31 March 2014

Boys Track: Tigers win All-American Invite

Tanner Grubb 3 first place finishes at River Falls (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Last year the Tiger boys took a limited number of athletes to the All-American Indoor Invitational at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and finished in 12th place.

Last Saturday they took a bigger group and thanks to some outstanding individual performances led the 18-team field with 70 points, 4.5 more than runner-up Hudson, Wisconsin.

"We were missing a few guys but had more varsity athletes than a majority of the teams that were on spring break," Tiger coach Brian Helmstetter said.

Wyatt Ferm won the high jump at 6-4
 "We were excited to be close enough in the end to compete for the championship, but the boys know this is only a step towards May and June. We will have a lot of work ahead of us the rest of the season."

Three of the biggest efforts of the day came from Tanner Grubb, Justin Hyytinen and Wyatt Ferm.

Grubb won the 400-meter dash in an indoor school record time of 50.9, less than a second off the school outdoor standard and also anchored the 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams to victory.

Mason Auge, Mason Gaylord and Jack Erickson joined Grubb for the 4x200 relay and Erickson, Hyytinen and Ryan Paco teamed up with him in winning the 4x400.

Justin Hyytinen ran school record 1600 meters
Hyytinen shattered his own indoor school record in the 1600-meter run with a 4:18.96 clocking, a time less than a second behind the school outdoor record set in 1983 by Roger Thelen.

Ferm, who  had a strong finish in the high jump last spring, claimed that event with a personal-best leap of 6-4.

The 4x800 relay quartet of Jared Wolt, Luis Rodriguez, Alex Hart and Devon Webb came in second.

Webb also took fifth place in the 800-meter run and Nehemiah Rockett ranked fifth in the 55-meter hurdles.

Gaylord placed sixth in the triple jump and Wolt was seventh in the 800-meter run. Parco ran eighth in the 400-meter dash and Jeff Guiterrez finished ninth in the 3200-meter run. Parco took tenth in the 200-meter dash as did the sprint medley foursome of Robin DeCastro, Caleb Bray, Rodriguez and Ryan Newton.

26 March 2014

Boys Hockey: One for the record books

2013-14:  A Season to Celebrate
After starting the season with a middling 5-3-1 record the Tigers flipped a switch and went on to put together the best season in school history.

From December 19 to its loss to eventual state runner-up Lakeville North in the Section 1AA title game coach Keith Revels' team rattled off a school record 18 straight wins to finish the year 23-4-1.

The Tigers won the Missota Conference championship with a near-perfect 13-0-1 mark with their 23-win total ranking as the most in school history.

About the only negative in the season just completed was the shutout (6-0) loss to North in the section finals.

"The worst part about it is the score made it look like less of a game than it was," Revels said. "I feel like we were much more competitive this year with them than we were in last season's playoff loss to North that ended up 5-2."

Seven seniors completed their Tiger careers
Twenty Tigers received varsity letters at the team's awards banquet held Wednesday night, including seniors Landon Nielsen, Alex Aubrecht, Tanner Grubb, Jack Erickson, Chris Fitzgibbons, Nick Schoening and Dallas Tucker.

"You don't have good team chemistry without having good team leaders," Revels said, "players that put the team ahead of themselves. The things this team was able to accomplish this year was due in large part to the leadership this group provided."

Underclassmen receiving letters included juniors Gage Overby, Benton Olson, Justin Novak, Matt Olund, Austin Martinsen and Jake Trippel and sophomores Grady Hauswirth, Devin Bernu, Erik Holmstrom, John Siebenaler, Wyatt Jensen, Cody Billins, Cooper Zimmer and Tyler Jette.

Student managers  Marcus Dubois and Matt Thompson and statistician Loren Jette, Kate Sorenson, Jordan Budensiek, Morgan Nielsen, and Jessica Singewald also earned varsity monograms.

