This past school year was an emotional roller coaster for teams as well as individuals in the South Metro. Here is a look at 10 top stories from 2012-13 that encompassed jubilation, tears and more.
1 Heavy hearts, state champions
New Prague’s gymnastics and girls’ golf teams were among the state’s best under beloved coach Matt Shetka. Both programs were devastated when Shetka died unexpectedly of a heart attack while shoveling snow at his home on Dec. 9. He had taught his entire 33-year career in the school district. The two teams didn’t want to let their longtime mentor down. Intent on honoring him to the best of their ability, both accomplished their goal. The gymnastics squad won the Class 1A state championship at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. The girls’ golf team finished third in the Class 3A state tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids, with junior McKenzie Neisen sharing medalist honors in the two-day event.
2 State’s best bring coach more success
Longtime successful volleyball coach Walt Weaver returned to high school coaching, taking over at Lakeville North after a five-year absence since retiring from Apple Valley, where he accumulated 656 career victories in 31 years. In the fall, Weaver guided perhaps the most talented team in state history to the Class 3A state championship. The Panthers beat defending state champion Eden Prairie 25-21, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18 in the finals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Four days after winning the title, three seniors — Erica Handley (Syracuse), Laura Larson (Arizona) and Haley Walker (South Dakota) — signed their Division I letters of intent. Three juniors — Sami Flattum, Alyssa Goehner and Abby Monson — are expected to do likewise this fall.
3 New coach and an ending fit to be tied
Dalen Wasmund took over the state’s most storied wrestling program, Apple Valley, replacing the legendary Jim Jackson. The Eagles were riding seven consecutive Class 3A state championships under Jackson and 20 overall in the history of the program. Jackson retired with a career record of 619-26-3. Would the streak reach eight under Wasmund, who served as an assistant coach under Jackson? Yes, but with a little different wrinkle. The Eagles were co-champions with St. Michael-Albertville after the two wrestled to a 28-all deadlock in the finals at the Xcel Energy Center. Apple Valley would go on to crown seven individual champions, too.
4 Four-time state distance-running champion
Maria Hauger of Shakopee is simply the best. Hauger became the first girl to win four consecutive Class 2A individual cross-country state championships at St. Olaf College in Northfield. She completed the 4,000-meter course in a record time of 13:42, which was 12 seconds faster than the previous mark. The University of Virginia recruit concluded her year by taking third place in the Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships in San Diego the first week of December. This spring, Hauger concluded her prep career by taking first place in the 3,200 in the Class 2A track and field state meet at Hamline University in St. Paul.
5 Eagles, Jones draw attention
Apple Valley junior guard Tyus Jones had his fill of personal accolades. The time had come to help his school grab the spotlight. Jones had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, leading the Eagles to a 74-57 victory over Park Center in the Class 4A boys’ basketball state tournament championship game before 13,309 fans at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The nation’s No. 2-ranked junior player went 18-for-18 from the free-throw line. The Eagles finished the season 30-1, winning their final 30 games after a season-opening loss to Park Center.
6 Improbable run by Eastview boys’ soccer
Eastview’s boys’ soccer squad was the Class 2A state tournament runner-up in 2011. Four key members of that team who could have returned in 2012 opted to leave so they could pursue their dream at a soccer academy. So, what did the Lightning do? They won a state championship. The Lightning became the third consecutive boys’ team from the school to win a state title, defeating Blaine 3-2 in the finals at the Metrodome.
7 Girls’ hockey semifinal for the ages
Lakeville North was on the wrong end of a record-setting six- overtime 4-3 loss to eventual three-time champion Minnetonka in the semifinals of the Class 2A girls’ hockey state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center. The game was tied 3-3 at the end of the second period and remained that way until 1:04 a.m. Saturday, when Minnetonka senior forward Amy Petersen scored at 5 minutes, 29 seconds of the sixth overtime. Lakeville North senior goaltender Cassie Alexander made a state-tournament record 59 saves. The Panthers bounced back later that same day to beat Eden Prairie 3-2 to finish third.
8 Twice as much fun on the mat, in the pool
Northfield sophomore Bailey DuPay is already a household name in girls’ swimming as well as gymnastics. DuPay successfully defended her Class 1A title in diving, helping the Raiders win the girls’ swimming team title at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. She posted a winning score of 39.425 points. DuPay followed up one state title with three more individual crowns in the winter. She won the all-around competition in the Class 2A gymnastics state meet at University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. She also won the balance beam and floor exercise.