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Willmar notebook: Thompson settles into new role

Tribune photo Jamie Thompson’s new jobs keeps evenings free.

Jamie Thompson, the 1990 Dawson-Boyd graduate, is out of sports for the first time in his life.

He’s been a player, a coach and the past five years the Willmar Senior High School activities director.

His new office is at Garfield School, the sturdy, three-story brick fortress at the corner of Trott Avenue West and 8th Street.

He’s the Alternative Learning Center Program Coordinator, which is sort of like a principal I would think and Thompson does have his principal license.

“I really like this here,” he told me Tuesday. “I enjoyed being the A.D. but this is great, too. Here we’re helping kids reach their goal by earning credits to graduate.”

Enrollment is at 140 middle school up to age 21. That includes young people attending Wednesday evening school from 3:15 to 8:45 p.m.

The ALC serves students who don’t adjust well to the traditional high-school setting or have fallen far behind in accumulating credits.

Thompson has always been an upbeat personality, so he seems perfect for this role. “We’ve got a great staff and the kids are wonderful. It’s really a nice, quiet building. There’s a family atmosphere.”

There are fewer electives than high school; students come for other districts, but by far the majority is from the Willmar district.

Students graduate whenever they attain the credits needed, three already this school year.

“We’ll make an announcement on the school intercom, ‘We have a graduate’ and the students and staff will all clap.” Of course, they’re welcome to return for the formal graduation in spring.”

The staff includes nine teachers, several assistants, a couple of paras and a social worker. There was a cop at a desk in the front office when I visited.

Though Thompson was an ace as an A.D., this job suits his life situation much better. I’ve always maintained, like priests, sports editors (this writer is not an editor), athletic directors and perhaps generals should be celibate. Those are not family-friendly occupations.

Now Thompson can be home evenings with his young family. He and Heather are raising Griffin, 5 years old, and adopted son, Preston, now five months.

He’s not entirely removed from sports. The former basketball coach at Green Bay, North St. Paul and then Willmar gives individual lessons. He originally listed with WCER two years ago but soon had all the clients he cares to handle.

Holiday tourney time

What did we do between Christmas and New Year’s before there were tournaments? I do not remember.

First, basketball: Next Wednesday-Thursday the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic Boys Basketball Tournament at Willmar pits New London-Spicer vs. Albany and Benson vs. Willmar on the first night. Games start at 6 p.m. each evening. All four teams are trying to pull themselves up to .500 by the start of 2013.

The Wildcat girls tourney follows Dec. 28-29. The host New London-Spicer Wildcats (currently 6-0) and Minnehaha Academy (also 6-0) headline. Willmar takes on the Redhawks in the early game (a week from Friday). The Cats face Heritage Christian of Maple Grove. The 0-6 Eagles have yet to find an offense and haven’t exceeded 34 points in their last five losses. The Wildcats have one of the most exciting players in the state in junior Taylor Thunstedt. She alone is worth the price of admission.

On the ice: the Willmar boys are at the Little Falls invite with a round robin Dec. 27-29 vs. Mound Westonka (4-3), Hutchinson (0-5) and the Flyers (5-1). The Cardinals are 4-3-1 going into tonight’s game vs. a good St. Cloud Apollo team at the Cardinal Arena. The Tonka team is helmed by Willmar graduate Doug Runke.

The girls hockey team (7-5) has a single game next Thursday evening vs. River Lakes (6-2-2). A four-team holiday tourney was canceled when Brookings pulled out too late to find a replacement. The meeting with the Stars will be non-conference. Also, the Nordics ski at Brainerd Dec. 28.

Following a legend

This column last week noted the absence of Bob Brink on the Rocori bench, worth noting since Willmar’s encounters with the state’s second all-time winningest coach extends back to the 1970s.

Who then replaces the Legend of Cold Spring?

I asked Nate Guetter, Brink’s former assistant, to tell us about his track to head coach.

“I graduated from Wabasso High School in 1995,” he responded in an email. “I moved on to St. John’s University where I played basketball for Jim Smith (another legend). I have been teaching middle school and coaching at Rocori since 1999. I was the assistant softball coach for 10 years and have coached middle-school football for 13 years. As far as basketball, I’ve coached middle school, 10th grade, JV and now varsity.”

He’s so far batting a thousand with wins over St. Cloud Tech and Willmar (in OT) with Sauk Rapids on deck tonight.

Bronco football

Steve Peppin, owner of the local Premier League football franchise, reports the first formal practice went very well with 35 enthusiasts on hand at the armory late Sunday afternoon. Individuals signed letters of intent to play the eight-game season beginning late April. Pepin, a local businessman, is especially pleased to have recent Ridgewater running back Devontay Stevens and ex-Cardinal ball carrier Cory Hanson on the roster. Preseason practices will be held monthly. For information on joining the team, contact Steve at Pep’s Sport Barbershop, 320-222-7377.

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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