Top 5 Sports Stories of the Year
With over 30 different high school sports teams taking to the field, court or course of competition annually, there is an almost unlimitless amount of stories created.
The year 2008 was no different, as area prep teams and individuals made their mark, either reaching the apex of becoming a state champion or just revitalizing a once dormant contender.
Every sports season creates memories for the student-athletes who partake in the many opportunities during their high school careers -- win, lose or draw.
Although not every game, situation or season gains the big headlines, it doesn't mean it's not special to those individuals.
But there are those events which garner special attention, from winning a state championship to creating a bit of controversy off the field.
High school sports are a community's belonging, it's theirs -- no one else's. Games are played in hometowns and the success always creates a pride.
Sports are a pastime which can be enjoyed by all, by either the passionate or the novel fan.
It's an entertainment which adds to quality of life. But sports also provide lessons about life, character building and leadership qualities not provided by sitting in a classroom.
The bonds made by teammates are life-lasting, and the memories remain forever.
These are the top five stories which gained the most attention during the 2008 year -- though they are not stories which necessarily overshadow any other made through the last 12 months of the high school season.
The top five sports stories for 2008 are as follows (in no particular order):
Laker golfers find success at state
State titles are always top news and this year, it was the Detroit Lakes boys' golf team supplying that action.
The quest for Minnesota State gold looked to be derailed for the Detroit Lakes boys' golf team as the Class 2A tournament was coming to a close, but those notions were extremely exaggerated.
Trailing by 13 strokes to tournament-leader Orono Friday after play was suspended due to thunderstorms Thursday, the Lakers made a memorable comeback for the golfing ages.
Even the most faithful -- the players themselves -- didn't think a comeback was likely after each of the six golfers came off the Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan.
"It's disappointing that we didn't come in here and win it," said a gloomy Josh Herzog, before the scores started getting tallied on the scoreboard.
It's a comment later recanted by Herzog, after the Lakers learned their 639 tied Orono for the Class 2A state boys' golfing championship.
The final ruling was co-champions, as Orono and DL shared the state crown.
Team members included Ben Bergquist, Ben Osowski, Josh Herzog, Mike Brodsho, Adam Thielen and Ryan Kuehne. Bob Gorden is DL's head coach.
n But that championship weekend wasn't all there was for DL golf fans.
The Laker girls' golf team finished third in the Class 2A state meet, adding to their 2006 State title.
The wind was roaring during the Class 2A girls' golf meet, as the Detroit Lakes girls' golf team stamped their signature on the tournament by finishing third overall with a score of 724.
Minnewaska did their best impression of the wind, blowing away the competition to repeat as state champions by firing a 643, followed by Red Wing with a 697.
But for the Lakers, entering Friday's play there was one target in their sights -- which was state bronze.
Separating DL from its goal was Hibbing, which was four strokes lower after Thursday's play with a 351.
DL team members were Danelle Olson, Robin Hutchinson, Caitlin Berg, Katie Osowski, Courtney Hedstrom and Katie Engberg. Jen Hendrickson is the team's head coach.
Raider football is alive and well
The resurgence of Lake Park-Audubon football starting picking up momentum in 2007.
That led into a memorable season for the Raiders this year, as LP-A played to the Class 1A state semifinals, before losing to Royalton inside the Metrodome.
"This group of players reignited a torch which was going out," said LP-A's former longtime activity director, Terry Teiken. "And who would've thought they would turn it into a friggin' flamethrower!?"
That pretty much sums up the Raiders' (10-3) amazing run through postseason play, backed up by some stifling offense and a dynamic offense.
LP-A put together a six-game winning streak which led the Raiders to the Metrodome -- the site of the Class 1A semifinals.
"It's just been exciting," said senior wide receiver Zach Downs. "The entire community has been behind us. You walk down the street and people know you're a football player and wish you luck. The younger kids see you and shake your hand and say they are pulling for you."
The Raiders definitely put a touch of Red-and-Black on the gridiron in 2008.
Waubun parts with longtime FB coach
Unfortunately, not all news is duckies and bunnies in the sports world.
Some controversy swirled around the Waubun School Board's decision to not bring back longtime football head coach John Clark, who had earlier retired from his teaching position at the school.
Assistant coach Jason McCloskey was the new hire, and the new coach led the potent Bombers to an undefeated record, before losing to Ada-Borup in the Section 8 championship game.
Time does heal wounds, and the community of Waubun showed great support and class to a hard-working, talented and skilled football team.
Year of the Hall of Fame class
The Detroit Lakes Athletic Foundation unveiled its first-ever Hall of Honor class in October, while former DLHS Superintendent Grant Johnson was elected to the University of Minnesota Hall of Fame.
Both events were as classy as can be, and both were worthy of some special attention.
The Laker inductees included Ralph Anderson, Andy Lia, Jack Campbell, Dave Nelson, Rich Borstad, Todd Jorgenson, Craig Fredrickson, Jeni Jost (Gunderson) and JeNelle Johnson.
