This past high school sports season, and high school year itself, will always be remembered for its ending. The corona virus terminated the state girls basketball play-offs prematurely, ended boys basketball state before it even transpired, and suspended and then cancelled spring sports. The school year followed, at least in the classroom learning. Graduations, proms, and the like were all either cancelled or altered to take into effect a new word, social distancing. It was surreal. Prior to that, two sports season almost went off without a hitch.
The fall campaign was headlined by LARP cross country. Behind TRC and Section 1A Champ Luke O’Hare, Matt Kingsbury’s group took second at the 1A Meet to clinch a trip to state. Tyler Rislov, Andrew Hoiness, Grady Hengel, Ricky Buchanan, Mitchell Ledebuhr, and Aaron Prinsen got to run on the big stage. LARP didn’t have a senior amidst their top four runners. Chatfield’s Aletta Strande also got to run in Northfield at state. After that, Mabel-Canton volleyball made a bid for state. Lonnie Morken’s Cougars got as close as they have in a long time. They won the SEC-East, 1A East, and played Medford to five sets before bowing in defeat 3-2 (14-25 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 12-15). Seniors Sarina Stortz, Payton Danielson, and Avery Davis came agonizingly close. M-C finished at 34-3. Fillmore Central also had a solid season, as the Falcons finished at 17-13. Lanesboro volleyball was a third team to finish above five-hundred at 16-14. Individually, M-C’s Kenidi McCabe was SEC Player of the Year and an All-State 1st Team pick while topping 1,000 digs. Lonnie Morken was Section 1A Coach of the Year. FC’s K.J. Corson topped 1,000 digs. R-P’s Alyvia Eide also topped 1,000 career digs. Kingsland’s Ellie Buchholtz topped 1,000 career assists. On the gridiron, Cody Hungerholt’s Houston Hurricanes had a memorable play-off run. The 5-seed ‘Canes beat 4-seed Southland and then 1-seed LeRoy-Ostrander to make their second straight Section 1 9-Man final. Houston then fell to Grand Meadow. They finished 7-4. Brothers Ben and Wyatt Walters combined for over 2,000 offense and 31 TDs. Chatfield football also had another strong season. Jeff Johnson’s Gophers rode a stingy defense led by Chance Backer and a running game led by freshman sensation 1,400-yard back Sam Backer (and a big offensive line) to an 8-3 overall record. The Gophers were 1AA runner-up for a second straight year. Chance Backer was the Southeast-White Defensive Player of the Year and a Class AA All-State 3rd Team selection. Rushford-Peterson was a third Journal covered team to finish with a winning record, as Davin Thompson’s Trojans went 7-3. They nearly won the MSE-East (lost a heartbreaker to sub-district champ L-A in the regular season). Triton Meldahl was the MSE-East Offensive Player of the Year after finishing with over 1,700 yards rushing and 20 TDs. Teammate Vinnie Mason shared the MSE-East Lineman of the Year honor. M-C’s Gavin Johnson topped 1,000 yards rushing.
The winter sports season was highlighted by Fillmore Central girls’ basketball. The Falcons went through Southland, Grand Meadow, and Blooming Prairie to win the program’s first ever 1A title. Levi Olstad took FC’s girls to state first the first time, behind seniors Kandace Sikkink, Emma Breitsprecher, and Kassidy Broadwater. The Falcons lost their quarterfinal game. The season was then suspended per COVID-19. FC finished 22-9. Two other gals’ teams had memorable years. Dale Moga’s Houston gals won the SEC-East for a third straight year. The Hurricanes finished 21-7. Kingsland swept their way through the SEC-West. Steve Hauser’s Knights won that division and finished 18-10. Emma Geiwitz for the ‘Canes and Ellie Buchholtz for the Knights topped 1,000 career points. M-C’s Payton Danielson also notched a major milestone, as she became the Cougars all-time leading girl’s scorer. Buchholtz and Danielson were Class A All-State HM. On the boys’ basketball side of things, only one Journal covered team finished above five-hundred. Houston went 14-13. Mikkel Schutte topped 1,000 career points while Alex Van Gundy finished his career with over 1,500 career points. Each averaged over 20 PPG. Chatfield’s Reid Johnson topped 1,000 points. On the wrestling front, the Gophers had the best season. Travis Bartels’ club went 14-4, losing to eventual 1A champion GMLOS 36-35 in the 1A semis. Chatfield sent Seth Goetzinger, Cael Bartels, and A.J. Karver to state individually. Goetzinger finished as state runner-up at 145. Bartels took third place at 113. LARP also had a state entrant in Ross Herber. FCLMC wrestling sported a full team for the first time in a long time, and finished with a winning record (13-11) as a result.
