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Willmar notebook: Track army up and running

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton On the next-to-last day in April, the Cardinals were able finally to break out the landing pads for vaulting and high jumping. Doing the heavy lifting were Riley Schneider, from left, Bronwyn Tollefson, McKenna Olson, Haley Mottinger and Rachel Croonquist.

The varsity track and field team at Willmar will go without a home meet this year. The longest winter squelched the Optimist Meet on April 11.

So to get a look at the faces of the spring edition, camera in hand the reporter visited track practice Monday. Coach Jerry Popp has nearly a dozen assistants, some volunteer, between the middle school and high school, which amounts to over 230 teens and several pre-teens, I’m told. Sixth-graders are accepted for competition at some middle school meets.

It’s been a wobbly spring. The boys and girls ran in the hallways — something for which we were yelled at — for over six weeks. April 29 was only their second day on the track and first with all the gear out.

Popp expressed his pleasure with how well the team adapted to the difficulties. He noted that the first two meets produced 13 WHS honor roll efforts (i.e. top 15). The sprinters are right where they were a year ago when the weather was favorable beginning in mid-March.

The weather looked iffy for the invite at St. Michael (today). He won’t send the team, he told them, if it’s cold and raining (or snowing), especially with prom on Friday.

The Cardinal mass is pointing to the section True Team at Hutchinson on Tuesday. Other prime dates are conference at Sauk Rapids May 23 and section prelims at Detroit Lakes May 29 and finals at Sartell May 31. 

Gophers ink Rothers

KMS senior wrestler Jordon Rothers signed with the Minnesota Gophers on Wednesday. He’s a two-time state runner-up with a 185-36 career record (129 falls) since joining the Fighting Saints’ varsity as an eighth grade starter.

The signing ceremony took place at 5 p.m. at the high school in Kerkhoven with friends, family and coaches. He follows former teammates Kevin Steinhaus and Joel Bauman to J Robinson’s precinct. All three were on the KMS Class A state championship team in 2009 with Rothers at 119 pounds.

He’s a four-time state entrant. He followed his second-place finish at 160 pounds in March with a fourth-place finish in the National High School Tournament in Virginia Beach.

Wes Haglund, his head coach, points out that Jordon helped the Saints go 82-11 in his five seasons on teams that finished top two four times at section. He hasn’t been pinned since he was an eighth grader and never put on his back since the state tourney his sophomore season.

He’s the son of assistant coach Jason and Laurie Rothers.

On the fly

n Mitch Wollin, freshman hoops player at St. John’s University, leaves May 13 on a 10-day trip to Spain where members of the Johnnies program will play several exhibition games. Mitch’s older sister, Jamie, a senior will make the trip with the St. Ben’s basketball team at about the same time, though she won’t play after blowing a knee midway through her senior year. Mitch, a member of the Dragons’ 2012 Class AA runner-up, received the SJU JV Hustle/Persistence/Best Attitude awards at the April banquet.

n Card Pride Hall of Famer Allan Backlund, whose funeral is Saturday, never missed a Cardinal HOF Banquet since its start in 2002. He and Iris, his wife for 65 years, were at the half-time ceremony, too, rain or not. The 1948 graduate’s affection for his high school never wavered. A full obituary appears elsewhere in today’s paper.   

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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