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Willmar notebook: Alex Grove sets his course for Concordia

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Willmar senior Alex Grove, a three-year starter at quarterback, will attend Concordia College next fall.

After visiting the Moorhead campus on Jan. 13, he called head coach Terry Horan two days later saying he wanted to be a Cobber.

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He also paid a recruiting visit to the University of St. Thomas this month and last summer had a more informal visit with coaches at St. Cloud State.

“I just felt more at home,” said the 6-foot-1, 185-pound three-sport athlete of Concordia, which plays in the MIAC and NCAA Division III. “It’s where I wanted to spend the next four years.”

Among his Cobber teammates will be WR Jeremy Lawler, Grove’s favorite target as a sophomore.

Horan (’85), a Willmar native, has had success with Willmar QBs before. Michael Dunham (’08) started 2½ seasons at Concordia.

Steve Grove, Alex’s father, played football with Horan at Concordia in the late 1980s.   

In three seasons and 28 starts, Alex threw for 4,694 yards, 30 TDs with 21 interceptions. A fearless and evasive runner, he rushed for 1,544 yards and 22 TDs.

Snow race a go

Driver reactions to the snowmobile racing on west Foot Lake on Jan. 12 were encouraging enough for Brian Nelson to forecast their return in 2014.

Nelson is running and financing the new United States X-Country circuit which races in Oslo this weekend.

“Everyone liked it,” he told Notebook. “They liked the location and there was good viewing.”

The first Nelson Tours Willmar Lakes Area 100 was nearly devastated by a two-day thaw but a hard freeze returned just 12 hours before the start. Nelson used GPS to set a fast but swerving course on the lake. Unlike the races at Detroit Lakes the week before, there were no conflicts with ice anglers since west Foot isn’t fished.

Race fans viewed the darting snow machines from vehicles at several locations, including near Fairview Cemetery, the fairgrounds entrance and across from the radio station. Or they could walk out on the ice at the starting point below the fairgrounds. The needle-tread sleds exceeded 100 mph while averaging 60 mph per 10-mile lap despite the hairpin turns.

“The fair board was really cooperative and helpful,” said Nelson, a former racer who lives in Spicer “We’re pleased with the results. We’ll do it again next year.”

About 125 sled racers took part with some entering more than one of the six races. Most all the racers were from outside the area — the majority from the North Country — and pumped-up occupancy at motels for one or two nights.

Hoops tourney

The Willmar Rec Adult Basketball Tournament is this week at the city auditorium. The teams are down from 8 to 6 this year.

Brad Bonk, adult rec supervisor, said teams from Alexandria and Minneapolis, pulled out in the last week. The Alexandria team included Forrest Witt, who now has a rescheduled boys basketball game vs. St. Cloud Tech to coach the same day. The Jason Cordes’ team from the Metro pulled out hours later, perhaps Bonk felt related to the Alex cancellation.

The tournament starts at 9 a.m. with the championship game slated for around 1 p.m.

Teams entered are Jason Kron/Josh Berg from St. Cloud, Ted Taatjes/Mike Brower from Prinsburg/Belgrade, Brock Madsen/Clara City area, Jason Allen/St. Cloud and a team from Hutchinson.

Women’s volleyball

Bonk already has 10 teams signed for the March 2 Women’s Volleyball Tournament at three venues with three levels to select from. Twenty teams entered last year; he expects the field this time could reach its maximum of 24

For information or to register reach Bonk at 231-8492 (ext. 6328).

Mesabi or bust

The Cardinals Nordic team made its annual pilgrimage Jan. 12 to the Mesabi Invite at Giants Ridge Ski Area, about an hour north of Duluth, and just a little east of Virginia and Eveleth where the boys hockey team played last weekend.

Coach Brad Haugen said 21 skiers made the 5 hour trip and 16 competed. The temperature dropped from 20 degrees at 10 a.m. to 8 degrees by late afternoon with a 15-20 mph wind. (With nearby Embarrass reporting a minus 38 reading this Tuesday morning, the resort’s website announced closing for the day “Due to cold and heating issues”).

The course was a 2.5k loop on the man-made downhill snow at the base with mostly long up hills and fast downhills.

“They definitely have less snow in northern Minnesota then we do here.  It was very icy on some of the course.  But the skiers did a wonderful job responding to the difficult and challenging conditions. It was a wonderful time and every one skied a ton,” Haugen commented.

On the fly

n Coming off scoring a season-high 80 points in a 19-point win over St. Cloud Tech, the Cardinals boys basketball team plays at Apollo High School on Friday looking for a fourth straight win. Apollo (5-2, 8-7) played city rival Tech on Tuesday, winning 53-51. Brainerd (7-0, 12-0) looks like it won’t be caught; second-place Apollo lost to the Warriors 67-28 on Jan. 15.

n Ridgewater’s Raeann Sorenson (Brooten) ranks second in MCAC South free-throw accuracy at 77 percent on 44 of 57. Courtney Kramer (12.1 ppg) and Jessie Kalenberg (13.7 ppg), both Hector, are among the division’s leading scorers.

n The Cardinal boys have come up against a bucket of college recruits already this hoops season. Here’s a sampling: Patrick Fischer, Sartell, Bemidji State; Graham Woodward, Edina, Penn State; Reggie Lynch, Edina, Southern Illinois; Logan Doyle, Alexandria, South Dakota State; and (unconfirmed) Jonah Eisenchenk, Rocori, UM-Duluth.

n In women’s college hockey, sophomore Dani Schultz of Morris and senior Chelsey Wierschem of Willmar scored goals on Saturday in Superior as the UW-Superior Yellowjackets tied cross-harbor rival St. Scholastic 3-3. Schultz has 7 goals and 10 assists to lead the Jackets (9-6-1) in scoring; Wierschem (5-6-11) is tied for third most points.

n Despite the cold weather, Card basketball fans are still turning out. Ticket manager Mary DeCathelineau, The boys averaged 432 in four home games this month with a high of 492 Jan. 8 vs. Brainerd. The girls games are pulling about 200 less on average but two recent crowds surpassed 300 including a season-best 319 last Friday vs. Apollo. These figures include all passes (eg. Students, seniors, staff, coaches) but not pep band members. The Bremer Bank boys two-day, four-team tourney drew 1,353.

n Junior center Alexandra Lippert had big games back-to-back helping Concordia defeat Gustavus at St. Peter 50-49 on Saturday and St. Thomas at Moorhead 69-62 on Monday to pull into a first-place tie with the Tommies, both at 11-2 in the MIAC. Lippert had a combined 23 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.    

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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