Willmar football post up for grabs -- but not now

When a prime coaching spot opens up in a high-profile sport at a large school there's sure to be interest both from within and without. Ken Heitzman's resignation on Nov. 3 opens up a football head coaching job at the Class AAAA level. "Yes, I've...

When a prime coaching spot opens up in a high-profile sport at a large school there's sure to be interest both from within and without.

Ken Heitzman's resignation on Nov. 3 opens up a football head coaching job at the Class AAAA level.

"Yes, I've had some inquiries, e-mails mostly, and a few calls of interest," said activities director Jamie Thompson this week. He added nothing is going to get done until some time into next year and then only when the 2009-10 teaching openings become known.

Speculation on a new coach began as soon as Heitzman's decision became public.

Rumors apparently circulated that someone already had been selected and that soon got to the district front office.


It got so bad Jerry Kjergaard, Willmar's new superintendent, felt compelled to address the school board on Monday evening.

Asked about his comments the next day, he repeated them for a reporter.

"We haven't offered the job and don't plan on it until spring," he said. "We need to have a teaching vacancy and we won't know that until spring. The rumor that we've made a selection is just that, a rumor."

He added that the new coach could come from the present staff or outside the district. His preference is to have a head coach who would teach in the same building.

Cuts possible

With the failed vote on Question 2, the activities department will have to absorb its share of the $1.6 million in cuts.

Kjergaard said he's a firm believer in after-school activities.

"The facts show that students involved in extracurricular do better in school," he said.


When budgets tighten, administrators must either eliminate activities or raise fees, a balancing act.

"From an activity stand- point you start with what will affect kids the least," said Thompson, in his second year as the chief of the department. "We'll be looking for the best approach."

The department made $10,000 in volunteer cuts last year. Measures include no longer financing scrimmage trips, reducing slightly the number of competitions and dropping mock trial which had low (six students) participation.

Numbers high

Participation figures remain high at Willmar Senior High School. Athletics and the fall musical involved 420 students, according to the activities office. The number does include a few junior high students who are on varsity rosters, especially in swimming and cross country.

Willmar students pay $200 to join a high-school team. The second sport is $100 and the third free with a $450 maximum per family.

The fee is waived for students on "free or reduced lunch," and the Willmar Public School Foundation gives aid to families facing a hardship.

"Whenever I talk to parents, I emphasize there's always a way to work it out," said activities director Jamie Thompson.


At Brainerd, where the four-grade high-school population is near 1,800, participation figures are similar to here. Football is an exception with 158 in 9-12 compared to about 110 at Willmar.

Brainerd had to buckle its chin strap after the failure of a referendum last November. Instead of dropping activities, fees were hiked to $380 per sport with no discounts.

A citizen group went to work to offset the fees. Warrior Way, Inc. estimated that it would give out $30,000 in assistance this fall and a projected $90,000 for the school year.

Fall awards

Postseason awards, so far available.

Football -- Coaches Award, Ben Barnes; Offensive MVP, Jordan Smith; Special Teams MVP, Smith; Defensive MVP, Alec Saunders. Captains for 2009, Taylor Filipek, Zach Cordes and Nathanial Swoyer.

Boys Soccer -- MVP, Badal Ali; Best Defense, Josh Wright; Best Offense, Abdinasir Abdi; Most Improved, Andrew Johnson; Hustle Award, Trent Fader; Josh Oestreich, Coach's Award.

Tennis -- Carrie Boike, MVP.


On the fly

A summer soccer meeting to wrap up 2008 and get started on 2009 is set for Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the junior high. Interested boys and girls and adults are encouraged to attend. The Cardinal boys team wasn't the only team to go scoreless at state against Blake, which beat the Cardinals 2-0. The Bears went on to whitewash Duluth East and then Totino-Grace, both 1-0, to win the Class A title.

The Cardinal girls hockey team has drawn a No. 20 ranking in the Let's Play Hockey Preseason Class A rankings. Roseau is No. 1 while 2008 champion Alexandria gets the nod at No. 4 after some key personnel losses. Section 2A opponents Mankato West, New Prague and Hutchinson are at 9th, 10th and 16th, respectively.

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