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The Minnewaska boys basketball team hits the court confidently with eight returning letter winners ready to play in the 2017-2018 season. "We have experience returning this season along with newcomers that potentially can solidify a competitive season for our team," head coach Phil Johnsrud said. Last year, the Lakers finished 11-14 overall with a West Central Conference record of 3-11. Jake Peters, an integral part of the Lakers team last season, was one of three seniors that graduated last spring. Peters is now playing soccer for Concordia.
Alexandria native Adam Bybliw knows his latest passion sounds crazy to most people. "After 70, 80 miles, everything in your body screams to stop," Bybliw said. "But if you can win those mental battles and say, 'Everything hurts at this point. It hurts to walk. It hurts to run. I'm just going to run anyway, then you stand a chance." Bybliw is part of a small class of runners known as ultramarathoners, athletes who battle any race distance longer than a traditional 26.2-mile marathon.
The West Central Area boys basketball team finished 11-15 last season. After several winning seasons before that, the Knights are determined to turn things around this year, head coach Kraig Hunter said. "Our expectation every year is to compete extremely hard, night in and night out, and to play as a team," Hunter said. "This year, we expect to get back to also playing smart, playing with poise and to be consistent." The Knights lost five seniors last year. They return three starters and look to be a heavily senior dominated team this year, Hunter said.
The Blizzard hockey team hit the road to face Granite City on Saturday night after losing to the Lumberjacks on Friday night 8-2. While the margin of loss was smaller on Saturday, the Blizzard wasn't able to put more than two goals on the board as Granite swept the weekend series with a 4-2 win. The Lumberjacks took a two-goal lead less than 13 minutes into the game. Alexandria's Josiah Roen made it a one-goal game when he hit the net with assists from Logan Nelson and Alex Skar with less than three minutes left in the first period.
The Alexandria girls hockey team came into their game against South St. Paul knowing it wasn’t going to be easy. The Packers boasted a three game winning streak, while the Cardinals came into the Saturday afternoon game with an even 1-1 record. That winning streak didn’t survive the Cardinals, who defeated the Packers in a tight 3-2 game.
Every athlete's experience with scouting looks different. For Alexandria's Ben Dirck, it looked like taking the reins and making it happen for himself. "I've been sending out letters for quite some time," Dirck said. "I had to get my name out there. I had to go to the coaches. I had to make my own resume and talk to them a lot." Minnesota State University, Mankato responded. On Friday, Nov. 10, Dirck formally signed his commitment to play golf for the Division II Mavericks after he graduates from Alexandria Area High School.
What did Travis Hochhalter, the Alexandria cross country coach, see from his runners at the St. Olaf state meet? "Great attitudes, many season bests and an opportunity that they took advantage of and finished the season with an exclamation point," Hochhalter said. That's what Hochhalter was hoping he'd see as the Cardinals wrapped up another nice season in the storied history of these programs. Bethany Miller, Aleah Miller, Caitlin Bright, Stormy Hegg, Jackson Wichtendahl, Jack Englund and Patrick Chromey all had season best times at St. Olaf on Saturday.
Bryce Ludwig was excited to get the ink on the page, officially committing himself to South Dakota State University for track and field. But first, his mom had to retrieve the letter Ludwig forgot on the kitchen counter. "I had to eat breakfast," Ludwig explained how he forgot the letter with a smile. Once the forgotten letter had arrived, Ludwig wasted no time making his official commitment to SDSU official.
The Alexandria Blizzard was back on their home ice after a rough stint in Northern Iowa. A rocky start against the Granite City Lumberjacks gave the Blizzard pause. "It just started out slow," said Brenden Payne. "It didn't start off right but the boys held it together." In the beginning of the second period, Alexandria was down 4-1 and it looked like it might be a repeat of their losses in Iowa. The Blizzard had generated a four game winning streak before the North Iowa Bulls handed them two losses in a row.
Last year, the West Central Area cross country teams contended with 90 degree heat for the state meet. It was a completely different story on Saturday with highs in the upper 30s and a wet and muddy course at the state meet at St. Olaf College. The girls earned a 15-place finish and the boys had an eighth-place finish through those cold conditions. This was the third year in a row competing at the state meet for the boys. The girls finished 15th last year as well, making this their second consecutive trip to state.