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Tribune photo Emily Carlson, left, came up with the idea for a weight-loss contest and Jenyne Beehler did the bookkeeping. The basketball coaches relied on one another for positive reinforcement during the 10 weeks.

Willmar Notebook: Weight, weight, don't tell me!

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Emily Carlson was an all-state guard in high school and played three years of intercollegiate basketball at Concordia College.

When she became a mother her exercise and eating habits changed.

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"I was eating for two when I was pregnant and four years later I was still eating for two," she told me at the final weigh-in of the middle school's Biggest Loser contest on Tuesday before school.

Twenty-five entered the 10-week contest with an entry fee. Progress was reported not in pounds loss but as percentage of the contestant's entry-level weight.

Emily, who started it all, won the first-place prize money. She shed 19.7 percent or 30 pounds.

The champion, in terms of pounds lost, is her husband Dustin. He cut 46 pounds since early January. He's now back to his playing weight, 218 pounds, in high school when he was an All-Area lineman and Willmar's outstanding athlete (Noon Lions Award).

Like so many, Emily was concerned with her weight but just couldn't get the engine of change to turnover and catch.

Competition, so much a part of their life (Emily is girls basketball JV coach while Dustin is Jon Konold's defensive coordinator and a freshman basketball coach), turned out to be the key to start the motor.

The one-on-one competition quickly expanded. Emily asked her parents Tim and Mindy Swierenga of Svea to join in.

Things exploded when she told assistant basketball coach Jenyne Beehler at practice.

Count me in, said the middle school physical education teacher. Beehler sent out an email to staff. Soon, 20 had thrown in their feed bag and agreed to a weekly 7:15 a.m. weigh-in in the nurse's office at the middle school.

Here's what Emily shared on her approach to establishing better habits.

"I've heard of many different fad diets and for me, I knew they would not work. I could not completely cut out a food or food group so I just started watching what I ate.

"I use an app on my cell phone called 'My Fitness Pal' to help me track calories and exercise for the day."

She jettisoned excuses for not eating right and avoiding exercise. She runs (often on a tread mill) and swims; Dustin, who started at defensive end for the Cobbers, lifts weights for endurance, runs and plays men's league basketball.

Emily, who is a Title I teacher at Kennedy, still has more to achieve to reach her goal weight. But the contest got her started. She cites Beehler as a key. Not only did she update the weekly spread sheet, she was a confident: "We tried to keep each other motivated; It's nice to know others struggle with the same things."

Each week the biggest loser (percentage wise) received a $10 prize. At the end, prize money went out to first, second and third.

Beehler's final stats report the Willmar 25 stripped off 419 pounds. While the spread sheet was not made available to the press, Beehler revealed she lost 14 percent.

Emily came from behind in the last week to pass Mary Hanson.

"I got up at 4 a.m. this morning and ran on the treadmill," Emily recounted of the final hours before the final weigh-in.

Dustin Carlson said the contest has been life changing. He's ditched candy and pop. He runs four miles when he could hardly do a mile before.

"The competition angle meant a lot, especially those days when you were sick of denying your appetites or working out," he stated.

He believes the workplace competition can be applied elsewhere.

"It brings people together and shows others what can be accomplished. Many people have told me that because of what we are doing they have started exercising and eating healthier. That's neat to hear."

Cardinal hoops

Willmar lost to a very good Mankato East team. Not only were they good inside, but the guard play was outstanding and didn't seem to be bothered by defensive pressure.

Still, the Cardinals could have played better at the start in the Cougars' gym.

"I was disappointed that we didn't seem to attack their zone," said coach Steve Grove. "Maybe, we were a little intimidated by the moment. We had seen the three-two zone by many teams over the course of season, but Mankato played their zone very well making it hard for us to move the ball around quickly."

The Cardinals fell behind by 20 points in the first half; they managed to get to within six of the lead in the second half but East stayed on the attack to pull away for the 74-61 win in the 2AAA semifinals.

This team without much height did accomplish a lot by winning the Central Lakes Conference title outright. They didn't dominate the league, but they did win all eight home games against conference competition.

"This team played bigger than their listed heights would indicate," commented Grove. "Our full- court pressure negated any size advantage the other team had. Also, towards the end of the season, I felt we were playing good team basketball while adapting to the style of play that the game might dictate, though we didn't against Mankato East which was frustrating."

The team will lose starters Dean Stier, Jimmy Unger, Jeremy Olson and Mowlid Mohamud and reserves Matt Suedbeck and Brandon Zuidema.

On the fly

n Bonnie Henrickson (WHS '81) will guide her Kansas Jayhawks at Little Rock on Sunday in the first-round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament. The Jayhawks (19-12), seeded No. 11 in the Midwest Region, will face No. 6 Nebraska, newly of the Big 10. It's the Jayhawks' first trip to the NCAA tourney since 2000 and the first under Henrickson.

n Bennet Woltjer is a finalist for Class A Swimming and Diving Athlete of the Year. The winner will be announced at the All-State Banquet on April 13. The Cardinal senior placed runner-up at the state meet.

n Former Cardinal Taylor Filipek averaged 8 minutes while playing in 29 games at Eastern Kentucky7 (16-16). The 6-foot-5, 243-pound wing finished with 34 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, 13 turnovers while scoring 21 points.

n One of the stars of the Red Wing girls basketball team that lost to No. 1 seed Richfield 68-53 on Wednesday in the Class AAA quarterfinals is senior Marisa Toivonen, who contributes 16.7 ppg and 9.6 rpg. She's the daughter of 1986 Willmar graduate and thousand-point scorer Lisa Hanson and former Starbuck 3-sport standout Doug Toivonen, who is the Red Wing boys basketball coach.

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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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