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2011-2012 county sports year in review

Fri, Jun 29th, 2012
Posted in All Sports

The 2011-2012 school year has come to an end. It goes out like so many before it, leaving memories of what was (and what will be) on the sports fields and in the gymnasiums across southeastern Minnesota. Here is the Fillmore County Journal Sports Year in Review.

Back in the fall, Fillmore Central football highlighted county gridiron action. The Falcons began the year 5-0, securing their first state ranking in many years. In a battle of top ten teams, the Falcons staved off a last second comeback by Southland to move to 6-0 (#6 in A). An injury to standout tailback Tyler Eickhoff versus (eventual AA state champion) Caledonia helped derail the season, but it was still a memorable ride for the team and its fans. Chatfield, Mabel-Canton, and Lanesboro, behind tailbacks Jake Neis, Gabe Lind, and Niko Anderson, also put together plus-500 seasons.

No team, though, advanced past the second round of the play-offs. The Gophers look most inclined to do so in 2012 with skill players Neis, quarterback Nate Skare, and Justin Viss (and others) returning. Lanesboro’s Anderson, only a junior-to-be, already has two impressive years of varsity football under his belt.

On the volleyball courts, action was hot and heavy in the county. Four of the six schools had very good seasons. Chatfield, Rushford-Peterson, Fillmore Central, and Mabel-Canton each had an effective hitting duo: Kenna Moechnig/Erin Kammer, Kenzie Lind/Amy Todd, Alex Peterson/Taylor Case, Belle Sand/Lydia Geving. They also had either able setters (Emily Culhane, Morgan Malley, Carly McCabe) and/or able defenders (Alex Duxbury, Kendra Crawford). In the end though, R-P bowed to L-A in round one of the play-offs, FC and M-C bowed to W-K and L-A in Sub-Section semifinals. Only Chatfield won a trophy/medals, the Sub-Section 1AA East runner’s up (to Caledonia). Mabel-Canton looks most inclined to do damage in 2012, returning their entire squad (save for one player), but the other three aforementioned programs also return some talented pieces.

Rounding out the fall sports action, Chatfield’s Kayla Woltz and Karen Gomez each earned a trip to State in cross-country, as did Rushford-Peterson’s Austin O’Hare. It was Woltz’s fifth trip, and fourth top five finish. A soon-to-be senior, odds have Kayla likely returning in 2012. Gomez (a soph-to-be) and O’Hare (a junior-to-be) will have a shot at doing so also in 2012.

Winter naturally brought basketball, and as has happened, seemingly forever, the Rushford-Peterson Trojan boys jumped to the forefront. Behind the disciplined duo of Nick Thompson and Trent Vix, R-P won Sub-Section 1A East, the Section 1A, and advanced to State, defeating Mountain Lake/Butterfield/Odin in the 3rd place game to snare yet another banner to adorn their gymnasium’s walls. With a plethora of young talent, and ‘The Vix System’ in place, R-P should again be a force in 2012.

The Trojan boys weren’t the only basketball team with the word ‘State’ written near their name. The Chatfield girls made a play at winning Section 1AA, but ran into that Grinch named Hinsch from Zumbrota-Mazeppa. The Gopher girls settled for Section runner-up, but always have ‘the Keefe FT’ to remember. With Kirsten, MaKenzie Miller, and Sidney Irish returning, the Gophers look solid for 2012-2013. Kingsland’s boys battled R-P for county hardwood supremacy (split a pair of memorable games). They advanced to their Sub-Section final and had top seeded Byron down at the half, only for the Bears to awaken. The super-senior-six (Tanner Lange, Sam Eberle, Devin Pokorney, Spencer Klevan, Soren Grandall and Josh Thompson) put on a nice show for Knight fans.

Lange etched his name in Kingsland’s annuls by going over 1,000 career points. He wasn’t the only county athlete to do so. Lanesboro’s Braden Hanson and Mabel-Canton’s Steve Smith essentially did enough to stake a claim as ‘best male basketball player ever’ from their respective schools. Hanson topped his schools all-time scoring sheet (scored 47 in a game besides), the same for Smith with both scoring and rebounding. R-P’s Nick Thompson and Kenzie Lind gave the Trojans a male/female tandem that went over 1,000 for their careers.