All-Missota forward Justin Novak led the conference in scoring (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Novak, the leading scorer in the Missota Conference, along with linemates Martinesen and Siebenaler and defenseman Holmstrom made the all-Missota Conference team. Erickson and Hauswirth garnered all-league honorable mention. Grubb was the recipient of the state-sponsored Hobey Baker Award.

With 13 letterwinners expected to return from a record-breaking season, Revels said the outlook for his program is promising.

"We'll have a great core group coming back," he said. "The entire line of Novak, Martinsen, and Siebenaler that netted 140 points should be even better. The same goes for Hauswirth and Trippel who had 50 points between them this year.  

"On the blue line, five of our six varsity defensemen will return led by Bernu and Holmstrom who have two full varsity seasons under their belts already as sophomores. Olson will be the lone senior returner and Jette logged a lot of minutes in his first varsity season. Billins was getting more and more varsity time as the season progressed as well...Overby returns for his senior year already having 20 wins in 30 varsity starts and The JV team this year finished 20-3-2." 

Even with all of the experience returning, Revels said the school's switch to the South Suburban Conference next fall will offer his team some new challenges.

"Bigger, faster and stronger is the name of the game in the South Suburban," he said. "Good  competition, night in and night out. Most of those schools have quality programs with large feeder systems across the board.  

"We'll have to come to play have every night if we want to compete. The upside is seeing that type of competition throughout the season will better prepare us for sectional play."

2013-14 Missota Conference Champions



Softball: A couple of big holes to fill

Senior captain Jordyn Keprios (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Coach Paul Harrington returns nine players from last spring, most of whom have played roles in back-to-back state tournament appearances by the Tigers.

As important as the returnees are to the 2014 season, however, perhaps just as telling are the two seniors from the 2013 team who graduated last spring, all-state pitcher Ashley Betzold and all-section catcher/infielder Toni Hunsinger.

"Those are never easy shoes to fill," Harrington said. "Not only did they play important positions but they were also some big bats in the heart of our line-up for the past two seasons. We are looking for kids to step up and take over those spots." 

The nine veterans include senior captain Jordyn Keprios and Mackenzie Nelson; junior captains Taylor Yousse and Molly Berdan, Amber Doyle and Ashley Ibinger; sophomore Carly Esselman and ninth-graders Emily Berdan and Maddie Muelken.

Lead-off hitter Carly Esselman (photo by J. Lindquist)
Centerfielder Esselman and clean-up hitter Doyle were both all-Missota Conference selections last spring. Molly Berdan received all-league honorable mention and Emily Berdan won the team's Most Improved Player Award.

Muelken occasionally spelled Betzold in the circle last season and she and sophomore Meghan Silber are the likely candidates to handle most of the pitching chores this spring.

Freshman Caitlyn Dully has also performed well in early workouts and could see varsity playing time this spring.

"We're still looking for others to step up, too," Harrington said.

The late-arriving spring weather has limited the Tigers to indoor drills and dome scrimmages, but from what Harrington has seen the potential for another solid season is there.

"From what we have seen so far, we need to see more consistency," he said. "We have stretches when we do everything well, so we know we can do it. 

"However, there are definitely times that we have not been getting it done on offense, defense or on the mound. Everyone needs to work harder and longer to get better prepared for our future games."

Junior captain Molly Berdan (photo by J. Lindquist)

Harrington said the keys to a successful season are simple ones.

"We start with pitching and defense," he said. "We can't walk anyone and we can't be committing errors. If we don't give away runs we will have a chance to be in the running at the end of the season.

"We want to keep improving every game, every week and be playing our best come playoff time. Ultimately, we want to put it all together in the post-season and get back to the state tournament for the third straight year."

Harrington tabbed defending champion Chanhassen and Shakopee as the teams to beat in the race for Missota Conference honors and Hastings and Lakeville South the major obstacles in the path to a return trip to state.

