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Willmar notebook: Willmar XC girls something special

The Willmar girls cross country program began in 1978-79 under Jeff Peterson. Eighth-grader Michelle Stone was MVP in the fall debut and each of the next four years, too. The last two years she was coached by her father, Gayne Stone, who would be head coach of the Cardinal team to reach the XC state meet in 1990 (the boys busted through the next year). The first girls team at state (the meet was at Falcon Heights) was led by Andrea Lentz, who would run in five state meets with two top seventh-place finishes before graduating in 1994.

Cardinal girls would get to state again in ‘92, ‘02, ‘03 and then last year. But each time they qualified as the region, now section, runners-up. The Section 8AA title won last Thursday at Detroit Lakes was the first championship.

The Cardinal girls best finish at state is seventh in ‘90 and again 10 years after on a team fronted by sisters Kari and Kirsten Higdem.

Willmar placed 10th last year and everyone is back. One close observer, the Birdman in an online post, projects Willmar placing second to Wayzata, considered invincible with all back, too, including Class AA state champ Anna French, a sophomore leading and four seniors. The Trojans are ranked No. 2 nationally.

Coach Jerry Popp figures his Cardinals are contenders for a top-five finish. “With an excellent effort we could be on the podium (top three),” he said.

“Our strength is that we have consistently kept our pack together and close,” he said. “Most of the (leading teams behind Wayzata) have stronger front runners than we do, but none have a fifth runner any stronger.”

Junior Samantha Hanson finished 30th overall (15th team points) last year to lead Willmar’s top five of Jessa Hanson (30), Sophie Schmitz (62), Kayla Rudie (72) and Savannah Anez (82). Also running Saturday on the St. Olaf athletic fields will be seventh-grader Serena Monson and senior captain Tara Rudie.

In his third state run, senior Tom Seifert seems sure to improve on his 81st-place finish in Class AA. Sophomore teammate Nadir Yusuf ran at Northfield on the Cards’ 2011 team.

Class A run

Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd girls are in the state field for the fourth time this century. They are led by Alaysia Freetly (19th in 2012) and Kelly Kvaal (55th). Litchfield’s Savannah Ramirez, seventh a year ago, returns as does Montevideo’s Claire Sulflow (102) and Paynesville’s Promise Butler (107).

Ben Burgett of Community Christian (Willmar) is the top finisher (33rd) back among area individual qualifiers in the 3.1 mile run. This is the third trip for both he and Aaron Goulet of Morris/Chokio-Alberta.

Rec hockey

Saturday registration for rec hockey recorded 20 Mini-Mites, 35 Mites, 15 In-House Squirts and 15 Learn to Skate.

Youth may still join Saturday at the Blue Line Arena for the first practice. Hockey registration is $50 and equipment is free with a $50 deposit. Also, there is a Try Hockey For Free session from 4-5 p.m.

Traveling teams are up from six to seven this year with a 15 percent growth in participation, reports Matt Dawson.

Copter cost covered

The helicopter that hovered over Hodapp for three hours Oct. 16 to dry the field for the regular-season finale that night with St. Cloud Tech won’t cost the school district any cash.

Activities director Ryan Blahosky reports that the $1,500 bill has been covered by outside donations.

The alternative to playing on a muddy field was moving the game to Morris where the rental would be $750, Blahosky stated. In addition to losing the Parents Night home game, there would be diminished gate receipts, loss of concessions, and extra pay for workers plus transportation costs.

“At this point 100 percent will be covered by third-party dollars,” Blahosky said. “The Willmar School District will not be responsible for any of the payment.”

Three generations

This reporter is aware of at least one third-generation Cardinal on this year’s football team. Colton Carlson, a starting sophomore LB/slotback, is the son of Carl Carlson (WHS ‘92) and the grandson of Pennock dairy farmer Curtney Carlson, a starting guard on the 1956 Cardinals’ 7-0-1 squad.

I suspected senior LB Jacob Croonquist also might be a 3G, but turns out grandpa Willis wrestled varsity but skipped football back in 1955. Jacob’s dad, Dan, was co-captain, with Pete Stahnke of the 1981 Cardinal football team that finished 8-1, and co-champs of the CLC with Tech and Elk River.

Scoring machine

The 2013 Cardinals football team set an all-time scoring record for points per game and total points. In nine games, the team totaled 326 points, a 36.2 ppg average. The 2010 team scored 310 points in 10 games, a 31.0 average.

Junior quarterback Augustine Hahn is now the all-time leader in passing yardage with 2,032 yards.

Austin Grove was the top catcher with 529 yards in 40 receptions. But head coach Jon Konold noted two key reasons that the offense took off was the emergence of senior receivers Adam Nibaur (34-486) and Nick Coquyt (17-154), both first-year varsity players.

You perhaps saw the second-round scores in Section 6AAAAA. Buffalo, which ousted Willmar, lost 42-14 at St. Michael-Albertville. STMA now plays Rogers, which dumped Elk River 52-14, a rematch of the Mississippi 8 championship game won by Rogers 38-37 in OT.

Cobbers win 500th

Concordia College (4-1 MIAC, 6-1) beat Augsburg 47-20 on Saturday to become the fourth Minnesota college to reach 500 career wins. The Cobbers join the University of Minnesota, St. John’s and St. Thomas. Concordia is now 500-287-38 in their 96th season of play.

CC is 6-1 in 2013 and 4-1 in league play. The Cobbers are currently tied for second place in the league standings. Willmar graduate Terry Horan has 86 of those wins in 13 seasons as the Concordia head coach. The Cobbers are at Carlton on Saturday and at St. Thomas on Nov. 9.

The Cobbers volleyball team (9-1, 18-8) saw their perfect MIAC slate spoiled by St. Bens at St. Joseph on Saturday by a 3-0 count. Kayla Hampton, senior middle hitter from Benson, leads CC in blocks (81) and is second in kills (208).

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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