Active kids are coach's dilemma

Val Swanson wanted to be in four places at once Saturday, but there is no question where she would be. It had to be her team. In the biographical section of the informational packet for the national tournament this weekend, the Ridgewater College...

Val Swanson wanted to be in four places at once Saturday, but there is no question where she would be. It had to be her team.

In the biographical section of the informational packet for the national tournament this weekend, the Ridgewater College volleyball coach wrote of her dilemma the past weekend: "Should I go or should I stay? Where should I be?"

She was on the east side of the Mississippi River at LaCrosse, Wis., where her Ridgewater College Lady Warriors volleyball team played for the Region 13A title (they won). At the very same time, her youngest daughter, Mary Sussenguth, was playing for the Cardinals at Mankato in the section volleyball final (they lost). Val's husband, Neil Sussenguth, attended.

Up at Fargo, Sam Sussenguth, a freshman at North Dakota State, got to play (three points, three rebounds, three fouls, six minutes) in an exhibition with Minnesota State, Moorhead.

Casey, a 6-3 Willmar Cardinals sophomore, was up at Becker playing in the Fall League. And step-son Joe Sussenguth, he was coaching Minneota in the 3A section final (they won) over in Marshall. Mary got to that match.


Friday Swanson takes the Lady Warriors into the NJCAA national tournament at Rochester hoping to repeat the team's 2002 national championship. Swanson, who has 733 career coaching victories since coming to Willmar in 1980, said if Mary's Cardinals would have made state she would have been able to see Thursday's 9 a.m. opener.

On Oct. 30, Swanson did skip out of the MCCC state tournament's final day to be at Casey's confirmation. "We'd already qualified for regions. Buffalo Lake-Hector coach Susan Alstrom took over and split two matches.

"She can now say she has a 1-1 record as a college coach," Swanson said with a laugh.

A different game

Two months after her 1979 graduation at Pelican Rapids where she was an all-state basketball player, Judy Siegle's life changed forever.

The car in which she was riding was hit by a drunk driver. Thrown from the car, she landed on her head and suffered paralysis of all four limbs.

She has overcome her disability to become an elite wheelchair athlete and a motivational speaker. Judy spoke to two large student groups Monday.

"The game goes on but the rules are different," she told the attentive high-school audience.


Judy is a world-record holder (quadriplegic women) at distances up to 5k and a two-time Paralympian.

Her delivery was rapid, upbeat and laced with stories of her quest to compete and find meaning in her new life. She moved her arms and mentioned she is grateful for some use of her left hand.

On stage, she transitioned from her wheelchair, to crutches and into a high chair, all without help, and later into her snug, 14-pound racing chair.

The holder of a master's degree in social work, she lives on her own, drives a van and works out daily.

"You make choices that move you sideways, forward or backward," she said.

To be a "winner for life" she suggested these keys: "Commitment to Excellence, Endurance (persevering despite the pain of the moment) and Enthusiasm (a positive outlook)."

Siegle is the author of "Living without Limits ... 10 keys to Unlocking the Champion in You."

The most moving point of her talk was a vocal demonstration of a portion of her climb up one-mile Doomsday Hill at a race in Seattle. She had to zigzag, counting each laborious turn of the wheel: one (pause), two (pause), three ... It took over 500 turns to reach the apex, she said.


Though short of muscle power, Siegle has no shortage of willpower.

Best finishes

Kaafi Adeys in fourth and Abdi Awale in sixth were the highest finishes at state ever for Willmar runner in boys cross country. Scott Hedglin finished seventh in 1991. Kari Higdem finished fourth last year in girls.

"The Harrier", a national publication covering high school cross country, ranks the Willmar boys 23rd in its latest poll (Oct. 30), one spot behind Yankton, S.D. which beat the Cardinals by one point at Sioux Falls.

On the fly

The Cardinal girls' hockey team is in its second week of practice with 19 prospects. The team will host Brainerd, Forest Lake and Litchfield/DC in a Saturday. Tuesday's opener is at Litchfield.

The curling open house at the Civic Center Oct. 29 attracted about 50 people and signed up 16 new members for the fledgling league which will have seven teams with 32 members.

The Ridgewater College basketball teams open their seasons on Friday and Saturday playing against senior college jayvees at Worthington.


Cardinals' three-sport athlete Tyler Horning has been picked from of a Milwaukee tryout to play on a 16-18 baseball team in a one-week tournament in Puerto Rico in February. Since he must cover his own expenses ($2,000), he is undecided. He would miss only one basketball game.

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