Mitchell McKee: Season For Dad
St. Michael-Albertville sophomore wrestler Mitchell McKee dedicated his season to winning a state championship for his father, Steve, who had been stricken with cancer. With Steve sitting matside after having spent the week in extensive chemotherapy just to get the chance to watch his son compete, Mitchell reached his goal, winning the Class 3A 120-pound state championship. The crowd at the Xcel Energy Center reacted with a standing ovation when Mitchell ran over to embrace his father after the victory.
Wayzata: Biggest and Baddest
When you’re the biggest school in the state, success is an expectation. So, for Wayzata — with an official enrollment of 2,979 — it’s safe to say that expectations were met and even surpassed in 2013-14. Buoyed by six team championships and six individual titles, the Trojans have pulled away from the rest of the Class 3A schools in the Minnesota State High School League Challenge Cup Class 3A standings with 880 points. That doesn’t include the girls’ cross-country teams’ Nike National championship and the synchronized swimming team’s eighth consecutive state title.
Eden Prairie: Finally, National Recognition
Eden Prairie’s overwhelming football dominance had many claiming that the 2013 Eagles team was among the best Minnesota has produced. Despite playing in the Lake Conference — one of the state’s toughest — the Eagles (12-0) won every game by at least 16 points. They ended up ranked No. 21 in the final USA Today national rankings and coach Mike Grant was selected as the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year.
Hopkins: Mountain To The Valley
Hopkins experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the Class 4A boys’ basketball state tournament. Sophomore Amir Coffey made a 60-foot basket as time expired to give the Royals a 49-46 quadruple-overtime victory over Shakopee in the semifinals. Two days later, Hopkins gave up a four-point lead in the final 22 seconds of play, falling to Lakeville North 84-82 in the championship game.
DeLaSalle: Treasures On The Island
The DeLaSalle boys’ basketball team may have been competed in Class 3A, but in truth, the Islanders were likely the best boys’ squad in the state. Led by Division I signees Reid Travis (Stanford) and Geno Crandall (North Dakota), they won their third consecutive championship and barely broke a sweat doing it, winning all three state tournament games by at least 20 points. With at least two more potential D-I players remaining in Jarvis Johnson and Sacar Anim, expect the Islanders to be seeking title No. 4 in 2015.
Minneapolis North: Rise of the Polars
Minneapolis North, not long ago a name synonymous with basketball excellence, looks poised to regain that status after coming within a whisper of closing its doors for good. The school, once on the Minneapolis school board’s chopping block due to precipitously decline enrollment, saw its football and boys’ basketball programs return to relevance. The football team earned the No. 1 seed in its section in Class 1A. The boys’ basketball team, coached by Larry McKenzie, who used to coach archrival Patrick Henry, came within a game of making the state tournament for the first time since 2003.
Edina Reaffirms hockey Status
The most successful boy’s hockey program in the metro cemented its long-standing reputation for excellence in winning its second consecutive Class 2A state championship. The talented Hornets outscored their three opponents by a combined score of 17-4, dampening the excitement factor in a state tournament that brought in national hockey play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne to broadcast the showcase event. Including the championships won by Edina East in the 1970s and ’80s, Edina has won a state-record nine championships.
Edina Tennis: A Match To Remember
Edina junior Caitlin Merzbacher wasn’t sure what to expect when she followed her father, Chuck, a former U tennis star, from his position as the head women’s tennis coach at Ohio State to Minnesota, where he accepted a similar position at his alma mater. By the end of October, any doubts Caitlin had was long gone. First she helped the Hornets to their 17th consecutive team title. Then she fought off fatigue and a first-set loss to defeat 2012 singles champion Summer Brills of Mounds View in an epic three-set final and win her first Minnesota state individual title.
Blake Blooms In The Spring
Blake followed up its Class 1A girls’ hockey and boys’ Alpine skiing championships with a remarkably successful spring. The boys’ tennis team swept all of the Class 1A championships (team, singles and doubles), the girls’ lacrosse team won its fifth consecutive state championship and the baseball team made its state tournament debut, finishing as consolation champions. Blake will finish the season as the high school league’s Class 2A Challenge Cup champion.