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Athletics: Longtime Pierz coach gets inducted into Pioneers Hall of Fame

Rey Zimney has coached at Pierz high school for 45 years and has coached over 100 seasons for three different sports at Pierz. Now the retired teacher and athletic director gets inducted into the Pierz Hall of Fame.

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Rey Zimney will be inducted into the Pierz Hall of Fame Oct. 4 along with the 1995 and 1996 girls state track teams which Zimney coached. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch.

Rey Zimney did not know where Pierz was on the map when they called him to be a teacher in 1973.

The 68-year-old Grandin, N.D., native just graduated from Mayville State University when Pierz called. His dream was to teach physical education and possibly coach after college. His advisor told him he should probably look for something else to go with Phy Ed since it wasn’t a great full-time job. So, he graduated with a double major in business and physical education.

When Pierz High School called they were not looking for Phy Ed teachers. That did not stop Zimney from taking the offer.

“Pierz was the first school that contacted me for an interview,” Zimney said. “I thought, get my foot in the door and see what happens.”

Fast forward 45 years and Zimney will enter the Pierz Hall of Fame Oct. 4 during the Pioneers' homecoming football game.

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Zimney retired from teaching in 2007. However, he still coaches the cross country and track teams, which he’s done since he started in 1973. He also coached basketball for 23 years, including 16 years as varsity head coach. After coaching this upcoming season of cross country and track, he will have completed 109 seasons worth of coaching at Pierz.

“I was always in sports,” Zimney said about why he got into coaching. “I played three sports in high school. Real small school, my graduating class was six. But we had football, basketball and track. That’s what we had available to us and that’s what we played. So I got the coaching bug back in high school.”

Along with coaching, Zimney served as Pierz’s athletic director from 1996 until his retirement in 2007.

When he first started coaching the cross country team, he coached Steve Faust who was a freshman in the fall 1973. Faust went on to be a four-time conference champion under Zimney. In Zimney’s third year, the state of Minnesota spilt up the schools into two classes and Pierz won the conference championship in 1975 and in 1976. In his fourth year as coach and Faust’s senior year, Pierz cross country made the state tournament as a team.

“There were five freshman that came out of my first year,” Zimney said. “When those freshmen were seniors they won the conference, they won the district, they won the region and finished sixth in state and Steve Faust was runner-up in state so I was very lucky.”

John Perleberg became the first state champion for cross country under Zimney in 1979. He was the first ever individual state champion from Pierz in any sport. The 1976 cross country team became the first team to make the state tournament in Pierz as well.

In basketball, the 1985-86 team was the first basketball team to win the conference and went 12-0 in conference play. From 1990-95 Pierz boys basketball posted a winning percentage of .800, including a 24-2 record in the 1994-95 season.

“They were the first boys basketball to win the district title and that 24-2 record is still the record for winning percentage,” Zimney said.

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The call to the hall of fame was no surprise for Zimney who serves on the Pierz Hall of Fame committee.

“I’d be lying if I said I was shocked because I kind of knew it was coming, it was just a matter of when,” he said.

Every three years the Pierz Hall of Fame enters in new members. This year they are doing something new and adding state championship teams. Going into the hall of fame with Zimney are the 1995 and 1996 girls track teams which Zimney helped coached. The 1995 team is extra special to Zimney because his twin daughters, Lauri and Lisa, were on the team.

Zimney coached the distance runners and none of his daughters ran long distance so he never got to coach them.

Zimney has three daughters total and the oldest, Kim Horning, followed in her dad’s footsteps and now teaches and coaches at Pierz High School.

Zimney credits his longevity and the success of his athletes as the reason for why he will be inducted in the hall of fame.

“It’s always an honor to be recognized by your peers and by the school,” he said.

Zimney loves the Pierz community. He raves about how he’s never had huge issues with parents, how supportive the Pierz community has been.

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“I couldn’t ask for anything better here,” he said. “Never even thought about going anywhere else.”

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