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Larry Merkel | Cross Country Coach

Larry Merkel was the varsity head coach of the St. Xavier cross country team for 27 years. He helped transformed St. Xavier from a struggling non-competitive squad to a fixture in the top 10 city rankings, and eventually into a perennial state powerhouse. As head coach, Larry guided the team to nine GCL championships, 14 district championships, two regional championships, a state runner up finish and three state championships (1998, 2000 and 2003). The cross country team qualified for 18 straight state championship meets under his guidance, the second-longest streak in Ohio history. Merkel’s 2000 state championship team is arguably the best cross country team in Ohio history and earned a national ranking of 13, the highest national ranking ever received by a St. Xavier cross country team. Larry has been a teacher in the St. X English department since 1977.

Tom Niehaus (’55) | Football

Tom was a three-year starter for the Bombers, beginning at nose guard as a sophomore and moving to defensive end his last two years. Tom became Coach Tom Ballaban’s first all-city player while also earning second-team all-state and honorable mention All-America honors (the first in school history) as captain of the team. He was sixth man on the basketball team as a junior and was co-captain his senior year. Tom carried an A-minus average, was a member of the Jesuit National Honor Society, Senior Class President and Student Council President. He went on to play football at Detroit University, where he was freshman team captain and earned all-Missouri Valley Conference honors at guard his sophomore year. He transferred to XU, where he played two more years of football. Tom spent 26 years as a seventh- and eighth-grade football coach in three cities. He and his wife Marilyn have six children and 27 grandchildren and now live in Jackson, Michigan.

Fr. Ed Pigott S.J. (’55) | Team Chaplin

Fr. Ed Pigott has been a constant sideline fixture in St. Xavier athletics for more than 40 years. Since 1969, Fr. Pigott has dedicated himself to the formation of young men at St. Xavier High School. By celebrating countless weekly team Masses over the course of four-plus decades, by encouraging coaches and athletes alike, Fr. Pigott’s presence reminds the participants and fans of the athletic department of St, X’s identity as a Catholic institution and its Jesuit motto of being men for and with others while striving for the magis. A comment of “nice game” or “great job” from Fr. Ed meant - and means - a great deal to the athletes at St. X, especially when it comes against arch-rival Elder, for whom Fr. Ed holds a special place in his heart. His life in service to Jesuit education has touched literally thousands of lives at St. Xavier and beyond. Fr. Ed continues to be on the sidelines, encouraging and cheering for our boys.

Howard Tolbert | Football, Basketball, and Golf Coach

Howard Tolbert taught history and physical education at St. Xavier. Howard - or “H,” as he was known – served as the assistant varsity football coach under St. X Hall of Famer Tom Ballaban, filling both offensive and defensive coordinator roles. He also spent time as head coach for the varsity basketball, varsity golf and reserve football teams in his Bomber tenure. Howard worked at Purcell High School from 1958 to 1962 as an assistant varsity football coach, and head coach for both reserve football and basketball. Howard played three seasons of varsity football for Xavier University from 1946 to 1948. His legendary toughness surely was born of his Army training during World War II, where he served from 1942 to 1945. Howard is a combat veteran and received the Purple Heart, The Combat Infantry Badge with Oak Leaf Cluster and four major battle campaign ribbons.

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