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Willmar Notebook: Giant Gopher has words for Kennedy kids

A giant is coming to the halls of Kennedy Elementary on Friday.

He is 6-foot-6 and over 300 pounds. His name is Ra’Shede Hageman and — no surprise here — he plays football.

Last fall he started all 13 games on the defensive line for the Gophers. He made 35 tackles and six times he captured the opposing QB behind the line.

He was named All-Big Ten honorable mention.

He has a good friend here. Todd Goggleye was one of Ra’Shede’s coaches at Minneapolis Washburn.

Todd coached the Millers’ defensive linemen. Ra’Shede was a hot college prospect.

“It’s once-in-a-lifetime you get a chance to coach a kid with this kind of talent,” Todd told me. He said that such a gifted athlete doesn’t need a lot of coaching so he tried to be a mentor and positive role model.

Todd, or Mr. Goggleye if you prefer, is the first-year principal at Kennedy Elementary, in my opinion one of the finest grade schools in Minnesota given the challenges of educating a multi-cultural student body of over 900 children every week day (excluding snow days). Discloser: this reporter is a classroom volunteer.

Goggleye is a 1988 graduate of Washburn. Via Facebook, he stays in touch with former players he coached. Mr. Goggleye asked Ra’Shede if he would be interested in visiting Kennedy as a guest speaker.

“He has a story to tell,” Todd stated in an email. “If you work hard at your school work you can be anything you want to be.”

The principal continued: “I believe it’s important for students to see that we are building a climate and culture of diversity. Because we have been identified as a priority school, we need real-life examples that encourage students to go on to college. I believe that arts and sports can be the seed that plants that thought.”

Ra’Shede will be at school all-day with his former coach and will speak to second- through fifth-graders from 11 a.m. to noon in the gym. He will also visit with kindergarten and first-graders.

Friday is Maroon and Gold Day at Kennedy.

By the way, the Kennedy principal, started three years at Bethel College and was a football captain.

Elks banquet for Special ‘O’ hoops

A Special Olympics Athletic Banquet for students from the Willmar and New

London-Spicer schools, was hosted by Willmar Elks Lodge No. 952 in April.

The Elks have held the banquet for eight years, one of many activities they host to benefit area youth.

In an Elks news release, Todd Paffrath, head coach for Special Olympics athletes playing basketball, praised the players.

“Your abilities are great and it shows on the floor that you’re good athletes.”

He said he felt badly over missing the state tourney for the first time in 17 years.

In addition to Paffrath, volunteer coaches are Deb Pikus, John Pikus, Pete Dobransky, Robert Perry, Amy Krug, Tammi Boedigheimer, Eric Guerarra and Donna Conroy.

It was the final State Basketball Tournament for four members of the Skills Team whose eligibility ran out (7th-grade to age 21): Daniel Dobransky, Amy Myrick, Andy Lush and Andrew Ryks.

Players and parents thanked the Elks for putting on the free banquet. The program is part of the Elks commitment of giving back to the community.

BOLD hoops awards

Section 3AA Assistant Coach of the Year: Cathy Helin

Academic All-State: Taylor Ebnet

All-State Honorable Mention: Carly Sigurdson

West Central Conference MVP: Sigurdson

Team Awards:

Most Improved: Andrea Maher

Miss Hustle: Ebnet

MVP: Maggie Nagel

Marnold Ostby: Ebnet

Marnold Ostby Award recognizes leadership on the court, classroom and church. This individual display excellence in academics and  active involvement in Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Fehl’s Minn. State Dragons never home

Kelsey Fehl’s Minnesota State University Moorhead fastpitch team never played a home game, thanks to the endless winter of 2013 .

All of the Dragons’ 43 games — including 16 scheduled home games —were on the road requiring 50,000 miles, including the Florida trip.

The former Cardinal standout had only one junior/senior starter. Five of the six Dragon pitchers who logged innings were true freshmen.

While there were growing pains during a 7-36 season, there were also signs of progress, like ending the year 5-5 in their final 10 games, including three shutout wins.

Brainerd’s Stolski into MSHSL HOF

Ron Stolski 343 wins is more than any high school football coach in state history. He’s spent more than half a century as head football coach in five Minnesota high schools. His longest stint has been at Brainerd High School where he remains head coach of the Warriors. Stolski was also the athletic director at Brainerd from 1975 to 2000.

Stolski has taken nine Brainerd teams to the state football tournament and four of his teams reached the semifinals. The Warriors also own 13 Central Lakes Conference.

In 2005 Stolski received the most prestigious honor in the country for a high school football coach — the American Football Coaches Association’s Power of Influence Award. It’s given to a deserving coach who makes a positive impact on players, school and community.

He’s in good company. Also in this class of eight inductees is Chisholm boys hoops coach Bob McDonald (994 career victories), Doug Woog and John Mayasich.

The induction banquet is May 19 in St. Paul.

On the fly

It is good to see Jake Rambow back in action on Sunday playing shortstop for the New London-Spicer Twins. He’s a fine shortstop and the Ridgewater club sure could have used him this spring. Instead, he took a medical redshirt after a bloody wrist injury at basketball practice in the college gym Feb. 12. He had surgery that evening in St. Cloud leaving a five-inch seam on the underside of his left (glove) wrist. A severed nerve to his pinkie is slowly regenerating. He transfers to Valley City State for baseball this fall joined by younger brother Austin Rambow to play basketball.

The starting NLS Twins pitcher Sunday at Green Lake Diamond was Nathanial Swoyer. He completed his electrician studies this week and will now serve a two-year apprenticeship before testing for a journeyman license. Swoyer won a Class AAA championship in wrestling at Willmar and was a starter in the Ridgewater backfield the past two falls for Rob Baumgarn, who several times said Swoyer was like having a coach in the game.

The Ridgewater Lady Warriors Brooke Carlson (KMS) leads MCAC South Division in homers with six. Brenna Holwerda (BOLD) is sixth with four. Brittany Nissen (BOLD) has a 2.88 ERA, third best in the South. The team is at Waite Park this morning for the Region 13A Tournament, playing Minn. West at 10 a.m.