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Crusader juniors earn national recognition for polio vaccine project
  • Academics
Zach James

Adam Andrews, Ben Tooley, Ben Daffer and Josh Kensinger earned sixth place in the Senior Group Exhibit category and were the top Iowa team in the “Turning Points in History” national competition.

Four Bishop Heelan High School students recently earned national recognition for their efforts in the National History Day Contest in College Park, Maryland. 

Adam Andrews, Ben Daffer, Josh Kensinger and Ben Tooley earned sixth place in the Senior Group Exhibit category and were the top Iowa team. All four students will be juniors come Fall of 2024. There were over 600,000 competitors in the “Turning Points in History” national competition.

 “It’s really cool that all our work paid off,” Kensinger said. “We spent several weeks writing the paper and actually putting together the project.” 

The Crusaders’ project was called, “Polio Vaccine: A Turning Point in Modern Medicine,” giving attention to the vaccine created in the 1950s. 

Their inspiration to focus on the polio vaccine came from within, as an uncle of one of the four Crusaders had polio. That sparked the Crusaders to work hard to put together the award-winning project. 

Daffer, Kensinger, Andrews and Tooley started on this project in December with the support of Mrs. Nan Kiel, Social Studies teacher and department chair at Bishop Heelan High School. They put over 150 hours into the project while also balancing their daily schoolwork and after-school activities. 

During their research, they learned many facts about the vaccine, and they had to make a few revisions after discoveries through that research. For example, Andrews said his biggest takeaway was how vaccines were shaped and regulated. 

The Crusader quartet qualified by winning the area contest and the Iowa contest. 

  • adam andrews
  • ben daffer
  • ben tooley
  • josh kensinger
A black-and-white of the front of the old Heelan High building.
  • Academics
Zach James

Bishop Heelan High School will proudly welcome back all its alumni and supporters for the All-School Reunion on June 21-23 on campus. 

To close out the 75th celebration of its first graduating class, Bishop Heelan High School will proudly welcome back all its alumni and supporters for the All-School Reunion on June 21-23 in Sioux City. 

Tickets are $20 for a single ticket, $35 for couples and $50 for families leading up to the event. 

The event will begin on Friday, June 21, with a “Welcome Home” party at Memorial Field. The event begins at 6 p.m. Dinner will be burgers, hot dogs and sides from Hy-Vee, with beverages from L&L Distributing. There will also be a special “Old Gold and Blue Brew” beer specially made for the event from Kelly Quinn ‘97. Activities will include karaoke and music being played spanning the decades. 

All of Saturday’s events will be at Heelan High School, at 1231 Grandview Blvd. Tours of the new high school and the CYO Center will be held from 10 a.m. to noon with coffee and donuts being served. (The pool will be closed for maintenance.)

Tours will then be held from 1-2:30 at Trinity Heights on Floyd Boulevard. 

The Saturday night party will start at 5 p.m. at Heelan High School, with food trucks from some Sioux City staples. There will also be beverages from L&L Distributing, including more “Old Gold and Blue Brew.” The band “Trust” will perform on the Crusader Courtyard from 7-10 p.m. or in the commons (if it’s raining). 

Merchandise will be on sale for alumni and supporters to buy to commemorate the 75th anniversary. 

On Sunday, we encourage all of our Crusaders to visit their home parish for Mass. 

  • allschoolreunion
Crusaders boys soccer wins first state championship
  • Athletics
Zach James

Heelan needed every drop in the proverbial tank, as Sergio Mijangos scored the golden goal in the first overtime to give the Crusaders the 3-2 win.

Before the match on Saturday, Bishop Heelan High School boys soccer coach Pat Herbst had one request: “Drain the tank.” 

The Crusaders won quarterfinal matches against Webster City and Gilbert, and had one more hurdle to leap over in Davenport Assumption. 

