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Senior Tom LaPatka rollerskis back to the high school after a workout on the Glacial Lakes State Trail on Tuesday. The Cardinal Nordic ski team is hoping for snow, or at least freezing temperatures, to make snow for their opener Dec. 3 in St. Cloud. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

Six Cardinal sports to take flight next week

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West Central Tribune
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Six Cardinal sports to take flight next week
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

It's nearly December and a mass liftoff of Cardinal winter sports.

Boys hockey starts Tuesday and then gymnastics, skiing, wrestling and girls basketball all on Thursday. But wait, there's more. Boys basketball, at home, vs. Hastings comes up next Friday.

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Girls hockey will have in four games by next week, while the swimmers and divers commence Dec. 10.

The team to watch? How about boys basketball? The Cardinals are always solid hardcourt entertainment, but how often do you have a Division I recruit to watch each night. Ok, it hasn't been that long. Sam Sussenguth graduated in 2005 and his now in his final year of eligibility at North Dakota State.

Taylor Filipek will play at Eastern Kentucky University, which made NCAA trips in 2005 and '07.

Brian Reeves, a junior center, is the only other starter back, but there's not much varsity experience otherwise. With so many unknowns, this could be a season of boom and bust.

Brad Atchison, on the girls side, has 10 letterwinners back. So experience is not a problem, but multi-talented Kelsey Evans, a 1,000-point scorer, is now playing for Briar Cliff College. Without her, it will be a challenge to repeat a 22-win season and sparkling 17-1 record in the Central Lakes. Hannah Smith and Jena Thompson are returning all-conference players.

Wrestling coach Casey Johnson has only one senior, Adam Fagerstrom, who is pegged to wrestle at 135 pounds. Johnson has 25 boys in the top four grades and there's another 30 in the middle school program. The Cardinals are in a rebuilding phase, but Johnson appears to have the program on the right course.

The grappler's new section (8AAA) will have its two-stage tournament at Alexandria and Bemidji.

Nordic skiing is hoping for a string of sub-freezing days to firm up the soil and allow snowmaking to begin. If that happens, they could still have their first meet on schedule at Riverside Park along the Mississippi across from St. Cloud State University.

Coach Brad Haugen is happy with a turnout of 42 from sixth through 12th grade. That's the most in his five years as the head coach.

Larry Selchow has a gym full of tumblers -- actually make that a half-gym at Kennedy. The number is at 39 and includes seventh and eighth graders. He declined to take on the sixth graders from the middle school, feeling it would be too crowded and difficult to properly coach. Ashley Delp, the only senior, leads a core of experienced juniors, though two-time MVP Annalise Bratt's scoring will be missed.

There is good news for the program, which was third in its Class AA section last season. The Cardinals are moving to Class A and to a section meet hosted by New London-Spicer.

Boys hockey plays Tuesday against Morris/Benson Area at the Civic Center. Coach Dan Tollefson has 13 letterwinners back so this squad should hit the ice skating hard. The junior class had a lot of success at the Bantam level and should be ready to produce points in a big way now. Ben Leitch, a junior who started last year, gives a veteran defense an anchor in net.

Alumni swim meet

Reese Seefelt is putting together a Cardinals Alumni Swim Meet at the high school for Jan. 2. All past swimmers and divers from both pool programs, regardless of age or fitness, are encouraged to participate or just attend if not interested in competing.

"I'd like everyone to show up about 1 p.m. and the event will start at 2 p.m.," said Seefelt, who graduated in 1993 after lettering three times. "We have the cafeteria reserved for a gathering afterwards. The public is invited."

Seefelt said the idea is to make this a fundraiser for prostrate cancer research as a way of honoring swim coach Carl Shuldes. The head coach of both Cardinal programs was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in 2008 and was successfully treated.

If interested, contact Reese at 320-894-5200 or hreese@hotmail.com.

On the fly

- Chelsey Wierschem's first college goal was a haymaker. The freshman forward, a four-time Cardinals' MVP, scored the game-winner on Nov. 17 on her home ice as UW-Superior upset No. 3-ranked Gustavus Adolphus, 3-2. The even-strength goal came at 9:21 of the third period and lifted the Yellowjackets' record to 2-2-1.

- Willmar's first-year head football coach Jon Konold went to state twice when he played for the Minneota Vikings. This fall, quarterback Sam Dernyck, his nephew, has thrown for 1,990 yards and 30 TDs going into the Prep Bowl game 1 p.m. Friday against Little Sioux rival Adrian. Konold, who has six siblings, also is the uncle of Ashley Hennen, a standout on two Ridgewater College volleyball teams that made the national finals.

- Mary Sussenguth wrapped up her four-year career on the Minnesota State Moorhead volleyball team starting 32 matches for the Dragons, who finished 21-12. The middle hitter finish third in kills with 224 and first in total blocks with 116.

- The Cardinal girls hockey team has been outscored 15-1 to start the season, but coach Chad Akerson is confident the team's hard work in practice will pay off. "Offensively, we need to stop turning over the puck at the blue line, stop trying to make picture-perfect passes and get more shots on net." Willmar hosts Mankato East at 8 p.m. Friday following Litchfield/DC vs. Benson/Morris Area at the Cardinal Classic.

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Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
(320) 214-4334
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