Willmar Notebook: Get back
It's been 10 years since Willmar sent a girls cross country team to Northfield. In that time, the Cardinals boys raked in a pair of Class AA titles and a runner-up plaque in eight appearances. But this fall the boys missed by a little while the girls will run the 4,000-meters at St. Olaf College.
If there are no changes from the section line-up, Willmar will be the youngest of 16 teams. Five eighth-graders will run with a sophomore and a senior starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Sophomore Samantha Hanson also would have qualified individually. Willmar's most-recent female runner at state was seven years ago when senior Kari Higdem ran to all-state honors.
Coach Jerry Popp states a "very good" finish would be top eight. Top 12 would still be good for this rookie team.
Willmar will have someone in the boys 5K at 10 a.m. Tom Seifert ran 88th (16:56), leading the Willmar boys team at state last year as a sophomore. He's back this year individually with a goal of running in the top 50.
Ben Burgett is also back running for Willmar Community Christian. He finished 38th (17:10) as a freshman.
"The state meet gets very intense and you have to be ready to go when that gun goes off and then adjust to the different race situations," pointed out Popp. "With the long straightaways the wind and just the weather can become a big factor in strategy."
The combination of talent among more than 150 runners, the thousands of fans and the stakes make this a high school race like no other.
The pace is furious with two tough climbs coming in the last 800 meters. The reward -- and the pain -- come in the last 150 meters, with the huge crowd lining both sides of the chute cheering crazily as the athletes sprint to the end.
On the fly
n New London-Spicer graduate Drew Fernelius is the new men's and women's tennis coach at Bethel University. He won Class A singles in 1989 and then played for the University of St. Thomas. The nephew of astronaut Pinky Nelson (WHS '68) serves as the assistant director of spiritual growth at Cornerstone Church in Crystal.
n Ashley Beseman (MACCRAY, '08) went directly from Concordia College, where she played four years of Cobbers volleyball, to a position at Duluth East. She's head coach of a team that finished 16-10, losing 3-1 at Elk River in the playoffs. She teaches biology and physical science.
n Lori Wilson, wife of teacher and coach John Wilson, is an out-patient at the Willmar Regional Cancer Center. John reports Lori is "feeling really well (Wednesday)" but the chemo treatment has yet to kick in. The former boys head hockey coach, expressed gratitude for "the overwhelming support from people writing, calling and caring. Lori is an awesome lady and has so many friends."
n At the Southwest Minnesota State basketball exhibition game against Mustangs alumni, former Cardinal and Ridgewater Warrior Casey Sussenguth logged 6 points and 8 rebounds for the Alums. Jacob Fahl (Benson '99), Southwest's all-time leading scorer, had 4 points. The current Mustangs won 72-64 with senior Tramel Barnes of Montevideo and sophomore Shaun Condon (MACCRAY) scoring 8 and 9 points, respectively. The game was a fundraiser for the family of Lucas Post, the KMS boys hoops coach, and their ill daughter, Mia.
n St. Cloud Tech girls tennis, coached by Willmar native Paul Bates, was 0-2 at Class AA state tournament, losing 5-2 to both Prior Lake and Stillwater. The Tigers won the Central Lakes and Section 8AA titles. Edina lost just two of 21 individual matches on the way to another title. The Blake School blanked Annandale for the Class A trophy.
n Brittany Nissen and Kandace Taylor have joined the Lady Warriors basketball team. It's sooner than the volleyball standouts had hoped. Nissen said the team's loss in the Region 13A volleyball final on Saturday hasn't really sunk in yet. It may be hardest on Nov. 9-10, when the national tourney is going on and the Willmar program isn't there for the first time in eight years. The loss only highlights what an extraordinary streak the college team has had. Every year two teams come at you in the region final four looking to knock off the defending champs. Finally, Fergus Falls put together a run at the right moment (the fifth game) to knock off the national champs. Both teams played very well in a display of quality volleyball.
n Jayne Cole (WHS '10) earned her first all-conference honor for the Luther College cross-country team. The top-15 runners at the Iowa Conference run are named all-conference. Cole placed eighth (23:00) out of 116 runners on the 6K course, held Saturday at Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids. The Luther women placed second behind Wartburg.
n Senior Chelsey Wierschem and sophomore Dani Schultz are skating on the same line at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, which lost 3-2 at Gustavus Adolphus on Tuesday. Wierschem, a captain for the Yellowjackets, begins her fourth year with 20 goals and 22 assists. Schultz, out of Morris and the MBA Storm, was both the NCHA Rookie and Player of the Year after scoring 23 goals with 7 assists.