Former Lakeville North head coach and fellow ex-Tiger Randy Schmitz is Harrington's varsity assistant with another former Tiger, Jim Swedin, handling the B-squad coaching chores. Veteran Loren Cartwright will coach the junior varsity and Ryan Dennis will coach the ninth grade team.

"We are very excited about adding a fourth team to our high school program this year," Harrington said. "This will be the first year we have been able to do that. This is a huge step forward as we get prepared to transition to the South Suburban Conference."

The Tigers are scheduled to open the season at Red Wing on April 3, a date likely to change due to the weather.

(above) Amber Doyle  All-Missota Conference in 2013; (below) junior captain Taylor Yousse (photos by Jim Lindquist)

Baseball: Pitching depth a good start

Head coach Jon Graff
Any high school coach will tell you that pitching is the key to success in prep baseball. Fortunately, that should be one area that at least for now doesn't keep first year head coach Jon Graff up at night.

Now generating enough offense to support a veteran pitching staff and trying to put together a solid defensive infield, well, that might be a different story. 

" Everyone is always looking for pitching and we’ve got some and so that’s a good thing," Graff said. "That should be able to keep us in each game as long as we make the plays behind them."

Graff inherits a nucleus of 10 players from last year's team that finished 7-7 in the Missota Conference.

Among the returnees are seniors Johnny Dittman, Jonathan Hinks, Jordan Beschorner, Jordan DeCroock, Landon Neilson, Ryan Giebel and Nick Schoening and juniors Bobby Eckert. Parker Holmstrom and Austin Martinsen.

Another starter from last year, shortstop Zach Speikers, will miss his junior season after suffering a serious knee injury in basketball.

Hinks, Beschorner and Holmstrom all bring varsity mound experience to the table with Martinsen also slated to see some hill duty this spring.

.Johnny Dittman may move to shortstop this season (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Dittman, who earned all-conference honorable mention last year, started both in the outfield and behind the plate in 2013 but might find himself at shortstop for his senior season. Schoening is also a capable catcher and could also see some action at first base. Eckert, another all-league honorable mention selection a year ago who hit .306 as a sophomore, can catch and also logged innings at third base last year.

DeCroock and Neilsen both roamed the Tiger outfield last year while Giebel saw limited time there. Seniors Tyler Clayton and Kyle Johnson should also vie for playing time in the outfield with Johnson also a possibility for some pitching duty.

"We''ll have good competition for the outfield spots," Graff said.

Perhaps the biggest job facing the Tigers is trying to deal with the absence of Spencer Merle and Jordan Lugowski, a pair of .400 hitting, all-conference players who graduated last spring.

"We'll be looking to fill some infield openings and we’re always looking for someone to step in and help out offensively. "

One aspect that Graff likes about the 2014 edition of Tiger baseball doesn't lend itself to statistical analysis.

"One thing that can get overlooked is that we’ve got guys that really care for each other, like each other and want each other to do well," he said. "It is really a great group of kids who are willing to do whatever they have to to help the team. Team chemistry is such a big thing, and these guys have it."

.Bobby Eckert hit .306 last year (photo by J. Lindquist)
As for how all of this translates to performance on the field, Graff said he wasn't going to put that into numbers of wins and losses.
"It all depends on how quickly guys can adapt to play their new roles at the varsity level, he said.  "But one thing for sure is we’ve got a group of kids willing to do what is asked to have the level of success we want.  We have kids with good experience which will help and I expect that they’ll step up to the challenge and we’ll be just fine."

In addition to improving the on-the-field product Graff said he has some other goals for his team.

"With this as my first year as head coach, our mission is to develop ambassadors of the game of baseball who exemplify the characteristics of teamwork, integrity, perseverance and sportsmanship," he said  

" If we do this, we’ll be successful on and off the field. Win or lose, I want people to be able to say we play the game the right way, play hard, and represent Farmington in a way everyone would be proud of. "

Graff predicted defending champion Shakopee would be the team to beat in the final go-around in the Missota Conference with Northfield also a contender. The Raiders along with a couple of the Big Nine Conference schools should also be in the hunt for Section 1AA honors.

