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Tribune photo by Rand Middleton These 2010 Robbinsdale Cooper graduates were each born in Africa, came to the U.S.A in the late 1990s and now are enrolled at Ridgewater College to continue their education while playing Warriors football. From left, TE Anton Bedeaux, safety/placekicker Elijah Swen, LB Melvin Kromah, RB back Gabe Kromah and DE Rob Diane.

Warriors boosted by Cooper connection

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sports Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Ridgewater College football coach Rob Baumgarn drove to New Hope early in 2010 pursuing a 270-pound tackle.

The big lineman ended up elsewhere on scholarship, but the Warriors coach didn't return home empty handed.

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So far, he's reaped six players from that visit. Four will start on Saturday against undefeated Rochester, a 1:30 game at Hodapp Field.

The Hawks coach, John Biezuns, now at Southwest, suggested Baumgarn meet with several players who might be interested in a two-year college.

Some didn't have the grades to get into a four-year school. This was a chance to go to college and play football for the 2010 Cooper graduates.

Tight end Anton Bedeaux and defensive end Rob Diane (pronouunced Dee ahn nee) are both second year starters. Elijah Swen starts at safety, returns kicks and has been the team's placekicker both years. Melvin Kromah is a LB/DE first-year start.

His cousin, Gabe Kromah, worked his first year out of school and is a freshman reserve running back. The Kromahs encouraged Kleme Yarh, a year younger, to come out here and he's now a reserve cornerback.

Gabe Kromah recalls the first meeting with the Ridgewater coach.

"He said the kids come from all over, even Florida, and some from small towns, so it will be different," recalled Gabe, who is polite and soft spoken. "You come here, work hard and the best 11 will play. I'll get my playing time, too, I'm not worried about that."

Gabe added that it's kind of quiet out here on the plains. "Everything shuts down by 9:30 just when things are starting to happen in the city."

He adds that he's been befriended by a woman he calls "The Football Mom", who picks him up for church and helps the player in other ways.

But that helps keep the grades up. There's a lot of reading and other homework, but the nice thing is that there are fewer classes than high school and more time to study.

Diane was born in the Ivory Coast, the others are native of Liberia, a country edging toward democracy but with a recent history of civil war. The west-coast country the size of Ohio was settle by freed American slaves and is English speaking and predominately Christian. Melvin has been back several times, the others have not.

The good news in Liberia is free elections were held this week just days after president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Cooper Connection will figure large in a possible victory over Rochester -- a rare prize accomplished only twice in the past 20 years.

JV volleys a hit

The Cardinal volleyball program hosts Alexandria tonight looking to add to their victory totals.

The JV squads are both having great seasons. The JV1 team, coached by Mandi Norby, is 10-0 in CLC matches and 13-4 overall. JV2, coached by Jana Peterson, is 8-2 and 12-6.

JV members are Raelin Setrum, Anne Dunham, Ellie Sack, McKenzie Hastad, Sami Doering, Dani Rosen, Leah Ruter, Allie Roehl, Courtney Magnuson, Ashlie Skonard, Kalley Fosso, Jennie Magnuson, Megan Rudnick, Emily Chermak, Jamie Reyes, Courtney Hoffman, Sam Hanson, Miranda Roelofs, and Jackie Ruiz.

As Mandi Illies, Norby graduated from BBE in 1998 and spent two years at Ridgewater, where she earned All-America honorable mention in volleyball and All-America in basketball.

'70s pioneers

Forty years ago opportunities for women in collegiate sports hardly existed. When roadblocks began to lift, a "Band of Sisters" jumped at the chance. They were the pioneers.

Several former area athletes were recognized by Minnesota State Moorhead Athletes at its 2011 Dragon Athletics Hall of Fame Induction on Sept. 23. The 1970's women student-athletes were honored with the Distinguished Service Award to Athletics. The group of women was selected for their dedication and service to ensuring Dragon women's athletics was started and supported, and their opportunities could continue and flourish for years to come.

We're informed area graduates include Pat Aagesen and Judy Nelson of Willmar, Mary Holmberg of Murdock, Suzanne Sagedahl of Brooten and Vicky Nelson of Grove City.

Most of this group played fast-pitch at Moorhead. Holmberg has coached Morris High School fast-pitch since 1980. She retired as athletic director after 17 years this spring and continues to teach and coach. The 1973 Murdock graduated on the cusp of Title IX impact. She got to compete for the Irish only in track -- in the softball throw her senior year.

On the fly

- Elaine Engle, who joined the Cardinal Pride HOF on Friday but was unable to attend the ceremony, will be presented her plaque at the girls swim meet this evening vs. Brainerd. A "mini-ceremony" will be held following the dive competition, around 7 p.m. The retired girls golf coach is a swim starter and diving judge.

- Two members of the Lady Warriors 2010 national champion volleyball team are having good junior seasons. Defensive specialist and captain elect Brandi Bodin (MACCRAY) has a team-high 185 digs at Bloomfield College (N.J.). Brianna Jacobson (New London-Spicer) has a regular role at Wisconsin-LaCrosse where she is fourth in kills (67) and second in blocks (28).

- Ridgewater men's basketball began workouts Oct. 3. Players from the area include Jordan Schwarz of Lac qui Parle Valley, Jamie Boonstra of MACCRAY, Zach Henning of CMCS and Jake Rambow of Willmar. Others from nearby are Neil Helgeson of Kimball and Jake Ruhland of Eden Valley-Watkins and Tyler and Zak Pendleton of Cedar Mt. The Lady Warriors opened practice Wednesday.

- Ridgewater wrestling coach Tom Beyer could have one of his best freshman classes yet with as many as 18 prospects on campus amplified by a half-dozen sophomores. The team is deepest at the first five weights. The season opens Nov. 6.

- Two Cardinals are last week's Top Performers in the Central Lakes Conference. Sophomore harrier Tara Rudie was named in girls cross-country for 41st-place finish in 16:04, second best on team, at the Meet of Champions, plus leading Willmar in four previous meets. Swimmer of the week is freshman Alycia Holwerda. In two meets last week, she posted six lifetime bests.

- At that Alexandria running meet, Willmar placed all six teams in the top 10, a first for the program in this top meet. In the girls varsity 4k, 7th-grader Savannah Anez in 38th (15:58) led Willmar to 8th of 23 teams. The Willmar boys, led by Sam Anez in 26th place (16:53) and Mohamud Mowlid in 28th (16:58), placed 7th of 22.

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