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Generational athletes uncommon/Paul Peterson

August 13, 2011
By Paul Peterson , The Daily Mining Gazette

In the course of watching high school sports over the last few decades, I've come to the conclusion that so-called generational athletes only come along every blue moon or so.

Now, the term generational - one of those new and trendy words - can be overused. Today's media types want to apply the word to any athlete who shows above average talent.

But the only accurate way to define generational is to describe a player who would have been a standout whether he or she played 40 years ago ... or today.

Only a handful of athletes truly fall into that category.

I think that Rich Salani of Hancock, Mike Usitalo of Calumet, Chuck Klingbeil of Houghton and Don Michaelson of L'Anse were earlier examples.

Salani, who excelled in football, track and basketball, was talented enough to play football at Michigan State University for the legendary Duffy Daugherty.

Usitalo starred in football, hockey and track. He was good enough to set freshman records in hockey at Michigan Tech, and only injuries kept him from a likely National Hockey League career. Late CHS coach Walt Kitti felt Usitalo possessed the football skills to play at the Big 10 level.

Klingbeil, who starred in football at Northern Michigan University and later in the National Football League, also was an all-state hockey player.

Michaelson, who once scored six touchdowns with six touches in one game, was stellar in track and basketball as well. He later played football at Eastern Michigan University.

Recently, the athetic exploits of Maria Almquist and Elizabeth (Pietila) Aho came to light.

Though the two Hancock High alums played 15 years apart, they define the term generational.

Aho, who excelled in whatever sport was in season, was probably as intense a female high school athlete as any I've watched. She had enough talent to play basketball for Michigan Tech and played with a determination and grit seldom seen.

Just last week, Aho competed in her first Copperman Triathlon. Not surprisingly, she placed first in her category.

Almquist also accomplished a first when she recently competed in the All-Star Volleyball Classic. She also competed in a similar basketball event before that - making her the first local girl to play in two all-state events.

Almquist, who is headed to Minnesota Duluth to play basketball, probably was as skilled as any local girls hoopster I've seen around here. Had she been surrounded by better talent, say like in Houghton, she just might have been a Division I prospect.

Still, Aho and Almquist have proven they belong in that small but elite class of generational athlete.



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