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Willmar notebook: Geer getting in gear

Gary Geer soon will be on his way to Boston for the marathon and a family vacation, taking in Philadelphia and the nation’s capital.

The 117th Boston Marathon — the world’s oldest continuous endurance event and perhaps most prestigious — sets off April 15 from Hopkinton to downtown.

Geer, you may know, is the county zoning administrator, which sounds to me like a desk job.

“Three years ago I had a good friend, a marathoner, convince me that I should give it a try,” Gary told me. “When I started, my body kept telling me ‘You want to do what?’ But I stuck with it through some injuries and bumps in the road and it has proven quite rewarding.”

This legendary run is such a premier event participants must meet a standard. Geer qualified at the May 2012, Fargo Marathon with a time of 3:22, which is three minutes inside the 3:25 base for 45-49 age group. He since ran a splendid 3:16 at the Whistle-stop 26.2 miler in Ashland.

Many marathoners follow a training program. Geer is on an 18-week schedule authored by Hal Higdon. With the heavy snowfalls and bad roads, many miles reluctantly have been on the treadmill.

“I enjoy the solitude of running early mornings; every new day is a gift,” Geer said. “Running has reminded me that perseverance is a great life lesson, and I have also learned that you are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

He and Melissa and their six children will stay at motel on the fringe of Boston but near a subway station for easy access to the sites. Gary is in his 19th year with the Planning and Zoning, the last 13 as the administrator.

Diver Jensen thrives

Can’t say over the years we’ve had many Cardinal lineman up on the 1-meter board.

But Kristof Jensen paired the sports this school year. He came out as a senior, after giving it a try in seventh grade. In football, he was listed a 6-foot-1, 235-pound defensive end/offensive lineman.

He never missed a practice this season while learning new and difficult dives. His goal all season was to qualify for the sectional meet and earn a medal (top 8). His coach said Kris often did twice as many dives at practice as his younger teammates.

Three days before the section meet, he broke his finger when his hand slapped the board on a reverse 1½ somersault in the tuck position, an acrobatic feat even for a seasoned diver.

Not knowing the finger was broken, he wanted to continue to practice. After a day off, he resumed practice with his hand bandaged and on ice.

Despite the pain he competed in the section meet at Sartell where he scored personal bests on many of his 11 dives. He finished ninth, one away from a medal.

Commented his diving coach, Kris Hawkinson, “He really wanted to medal, but in my book he took the Gold Medal.”

Honors for ex-cards

At the NCAA Division III swim and dive meet in Texas last weekend, Gustavus Adolphus College junior Alissa Tinklenberg, the former Cardinal, swam a 1:59.66 in the 200 backstroke prelims to slash fractions off her own school record of 1:59.92 set at the 2013 MIAC Championships.

The Gustie captain then swam a 2:00.51 in the finals to place sixth and take home All-America honors. It is Tinklenberg’s second All-America performance in the 200 backstroke (She placed seventh in the event last season) to go along with last year’s seventh-place in the 100 back. Tinklenberg becomes the first Gustavus swimmer to ever earn All-America rank in three individual races over a career.

Tinklenberg and senior Sarah Hund, another ex-Card, earned All-America honorable mention with a 14th place in the 400-freestyle relay in 3:28.62, breaking the school record set by Hund, Tinklenberg, Dajana Vidovic, and Kelsey Lucia in 2011.

On Day II, Hund and Tinklenberg earned All-America designation on the 200-free relay while Tinklenberg, again, did the same on the 400-medley foursome.

The Gusties tied for 10th, the school’s second-best placement ever.

Ridgewater baseball

This is no country for baseball players, at least right now, but the college baseball team is doing its best. They are 0-4 with a couple of games scheduled for the first weekend in April in St. Paul.

Dennis Boe, the Twins’ scout from Redwood Falls, is back for his second season at the Warriors’ helm. Among the returnees from last year’s 14-18 team are pitchers Joey Shreck of Lac qui Parle Valley and Jarrod Holmgren of MACCRAY, plus Trenton Berg, a pitcher/outfielder, and third baseman Mike Nielsen, both out of Minnewaska Area High School.

Beyer takes his leave

Tom Beyer retired in spring 2007 as the Cardinal wrestling head coach. He took a whole summer off and by fall he resurfaced in the Warriors’ wrestling room as the head coach, replacing Jesse Nelson who took the post at the college in Marshall.

After 26 seasons commanding the high school program, Beyer spent six winters guiding the college. That’s 32 seasons heading a varsity wrestling program in this town. Only Roy Minter, the hall of fame coach at Willmar Junior College which became Ridgewater, put in similar years in the mat room, over a quarter century here after starting his career in Worthington

Beyer’s second retirement was announced this week by Todd Thorstad, athletic director at the college.

If anything can get a veteran coach thinking seriously about retirement, it’s apparently grandkids. Tom and his second wife, Stacy, have four grandsons and another grandchild on the way.

Tom and Stacy were vacationing near Corpus Christi, Texas, this week when I reached him by phone.

It is just time to move on, he told me. Wrestling is six or seven days a week in season with long road trips to Iowa, Rochester, Grand Rapids and colleges in the Dakotas.

Besides his family, he’s got new responsibilities with the school district, where he’d been employed since 1981 coming out of University of Minnesota-Morris.

The longtime fifth grade classroom teacher is now doing something perhaps best described as math coaching, primarily at Kennedy School.

“It’s a lot of new challenges and I hope to grow in the position,” he said.

Not only does he coach up the students, including pep talks where he indeed sounds like a coach, he works with the teachers in the district’s attempt to achieve math goals.

Beyer annually brings in 20 to 30 freshmen to the wrestling room. Not all stick it out; it’s a long season and some of the rookies haven’t developed the study habits needed to sustain the necessary grade-point in college.

Ridgewater is one of four two-year colleges in Minnesota with wrestling. Northland is adding wrestling in 2013-14, Beyer said. Several Iowa JCs also are adding wrestling, as are private colleges.

With senior colleges dropping wrestlers for Title IX compliance, there are more wrestlers than ever looking for a place to wrestle and get an education. Wrestling generates enrollment and there’s a positive cost-return, said Beyer.

“I think the last three or four years we’ve been pretty successful at bringing in students that want to wrestle and get a degree,” he said. “There’s a lot that I will miss but I just don’t feel I have the time now to make the commitment to the program.”

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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