North metro athletes and teams made big news during 2013. Here are 10 memories worth savoring about triumph, talent and hard work:
Langbehn, Elks catch a state title
Elk River’s master thief last spring when it comes to fencing was freshman Jayme Langbehn, who would run through the fence if it meant winning a state softball championship. Good thing for her, she only had to fall over it once and reach over it a second time, stopping would-be Prior Lake home runs to key the Elks’ Class 3A title. The catches, in the sixth and eighth innings, helped secure a 4-3 victory over the Lakers at Caswell Park in North Mankato. The plays wound up on ESPN. “Without her catching those, Prior Lake has two home runs and they’re winning,” Elk River senior Kathi Opsahl said.
A team worth talking about
As Park Center’s boys’ basketball team crowded around their Class 4A state tournament runner-up trophy for pictures, an adult encouraged players to wipe away their tears and flash smiles to reflect their amazing journey. The Pirates, led by senior guard and Mr. Basketball recipient Quinton Hooker, held the No. 1 ranking for a time and galvanized the school with a season to cherish. “Everyone is talking about the basketball team,” Hooker said in January. “It’s been a lot of fun, especially for the seniors who have come this far and are making some of our big games actually big games.”
Throws that will be tough to beat
St. Francis senior Maggie Ewen left no doubt; she is the best female track and field thrower in state history. She won seven state championships — four in discus throw, three in shot put — and owns the all-time mark in both events. Her all-time discus throw record stands at 175 feet, 9 inches. On the second day of the state meet, she posted a shot put mark of 54-8 ½, a whopping two feet better than the previous record. “It put an exclamation point on her legacy,” St. Francis coach Andy Forbort said.
A no-hit finish
Since making the Coon Rapids varsity baseball team as a freshman, pitcher Logan Shore has faced lofty expectations. Shore proved worthy. Drafted by the Twins, Shore was named Gatorade’s Minnesota player of the year. He backed it up with an 8-0 record, striking out 60 batters in 47⅔ innings and posting a minuscule 0.44 ERA. At his best on the biggest stage, Shore threw a no-hitter in the Class 3A state tournament quarterfinals. He is expected to play at Florida next season.
Imperfect in practice, perfect result
Mounds View senior diver Kiley Kuether sticks to a rule when competing. She remains oblivious to scoring until her dives are finished. She stayed the course during the 1-meter diving event at the Class 2A state meet, waiting until the last of her three final-round dives before fixating on the leader board. Kuether ended her night with a flourish, sticking an inward double dive she considered leaving out because of stumbles at practice. The dive’s high degree of difficulty helped provide her a close victory (408.05 to 401.15).
Centennial returns to state
Printouts of about 40 encouraging e-mails were taped to the walls outside Centennial’s locker room at the State Fair Coliseum. The Cougars fulfilled the basic message of them all, defeating Champlin Park 4-2 in the Section 5 finals and earning the program’s first Class 2A boys’ hockey state tournament appearance in nine years. “It’s just a fantastic group of guys that work hard together and support one another in good times and bad,” coach Ritch Menne said. Wayzata edged the Cougars 2-1 in overtime in the state quarterfinals.
Welcomed back with a title
After a three-year hiatus, Elk River gymnast Kaylee Jondahl once again impressed at the Class 2A state meet. Jondahl, a senior, won the vault and placed third in the all-around at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. By all accounts, she electrified the state meet crowd as a freshman, when she placed second in floor exercise and vault and took fourth in all-around. Right after the state meet, Jondahl went back to club gymnastics and remained there as a sophomore and junior before burning out.
An Olympic-sized showing
Mounds View swimmer Noah Lucas enjoyed a record-setting Class 2A state meet. He took the all-time 500-yard freestyle mark from Olympian Tom Malchow, one that stood since 1995. Lucas finished in a time of 4 minutes, 26.47 seconds, shattering the old mark of 4:28.00. Lucas, a North Dakota-bound senior, also broke the state record in the 200-yard freestyle at 1:37.30, more than a full second ahead of the old record of 1:38.35. “I definitely wasn’t expecting these times,” Lucas said. “I mean, I was hoping to break them, but to do it like this is pretty awesome.”
Fritz leads Anoka to state
Anoka senior Alexis Fritz cried after the Class 2A, Section 5 cross-country race. The tears were bittersweet. Fritz knew she qualified for the state meet as an individual but worried about the fate of her teammates. No premature goodbyes were necessary. Anoka won the race and qualified for its first state meet since 1988. The Tornadoes took last out of the 16 teams at St. Olaf College in Northfield. But six state meet runners return and the future is bright.
Good in a clinch, again
Rory Calabria admits not understanding the importance of winning his Section 5 finals match in 2012, earning the point that secured Maple Grove’s first-ever Class 2A boys’ tennis state tournament appearance. Maple Grove drew a section final rematch with Mounds View last spring, and Calabria, well aware of the moment this time, overcame jitters to win at No. 4 singles and once again clinch the final point in a 4-3 victory. The Crimson advanced to the state tournament at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota. After a semifinal loss to eventual champion Wayzata, Maple Grove defeated Northwest Suburban Conference rival Elk River for third place.