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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Luther Opjorden, 66, has returned to his athletic roots. At Milan High School, he had been a three-sport athlete, graduating in 1963. Opjorden was drafted and served four years in the army, including Vietnam in 1969-70 as a liaison officer to an infantry battalion. Approaching middle age, the extra pounds began to pile up when he stopped milking cows and took an office job. Thirteen years ago, he and his son took a ski trip to Colorado. The mountains were majestic, but his enjoyment was tempered by his lack of fitness. That's when he turned to running. It worked.
WILLMAR -- Fourteen-year-old Ben Burgett of Spicer led a record field at the Memorial Day/Law Day 5k Run/Walk on Saturday morning. The Community Christian School eighth grader paced a pack of over 250 runners and walkers from the Flags of Honors, around the Robbins Island Loop and along the puddled Foot Lake Trail to the highway bridge and back in ideal conditions. Burgett covered the route in 17:41, one second more than Andy Regnier's winning time a year ago. Regnier, 30, did not defend.
Cheney, Kansas, is a farm town in the wheat fields of southern Kansas. Around 1,700 people live there, not many more than live in Clara City. It's the hometown of Jerry Kill and he's proud of it. The Gophers new head coach, a boy off the farm, spoke affectionately of growing up there in the 1970s. Cheney is also the home town of Kathy Fleegel, the main office secretary at the Willmar Middle School. Fleegel took her lunch break last Thursday to attend the Gophers' tour stop at American Legion in Willmar.
The week started out, the last thing expected in Cardinal sports would be for the baseball team to sweep Rocori. At 1-10, Willmar was off to its worst start in history. Rocori may not be the same group of veterans that won the state title at Target Field last spring but this is still a program with five top-two finishes in the Central Lakes the past decade. Willmar last swept Rocori in 2000 when the Cardinals were enjoying some peak seasons. Still, the Cardinals surely had more ability than that their lousy record showed. The team just hasn't hit this season. Both wins, before Tuesday, t
For conservation officer Jim Steffen, the fishing opener hardly could have got off to a poorer start. A dozen discarded northern pike were discovered near a culvert entering Ringo Lake. "What a waste," said Steffen, an Alexandria native who joined the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 21 years ago. "There are anglers out there today that would love to be catching those fish." The 2- to 4-pound pike were dumped near the northeast public access parking lot. Steffen estimated the fish were 3 or 4 days old. "Why would anyone do that?" he said rhetorically.
A check of area lakes at noon on Sunday, revealed moderate activity and limited success. At County Park No. 1, Big Lake Kandiyohi, West park manager Bud Groen summed the opener up as "cold and miserable." "A lot of shivering fisher-people. There's been some fish; the walleyes are running small. A lot of people are already heading for home. There's white caps on the lake." Todd Anderson, manager at County Park No. 3, Diamond Lake reported: "Poor. Not many boats. When the drizzle turned into rain yesterday, the access completely cleared out.
WILLMAR -- In a spring seldom fit for outdoor sports, the Lady Warriors looked quite comfortable once again. Doing what they do best -- socking the cover off the ball -- Ridgewater College thumped Anoka-Ramsey 8-0 in a five-inning game to win the school's fifth Region 13A championship in seven years on Friday afternoon under heavy overcast and a chilly north wind at the college field. At least it didn't rain as it did much of Thursday's opening rounds. "It was so much rain and snow and cold but a good team is going to keep its focus in the bitter stuff while others don't handle it so well,"
WILLMAR -- A national curling championship bonspiel at Willmar? It could happen. The Willmar Curling Club is preparing a bid. Fargo hosted the annual event in February. Philadelphia is the site of the 2012 tournament which will determine both a men's and women's team champion. The previous three year the USA Curling championships were held in Kalamazoo, Mich., Denver and Bismarck, N.D. But little old Willmar? "They came to us and asked if we'd be interesting in making a bid," said Kevin Madsen, manager of the Civic Center.
The Ridgewater College baseball team's quest for the Region 13 title starts today in St. Cloud. Nine teams will compete for the one qualifying spot at the NJCAA national tournament. The Warriors meet Riverland at noon today at Joe Faber Field. The three-day event is double-elimination.
Watching the Ridgewater College softball team this spring has been a treat -- even in damp cold. Part of the pleasure is the play of sophomores Emily Roelike and Brandi Bodin. They hit first and second, respectively, in the Lady Warriors' batting order. For opposing pitchers, it is an often lethal one-two punch. Roelike runs the bases like a cheetah and Bodin can fly, too. She may be a catcher but she's 9-for-9 in steal attempts. Both players hit for power. In the field, each is superb. Roelike has great range and a laser arm.