From no-hitters to no quitters, North metro athletes and teams made big news during the winter and spring seasons of 2013. Here are 10 memories worth savoring about triumph, talent and hard work:
Elk River’s master thief when it comes to fencing
Elk River freshman Jayme Langbehn 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, robbing 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 boys’ basketball 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. “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.
Tossing 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 full two feet better than the previous record. “It put an exclamation point on her legacy,” St. Francis coach Andy Forbort said.
Last Shore start caps remarkable Coon Rapids career
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 47 2/3 innings and posting a minuscule .044 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.
After more than 100 surgeries, she keeps playing
The remarkable determination of Park Center junior Olivia Maccoux, who has endured more than 100 surgeries, got her through another season of adapted sports. Since being born 11 weeks premature, Maccoux has battled a condition called Hydrocephalus, in which excess fluid in the brain can cause potentially fatal pressure levels. She deals with the pain before, during and after games and makes the adjustments necessary to get her through a school day. “If I didn’t have schools and sports, I don’t know what else I’d be doing,” Maccoux said.
One game, one assist, one senior beating cancer
Mounds View senior defenseman Josh Lavalle made a lone on-ice appearance this season between leukemia treatments, contributing an assist in a 6-1 victory against Hastings. Diagnosed late June with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), Lavalle said doctors gave him a 90 percent chance of beating his cancer into remission but warned the weekly chemotherapy treatments could cost him his senior season of hockey. Playing before fans in a packed arena voicing their support, Lavalle wound up missing only one shift in the third period to catch his breath.
Back as a senior, Elk River’s Jondahl vaults to 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.
Taking down Olympian’s record ‘pretty awesome’
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.”
Legacy Christian girls’ golf grades out great
The frequent, high-pitched giggles coming from the Pebble Creek practice green postmatch belonged to the youthful state champions from Legacy Christian Academy of Andover. The Lions got precocious performances from eighth-grader Kayla Ruf, sophomore Anna Cleveland, seventh-grader Sophia Gray and sophomore Jillian Johnson. Ruf’s score of 185 was good for 18th, with Johnson just five strokes behind at 25th. They carded a school record 376 on both days. Coach Dan Nelson admitted thinking the Lions’ best days are ahead. A state title changed his mind.
Moving up in class, Totino-Grace gets it done
The Totino-Grace football program, an enduring power for the past decade, created some anticipation with February’s news the Eagles were opting up two classes to join Class 6A starting this fall. Totino-Grace won six state titles from 2003 to 2010 in Class 4A, which in that span was the state’s second-largest of six classes. In 2011, the Eagles opted up to Class 5A, played against the state’s largest schools by enrollment and reached the state semifinals. A seventh class, 6A, was created last season. Totino-Grace opted up to win the 5A title but raised eyebrows with a victory against Edina, which held the No. 1 ranking in 6A.