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Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Junior Augustine Hahn during drills at the high school practice fields Tuesday morning.

Willmar notebook: Two-horse race to QB Cardinals

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Strong-armed Alex Grove occupied the quarterback chair the past three seasons. In his final year, he threw for over 1,300 yards at a 56 percent completion rate deploying 13 different receivers but dominated by Austin Rambow (43 catches), who is now at Valley City (N.D.) State and will play basketball. Grove is at Concordia College, a favorite for area high school graduates eager to continue football.

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Jon Konold starts his fifth season as the Cardinals’ head coach with a pair of plums served up on the quarterback tray. Junior Augustine Hahn has two seasons in the bank triggering 8-1 teams (freshmen and JV). Sophomore Zach Rademacher guided the frosh to an 8-1 season. Hahn’s rep is as a runner; Rademacher as the passer.

Konold quickly adds that both are better at the opposite talent than people realize.

Hahn is listed at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds. He has already proven himself at the varsity level as a starter on Willmar’s state tournament wrestling team. Rademacher, listed at 6-1, 180, is another all-around athlete who played up a level in both basketball and baseball as a freshman.

The weekend scrimmage at Litchfield could decide the frontrunner. Willmar’s spread, no-huddle attack would seem to favor a passer like Rademacher. But Hahn is a year older and his sturdy build makes him better candidate to handle the physical toll of an eight-game schedule.

Konold said he won’t alternate. Depending on which teenager starts, the game’s play package will reflect his strengths. The staff will want to settle on an unquestioned leader behind center, I gather.

Whoever starts, this fall’s team has speed and depth in the backfield, at receiver, at linebacker and defensive back. However, the offensive line, coached by Ken Heitzman, will be all new, also an area lacking in depth.

Upward bound

Willmar coach Chelsea Brown starts her third year at the helm of the Cardinals girls soccer team with her youngest team.

“Our coaching staff has been very impressed with the work ethic and aggressiveness in these young athletes,” Brown said. “Our team motto this year stems from Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. The first pillar stresses industriousness: Success comes from very hard work. ... Our athletes are working very hard for the good of the team.”

The Cards’ first game is against Glencoe-Silver Lake today at the Kennedy pitch. Willmar has three strong forwards with Hannah Johnson, Shelby Schneider and Jennyfer Jimenez. They are backed up by midfielders Stephanie Thompson, Alexis Becerra, Ingrid Figenskau and Rachel Hardy, “who all play smart,” Brown said.

Willmar’s back four, the defense, should be tough, with Riley Schneider and Hannah Schirm stepping up to lead in the middle and Isabelle Gustafson and Nicole Marshall on the wings. Two-time MVP Jordan Martins is back in net.

“She does an excellent job communicating with her teammates,” Brown said.

Willmar’s JVI is also impressive, Brown said, with two new coaches this year: Matt Horning (JVI) and Ellie Brunner (JVII). Noelle Green has stepped up to Assistant Varsity.

“Their expertise and input during practices has helped make the first weeks of practice run efficiently,” Brown said.

Also opening today: boys soccer at Mankato West and girls tennis at home 9 a.m. (New London-Spicer vs. Hutchinson followed by Willmar vs. Hutchinson and then NLS vs. Cardinals).

Ultra running

Ben Burgett told me Wednesday his ankle injury sustained in the Ragnar Relay Ultra division is healing quickly and he won’t miss any time.

The 17-year-old junior at Willmar Community Christian was about an hour into his second 11-mile leg — which started 4 a.m. Saturday — when his already sore right foot caught the pavement edge and he strained ankle tissue. He was unable to continue and teammates picked up his miles.

He was scheduled to run 32 miles in three legs during the 203-mile relay from Winona to Minneapolis. He ran his first stint in a very fast 5:30 pace, he said.

“I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe it,” he said of the leg.

Between legs, he picked up a few miles for a teammate experiencing fatigue and had only 30 minutes rest before his second leg. The Glacial Lakes Running Series-sponsored team still finished second in its class and 24th of 301 overall.

The team, captained by Conrad Bostron of Spicer, included Bri Rohne of St. Paul, who won the Green Lake race in July. Jolene Hebrink of Sacred Heart ran the last leg into downtown Minneapolis.

Burgett won a number of citizen races this summer, including the Foot Lake 4 and Lake Ripley 4, and he finished second at the Spicer 12-miler. He attended running camps in California, Virginia and Colorado, logging, he calculates, 700 summer miles. The Eagles open the season next Thursday at the 9-team LQPV/DB meet at Appleton.

Pilgrim pulls up lame

Extraordinary coast-to-coast walker Bruce Maynard is back in his apartment in Bellingham, Wash.

The 77-year-old blogger writes that a painful tendon injury made it sensible to take a bus from Glendive, Mont., to Bellingham on Aug. 14, rather than risk serious injury. He had left the east coast, pushing his trusty bike-wheeled stroller, in April for his third cross-country adventure. He strolled through these parts in early July.

“Being back in my apartment is bittersweet. My leg will soon heal … I am eager to once again be on the road,” he posted Monday.

On the fly

n Jordan Smith pumped his batting average to a season high .287 on Sunday in the first game of a twin bill when the Carolina Mudcats beat Salem 7-1. He had two hits, both doubles, and three RBI.

n Willmar is at the Watermelon Scrimmage on Saturday where James Jackman makes his debut as Litchfield head coach after 14 seasons working under Jon Johnson, who stepped down after two decades. Jackman is a River Falls, Wis., native where he also played college football and then coached two years after graduating in 1994. He has a master’s degree in speech pathology with an office in both the middle school and high school. He started coaching Dragons football in 1999 and also coaches in the wrestling and track programs.

n The top six in Wissota National Points in the Mod-4 class are all regulars at the KRA Speedway, led by Kyle Thell of Foley with Dustin Zieske of Willmar second and Dean Larson of Pennock in the Silver Bullet third. Street Stock leaders Jordan Tollakson (first) of Montevideo and David Read (second) of Brainerd are also KRA regulars.

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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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