Brent Grengs moves up to Graff's former varsity assistant position this spring with former head coach Mike Winters taking over the junior varsity coaching chores. Matt Grove and Brian Louis will work with the ninth grade team.

The 2014 schedule is slated to open Wednesday, April 2, at home versus Hastings, a date that will no doubt be pushed back due to the late arrival of spring weather.

25 March 2014

Boys Swimming: Another solid showing

MVP Dan Berg made the all-Missota team and qualified for state in three events (photo by Jim Lindquist)
The Tigers had to overcome some unexpected logistical obstacles during the 2013-14 season but when all was said and done  it was another solid year for coach Ryan Hamen and his program.

The Tigers placed second at the Missota Conference Championships, third at the Section 1AA meet and qualified for the state meet in four events.

"The boys did a great job this season," Hamen said. "We had a lot of issues with the pool losing power and having to swim in other pools for a week and then losing our timing system. It was these issues that made the season tough. The boys took it all in stride and did what they had to do."

Hamen and his staff awarded varsity letters to 17 Tigers at the team's post-season awards banquet held Monday night.

Ten of the letters went to senior veterans: Daniel Berg, Brandon Dion, Sean Dougherty, Spencer Kabran, Eric Schimmel, Nick Stephan, David Bovee, Greg Schmaus, Zach Boelter and Alex Garofalo. Senior managers Katie Aaron and Leah Huls also earned varsity letters.

All-conference swimmer Brandon Dion broke the school record in the 100 butterfly (photo by Jim Lindquist)
"These boys were great leaders," Hamen said. "They motivated by example and encouraged others to do the same."

Underclassmen winning monograms included juniors Jake Bauerle, Jonathan Bovee, Robin DeCastro, Garrett Haugen, Devon Webb and Brock Lange; freshmen Austin Kueck, Ben Gunderson and Ian Alexander, eighth-graders Triston Butoi and Nicholas Stivers and seventh-grader Oscar Hanifl.

MVP Berg, who qualified for state in three events, and Dion, who set a new school record in the 100 butterfly, made the all-Missota Conference team. So did diver Bovee and the versatile Schimmel who swam on the 400 freestyle relay team at state. Kueck and DeCastro received all-league honorable mention.

Three swimmers shared the team's Hardest Worker Award: Schimmel, Kueck and Ryan Newton. Gunderson and Noah Budde received the "I Can Do It, Coach" award and Jonathan Bovee and Ben Walz were named co-Most Dependable. Bauerle and Brett Haugen took home the Most Improved Award and Eric Heddinger was named Rookie of the Year.

On the academic front, Boelter and Schmaus earned Academic All-American honors.

Garrett Haugen, Jonathan Bovee, DeCastro and Bauerle were named co-captains for the 2014-15 season.

One of the things Hamen said he appreciated about this year's team was its depth.

"All four of our divers were able to compete at the big meets with 11 dives," he said. Not many schools can do that... All four of our breaststroke swimmers competed in the section consolation and final rounds."

All-Missota diver Jonathan Bovee (photo by J. Lindquist)
Individually, the Tiger coach lauded the performance of Kueck, who became just the second Tiger ever to break the five-minute mark in the 500 freestyle, and Bauerle who knocked eight seconds off his 100 breaststroke time to become the team leader in that event.

As for the future, Hamen said his program should continue to improve.

"We have a number of young athletes who are very promising," he said. "Every year as the boys get bigger, stronger, faster and taller it is not always easy to know.  I hope to find athletes strong in every event and improve our non-freestyle strokes."

The Tigers will leave the familiar confines of the Missota next season when they take up residence in the South Suburban Conference.
"We are looking at being in the middle of the pack in the South Suburban," Hamen said.  "Lakeville South, Prior Lake and Rosemount are always big contenders at the state level. I hope we will raise our level of skills and grow so we can be more competitive at the higher levels."