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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The Alexandria boys Nordic ski team handed out its season awards on Feb. 27 with the skiers on the team voting senior Jackson Wichtendahl as the Cardinals' MVP. Wichtendahl was an anchor all season for this group and led Alexandria at sections in the final race of his career by taking 15th individually in a time of 30:13. "Jackson has been a great example for our team all season and that was evident when it came to races," head coach Jeremy Rapp said. "Jackson finished first for the boys team at every race this season with multiple top-10 finishes."
Alexandria's Justin Balcome led the boys basketball team in scoring and rebounding this season and was named the Cardinals' most valuable player for his efforts. The 6-foot, 8-inch senior forward who will play at Northern State University next season put in 17 points and grabbed 8.9 rebounds per game. He also led the team with 3.7 blocks per contest and was second with 2.7 assists per game.
The Alexandria swimming and diving team had a lot to celebrate at its season-ending awards banquet after the Cardinals took fourth at the Class A state meet this season.
The Alexandria gymnastics team was a small group this season but one that saw improvements in its overall scores as the season progressed. The Cardinals honored the athletes responsible for that after they wrapped up their season with a third-place finish at the Section 8A meet out of eight teams. Alexandria is in one of the toughest sections in the state in Class A gymnastics in terms of the teams at the top. That is led by Detroit Lakes, which won Section 8 and won its fourth straight state championship with a team score of 150.925.
Alexandria sophomore Ryan Borris got the Cardinals wrestling team off to a fast start almost every night at the top of the lineup. Borris had the most wins on the team this winter season, going 32-6 on his way to earning Alexandria's MVP Award for the varsity wrestlers. Borris had 10 pins and a team-high 55 takedowns. He joined teammate Joe Brezina in being an All-Central Lakes Conference wrestler, while Adam Kremer, Logan Runge and Deryk Neu were honorable-mention All-CLC.
Members of the Minnesota State High School League's board of directors met on Wednesday morning to discuss changes to this year's baseball and softball seasons due to the snow and cold temperatures that continue to put a halt on the start of the season. As a result, the MSHSL took action to allow member schools to schedule and complete contests in a condensed format in the 2018 regular season.
Coaches and players from the Alexandria baseball team had every intention of meeting at Knute Nelson Ballpark on April 2 to shovel off snow on portions of the field. Unfortunately, that game plan got snowed out. The Cardinals were finally able to tackle that project four days later. When head coach Jake Munsch arrived on April 6, the snow along the grandstand wall behind home plate and near the dugout was up to his waist in places. That's where the sun doesn't reach much, so players, parents and coaches went to work.
I was scrolling through my Twitter feed as my youngest daughter drifted off to sleep on an evening in late March when a piece from National Public Radio caught my attention. "Decline In Hunters Threatens How the U.S. Pays for Conservation." We have seen these reports many times in the last decade. Hunters are dropping out at a greater rate than they are being brought in. Now when I see the numbers, though, it strikes a different chord. The 2-year-old lying on my shoulder that night and her 5-year-old sister have done that to me.
The Alexandria softball team did not lose many seniors to graduation last season, but the ones the Cardinals did lose were important pieces. Starters Emma Ziegler, Ellie Ronning and McKenzie Revering all graduated from a group that finished 16-9 overall and as the runner-up in Section 8AAA. Ronning was a power bat in the middle of the lineup. She has a .405 batting average in 22 games started as a freshman at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul.
The Alexandria boys track and field team has 15 seniors to lean on and a couple of state entries returning this season as the Cardinals keep trying to make headways in the conference and section fields. Bryce Ludwig, a future thrower at South Dakota State University, anchors the field athletes for Alexandria. He had a toss of 53-05 in his first meet of the season at an indoor event in Fargo on March 29. That blew away the competition by more than six feet. Junior Jaymeson Walcow will also help add depth to the throwers.