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Willmar notebook: Local lad now a Viking

After a year on the practice squad, Seth Olsen, 25, is now tabbed as the prime back-up at offensive guard for the Minnesota Vikings. He's on the active roster listed at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds.

He was only a tiny fraction of that when he lived in Willmar from 1985-90 and started pre-school. He attended grade school in Raymond, now MACCRAY East Elementary, until midway sixth grade when the family moved to Nebraska in 1998.

I reached Neil Olsen at his office in Omaha. He's Executive Vice President of Farm Credit Services of America.

Neil told me that the family had lived in east Willmar in the development around Valley Golf, but then moved to a place north of Prinsburg when Seth was five. He was CEO of the Minnesota Valley United Farm Credit before making the move.

It puzzles Neil, and his wife, Brenda, both Canby natives, where Seth, the youngest of their three children, gets his size. Neil played football and wrestled at 160 pounds. Seth played for one of Omaha's biggest high schools with class sizes scaling 600. He started three years on teams that went 32-2 at Millard North.

He chose Nebraska his junior year but when the Huskers' coaching staff was terminated he decided on the Iowa Hawkeyes. There he started three years and earned All-America honors and was picked in the fourth-round of the 2009 NFL draft by Denver. He played sparingly that fall and was released just prior to the 2010 season. That's when the Vikings picked him up for the taxi squad.

Neil said Seth, who is married and has an 8-month-old son, stays in contact through Facebook with his grade-school buddies at Raymond. Dr. Mike Gardner, who first told me about Seth last year, was the family dentist when the Olsen's lived in the area.

"When I talk to Mike he always reminds me he takes credit for Seth's great smile." said Neil.

Neil and Brenda were in Minnesota over the holiday. They have a lake home near Glenwood. Despite what some websites indicate, Neil said Seth was born in Willmar, not Omaha.

More on Cayler

Last week this column noted that Shannon Cayler is the new head softball coach at Willmar High School. We didn't get in touch by phone until the piece already was locked up.

Here's some background on the middle-school teacher and mother of three who already has 10 years in the classroom and with the softball program.

She grew up in Brownton and graduated from Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop in 1996. She went on to UM-Morris where she played softball. She's taught 8th-grade communications since 2001. The first two year she coached the 7th-graders. She joined the varsity staff under Guy Nelsen in 2003 and coached JV for three years. She's been the assistant to head coach Brent Pederson, who retired, starting in 2006.

The former Shannon Pohlmeier is married to Tim Cayler, a native of Barnesville and the middle school choir director. They have three boys, ages 5, 4 and 2½.

With a young family, Shannon said she and Tim took all summer to make a final decision.

"I know when you're the head coach it's more a year around (responsibility) and in season it takes more time," recounted Shannon. "It wasn't an easy choice, but we decided 'Let's try it.' "

CLC tabs 3 Cardinals top performers

In the first week, three Willmar High School Cardinals were selected by the Central Lakes Conference as Top Performers of the Week in their sport --

Girls cross-country: Cassandra Johnson, junior, placed fifth in a strong field at Moorhead invite.

Boys soccer, offense: Graham Dahl, senior striker, scored twice and had an assist in 4-2 win at Alexandria.

Boys soccer, defense: Cesar Jimenez, senior midfielder, controlled the center of the field in win at Marshall.

Ridge drop Johnson

Ridgewater College football coach Rob Baumgarn said in an email that sophomore wide receiver Keanta Johnson "Has been dismissed from the team for violating team rules."

Johnson, who is from Hollywood, Fla., was one of the top receivers and kick returners last season in the MCAC. He caught three passes in the season opener. He was suspended after an Aug. 31 incident at an apartment in Willmar.

The Warriors (1-1) play at Vermilion (0-2) in Ely on Saturday.

Smith back

Jordan Smith is back in town after finishing his first professional summer.

He flew back Monday and on Wednesday evening watched his sister Hannah play in the Lady Warriors' volleyball match against the Fergus Falls Spartans at the college.

The third baseman/outfielder will leave for fall instructional league on Sept. 25 in Arizona.

He'll be able to work out with the Ridgewater Warriors baseball team now and when he returns.

"I think it is a great opportunity for our guys to be around someone that understands what it takes to make that next step," said Ridgewater College head coach Joel Barta.

Smith, who signed with Cleveland in late June, hit .300 for the Mahoning Valley (Niles, Ohio). The Scrappers finished 41-34 but out of the New York-Penn playoff picture. His 47 RBIs tied for second best in the league. He was 73 for 243 at the plate with 20 doubles, 1 triple but no home runs. The portside swinger, who throws right, drew 35 walks against 30 strikeouts in 65 games. His batting average tied him for sixth best in the 14-team Class A circuit.

The former Willmar Cardinal three-sport athlete had two brilliant springs at St. Cloud State, sandwiching a summer with the first-year Willmar Stingers. He was picked in the ninth round of the Major League's June draft. He played briefly in the Cape Cod League before signing.

"I think the biggest difference is the overall talent," he said of his minor league debut. "We'd see a pitcher once of twice a week that would thrown 98 mph. All the relievers threw in the mid-90s."

Smith, 21, had a three-run triple on Friday against at the Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers, helping the Scrappers finish on a four-game win streak.

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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