Heelan needed every drop in the proverbial tank, as Sergio Mijangos scored the golden goal in the first overtime to give the Crusaders the 3-2 win. That goal gave the Crusaders their first boys soccer championship in school history in eight state tournament appearances. 

“They dug deep, and they knew if they could score, they could walk off and go home, and fortunately, we got a great ball and Sergio put it in,” said Crusaders coach Pat Herbst. 


The golden goal from Mijangos was the first time all season that the Crusaders had scored on a set play. The play was set up on a free kick after an Assumption foul on Andres Gonzalez. The Crusaders junior entered the ball from the far side of the field. He kicked the ball inside the box to a spot where Mijangos and senior George Tsiobanos could attack and make a shot. 

“I saw there was a wide open space and Andres put the ball in a perfect spot,” Mijangos said. “It was a good hit, and I’m grateful that Andres saw it. Both teams had ups and downs. We’re so grateful.” 

Mijangos received the ball, used his right foot to sneak it past the Knights, and the celebration began. 

“It was a huge adrenaline rush,” Mijangos said. “We wanted this all year. It really means a lot. We’re going to come back and try to be even better. We hope to be in this same spot next year.” 

Mijangos led the Crusaders with 30 goals. He had 27 during the regular season, and had three more during the state tournament. 

Last season, Mijangos was hurt during the postseason run, which ended in the state semifinals. Mijangos felt grateful for staying healthy, making major contributions during the season and ended his junior season as the Class 2A All-Tournament Captain. 

Maybe the most grateful Crusader on Saturday was Gonzalez. He peppered the net in the second half, almost getting a couple shots to go in. After the game, he had tears of redemption, joy and pride. The emotions weren’t for himself, either. They were for his family, both on and off the pitch. 

“We had a connection all season,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t believe all this. I knew we were all going to work hard. We had players who stepped up all season. Everyone played well. I’ve wanted this since freshman year. I knew this team could be a state championship team. We did it.” 

Goalkeeper Landon Block was a member of the All-Tournament team, joining Mijangos, Tsiobanos and Gonzalez. In 1,400-plus minutes, Block allowed just 10 goals. 

Gonzalez scored the first goal of the afternoon, followed by senior Elias Flanery giving the Crusaders a 2-1 lead during the second half. Flanery also scored in the win against Gilbert. 

The Crusaders won eight of their last nine matches of the season. Before the state tournament, Heelan qualified for state by beating Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley and Sioux Center. 

"I'm just really happy for our group of kids," Herbst said. "They put their hearts and souls into this. It was an awesome experience.”


  • andres gonzalez
  • boys soccer
  • elias flanery
  • george tsiobanos
  • landon block
  • sergio mijangos
Class of 2024 Commencement this weekend
  • Academics
Zach James

Renae Callaghan and Julianna Verzal will speak as the valedictorian and salutatorian at Sunday's graduation ceremony.

Bishop Heelan Catholic High School will graduate 120 seniors as its 75th graduating class on Sunday, May 19, at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City. 

Leading up to graduation, $9.5 million was awarded in scholarships to multiple seniors, garnering from military service, to community relations and of course, academic achievement. 

The valedictorian in the Bishop Heelan Class of 2024 is Renae Callaghan. Callaghan — the daughter of Amy and Ryan Callaghan, has a 4.54 grade point average and a 34 ACT score. She was named Rotary Student of the Month in December. She participated in band and was part of the crew that performed at the Peach Bowl. Callaghan plans to attend the University of Notre Dame. 

The salutatorian is Julianna Verzal. Verzal — the daughter of Stacey and Jeffrey Verzal —  maintained a 4.46 GPA, including a 4.7 in Quarter No. 2 this year. Verzal was involved in volleyball, basketball, tennis and softball. She will be attending South Dakota State University. 

Both ladies will speak during the ceremony. 

There were 13 Bishop Heelan seniors who finished with a 4.0 GPA or higher. 

