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In honor of ‘Packy’

Sue Bombich, left, talks to the head coaches and captains of the Superior High School track and field team about her brother, Packy Paquette, at his gravesite at Calvary Cemetery Wednesday afternoon. The annual Packy Paquette indoor track meet will be held at UWS today. Listening to Bombich are, from left, Ross Kennelly, Coach Phil Roe, Coach Kris Leopold, Gunnar Gronski, Zach Tharge, Molly Bergum, Creede McClellan and Josiah McDonald. (Jed Carlson /

In 2008, Superior High School track and field coach Kris Leopold approached athletic director Ray Kosey with an idea.

He wanted to reintroduced the Packy Paquette Invitational.

The meet, named in honor of Francis “Packy” Paquette, had been held yearly from 1969 to 1980. When it was discontinued, Leopold said, the community lost something.

The Packy Paquette Invitational now enters its eighth year since the reintroduction. The meet was canceled in 2012 when the University of Wisconsin-Superior indoor track was closed for repairs, but it has otherwise met with great success.

For Leopold, the event is more than just a series of races. He sees it as a connection to the past — an opportunity to teach today’s athletes about the Spartan whose name still graces the annual award given to the top male athlete at Superior High School.

About four years ago, Leopold began looking for ways to deepen that connection and to motivate his athletes.

“Vince Lombardi was a great teacher and an even better motivator,” Leopold said. “I thought about the best way to make the track meet real for the kids. I wanted to remind them that this kid was from Superior, just like they are, played in the same gymnasium and walked the same halls as they did.”

That led Leopold on a journey down Highway 105 to the Calvary Cemetery.

The Spartan team captains were in tow.

“I knew where Packy was buried, so I drove right to it,” Leopold said. “We all got out of our cars and walked over.”

Only a few words were exchanged at the gravesite, but Leopold managed to explained to his captains what Paquette represented, how he conducted himself as a Spartan and why he is still remembered today.

“The best way to honor him is to do their best,” Leopold said. “Give 100 percent and I will be happy. He gave 100 percent every day for 19 years.”

Paquette was a four-sport athlete at Superior Senior High School, competing in football, basketball, baseball and track. He graduated 15th in his class of more than 500 students in 1967 and was accepted at the University of Minnesota on a full athletic scholarship to play football.

Following Paquette’s sophomore season at Minnesota, he was killed in a car accident.

The first Packy Paquette Invitational was held the following year, and it continued for 12 seasons. The event then went on a 28-year hiatus until Leopold pushed for its revival.

A few years after the meet was re-established, the Spartans made their first trip to Calvary Cemetery.

“Now we go every year,” Leopold said. “It is tradition, and that is what the T stands for in Spartan.”

Sue Bombich, Paquette’s sister, said her family appreciates the annual track meet held in his honor.

“It’s certainly an honor to keep his memory and his legacy with sports out there in the community,” she said.

Many in Superior were following Paquette’s college career closely when he died, Bombich said. They were rooting for him, and looking forward to the day when they could say, “I knew him. He’s from Superior.”

“When he died, it was a sense of community loss,” Bombich said.

This year’s Packy Paquette Invitational begins at 4 p.m. today at the University of Wisconsin-Superior Marcovich Wellness Center.

The Superior boys have won the Packy team title five times in the seven years since the event was reintroduced, and they have back-to-back titles heading into this year’s event.

The Spartan girls have won three titles, the most recent in 2014. Northwestern won the inaugural girls title in 2008 but has been shut out since.

Packy Paquette Invitational

Past winners


2008 – Superior

2009 – Superior

2010 – Superior

2011 – Rice Lake

2012 – Event canceled

2013 – Rice Lake

2014 – Superior

2015 – Superior


2008 – Northwestern

2009 – Superior

2010 – Superior

2011 – Bloomer

2012 – Event canceled

2013 – Rice Lake

2014 – Superior

2015 – Chippewa Falls



2008 – Ben Wahlstrom, Spooner

2009 – Ben Wahlstrom, Spooner

2010 – Zach Colvin, Superior

2011 – Quintin Coleman, Duluth East

2013 – Bryce Miller, Ashland

2014 – Jake Libal, Superior

2015 – Kenny Bednarek, Rice Lake


2008 – Kelly Stipetich, Superior

2009 – Christa Diedrich, Superior

2010 – Christa Diedrich, Superior

2011 – Jamie Ludwigson, Bloomer

2013 – Morgan Johnson, Hayward

2014 – Lauren Magnuson, Superior

2015 – Elli Daniels, Chippewa Falls