Willmar notebook: River of runners expected to enjoy Cardinal Invite
The Cardinals cross country invitational, run over the back 9 at Eagle Creek Golf Club, is an exceptional location for an outdoor sport in fall. Here on the last Saturday in September appears a river of runners in bright school jerseys going up a...
The Cardinals cross country invitational, run over the back 9 at Eagle Creek Golf Club, is an exceptional location for an outdoor sport in fall.
Here on the last Saturday in September appears a river of runners in bright school jerseys going up and down hills and back and forth along emerald fairways lined by trees in full flower. Added to this colorfest are hundreds of spectators dashing about to gain the best view of the races, seven in all. Nearly always, it seems, the day is warm (this year perhaps hot) under a blue sky.
Few have been to more sites than Jerry and Barb Popp. Jerry is very near his 40th season coaching cross country in North Dakota and here since 2004. Both Popps have retired as everyday school employees but Jerry continues as head coach.
“Willmar’s home course has become one of my all-time favorites,” Jerry said. “It’s extremely challenging, which is what we wanted to do using the rolling hills. There’s a tough, steady climb towards the end, and then the steep dip.
“It is also very viewer-friendly for spectators,” Jerry said. People can see the majority of the races by just walking across fairways. The venue is absolutely beautiful this time of year, with the lakes on both sides and the brightly-colored set up. Barb and I talked about it and agreed that we have the nicest course in the state for cross country.”
Jerry praised Eagle Creek for making it all possible and also the Winged Foot Running Club for their support.
This year’s lineup lists eight visiting schools. The Willmar girls, second last year, come in the team to beat, obviously, with a No. 1 rating in Class AA. Moorhead will be a contender and perhaps Bismarck Century, the 2013 champion. No. 12 Hopkins is sending its varsity, minus only one starter.
The girls varsity starts at 1 p.m. followed by varsity boys. The JV and middle school races will be followed by a free 800-meter Mity Mite run for all elementary students.
The boys team is young with only Nadir Yusuf and Ian Thompson varsity veterans in a top 5 that includes two eighth-graders. Moorhead is the favorite.
The Cardinal Invite should be an exceptional showcase for area volleyball on Saturday. New London-Spicer, Central Minnesota Christian, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and host Willmar are favored to advance to the four-team championship pool in the eight-team field.
The Wildcats’ are off to a 12-3 start with senior Sydney Stone getting her 1,000th career kill on Tuesday. Her cousin, Willmar’s Riley Grussing, is the Cardinals’ all-time setting leader. The Bluejays proved they’re a top tier Class A team at the Burnsville Showcase last week. The Jaguars are always a contender to win the event. Willmar will try to extend its win streak to seven matches tonight in a homecoming-week dual.
Championship and consolation playoffs start around 2 p.m. Pool 1: Benson (3-8-1), CMCS (12-3-1), RCW (5-9), Willmar (9-2) …. Pool 2: BBE (7-5), Lakeview (8-9), New London-Spicer (12-3), Sauk Rapids (10-8)
The hottest recreation game in town is the adult soccer league.
Teams bulged from 12 to 18 this year.
The two fields at Roosevelt were busy all day Sunday. The league could use three fields … and artificial turf. It rained every weekend in June. The WCER can’t allow playing multiple games on wet fields as damage is too great.
This is the second year WCER has overseen the league. Adult Rec supervisor Brad Bonk said that other than the rainouts, the league ran quite smoothly with fewer “incidents” than 2013, despite six more teams.
Match officials were increased from two to three per game, which is what it should be. FIFA certification for officials is now an aim, Bonk said.
The league’s game-day director is Bakar Adan, a young man who takes the position seriously. He was wearing a suit with tie at the championship that matched de Yojoa and side Madrid. It was a splendid final; the teams looked professional in their classy uniforms.
Bakar’s main job that day, in addition to post-game awards, appeared to be keeping enthusiastic fans a couple of meters off the sideline.
“This year we didn’t have any problems from the teams,” he said in an email. “No fighting, everything went great, as planned. We have seven good officials. The fields are good. We are looking to have artificial turf in the future. I want this to be a high-class league that all of the people in Willmar will respect.”
Gene Olson, who passed away Sunday at age 86, struck out Mickey Mantle in an exhibition game - twice. Such is the stuff of local legends.
He was a Willmar Rail in 1950 when he was signed by the New York Yankees. He was throwing in the minors the summer the Rails won the Class AA town team state championship in 1952.
Injuries forced him to quit professional ball and the Bird Island native came back to Willmar to play a few more years of amateur ball and then softball. He made the car business a lifelong career while he and Dorothy, who died in 2013, raised five children.
In a retrospect on former professional ballplayers from the area, Gene told former Tribune Sports Editor Bruce Strand about the spring of ’51, part of which he spent at the Yankees’ training camp in Phoenix where legendary Casey Stengel told the youngsters one day: “If you guys can’t make it with us, we’ll trade you so you can still play in the big leagues with somebody else.” Olson continued: “The Yankees were first-class. They always felt you were a little better off with them than anywhere else.”
His pro career ended by back and arm injuries lasted three years and into a fourth. Besides Mantle, he recalled facing Hank Aaron and Rocky Colovito.
On the fly
n Terry Horan (WHS ’85, Concordia College ’89) and his Cobbers made it three in a row over St. John’s at Collegeville on Saturday. SJU hadn’t lost that many straight to the Moorhead school since the late 1950s. The Cobbers’ Brandon Zylstra of New London-Spicer and the Johnnies Josh Bungum of Paynesville each had receptions.
n The Cardinals’ boys soccer program shows a lot of depth. Head coach Jeff Winter said that that the JV II side went 4-0 Saturday at their own invite beating Hutchinson 2-0, St. Cloud Tech 2-0 and 2-1, and Sartell 1-0. The same day JV I beat Mankato West 2-0.