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Willmar notebook: Let the winter games begin

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Snowless in December – Poised for yet another training session on in-line skates Wednesday are returning letterwinners Jack Erickson, from left, Erika Aaker, Ryan Haines, Alec Janning and Kaitlyn Swanson — all are juniors except Erickson, a freshman.1 / 2
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The door swings wide open today at Willmar High School as four sports launch a new campaign.

Rollin’ into winter

Pity the Nordic team; they are a swim team whose pool is drained, a basketball team without a backboard, a wrestling team on a hardwood floor.

You may see the Cardinals in-line skating Civic Center Drive. This hardy lot has been dryland training for nearly a month now with barely a hint of snow.

Coach Brad Haugen said the team can’t wait to get underway. There’s a competition today at Powder Ridge, the mini-mountain north of Kimball. This will be a 3k for varsity (about two miles) and less for JV and middle schoolers.

“The team has been working very hard to prepare for the season,” states Haugen. “We have been running, roller-blading, bush-whacking and doing a lot of hill runs. We do those without poles.”

The Cardinals have been on snow. On Saturday, 15 boys and girls went to Riverside Park, across the river from St. Cloud State. The city Nordic club has fashion a 1k trail on made snow.

“They had a blast,” said Haugen. “We’re very excited for the season. All of us are wishing for snow.”

Despite the climate, the turnout is a robust 15 girls and 12 boys grades 9-12. Middle school turnout shows six boys and three girls.

Varsity letterwinners back on the girls team are senior Catherine Halvorson, juniors Erika Aaker (MVP) and Kaitlyn  Swanson, freshmen Ashlyn Boehme, Samantha Hanson and McKenna Olson; on the boys, varsity letterwinners returning are seniors Nathaniel Erickson (MVP) and Cody McFarland, juniors Peter Rozendahl, Ryan Haines and Alec Janning and freshman Jack Erickson.


Coach Carl Shuldes has 12 letter winners back on a 40-person roster 7-12.

Michael McLain, Connor Haugen, and AJ Derouin reached state last year. Senior Josh Kelly, a starting linebacker on the football team, qualified as a sophomore but was injured last year.

“We’re pretty green,” stated Shuldes. “Twenty-four of the 40 were not on the roster at the end of the season last year.”

Returning letter winners: AJ Derouin 12  (IM, Fly, Distance Freestyle);  Chaz Fenske 12 ( Distance Freestyle); Connor Haugen 12 (Sprints, Backstroke); Josh Kelly 12 (Sprints, Breaststroke); Michael McLain 12 (Back, Fly; Middle Distance Freestyle); Tom Nilles-Melchert 12 (Fly and Breast); Trent Flegel 11 (Sprints and Fly); Chris Muldrow 11 (Sprints and Breast); Carter Shuldes 11 (Back); Sid Sieu 11 (Sprints); Teman Miller 10 (IM and Fly); McCoy VanKlompenburg 10 (Distance Free).

McLain has reached State each of the last three years.

The swimmers are at Sartell tonight. The Sabres program is peaking (in both boys and girls) and Willmar doesn’t yet have the depth to challenge such a team, though the Cardinals should do well with their veteran varsity performers. Much of the team will need time to develop their skills and stamina.

The first home meet is Dec. 18, versus Brainerd.

Willmar boys hoops open at Hutchinson

The Central Lakes champions of 2011-12 head to Hutchinson tonight to open the new campaign against a Section 2AAA opponent. The Tigers finished 10-16 last season losing twice to Willmar to start and end their season.

Some of the Tigers may have started late if they were on that 4A Prep Bowl championship team.

Willmar head coach Steve Grove will start Joe Leuze at point guard, Kyler Johnson at shooting guard, Alex Grove and Jordan Geurtz at forward/wing and 6-foot-5 Austin Rambow underneath. Leuze, Grove and Rambow were regulars last year.

Rotating off the bench look for Sean Zuidema, Cody Magnuson, Joel Carter, Tyler Stegeman and Dylan Schueller.

Carter is new to the program. He played last season at Iowa Falls, Iowa, but got to play summer ball with his new teammates, including a traveling team. “He’s athletic,” said Grove. “We’re excited to have him.”

Grove is counting on depth to be an edge in many games. With its full-court style, it could help it wear down opponent’s style.

One impression I have from typing up the sophomore and JV box scores the past two seasons is that there are several bombers on this team who thrive taking popshots from the 3-point arc.

The Cardinals host Apollo on Tuesday to open the CLC schedule. Willmar will also play 2AAA opponents Dassel-Cokato and Marshall along the way.

Beam me up, Chow

Gymnastics opens at Central Lakes opponent Sauk Rapids tonight.

Coach Larry Selchow lists 10 on varsity with 35 out 7-12.

Senior Cassie Johnson and juniors Kennedy Holwerda and Hillary Weiler are upper class leaders. There are five sophomores with Sam Goeser, Morgan Hamstad, Madison Lindblad, Nicole Marshall and Steph Thompson. Alexis Miley and Haley Mottinger are the freshmen. While a young team, many of these athletes debuted on varsity as eighth graders.

Johnson and Thompson are returning all-conference and state qualifiers. This team should make a sizeable leap forward from last season’s 1-6 Central Lakes record.

The home opener is a week away against Sartell.

John’s new car

If you are familiar with the fabulously-helpful Minnesota State High School League website, you know of John’s Journal, penned by former Star Tribune sportswriter John Millea.

His coverage area ranges from Kittson County to Caledonia, from Beaver Creek to Grand Marais.

This week he announced he’s got new wheels. Through a partnership with Twin Cities Toyota Dealers, Big John will be behind the wheel of a 2012 Toyota Camry SE Limited Edition.

On both front doors of the robin-egg blue car is a caricature of John plus several MSHSL logos and Facebook and Twitter links elsewhere. John’s Journal has photos of his new ride.

 So far, John claims to have visited 366 Minnesota schools and their teams.

Outdoor book

Willmar area native Bob Erickson (WHS ’51) has a new paperback book out. Erickson’s Outdoor Adventures “I Miss My Dog” contains 50 first-person tales. Most are hunting centered but there’s even a shark story. Stories may be just a paragraph, others of Reader’s Digest length.

Among the contributors are duck hunter Harlan Brogren (WHS ’50) and beaver-trapping expert Martin Ahrendt of Spicer.

Erickson, who grew up in hunting and trapping the Lake Florida sloughs, has a book signing from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Book World in the Kandi Mall.

This is his third book of outdoor adventures.

On the fly

n Here are the official stats on Mike Dreier’s coaching career. I was one year and one loss off in the game story of the opener at New London vs. Eden Valley-Watkins. After that game his record is 769-138 starting his 35th season at New London-Spicer.

n Bennet Woltjer is diving for Gustavus Adolphus. The Cardinals’ state runner-up in Class A diving last year was the top diver for the Gusties at the big invitational at the U of M Aquatics Center last weekend. He finished 7th on the 3-meter board and 8th on the 1-meter.

n Alexandra Lippert is in her third winter starting at center for the Concordia Cobbers’ women’s basketball team. The 6-foot-4 junior is averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds with seven blocks for the Cobbers, who are 3-3 after losing to the No. 4-ranked St. Thomas Tommies.

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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