Foul! Snowmobile charges into side of Willmar's bus
It could have had a tragic outcome, but only a snowmobile was destroyed and a bus load of basketball players were delayed getting home Friday night.
The school bus carrying the Cardinals girls home after beating St. Cloud Tech was headed southwest through Cold Spring on State Highway 23 at 10 p.m.
A startling sound interrupted the trip just after the bus passed through the traffic signal and past the Super America store at the main intersection.
"What was that?" bus driver Sheldon Loven asked head coach Brad Atchison.
"I don't know, but I think we hit something," replied the coach.
Actually, something had hit the bus. A snowmobile had broadsided the middle of the bus on the driver's side.
The bus pulled to the side of the road and Atchison and the veteran driver got out.
"I saw a snowmobile on the highway," said the coach. "It was crushed. I feared the worst."
Fortunately, the operator, a teenager crossing from the Blue Heron parking lot, was all right.
"He was a young kid," said Atchison. "He bailed out before it hit and the sled went under the bus. He was basically unharmed."
The boy, according to Atchison, said that he just didn't see the bus until the last instance as he crossed the four- lane highway.
The state police, with assistance from the Cold Spring police, investigated.
State police dispatch in St. Cloud said the accident report listed the owner of the 1995 Arctic Cat as Austin Undersander, age 16, and that he was not injured.
The left rear tire blew as it mashed the snowmobile. A back-up bus was called from Willmar Bus Service.
The entire matter meant a 90-minute delay for the coaching staff and the three teams on board -- freshman and "B" squad, in addition to the varsity. The outdoor air was frigid but the idled bus stayed warm, said Atchison.
Atchison, who began coaching at Clara City in 1977, said the bus accident was a first for him.
Willmar Bus Service owner Ken Inselmann said that the next day the damaged tire was changed and the bus returned to Willmar.
Players didn't get home until about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, still plenty of time to rest up for a 3 p.m. game against Bemidji later in the day.
Though the team sustained its first lost, the Cardinals played as well as any time this season.
However, after losing again on Tuesday, the head coach said a "Snowmobile Exorcism" is under consideration.
Starting this week, former assistant coach Lee Wierschem, a non-school employee, is in charge of the Willmar girls hockey team for "the foreseeable future." First-year head coach Chad Akerson, a senior-high physical education teacher, is on "Paid administrative leave pending the outcome of (an) investigation," according to a release issued Thursday afternoon by Bill Busta, Director of Human Resources for the district. The reason(s) for the change were not specified in the release.
Junior varsity coach Veronica Collins is now the assistant varsity coach. Kelsey Ochsendorf, who has been the girls volunteer coach, takes over as the girls JV coach.
On the fly
- Southwest Minnesota State junior Trent Molacck, a former Willmar Cardinals and Ridgewater Warriors wrestler, competed again in his hometown on Saturday at the Ridgewater Open Tournament. Wrestling at 165 pounds, he won three and lost two with one pin to place fifth. He got off to late start this season due to knee surgery.
- North Dakota State senior forward Sam Sussenguth saw frequent action last week averaging slightly over 30 minutes off the bench. In an 85-79 overtime loss to Summit League rival Southern Utah in Cedar City last Thursday he notched seven points and a team-high 10 rebounds plus three blocks. On Saturday in a 73-71 loss to the Big 12's Iowa State, at Ames, he again had seven points and 10 rebounds.
- Willmar native Bonnie Henrickson is closing in on her 250th career coaching win. Her Kansas Jayhawks are 12-5, but have lost three straight, including 70-68 to Big 12 rival Oklahoma State on Tuesday. Her career record at Virginia Tech and Kansas is 247-146. Her Jayhawks play Missouri in Lawrence on Saturday.
- Eden Prairie boys hockey coach Lee Smith (WHS 1984) has the defending Class AA state champions off to an 8-2 start, losing to Minnetonka 1-0 and Edina 5-3. Former Cardinals teammat e, Pete Stahnke (WHS '83), has Park Rapids off to a good start at 10-5-1.
- The Central Lakes Conference this week honored three Willmar athletes for outstanding performances; Boys Nordic Skiing: senior Tom LaPatka had an outstanding classic race at Giants Ridge (21:58). ... Girls Basketball: offense, junior forward Kayli Gimse piled up 49 points in three games. ... Gymnastics: sophomore Abbey Weiler won bars, floor and all-around vs. Sauk Rapids.