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Willmar Notebook: Pride in the product

For a self-confessed athletic wallflower, Fernando Alvarado has managed to make his mark in high school sports.

In April, he ends six years on the Cardinal Pride Board of Directors -- the last four as president.

Cardinal Pride formed in 1999 to support extra-curricular sports in the Willmar schools. The current dues-paying membership lists 80 families or individuals.

"I've got no regrets," said Alvarado on the eve of giving up the gavel. "We completed a number of projects and got the endowment fund rolling. It's all due to the board which propels things forward."

Alvarado grew up northern New York State. At General Brown High School in Brownsville, on the shores of Lake Ontario, he dabbled in track and JV basketball.

"I was quiet and shy and in the shadow of my older brother who was a good athlete," said Alvarado. "Out here, I guess I've found my voice."

Cardinal Pride's impact on high school athletics is wide reaching. There's the seasonal fall and winter sports programs with the red-and-white cover distributed free at home events.

The program is a nice piece of work. It features the current rosters and team photos. JV and grade teams are also displayed. There's also a photo section of the Cardinal Pride Hall of Fame starting with the first class in 2002.

The issues receive strong support from the business community, Alvarado notes.

The annual meeting and election of new board members is set for April 11 from 7-9 p.m. at WEAC. A display of Cardinal memorabilia is planned. All senior athletes are also invited to attend.

Recent projects include the purchase of the scoreboard for the senior high pool, which was done in collaboration with the Van Buren family in memory of Jenna Van Buren, the Racing Stingrays and the high school. Cardinal Pride has also helped purchase weightroom gear, refinish wrestling mats and purchase uniforms. The trophy cases in the hallway outside the gym are financed by Cardinal Pride.

A major goal of Cardinal Pride is less visible. An endowment fund is taking its first steps. It's crested $20,000, but the goal is at least $100,000. The fund is to support participation, either paying a percent of the activity fee or the entire fee when needed.

"I guess that's what I'm most proud of," he said. "We've got a ways to go, but it's underway."

One means of funding the endowment is the Cardinal Pride Golf Outing, formerly the Ander-Erickson Memorial event, at Eagle Creek, this year on June 17.

"We hope to see many senior athletes at the (annual) meeting," said Alvarado. "We want them see how it works. Someday, it will be their turn."

State of hoops

Boys basketball may not be like the old days of the single-class tournament but it sure looks healthy to this reporter. The crowds for the section tournaments at Marshall and Morris were big and noisy and the students colorfully decked out in face paint and the school colors.

It's reassuring 40 years after the death of the one-size-fits-all playoff to see small towns and consolidations show up en masse as excited as ever.

Be sure, Wohler's Orono Spartans may be good, but they wouldn't have made it in single class. Wohler's squad did win the Class AAA title, exactly 30 years after Barry led the Bird Island-Lake Lillian Panthers to a second straight championship at the old St. Paul Civic Center. Barry played for his father, Jerry, those years; now Brady Wohler stars for his father.

Sid Hartman and some of the other Twin Cities big wheels, complain yearly at tournament time about all these classes for high school sports. But heck, everyone gets to compete at their numerical level these days and that includes contests for journalists.

The crowds at Williams Arena for the Class A tournament's first round filled both sides of the lower stands. Their roar rocked the Barn. Even at 6,000 fans there is no lack of atmosphere.

One can imagine the thunder 19,000 fans packed in the hallowed hoops arena created in the old days, but that nostalgic time has passed, along with black and white television.

On the fly

Ridgewater College baseball coach Joel Barta reports that sophomore Cody Conners of Thief River Falls has committed to play for Minnesota State Mankato next season. For now, the Warriors, like all spring teams, are stuck in the gym while hoping for some dry land.

Bonnie Henrickson (WHS '81) had her second consecutive 20-win season at Kansas (21-13). Her 117 wins in seven seasons at KU puts her in second place behind only longtime Jayhawks' head coach Marian Washington (1973-2004).

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. 
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