Willmar becomes a Woodstock of kids basketball this weekend when up to 700 boys and girls on 70 teams infiltrate the city limits for two days during the annual Willmar (Youth) Basketball Boosters Association hoops festival.
Upper elementary through middle school ages will compete on courts at Roosevelt Elementary (4th-5th grades), the middle school (6th grade) and senior high school (7th-8th grades), nine courts in all. Willmar has 21 teams plugged in and counts 168 players.
The teams come from most area school districts, plus more distant towns like Belle Plaine, Melrose, Sleepy Eye, Marshall and Alexandria.
Ross Magnuson, a spokesperson for the group, said the Boosters' projects include paying for the four scoreboards at the senior high, purchasing equipment for the weight room, buying jerseys for the eighth-grade school basketball team and paying for a new home or away uniform for the boys and girls varsity each year on a four-year rotating basis.
Gymnastics section at Morris
The Willmar gymnastics team competes at the Section 6A meet at Morris High School on Saturday.
Senior Kelsey Jacobson is a two-time state qualifier in vault. The rest of the team is underclassmen, including junior Abbey Weiler. She advanced to state in all-around after placing third last year when the meet was held in New London.
Melrose, New London-Spicer and Sartell are top contenders for team laurels. The Dutchmen won last year with a score of 145.95
Willmar has two weeks to taper for the 3A Section swim meet Jan. 25-26 at Morris.
Look for a fresher team than the one that placed seventh at the conference meet. The squad practiced hard right through that meet but will pull back for the state qualifier.
The Cardinals' best bets individually are Kyle Rozendaal, Michael McLain, Ben Fuglestad, and diver Bennet Woltjer. Coach Carl Shuldes believes all three relays have a chance to qualify by time.
"We finally are all healthy, too," said Shuldes. "There's been a lot of flu."
Rozendaal, a senior, is running out of meets to eclipse the 1991 backstroke record held by Chad Bloom. Rozendaal is at 55.9, but has a strong taper at the end of the season, so there's a chance he can get under the school mark of 55.1.
Willmar qualified 21 swimmers and divers for the 14-team meet.
Rozendaal was acknowledged as a Central Lakes Conference top performer in swimming and diving. The Cardinal senior finished the conference dual-meet season undefeated and then tacked on a first place at the conference meet.