Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
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An email from longtime Brandon-Evansville girls basketball coach Dick Simpson showed up in my inbox on March 22 that immediately raised a red flag that something might be up. I think I can count on one hand the number of times Simpson has emailed me since I started working at the newspaper in the summer of 2007. Instead, he always calls. Whether it was to report the game results or touch base on anything related to his team, the phone was always his preferred method of communication.
Alexandria's Dwain Schuette and Dan Lindquist would drive around Douglas County in the mid-1980s and notice a familiar theme. Outdoorsmen tend to keep one eye on the fields and one on the road when traveling the rural routes. During the winter months, the two friends noticed those fields were pretty barren.
Lee VanNyhuis has helped guide a track and field program in Osakis that consistently produces results at the Class A level now in his 18th season leading the Silverstreaks as head coach. Last year's girls team won the Prairie Conference championship for the 14th time in 15 seasons. The Silverstreaks finished second at the Class A True Team state meet, and finished fifth in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays at state, while sending Kayla Sorenson to state as an individual in the 100-meter hurdles.
Alexandria's Hannah Boraas didn't have to wait long into the spring to card a hole-in-one this season. Boraas, a 12-year-old sixth grader at Discovery Middle School, was golfing with her brother, Noah, and her father, Brent, at the Sand Hollow Golf Club in St. George, Utah on March 13 when she got the ace. She did it on the 11th hole that was playing 95 yards. Hannah was using a pitching wedge.
The Alexandria girls basketball team will be well represented at the Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Series on April 8. Senior guards Kendall Kohler and Macy Hatlestad were both selected to the Class 3A all-star team. Hatlestad is on the team but will not be able to play in the game as she recovers from knee surgery earlier this winter.
The Alexandria Aces and many former basketball standouts from the area are taking part in a Hoops for Hope event at Henning High School on April 8. The fundraiser is a free-will offering for admission. Proceeds will benefit local children who are facing a life-threatening medical situation. The event features a Special Olympics Minnesota basketball game to kick things off at 6 p.m. Two unified teams from the Brainerd area will play in that game with the Just for Kix dance team out of Parkers Prairie performing at halftime.
Two young softball teams got the spring season going in the area on Monday night as Hancock and West Central Area battled in Barrett under sunshine and near 55 degrees. They couldn’t have asked for much better conditions on March 27 on a day when the bats were ahead of the pitching in a 23-5 win for the Knights in five innings.
SOFTBALL WCA vs. Hancock, 5 p.m.
Players from the Parkers Prairie baseball team gathered down the third-base line at Target Field after a 4-2 loss in last year's Class A state championship game and talked more about being happy with second place than disappointed in not taking first. The Panthers had every reason to be proud after a 22-3 season that even they admitted they didn't see coming. They were one out away from finishing as champions before Springfield rallied with two outs to tie the game in the seventh before eventually winning in 11 innings.
A Gophers basketball season that had its highs and lows ended abruptly with a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament to Middle Tennessee State on March 16. Since then, I've seen reactions both on Twitter and in the media that a first-round loss in the tournament somewhat diminishes what this team accomplished this winter.