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The Year That Was

Fri, Jun 28th, 2013
Posted in All Sports

Another school year is in the books. Another group of kids have completed their high school sporting careers. A host of good memories and experiences are finely etched into the minds of many young men and women. It all started back in the fall. Football and volleyball equally shared the Fillmore County sporting spotlight while a trio of Cross Country runners trekked their way toward state.

In the gym, four Fillmore County volleyball teams had successful seasons. Mabel-Canton (31-6) rode the efforts of SEC Player of the Year Belle Sand and setter Carly McCabe to another SEC title. The Cougars’ road then took them over the Taylor Case-led Fillmore Central Falcons (26-6) in the Sub-Section semifinals. An epic match between two excellent county teams saw M-C trail two-sets-to-zero, and 9-2 in set three, only to rally for the huge three-sets-to-two, comeback victory. FC’s great season ended their, M-C’s a game later versus Wabasha-Kellogg in the 1A East title game. The Coug’s weren’t the only county team playing in a Sub-Section title game. The Alex Duxbury-led Chatfield Gophers (21-10) again faced Caledonia for the 1AA East crown. Again, the Warriors came out victorious (they ultimately made it all the way to the state title game only to fall to Marshall). Meanwhile in Rushford, the R-P Trojans (22-11) didn’t make a post-season run (they lost in the opening round), but Amy Todd was a good as anyone in the 3-Rivers. The senior hitter led the conference in kills and aces. She topped 1,000 kills for her career in helping Trojan volleyball to a school-best win total. Two thousand thirteen will be the final go-around for All State Honorable Mention standouts Sand, Case, and Duxbury. Seniors, each will each look to lead their squads further into the play-offs, as M-C, FC, and Chatfield should all again be potent. The Gophers and Falcons should contend atop the 3-Rivers conference. M-C and FC may again have an epic post-season match-up in Section 1A East.

On the gridiron, running backs were the story in Fillmore County. Chatfield’s Jake Neis (just shy of 1,400 total yards, 16 total TD’s) led the Gophers to a 5-0 start to the season and a top 10 state ranking. Chatfield then played defending state-champion Caledonia very tough in the regular season (lost 6-0). The Gophers then ran off four more wins to force another match-up with the Warriors for the Section 1A title. There, Caledonia (the eventual state champ) proved its superiority 29-0, as the Gophers finished the season 9-2. Behind Chatfield in the 3-Rivers standings was a resurgent Rushford-Peterson (6-4) squad, led by senior Zach Boehmke (650-plus yards on offense, accounted for nine total TD’s) and sophomore playmakers Cole Kingsley (8 TD’s, 9 INT’s) and Alex Vix (10 TD’s). The Trojans gave Caledonia a game (lost 15-7). They also gave eventual Class A state runner-up Faribault Bethlehem Academy a game (lost 14-7) in the Section semifinals, where their season ended. In 9-man, Lanesboro’s trek was similar to R-P’s. The Burros went 6-4 and lost in the Section semifinals. They rode one-man-gang Niko Anderson as far, and as much, as they could. Anderson, who will enter 2013 as a four-year varsity player, had the biggest individual season of any football player in the county (1,900-plus yards rushing, 33 TD’s). Fillmore Central and Mabel-Canton tailbacks Dan Gatzke (nearly 1,000 total yards offense, 10 total TDs) and Hunter Johnson (1,500-plus yards, 20-plus TD’s) also each got in on the action. Neis, Anderson, Johnson, Vix, and Kingsley should again be more than exciting to watch in 2013. Chatfield and R-P again appear to be teams who could give Caledonia a run for its money. M-C and Lanesboro should be factors in the SEC.

When it came to Cross Country, Chatfield senior Kayla Woltz and Kingsland sophomore Richard Swanson were the big stories. Woltz finished a fabulous running career with a sixth state appearance, a fifth top 10 finish. Swanson burst on the scene in 2012 and ended it with a 12th place finish a state. Gopher sophomore Karen Gomez also was in the mix, as she competed in her second straight state Cross Country meet. With Woltz graduated, Swanson and Gomez will carry the running flag in Fillmore County in 2013.

In the winter, on the basketball court, it was all about Rushford-Peterson boy’s hoops. The Trojans had a good answer to the question, who will pick up the scoring slack of graduated players Nick Thompson and Trent Vix? The answer was, everyone. Behind a balanced attack of senior Phil O’Shaughnessy, juniors Jorli Hauge, Seth Thompson, and Austin O’Hare, and sophomores Kingsley, Vix, and Charlie Krambeer, R-P engineered a pair of 13-game win streaks, shared the 3-Rivers conference title, dominated Section 1A enroot to a second consecutive 3rd place finish at state with a 28-4 overall record. Tom Vix’s boys did it again and, with nearly everyone back, will look to do it again in 2013-2014. The Lanesboro boys were one team R-P dispatched (with in) Section 1A East, but that takes nothing away from the season they had (19-8). The Burros, behind the three-pronged scoring machine of juniors Kole Ruud and Luke Rogers, and senior Erik Peterson, generously assaulted the nets from deep. They competed for both the SEC crown and the 1A East title. Meanwhile in Gopher-land, Chatfield was the only county high school to boast plus-500 boys and girls b-ball teams. The boys finished with a 15-12 record, the girls 19-8. Both unfortunately bowed a little earlier than expected (first and second rounds respectively) in the play-offs. The rest of the county’s teams were at or below .500, but seniors Amy Todd (R-P) and Cheyenne Losey (Kingsland) each eclipsed 1,000 career points. Todd helped her team to a Sub-Section 1A runner-up finish.

