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Willmar beefs up cross country meet: 40-years on deck

The Eagle Creek Golf Club turns its scenic back nine over to the Willmar Cardinals cross country program on Saturday afternoon for the annual invitational.

With 10 teams -- eight of them AA -- it's the strongest field in years. There are three rated boys teams: No. 4 Moorhead, No. 6 Alexandria and No. 14 Willmar. No. 11 Moorhead leads the girls.

Ranked male runners are No. 2 Drew Paradis of Alexandria, No. 10 Lukas Gemar and No. 13 Jakob Lindaas, both of Moorhead, and No. 11 Mahad Hassan of Willmar. Ranked females in the race are No. 3 Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria and No. 10 Alissa Retterrath of Hutchinson.

Hassan is coming off an important win at Apple Valley, where he seized the lead permanently with two miles left. The showing should move him back up in the rankings. He started the season No. 1 but an illness set him back.

The senior, who was fourth at the state meet in 2007, is the only Cardinal with state meet experience. Willmar was fourth of 20 teams on Saturday.

"Our top six boys put in an excellent summer," said coach Jerry Popp. "It's a team with a lot of upside, but at the big meets our young guys can still get a little lost."

The girls' team hasn't had much impact yet with the exception of junior Jayne Cole. She made major time gains since her sophomore season. She finished 20th at Apple Valley.

Jackie Johnson, the top runner last fall, injured herself early in the track season and still hasn't regained her previous form. At Apple Valley, the Cardinals girls were 14th.

The meet, which also includes Hopkins and Bismarck Century, begins at 1 p.m. near the 17th green. After Saturday, Willmar has two more meets before the conference races at Little Falls on Oct. 14.

Elaine Engle began teaching, coaching and officiating in the Willmar school district in 1968. Last week, the Minnesota State High School League recognized her service as an official with a 40-year pin and engraved plaque.

She's still officiating. This fall she's on the pool deck as the starter for the Cardinals swim meets. She also judges diving. She'll do the same for boys meets.

The retired physical education teacher, who together with a half-dozen other pioneers launched girls sports here, is a member of the Minnesota Golf Coaches Hall of Fame, the Minnesota State Coaches HOF and the Minnesota State High School League HOF. She was the first female member in each.

Speed, strength and stamina are keys to success in today's highly competitive sports world.

Cardinal Conditioning is an open invitation to all students to get stronger and faster. The inscription might read: "If you don't pay the price in the weight room, it's certain your opponent will receive dividends."

Reed Larson, assistant hockey coach, is the paid conditioning coach in the fall. Head football coach Ken Heitzman has long headed up the year-around conditioning program. He takes over in the winter while Ed Oehlers, freshman football and assistant wrestling coach, has spring duty.

It's free. Students can come in before school starting at 6:30 a.m. or after school, 2:30-4:30 p.m.). Speed workouts are Tuesday and Thursday.

Larson sees himself as a facilitator; he will customize a program depending on the sport and the athlete's background with weights. He also will work with coaches to answer their questions and formulate a workout schedule for their athletes.

n The Ridgewater men's basketball team will be loaded for its third season under Bob Knutson. The ten newcomers include Adam Lindblad and Casey Sussenguth off Willmar's state tournament team and Tyler Ray off Montevideo's. Phil Herkenhoff and L.W. Frost are also playing football. Returning is the nucleus of last winter's state tourney entry: Cory Neitfeld, Chad Mulder, Ben Moser, Derek Eisenschenk, Ralph Viana and Tom Boike.

- It was a big weekend for 1985 Cardinal graduate Terry Horan. He was inducted into the Cardinal Pride HOF on Friday. The next day his Concordia Cobbers went to St. John's and beat the No. 4-ranked Johnnies 9-7. It was only the second time Concordia has beaten a John Gagliardi team since 1991. The other was in 2004, Horan's third year.

- At Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, junior Derek Hilding has been in the starting line-up for the golf team. Aaron Boersma, sophomore wide receiver, saw action in the Gusties' win over Hamline on Saturday.