1976 with the Jets, and 1976-1979 with the Minnesota Vikings. He finished his NFL career with 92 games and six interceptions.

Today, he is a member on The KQ92 Morning Show with Tom Barnard on KQRS-FM in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Jim Collin – Middle Schools

Jim Collin was a 1960 graduate of South High School and went on to attend Creighton University (1960-1963) and the University of Nebraska at Omaha (1963-1966). He attained his master’s degree from UNO in secondary administration in 1970.
While at South, he played football, basketball and baseball. His football team won the state championship in 1958, a city championship in basketball in 1957, 1959 and 1960 and a state championship in 1960 with a record of 21-0. His baseball team won city championships in 1957, 1958 and 1960 and he played on the All-City team in 1960.

During college, he played basketball for Creighton and baseball at UNO. At UNO, his teams were regional champions in 1965 and 1966 and placed second in the Division 2 national tournament in 1966.

He began his Omaha Public Schools’ career as a teacher and basketball coach at Bancroft Junior High. He went on to coach baseball at Norris Junior High. During this same time, he also served as a basketball referee for Division 2 (1965-1980) teams, and officiated three Nebraska State Tournaments and was voted the number one official in metro basketball by coaches.


Community Contributor - Joe Smejkal of Porfirio Construction 

Joe Smejkal is a 1977 graduate of Omaha Bryan High School. He attended Corrigan Elementary, Bryan Jr. High and Omaha Bryan High School. Joe loved baseball and ran cross country.

"Everything I am doing for OPS is a reflection of my education in the District. It is who I am today and I have great lessons from teachers and instructors that I carry with me every single day."

After earning a degree in architectural technology, Smejkal went into the construction business in 1993. He attributes his success to the great program he experienced at Bryan High.

He met Dave Van Metre in 2005 through a mutual friend Steve Cavlovic, who was also a friend of his dads. Joe and Dave developed a unique partnership and model. Their first project was at Brown Park. It was a personal project for Joe, since his mother and father attended South High. After graduation, his father went on to play professional baseball in the mid-1940s. Joe and his siblings know about his dad, who passed away when he was five, because of his baseball career thanks to his Aunt, who kept a detailed scrapbook.
Joe estimates that he and Dave have done 30 different field/stadium renovations "to level the playing field for OPS students with their suburban counterparts. In most cases, we unleveled the playing field because our projects end up being first class and superior to our counterparts in other parts of the city."

Joe loves all of the projects he has been involved in with Dave Van Metre, Brook Bench, Steve Eubanks and the Omaha Public Schools’ Foundation, because of the difference they have made to the community. He does this because he just wants to give back and make kids' lives better.


Chris Gradoville – Bryan High School

Chris Gradoville was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 10, 1984, to Ron and Joyce Gradoville and hails from a family of standout Creighton athletes. His grandfather, Bob Gradoville, played baseball, football and basketball at Creighton University, his cousin, Pam (Gradoville) Simon, was inducted into the Creighton Hall of Fame for her efforts in basketball as the second-leading scorer in women’s history, and his cousin, Tim Gradoville, played baseball at Creighton and was later drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2002 Amateur Draft and played in the big leagues in 2008. Gradoville graduated from Bryan High School in 2002 and Creighton University in 2007.

At Bryan, he participated in baseball, football and basketball. As a sophomore at Bryan in baseball he earned -All-state honorable mention as catcher and MVP of the Elkhorn Legion Tournament. His junior year he earned first-team all-metro and all-division and second-team all-state as catcher, named MVP of the Bellevue Tournament and MVP of the Elkhorn Legion Tournament. His senior year he earned second-team all-metro as catcher, first-team all-division as a designated hitter and second-team all-state as a catcher and participated in the Collin-Orcutt All-Star game. His career totals in high school were 88 hits, 74 RBIs, nine home runs and 37 runs. In football his senior year he earned his team’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, all-division and second-team all-metro as center, Metro Offensive Lineman of the Year and was invited to play in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl All-Star Game. In basketball, he earned honorable mention all-division selection.

At Creighton, Gradoville played baseball. During his sophomore year, he led the team with a hitting average of .403 and a .621 slugging percentage, he batted .467 with 19 RBI and a .529 on-base percentage during the final month of the season, had 19 multi-hit games and seven home runs (ranked third on the team), hit .435 with runners on base, had a 10-game hit streak (5/7-5/26) and went 9-for-16 with seven RBI and four runs scored to make the NCAA Lincoln Regional All-Tournament Team.

His junior year, he was team captain, started 49 of 52 games for the Jays, had a .287 batting average and was fourth on the team, had 24 multi-hit games and nine home runs. In 188 at-bats, recorded 54 hits, 35 runs and 39 RBI, his 87 total bases ranked third on the team. Went 5-for-5 against Tennessee Tech (3/12) and had a season-high six RBIs and was named NCBWA National Player of the Week, Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week and MVC Player of the Week after recording three straight games with two home runs, batting .500 and slugging 1.380 in five Bluejay wins while driving in 18 RBIs. He had only five errors on the season and a .982 fielding percentage and was second on the team in slugging percentage with .463 and had an on-base percentage of .340. He also received honorable mention All-MVC honors.

As a senior, he was team captain, started all 61 games for the Jays at catcher and threw out 61 percent of runners trying to steal bases. He hit .399, which was second on the team with 56 RBIs and helped lead the Jays to a 2007 Missouri Valley Conference tournament title, led them to the Fayetteville NCAA regional and was named semi-finalist (top 3) for the Johnny Bench Award.

Gradoville’s favorite high school memories include winning districts in football on a last-second field goal to make it to the state playoffs his senior year, playing in the 2002 Shrine Bowl, playing with his best friends and earning a Division 1 scholarship offer. His favorite college memories include hitting his first and last collegiate homeruns at Rosenblatt Stadium, winning two conference titles, playing in the NCAA Tournament twice and getting drafted to play professional baseball.

Following college, he played four seasons with the Texas Rangers, making it to AAA and appeared in two big league exhibition games in Arlington, Texas. He retired from baseball in 2010 and opened The Academy of Sports Performance in Spokane, Washington. A chiropractic sports injury clinic is attached to the Center as well. He also co-owns a wedding venue with his wife.

Today, he enjoys hunting, fishing, camping and traveling during his spare time.


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