On the mats, Chatfield’s wrestling team had an anything-but disappointing season. Joel Viss’ wrestler’s were a juggernaut, winning Section 1A with a 29-1 record. They opened the state tourney with a win over Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg, lost to #1 Jackson County Central, only for senior Justin Viss to pin the Gophers to a state third place finish versus Sibley East. It’s the best season (31-2) a Gopher wrestling program has ever had. As could be expected, that meant Chatfield had a lot of wrestlers make noise at the individual state-wrestling tournament. Eight competed, along with three more from L-A/R-P, and one each from FC/L/M-C and GM/L-O/K. Harvey Friederich’s (132, Chatfield), Niko Anderson (170, FC/L/M-C), and Jordan Theede (160, L-A/R-P) each took home runner-up trophies. Hank Friederichs (120, Chatfield, 3rd), Viss (195, Chatfield, 5th), Greg Johnson (182, LARP, 6th), Evan Bain (285, LARP, 6th), and Lucas Roe (152, GMLOK, 6th) all placed. It was a great year for wrestling in Fillmore County. The Gophers, who lost only a couple seniors, seem primed to be just as good in 2013-2014. L-A/R-P’s program is solid, and FC/L/M-C and GM/L-O/K will certainly have some very good individual mat technicians.

In the spring, no team stood out as much as Team Mother Nature. She pretty much harpooned the first month of spring sports, keeping athletic directors on their toes and cell phones. In the end, a number of county teams had nice seasons. Chatfield Gopher (17-4) softball plowed through the regular season, winning the 3-Rivers South crown. Fillmore Central/Lanesboro softball (13-4) had its best season in recent history. Rushford-Peterson softball (10-9) was also pretty solid. Chatfield baseball put up another plus-500 season (11-7). None had a deep play-of run though (only the Chatfield squads posted a victory). The last ‘ball’ team to be playing was the surprising FC/L Falcon baseball squad. After a 2-10 regular season, Keith Larson’s boys went 3-2 in the post-season, taking home the Sub-Section 1A East runner-up trophy, playing in Austin at the Sectional Final Four. It was the furthest advancement of any FC/L baseball team.

Area track and golf meets were probably most harpooned by a wet spring. Golf courses dried out the latest. Track, which usually can start the season earlier, couldn’t. In the end, Chatfield track and field had the most memorable season. Sophomore Maddy Kammer won the 400-meter state championship. Kammer, Autum Erickson, Mariah Bell, and Ashley Baker were crowned 4x200-meter state champions. Jayme LaPlante was state runner-up in Discus and also competed at state in the shot put. R-P-H eighth grade phenom Noah Carlson and L/FC/M-C sophomore Olivia Haug also got a taste of state (in the Triple Jump and Discus competitions respectively). On the golf links, Lanesboro senior Johanna Bearson finished off her fabulous golfing career (four state appearances) with a 12th place finish at state. R-P junior Hudson Stensgard got a taste, competing in the boys Class 1A competition.

Through all of that, the second annual Fillmore County cup (best collective athletics) easily went to Chatfield. All seven Gopher teams (volleyball, football, boy’s basketball, girl’s basketball, wrestling, softball, and baseball) posted winning records. Football was Section runner-up. Volleyball was Sub-Section runner-up. Wrestling was Section champ and state third place. Chatfield also sent multiple individuals to state in Cross Country, Wrestling, and Track and Field. R-P boy’s basketball again carried the Trojan banner, with a Sub-Section title, a Section title, and a state 3rd place trophy. R-P girl’s basketball added a Sub-Section runner-up, as did Mabel-Canton volleyball, Lanesboro boy’s basketball, and FC/L baseball.

Individually, a number of excellent ‘three-sport’ seniors culminated their careers. Chatfield’s Justin Viss headed that cast. Over his junior and seniors years, Viss played on six sports teams and all six had winning records. In his last hurrah (senior year), Viss grabbed a Section football runner-up medal, Section wrestling individual (195-pounds) and team championship medals, a state team wrestling third place medal, and a state individual fifth place medal, making him the most decorated athlete in the county. R-P’s Amy Todd accomplished two big individual milestones in going over 1,000 kills and 1,000 points (while also running track). FC/L’s best male athlete was three-sport standout Dan Gatzke, who similarly stood out on the football field, basketball court, and baseball field. Chatfield’s MaKenzie Miller and Lanesboro’s Erik Peterson also had highly commendable three-sport senior years. All of the individuals will be remembered, and missed, by their respective schools. Other non-senior, standout three-sport athletes included Kirsten Keefe (sophomore), Maddie Talamantes (sophomore), Jayme LaPlante (junior), Nate Skare (junior), and Jake Neis (junior), all of Chatfield, Morgan Malley (sophomore) of Fillmore Central, Niko Anderson (junior) of Lanesboro, Kendra Crawford (junior) of Rushford-Peterson, and Lydia Geving (junior) of Mabel-Canton. These will be (some of) the names that will work for the most prep glory in 2013-2014.

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