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Willmar notebook: First Triple-A winner taken by surprise

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton It’s been a below-zero 2014 (until Wednesday), but the Willmar boys basketball team has scored at least in the 70s in each of 13 games since Jan. 1 to work their record to 17-6. Core players, pausing before practice Wednesday, from left, Brady Damhof, Josh Holtz, Tyler Stegeman, Adam Nibaur, Joel Carter, Austin Grove and Kyler Johnson.

Scot Bolland, as he remembers it today, was stopped in the hall of the former Willmar High School on Seventh Street and advised by an administrator that he had been named the Region 2AA Triple-A winner.

He had no idea what that meant.

Triple-A stands for “Academics, Arts and Athletics,” in no particular order. The year was 1989, the first year for the award established by the Minnesota State High School League to encourage and recognize all-around excellence among seniors.

Just last month, Willmar senior Tara Rudie was named the award winner in 2AA, now named  sections, meaning she would be advancing to the Triple-A State Banquet in Brainerd where male and female champions would be named in both AA and A.

At the time, it was believed, off-handedly, that Rudie was Willmar’s very first 2AA winner. Unlike Cardinal athletics, for which a detailed summary is prepared for each sport every year, records are not kept of Triple-A nominees. That extends to the MSHSL level whose marvelous yearbook reports state-level competition for everything from robotics to barbershop quartet to wrestling’s Top 15 in all 14 weight classes.

At times, the only way to find a nugget is let the hammer fall and go with what you have. Leaving the door open, we published that Tara “was believed to be” the first section or region winner. Soon, we got a lead that there was, indeed, at least one other.

I called Scot’s mother Elaine, and sure enough, she confirmed.

On Tuesday I reached Scot at his office in the Twin Cities. He’s a financial planner closing in on his 25th year out of Willmar High.

It was Cliff Schlosser (see item below), the principal, that told Scot about the new accolade.

“He might have pulled me into his office — I don’t recall — and told me that there was this award being put together and that I had been nominated as the school’s section representative and that I’d won,” Bolland said. “He told me I’d be going to a banquet and then introduced at halftime at the boys state basketball championship game at the St. Paul Civic Center. It was quite a surprise; for me there wasn’t even an application I was aware of. I think it’s much more rigorous today.”

Scot played trumpet in the high school band, sang in the choir, supported an “A” average and was a standout on the Cardinals’ championship swimming teams coached by Gayne Stone, whose young assistant was Carl Shuldes.

The records show that in 1989 at the state meet in old Cook Hall, Bolland swam in the 100- and 200-freestyle races and also the 400-free relay with Jason Netland, Jason Day and Mike Maras. Bolland lettered five times on teams that didn’t lose a dual meet. The t-shirt slogan in those days was “No Gayne, No Pain,” or was it the other way around?

Scot went on to swim four years at St. Olaf where he was a communications major and would meet his future wife, Jean Tate, also an Oles’ swimmer, from Morris.

The couple makes their home in Maple Grove raising Jordan, 12, and Ellie, 8.

“I still, today, feel it was an honor to represent Willmar,” Scot said. “My hat’s to Tara. It’s an honor just to be selected by your school.”

Josh Holtz, like Tara a three-sport athlete and in both band and choir, was Willmar’s nominee for the male section award.

Cliff Schlosser

Cliff Schlosser came to Willmar via the old Pipestone Pipeline that also brought Ed Otto and Mike Hanson to Willmar at the dawn of the 1970s. Otto, like Schlosser, grew up in North Dakota.

Otto, now 87 and living in Grafton, and his wife Doty were the first to arrive in 1970. Ed was an administrator, P.E. teacher and coach. His son Bob would star on Russ Adamson’s 1970-71 basketball team that finished 18-0 and ranked No. 1 only to get upset, 54-52, by Alexandria at the Region C tourney.

Cliff was the principal at Pipestone, later to pair with Jasper. Back in Mott, N.D., he starred in basketball, a talent that would carry over to his son, Jon, a starting guard on the 1988-89 team that tied with Rocori for the conference title and was coached by Hanson.

Cliff helmed the high school on Seventh Street from 1972 until retiring in 1991. He died at age 83 on Feb. 4. Teachers, staff members and students from those years attended Saturday’s service at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Deryl Ramey, who Cliff and Superintendent Lowell Melby hired in 1978 as head football coach, drove down from Brainerd with his wife Nancy.

I asked Deryl his memories of Cliff.

“Not long after I was hired, they were doing a lot of cutting, and I was nervous but Cliff kept me on,” the former Gopher football center from Atwater explained. “You know, he was so calm and steady. He didn’t blast you. But he had a way of getting his message across. There were some hard days for me in the ’80s when some of the public got down on me but he supported me all the way. He was an administrator I trusted.”

Cardinals sign

n Willmar High School student/athlete Miranda Roelofs signed a National Letter of Intent on Feb. 7 to attend Northern State University at Aberdeen, S.D., and compete in track and field. The Wolves compete at the NCAA Division II level and are a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

n Senior Kyler Johnson will formally sign on Feb. 18 to attend Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, to play basketball. The 6-foot-4 guard is one of four signings announced by the NAIA Division II Warriors who play in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference.

On the fly

n The Section 6A gymnastics meet at Litchfield has a 1 p.m. Saturday start. Ten programs will compete. Melrose is ranked No. 1 (149.542), Willmar No. 7 (142.992) and New London-Spicer (133.992) No. 18 in the coaches association Class A Top 25. The Cardinals got two individuals through to state last year but could double that this year. Unlike last year when the meet was held at Willmar, Alexandria has been moved to a different section (8A).

n The Willmar wrestlers received the top seed and go for a third straight Section 6AAA title on Saturday at Wayzata High School. At No. 8 in AAA, the Cardinals are the only ranked team (top 12) in AAA out of the section, though Mound Westonka, which has five ranked wrestlers, is getting “Lean and Mean” votes and is the No. 2 tournament seed. It’s a 10-team section meaning two pigtail bouts starting 9 a.m., followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and championship. Willmar will meet the winner of No. 9 Minneapolis South vs. No. 8 Buffalo at 10:15, according to the schedule. Eric Rodelius (WHS ’89) is a Mound Westonka assistant coach.

n As I learned from Willmar graduate Owen Trout at the conference swim meet, the Brainerd school district found $3.5 million in its budget to turf Adamson Field, build new tennis courts and a 400-meter track. Warriors’ assistant coach Deryl Ramey said the football field, which is near the river, becomes a quagmire at one end after heavy rains, such as last fall.

n Freshman guard Greta Walsh (Litchfield) scored a career-best 21 points and senior center Alex Lippert (Willmar) supplied 10 points and 12 rebounds as Concordia came from behind with a 51-point second half to blast Carleton 80-64 on Monday in Moorhead for their 12th win in their last 13 games. The Cobbers (16-3 MIAC, 18-4) are a game back of first place St. Thomas.

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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