The induction ceremony went off without a hitch, and with the Athletic Foundation slated to induct member every other year, it's an event well worth the wait.
Grant Johnson has had a remarkable life and even at the age of 92, he is still gathering major accolades.
The University of Minnesota "M" Club and the University of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics Department honored a group of seven outstanding individuals -- which included Detroit Lakes' former Superintendent Johnson.
A key member of Minnesota's 1937 Big Ten champion and 1938 Big Ten runner-up men's basketball teams, and the third member of the 1937 squad to earn a spot in the "M" Club Hall of Fame, Johnson was a driving force for the Gophers at both ends of the floor throughout his career.
A guard and defensive specialist, Johnson was a coach's dream, and is best remembered as the type of hard-nosed player that always seemed to make life easier for his teammates thanks to his superior defensive abilities.
Johnson was the hit of the banquet ceremony, with his stories from an era not forgotten.
Area tracksters nab lots of state gold
The 2008 accolades for Lake Park-Audubon were jump started in June, when then-junior Ashley Tingelstad made a sweeping statement during the Class 1A state track and field meet.
The speedster swept state titles in the sprinting events, winning each of the 100, 200 and 400 meter dash races.
But the Raiders were not done, as senior Toni Tollefson won her second-consecutive high jump.
Frazee's Skyler Jackson also became the 2008 Class 1A 100-dash state champion, while tying the state record of 10.94 held by Isaac Anderson of Blake, set in 2005.
Now, let's go over some of the honorably mentioned, which in reality, can be a countless list.
n Every year, the Pine to Palm Golf Tournament generates excitement from golf enthusiasts from around the nation.
The week-long event brings in over 400-plus golfers, and is highlighted by Championship match-play, climaxing with Sunday's title match on the links of the Detroit Country Club.
This year's storylines were abundant, including a vandalism spree which damaged several greens, local talent making a push through match play and the finale between two top Fargo golfers.
The championship match between Ben Freeman and Brandon Hartzell was no different, with the turning point coming on a bomb-of-an-eagle.
Freeman had a decision to make, as his tee shot from the No. 9 tee box lay in the left rough that Sunday during his championship match against Hartzell for the 76th Pine to Palm Golf Tournament title at the Detroit Country Club.
The match was all-square, after Freeman rallied back from a two-hole deficit on the first four holes, and both golfers were looking for a turning point in the match.
Enter Freeman's nine iron and his huge tide-turning 151-yard shot from the rough to eagle No. 9, which allowed him to take his first lead of the match at 1-up.
The eagle paced Freeman's back nine, and eventually enabled him to build a 3-up lead. A five-foot birdie putt on 16 clinched the Pine to Palm championship for Freeman, who shot seven-under par to Hartzell's more-than-respectable three-under.
A Detroit Lakes native, Joe Sauer, won the Senior's championship as well.
n A new team was introduced to the area, as the semi-pro football Screaming Eagles played their inaugural season on the Frazee High School Field. The team was the brainstorm of Jason McCloskey.
The Screaming Eagles led the newly-formed league in attendance, with an average of 275 fans per game.
The inaugural season for the Lakes Area Screaming Eagles may not have been accumulated as many wins as owner/head coach and starting quarterback McCloskey would have hoped for, but it still was a summer to build on, with many positive happenings.
Although the season ended with a 2-7 record, the Screaming Eagles capped their schedule with an impressive 33-6 win over Willmar.
But with wins and losses put aside, McCloskey's efforts, both in time and money, weren't wasted.
"We found some success, winning two games and should have probably won three or four more," McCloskey said. "It was a process to start gelling as a team and was very stressful on me in the beginning.
"But D.J. Stone (starting lineman) and I talked about it, and decided to just settle down because we were a very inexperienced team."
Plans are already underway for next season, with the Screaming Eagles staying put in Frazee for the summer of 2009.
n It came down to a stretch of an arm to determine the Class 1A 100-yard butterfly state championship, and unfortunately for Detroit Lakes sophomore Melissa Paakh, the arm didn't belong to her.
Despite eclipsing the Class 1A state record time of 56.10 with a 56.03, Paakh was nipped out at the finish line by Hutchinson sophomore Audrey Kumm, who bested the DL swimming phenom by .3 of a second to claim the state title that Saturday inside the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center.
Kumm now holds the Class 1A state record with a 55.73.
Even though Paakh finished as the state's runner-up for the second consecutive year, her 56.03 mark was good enough for an All-American standard.
n Saying it was a breakout year for Detroit Lakes native Luke Pechmann would be an understatement.
First, he won a Class 2A state 50 freestyle championship for the Moorhead Spuds, then he qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials, all to earn a scholarship to swim for the Division I powerhouse University of Arizona.
Pechmann swam a 23.27 in the 50-meter freestyle at the Thunder Bay (Ont.) Invitational.
Although he didn't qualify for the Olympics, he now has four years of top training as an Arizona Wildcat for the potential next go-around.