Bishop R. Walker Nickless will be present and address the seniors as part of the ceremony. The high school choir will also be performing. 

The ceremony will be livestreamed on the Bishop Heelan High School Facebook page on Sunday.

  • class of 2024
  • commencement
Nelson Brothers to co-coach Crusaders wrestling together
  • Athletics
Zach James

Jason Nelson ‘90 and Zach Nelson ‘93 have stepped up to co-coach the Heelan High School wrestling program.

Bishop Heelan High School recently announced the hiring of two former Crusaders — and
brothers — to lead the wrestling program. Co-athletic directors Andy Foster and Jay Wright
have hired Jason Nelson ‘90 and Zach Nelson ‘93 to continue the Heelan wrestling

"Zach and Jason approached us with the idea of taking over the wrestling program and being
able to co-coach as brothers,” said Foster and Wright in a joint statement. “We met with them
about their vision, approach and philosophies and we felt we had a couple of lifelong Crusaders
who were excited about continuing to grow our wrestling program.

“Jason and Zach are both Heelan graduates who have also coached at Heelan, and we felt it
was a great fit and that they were in it for all the right reasons. We are excited to keep growing
our wrestling program and with these two at the front of the program there is no doubt it will.
They will bring great energy and coach with a transformational approach.”

Zach Nelson has been a wrestling official since 2018, and returns to the head coaching realm
after leading the softball program in 2020. He has also coached middle school middle school
soccer, track, football and wrestling.

Zach married Lisa Bockholt, class of ’89, and together they have 3 daughters, Avery ’21, Grace
’23 and Natalie ’25. Zach is also the step-father of Lisa’s son Brendan Kuehl ’08. Zach and his
family are members of the Holy Cross Parish.

When the two ADs reached out to the two brothers, Zach remembered all the guidance his
older brother gave him when he started wrestling as a sixth grader for the St. Boniface Bobcats.
“Wrestling is a Nelson family sport,” Zach Nelson said. “We figured, Michigan had the Steiner
Brothers, Iowa has the Brands Brothers, why shouldn’t Heelan have the Nelson Brothers?”

Jason Nelson has been coaching football in Jon LaFleur’s staff during the past two seasons,
and coached the middle school wrestling program in 2023-24.

Nelson wrestled and played football. He was a senior captain on the 1989 football team that
was the state runner-up. After his time with the Crusaders, he continued his academic and
football career at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake where he graduated with a Bachelor’s
Degree in Criminal Justice.

“I am eternally grateful for the impact coaches in both sports have had,” Jason Nelson said. “I
am looking forward to having the opportunity to impart these same lessons on the Crusader
wrestlers.Getting to see what Crusaders can do first hand has been a real honor and privilege.”  

Both coaches have assumed the role immediately, and met with Crusader wrestlers on Thursday. 

  • Jason Nelson
  • Zach Nelson
  • wrestling
Crusaders qualify for 21 state track and field events
  • Athletics
Zach James

The Crusaders qualified in 21 events in Class 3A last Thursday for the state boys and girls track and field meet. 

Bishop Heelan’s boys and girls track and field teams will be busy starting Thursday at the state meet in Des Moines. 

The Crusaders qualified in 21 events in Class 3A, with the busiest day coming on Friday with 11 entries. The Heelan boys team won the team title last Thursday at the state-qualifying meet in Sergeant Bluff-Luton. 

Below is a breakdown of when events will be held in chronological order that have Crusader representation, along with seed ranking, qualifying mark and when said event will be. Some events are preliminaries, so they may run in Saturday’s finals. 


Boys high jump (9 a.m.): Senior Jaron Bleeker will lead things off by going in with a No. 4 ranking among his peers. His mark is 6-foot-5. At the Drake Relays earlier this spring, Bleeker tied for sixth at 6-3. 

Girls 3,000 (9:55): Addison Bertrand qualified for two events, including winning the longest race in 11 minutes, 1 second. The Heelan sophomore is seeded 12th. 

