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Belleville East softball field to be dedicated to longtime coach Tuesday

District 201 board votes to name East softball field for Rita Menke

Belleville District 201 superintendent Dr. Jeff Dosier announced plans to name the Belleville East High School softball field in honor of former head coach Rita Menke, whose 613 career wins ranks 15th in Illinois history.
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Belleville District 201 superintendent Dr. Jeff Dosier announced plans to name the Belleville East High School softball field in honor of former head coach Rita Menke, whose 613 career wins ranks 15th in Illinois history.

The District 201 School Board last month passed a resolution to rename the varsity softball field at Belleville East in honor of longtime coach and teacher Rita Menke.

The dedication will take place Tuesday at 4:15 p.m., just before the Lancers' game with city rival Belleville West Maroons. A meet-and-greet with Menke will begin at the field beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Menke was the head coach at East for 24 seasons from 1982 to 2005. Her teams won 78 percent of their games and state championships in 1989, 1995 and 2003. Those state titles tie Menke with two others for the most in the IHSA large-school classification.

Her 613 victories rank her 15th all-time in Illinois.

Just last February her career achievements earned her induction the the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.

Menke is retired both as coach and English teacher at East, but is still a presence on the field that will soon bear her name. She is a volunteer assistant to current head coach Natalie Peters and is active in the Junior Lancers feeder softball program.

"I actually thought the field was already named after me because it's been called Lancer Field. I'm a Lancer and will always be a Lancer. I love the Lancers," Menke said March 19, after learning of the board's intentions. "I'm flattered beyond words because it's something I never, ever, ever, ever dreamed could happen. It's not something that's done thoughtlessly."

Last August, District 201 passed similar resolutions to attach names to other sports facilities.

The football field at East was named for Charlie Woodford, first president of the Lancers Booster Club who, at 95 years old, has missed just three Lancers football games in the last 50 years.

The football field at West was rededicated in honor of Bob Goalby, a 1949 graduate who went on to a successful professional golf career that included the 1968 Masters championship. Goalby also lent his name and fund-raising abilities to the effort to have artificial turf installed on the district's two gridirons.

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