Eric Morken is the sports editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
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Alexandria's Kris Aaseng knows the kind of uphill climb he has in front of him if he's going to win a 500-freestyle state title on Saturday. The senior enters the Class A prelims today as the second seed in the race, but even that is a bit deceiving. Red Wing's Tanner Alms (4:47.81) has Aaseng (4:48.50) by less than a second in seed times. But not even Aaseng questions who is the man to beat entering the race at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. "Tanner Alms is the state record holder," he said. "Right now, I'd be more than happy with second or third place.
The 10 state-bound members of the Alexandria swim team and head coach Mark Storhaug were looking at video near the end of an hour and a half long practice on Tuesday evening. The Cardinal relay teams were practicing their starts, looking for any way to perfect them heading into the state prelims at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center today. That split second they might be able to shave off of their start time could be the difference between advancing to tomorrow's finals and having to watch. "It's crucial," Storhaug said.
There was no letdown as the Alexandria girls' basketball team went into the Section 8AAA opener as heavy favorites against Little Falls on Tuesday night. The Cardinals never let the Flyers believe they had a chance, building a 20-2 lead almost eight minutes into the game. They never looked back on their way to a 64-21 win, setting up a game against a 25-2 Thief River Falls team in the section semifinals Saturday. "We just knew that we had to get after them and play our game, run the ball," senior center Kalli Bowser said after scoring 10 points against Little Falls.
Alexandria's Briquelle Bowden and Hannah Wendel knew the Class A state gymnastics meet wasn't the time to hold anything back. This was a chance to prove themselves against the state's best. For Bowden, the lone senior on the Alexandria team, this was her career. That's why both went out and performed like they had nothing to lose on their way to capturing a couple state titles at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion this past Saturday. Bowden earned her individual title on the beam and took second in the all-around.
Tears ran down the face of Alexandria senior captain Shanee Herd as she and head coach Andy Shriver slowly made their way back to a somber locker room at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis last Thursday. That's how quickly emotions can change when an entire season, and for some girls, a career, comes down to one game. Herd and the rest of her teammates were euphoric about an hour earlier after building a 2-0 lead over Mound-Westonka. But the White Hawks would rally for three unanswered goals to eventually win 3-2 in overtime.
The Alexandria boys' hockey team got its shot at top-seeded Little Falls and played the Flyers as well as it has all season before coming up just short in a 3-2 game on Saturday. The Cardinals and Little Falls had played twice this season with the Flyers taking both games by a combined score of 9-1. The rematch in the Section 6A semifinals would prove to be a lot closer. The Flyers needed to hold off a late charge by the Cardinals in a 3-2 game in the third. Kevin Finley had scored his first varsity goal earlier in the period off an assist from Christian Canavati.
The Brandon-Evansville boys broke out of a bit of a funk by picking up a nice win over Hillcrest Lutheran Academy last Friday night. The Comets came into the night winners of five straight games. They were 8-3 in the Little Eight Conference and had already beaten Brandon-Evansville by 20 points on January 15. The Chargers made sure that didn't happen again as they erased a halftime deficit to win 54-47. "They've been playing as well as anyone in the conference," head coach John Holsten said of the Comets. "We had lost a lot of close games.
Alexandria girls' hockey coach Andy Shriver said his team started preparing for an explosive Red Wing offense a month before he even knew if the Cardinals would play them in the state tournament. That's the kind of preparation he knew it would take to slow down a Wingers team that came into Wednesday's quarterfinal game against Alexandria averaging 6.1 goals per game.
The Alexandria girls' hockey team saw its season come to a heartbreaking end at Ridder Arena on Thursday afternoon as the Cardinals fell 3-2 in overtime against Mound-Westonka. The White Hawks' Jessica Nkhata proved to be the hero as she tapped in a goal in the midst of a crowd that surrounded the crease with 51 seconds left in the extra session. That completely erased what had been a 2-0 lead for Alexandria. "We went out and gave it our all," an emotional Shanee Herd said after the game. "We have no regrets. We gave it our all, and there's nothing else we can do.
Red Wing's junior forward Nicole Schammel proved to be too much to stop for the Alexandria girls' hockey team as the Cardinals fell 6-2 in the Class A quarterfinals on Wednesday morning. Schammel came into the day with 120 points and 69 goals on the season. She left with four more after securing the hat trick in the first period and adding another in the second. "What a phenomenal player," Alexandria head coach Andy Shriver said. "Nicole gets out there and she doesn't draw that attention to herself.