Girls 200 (10:50): Junior Alize Rau placed second Thursday in 26.32 seconds. She’ll be seeded 19th. 

Boys discus (11:30): Carson McInerney won by nearly 10 feet on Thursday with a throw of 156 feet, 6 inches, which qualified the Crusaders junior for state. He’s seeded 10th. 

Girls 100 (12:57 p.m.): Sophomore Shannon Cleary placed third on Thursday, but she ran fast enough to earn a wild card seed. She ran the 14th fastest time last week among 3A runners at 12.63. 

Boys 100 (1:12): The field was so deep at the state-qualifier, junior Carson Rose placed fourth (11.23) but still earned a spot for state. He’s seeded 20th. 

Boys shuttle hurdle relay (2:20): Drew Uhl, Fisher Uhl, Hunter Wauhob and James Arlt qualified with a time of 1:00.05, good for third in 3A. Cole Frese, Quinn Olson, Karson Fitch and Will Bertrand are the alternates. 


Long jump (9 a.m.): Not one, but two Heelan jumpers are in the Top 24. Senior Sean Schaefer won the qualifier with a jump of 21 feet, 0.25 inches, while Rose also made the cut at 20-9.25. Schaefer is seeded 10th, and Rose is 16th. 

110 hurdles (10:50): Hunter Wauhob won the state qualifier at 14.75 seconds, and he’s seeded second at state. Wauhob is .06 behind the No. 1 seed. 

Girls 4x200 relay (11:15): Representing the Crusaders will be Alize Rau, Shannon Cleary, Maddie Demke and Trelyn White. Alternates are Maria Brown and Charlie Wiener. The girls qualified with a time of 49.99 seconds, good for 18th. 

Long jump (11:30): After running in the 4x200, Cleary will take the short walk from Turn 3 on the blue oval to the long jump pit on the straightaway. She qualified with a jump of 16-4.75, good for the 14th seed. 

Boys shot put (11:30): Junior Hayden Overgaard threw the shot 55-4.25, good for fourth longest among 3A throwers. It’ll be the first time he’ll compete at Drake Stadium. 

Boys 4x200 (11:45): Rose, Olson, Arlt and Bleeker ran a time of 1:31.03, and that was the 12th fastest time in the state. The alternates are Wauhob, Drew Dul, Kasen Thomas and Schaefer. 

Boys 400 hurdles (12:30 p.m.): Olson won by over 2.5 seconds to clinch his spot to state with a run of 54.58. Not only did he win, the Arizona football recruit ran the second fastest time in Class 3A last week. 

Girls 4x100 (12:50): The Crusaders are ranked seventh with a time of 49.97. Those who are scheduled to run are Rau, Cleary, Maddy Schermerhorn and White. Brown is listed as an alternate. 

Boys 4x100 (1:10): The Crusaders broke a Sioux City record by running Thursday’s race in 42.24 seconds. That also was the third fastest time in the Class 3A field. Those who entered themselves in the record book were Wauhob, Drew Uhl, Schaefer and Olson. 

Boys 4x400 (2:25): In the final race of the night, Frese, Sir Brandon Watts, Bleeker and Drew Uhl made the cut with a time of 3:29.44, good for 20th. 


Boys sprint medley relay (10:10): The quartet of Wauhob, Schaefer, Drew Uhl and Olson ran the fastest time in the state at 1:52.66, and will attempt to repeat that Saturday morning. Feauto, Watts, Bork and Bleeker are listed as alternates. 

Girls 800 (10:50): Senior Scarlett Walsh was the fifth qualifier to come out of the SB-L meet on Thursday with a time of 2:23. The Black Hills State triathlon signee is seeded 10th. 

Girls 1,500 (2:30): Bertrand ran an even 5-minute race on Thursday, and she’s seeded seventh in this race. 


  • state track and field