Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children.
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An estimated 3 inches of slop, followed by up to 4 inches of heavy wet snow has made plowing a bit difficult in areas of west central Minnesota this Leap Day morning. Here a city of Willmar plow makes its way down Eighth Street Southwest near Trott Avenue in Willmar early Wednesday morning.
ST. CLOUD -- The Fergus Falls Otters scored two empty net goals and slipped by Willmar 5-2 for the third time this season in boys hockey on Saturday. This Section 6A result ended the Cardinals' season at 10-18. The Otters twice nudged the Cards 5-4 in their Central Lakes' games. It's an all-Falls final as the No. 3 seeded Otters (14-11-1) will meet No. 1 Little Falls (18-9) in the Section 6A championship Thursday back at the Dave Torrey MAC-Arena. No. 7 Willmar, which lost in last year's section final to Alexandria (2-1), this year upset No.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Fire Department was called to the Holiday station on U.S. Highway 12 Friday afternoon in Willmar. A clerk in the store said gas began leaking from the western-most pump while a technician was working on it. Firefighters were seen working around several manhole covers, and sand was spread over the driveway apron and into the road to absorb the spill.
Swimmers and divers from 15 schools -- make that 19 counting four pairings -- hit the 8-lane pool at the high school and the adjoining diving well for the Section 3A meet Friday at 5 p.m. with Saturday's swim/dive finals at 3 p.m. It's a strong flotilla with Fergus Falls, Hutchinson, Bemidji and Alexandria in the mix. The Otters (appropriate nickname) won the Class A state meet in 2011. Hutch and Bemidji were top 12. Top seeds for the host team are Michael McLain and Nick Aaker in the 200 free and McLain in the 100 free. Ben Fuglestad has a shot in the 100 fly.
MOUND -- All season, Willmar has outmuscled, or at least outwrestled, foes at the lower weights to grasp large leads. At best, the upper weights were a stalemate.
MELROSE - Willmar freshman Stephanie Thompson finished first on balance beam (9.575) and junior Cassie Johnson fourth on vault (9.350) at the Section 6A meet on Saturday qualifying them for the Minnesota state gymnastics meet on Feb. 25 in St. Paul. Two-time state qualifier Abbey Weiler, senior from Willmar, placed fifth in both vault and floor missing state by one place each time. Melrose repeated as the team champion with a score of 147.525 and will return to state for the 19th time in the past 21 seasons. Alexandria placed runner-up (141.65) and Willmar third (140.525).
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Cardinal wrestlers get the No. 1 seed in 6AAA. Willmar will wrestle the winner of the Rocori vs. Buffalo play-in match in the 6AAA quarterfinals at 10:15 a.m. Saturday at Mound-Westonka High School. The semifinals are set for noon with the championship to follow at 2:15 p.m. The seedings and team records for Section 6AAA are: 1. Willmar (17-5) 2. Wayzata (12-6) 3. Hopkins (17-9) 4. Mound-Westonka (18-7) 5. Minnetonka (16-4) 6. Robbinsdale Armstrong (5-21) 7. Robbinsdale Cooper (3-15) 8. Buffalo (3-18) 9. Rocori (4-13).
Willmar gymnastics travels to Melrose Saturday for the Section 6A meet, sure to be dominated by the home team. The Dutchmen (Dutchgirls?) are the highest scoring team in Class A and second statewide to only AA leader Northfield. The rest of the field, 8 teams in all, will be fighting for the leftovers. The team winner is a foregone conclusion. Melrose has posted a high of 149.292 (the Dutch won the West Central meet Saturday at 148.23) while No. 9 Alexandria is at 140.125 and No. 10 Willmar at 139.659, according to the Minnesota Gymnastics Coaches rankings.
So, you want to be a state-meet wrestler? Warning! The wrestling room seems more a torture chamber than a practice zone. There's much agony. A wrestling meet must be like a day off. I drove out to the "Chamber" on Monday mainly to check on two senior wrestlers who, in the compressed time line of high school sports, have been around forever. Alex Johannes and Seth Pollack began inhabiting the high school red room in middle school.
Abbey Weiler joined the Willmar varsity gymnastics team at the start of the 2008-09 season. She was a freshman but a savvy competitor.