On the area’s wrestling mats, Chatfield and Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson had solid team seasons, though neither advanced deep into the post-season. Each sent representatives to the State individual meet though, Chatfield Hank Friederichs (106), Justin Viss (195), and Alex Haffner (132), L-A/R-P Greg Johnson (182) and Jordan Theede (145). Lucas Roe (152) and Noah Schlee (126) represented Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingland in St. Paul. Friederichs (5th) and Viss (6th) placed the highest. Only Schlee graduated, leaving the county with plenty of formidable grapplers heading into 2012-2013.

In the spring, it was all about Chatfield’s sports programs. The Gopher softball team engineered a great run, an epic 4-hours in Austin. By defeating Kenyon-Wanamingo in extra innings, and then arch-rival Lewiston-Altura for the first time in four tries, in back-to-back games, Chatfield earned a spot in the Section finale versus Blooming Prairie. They fell, but senior standouts Tori Woltz, Katie Jech, and Sarah Costello went out in very successful fashion. All four softball programs in the county had a large element of youth to them, meaning there is at the very least, cause for optimism in 2013.

The Gopher girls’ track squad continued the Chatfield spring sports monopoly. Led by thrower Kyndra Neis, distance runner Kayla Woltz, sprinter Maddy Kammer, and the 4x100/4x200 team’s (M. Kammer, Erin Kammer, Ashley Baker, Autum Erickson), the Goph’s fell just short of winning Section 1A’s True Team crown. Each of the above athlete’s/team’s advanced to state individually. The relay teams, a perennial state participant, did best, finishing 4th (4x200) and 5th (4x100). L-A/R-P also sent a pair of athletes, throwers Adria Timm and Hans Lundberg, to State.

Completing the spring sports sweep, the Gopher baseball team contended for the 3-Rivers conference crown for a spell and was the only county team to make it to Austin for the Sub-Sectional 1A East final. A pair of disappointing losses ended their season (Sub-Section runner-up), but they were still the counties best baseball team. With their two best pitchers (Neis and Skare) only sophomores, they will likely remain the county’s best baseball team for at least a couple years to come.

On the area golf links, Lanesboro’s girls out-shined everyone in the county (and a claim could be made they shined as brightly as nearly any single A program in the state). Paige Hungerholt ended her illustrious golf career with a 4th place finish at state. Johanna Bearson and Kiah Halvorson also finished in the upper half of the leader-board, as the ‘town by the dam’ sent ¾ of the counties state golf entrants. The Burros boys were also pretty good too, as was Fillmore Central. The year ended, from a literary perspective, poetically where it started. Fillmore Central’s Andy Todd, the quarterback of the Falcon football team in the fall, found the spotlight again. The senior also competed at the State golf meet, finishing in the top half of the field.

If there were a ‘county cup’ for the most successful school (like in college athletics), Chatfield surely won it. With a Sub-Section volleyball runner-up, a Sub-Section baseball runner-up, and Sectional girls basketball and softball runner-up’s, plus multiple State entrants in all the individual sports (cross country, wrestling, track and field), the Gophers were head and shoulders above the rest of the county. R-P boy’s basketball was the best individual program. Erin Kammer (Sub-Section volleyball runner-up, Section basketball runner-up, State 4th and 5th place track finishes on relay teams), Kirsten Keefe (Sub-Section volleyball runner-up, Section basketball and softball runner-up), Haley Woltz (State participant in both cross country and track and field), and Austin O’Hare (State participant in both cross country and on the R-P basketball team) were the most decorated/successful athletes. In two-plus months, a new group of youngsters will get their shot at prep glory.

Sports Correction: In the June 18th sports edition, Paige Hungerholt was incorrectly identified in a picture as the 4th person from the right. She was (correctly) the 4th person from the left, the fourth in line (left to right), coinciding with her 4th place finish.

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