Basketball: Young Pirates take the helm
It certainly wasn't a thing of beauty, and Park Center needed 12 extra minutes to do it. But the Pirates finally defeated Marshall 73-71 in triple overtime for the Class 3A championship, the first basketball title of any sort in school history.
Park Center did it without star player Cayla McMorris, who fouled out late in regulation. They even did it without driver's licenses: No Pirates' player on the floor at game's end was out of 10th grade. Four of them — Feyisayo Ayobamidele, Mikayla Hayes, Danielle Schaub and Ann Simonet — were freshman.
Tennis: Turning the Crimson tide
That winning feeling returned to the Mounds View boys' tennis team. After losing 4-3 to Maple Grove in the Class 2A, Section 5 championship match in each of the past two seasons, the Mustangs overcame their nemesis with a 6-1 victory. The Crimson swept all four singles points each of the past two years. This time, Mounds View broke through for a singles point. Ranked No. 1 in the coaches' poll, the Mustangs suffered an upset loss to East Ridge in the state quarterfinals but rebounded to win the consolation title.
Adapted Softball: No more tears
Tasha Feigh's considerable vision problems used to mean lots of striking out and tears during adapted softball games. A narrowed field of vision and multiple visual cuts — imagine looking both through a paper towel tube and out a barred window — left Feigh unable to track the ball from a normal batting stance. Turning her stance to face the pitcher, she batted better than .900 for the Osseo-Maple Grove-Park Center program. Her success in soccer and floor hockey, and a team-first attitude, made her Osseo's first-ever cognitively impaired (CI) athlete to win an Athena Award.
Hockey: Comeback for the ages
More than three decades into a decorated hockey coaching career, Mark Loahr experienced something new this season. Loahr, coach of the Totino-Grace boys' program, watched his Eagles fall behind 4-0 in the second period against Benilde-St. Margaret's. Then they rallied for a 6-4 victory. "I can't remember ever being down four and coming back to win," said Loahr, who also notched career victory No. 500 this season. "It was really nice to see the boys not give up." Kai Barber tied the game with his third goal. Two Nick Tandeski goals completed the comeback.
Softball: Going out in style
Friends and battery mates, Anoka pitcher Megan Lindenfelser and catcher Dayja Rosario relished leading the Tornadoes to a first-ever softball state tournament. Anoka made program history by defeating Forest Lake in the Class 3A, Section 7 championship game. The Rangers' final out, a fly ball to shortstop Amber Elliot, triggered an emotional outburst. "I turned and saw Dayja, on the edge of the crowd, with her face in her hands, crying," said Lindenfelser, Anoka's ace. The only two seniors in the lineup embraced. The Tornadoes won the third-place trophy at state.
swimming: Off the blocks
Centennial High School, located in Circle Pines, opened in 1956 and never offered boys' swimming and diving until the 2013-14 school year. Centennial was the only Northwest Suburban Conference school without a boys' team, though its former club team was larger than some conference schools' varsity squads. Chip Fechter, the Cougars' girls' varsity swimming coach, added the boys' team to his plate. A total of 28 swimmers competed, and two of them, freshman Alex Poellinger and junior Nick Siler, qualified for the Class 2A state meet.
Gymnastics: Rebels yell
The Champlin Park gymnastics team posted a program-best score to win the Class 2A, Section 5 meet. The Rebels' mark of 142.725 beat out the eight-year-old record of 141.975. Freshman Liz Hammond posted her second-highest all-around of the season with a 37.05 and qualified for the state meet in all five events. Sophomore Taylor Guckeen set new personal bests in uneven bars, beam and vault. Her floor exercise score tied her own school record. She set a new team all-around record, besting Hammond's 37.1 with a 37.125. Guckeen qualified for state in every individual event except vault.
basketball: One shining moment
Coon Rapids senior basketball player Jeremy Becker said it all with his Twitter post: "37 game losing streak snapped #RedBirdsRose." The Cardinals defeated Yellow Medicine East 92-72 on Dec. 28. Coon Rapids began the season 0-9 and went the entire 2012-13 season without a victory. "It was nice to be on the floor when the buzzer went off and we were up on the scoreboard," Becker said. "It was just joy, especially to win with Jackson Bednar, who I've played with since fourth grade." The feeling never came again, however, as Coon Rapids finished 1-23.
golf: Sweet repeat
Legacy Christian Academy of Andover won its second consecutive Class 1A girls' golf team title, topping BOLD by 14 strokes. Freshman Kayla Ruf led the Lions and tied for 11th with a two-day score of 176, followed by eighth-grader Sophia Gray (177), junior Jillian Johnson (180) and junior Anna Cleveland (185). Johnson led the team in Wednesday's second round with an 85 at Pebble Creek Golf Course in Becker.
Connor Wilkie: It was a good day
With the stroke of both pen and jump shot, Andover senior Connor Wilkie enjoyed a historic day in his sports life. On Feb. 5, Wilkie took part in a morning signing day ceremony, inking a national letter of intent to play quarterback at Southwest Minnesota State. Later in the evening, Wilkie took the basketball court at Blaine just seven points shy of 1,000 for his career. Proving good things come in threes, Wilkie drained a trio of three-pointers to reach the milestone. He sparked Andover's victory with a career-high 30 points.