Spring sports took the full brunt of the COVID shutdown. Among the things that didn’t happen. Chatfield softball, behind a senior group of Lexi Chase, Carlie Berge, McKenna Daniels, Teagan Allen, Kim Greiner, Abby Nosbisch, and Katie Ihrke didn’t get a chance to take their last shot at state. Chase didn’t get a chance to marvel all with her mound expertise. Mabel-Canton softball didn’t get a chance to defend its 1A East title (this year). There were no clear cut expectations for Journal covered baseball teams. GMLOK didn’t get a chance to defend its SEC title. Relating to track and field, LFCMC standout’s Emma Breitsprecher and Kassidy Broadwater were annulled of a senior year. Breitsprecher was looking for a fifth year of state qualification. Carson Kiehne didn’t get a shot at a third state qualification of his own (this year). He’ll have his senior year. Chatfield might’ve had a good boy’s relay, if not good individual athletes, with returning state entrants, seniors Chance Backer, Ben Muller, and Jared Baker (plus maybe Sam Backer). LARP multi-event stand-out and state qualifier, senior Triton Meldahl was annulled an opportunity for once last go-around. Luke O’Hare didn’t get a chance to repeat qualify for state. He’ll have his senior year. GMLOKS girl’s relays didn’t get to shine again. Seniors Riley Queensland and Isabelle Olson weren’t allowed more big runs in the sun. GMLOKS coaches will have to retool a lot to try to three-peat a 4×200 girl’s state champion in 2021. State qualifiers Hailey Hindt and Anika Reiland will be two in the equation. Fillmore Central girl’s golf didn’t get a shot to defend its 1A title (though it would’ve been a hefty task given the graduation of state runner-up Madison Scheevel in 2019). The 2021 spring sports season will be a pretty big blank slate.
Cougars and Lions Announce Athletes of the Year
Mabel-Canton and Spring Grove have announced yearly athlete awards. For the Cougars, junior Gavin Johnson is the Male Athlete of the Year. Johnson repeated as All-District in football. He was voted the team’s MVP, its Hardest Worker, and the Most Valuable Offensive Back. In the winter, he was the basketball team’s co-MVP, leading the Cougars in three statistical categories. Payton Danielson is the Female Athlete of the Year. She was All-SEC in both volleyball and basketball, All-State HM in the later. On the volleyball court, she earned two of four team awards (Team Player, Hardest Worker). On the basketball side, she won three of five team awards (MVP, Best Teammate, co-Hardest Worker). She led M-C in four major statistical categories. She is tops in M-C history in career points and steals. Said Athlete of the Year awards are granted to M-C individuals with no MSHSL rules violations who competed in at least two sports. Danielson and Sarina Stortz were also 2020 Senior Scholar Athletes. Danielson was Academic All-Conference in all 15 of her letter-winning seasons, Academic All-State in three sports (VB, GBB, SB). Stortz was Academic All-State in volleyball. Seniors with over a 3.8 GPA from freshman through senior in a sport get the award.
For the Spring Grove, Amelia Solum and Kyle Hagen are the Athletes of the Year. Solum was All-SEC in both volleyball and basketball. She was the Lions MVP in both sports (for a third time in basketball). She was SG’s valedictorian and Academic All-Conference all four years in both volleyball and basketball, plus Academic All-State in volleyball (like Stortz/Danielson). Solum led the Lions basketball team in five statistical categories while averaging a Lion (girls) second-best-ever 18.9 PPG. She led SG in three statistical categories on the volleyball court and surpassed the 1,000-dig milestone. Solum has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Luther College in Decorah. Hagen was All-District on the football field, the Lions leading tackler for a second straight year and team leader in TD receptions (8). On the basketball court, he was the team’s only captain. Thanks to Lee Epps for all this information and the SG photos.
With the expansion of the Fillmore County Journal, its sports section will also expand into new markets. We look forward to this additional coverage.