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home : sports : sports July 22, 2017

7/14/2017 10:50:00 AM
Top 11 stories of 2016-17 for CL and NB

Last week’s top 11 started strong with some impressive performances throughout the 2016-17 sports season at Chisago Lakes and North Branch High School.

This week, we’ll wrap the countdown up with the prestigious top five.

For a quick recap, here was last week’s part one list:

11. Individuals who competed at the state tournament
10. North Branch boys hockey resurgence
9. Chisago Lakes softball’s spirited run through sections
8. Wildcat boys hockey falls just short of state tournament
7. Chisago Lakes boys golf breaks school scoring record
6. Payton Nelson third in diving at state tourney; Kalli Jo Olson breaks school record

5. Rhianna Rinke wraps up a stellar running career at North Branch
It seems like forever ago that we started hearing the name Rhianna Rinke when it came to running. She was a varsity contributor in seventh grade and a state competitor every year since eighth grade.

Her sheer number of participations at the state tournament is preposterous. She qualified for the cross country state meet every year since 2012, a string of five straight years that began while she was in middle school.

That spring, she started a run in track that was just as consistent. In 2013, she qualified in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs. In 2014, she qualified for both events again, as well as a leg in the 4x400 meter relay team.

She then qualified for the 1,600 and 3,200 again in 2015 before qualifying for just the 1,600 meter run in 2016 and 2017.

In all, she performed in 14 events across 10 state tournaments in her North Branch career, an amazing stat considering in those two sports, North Branch is clumped with the biggest schools in the state, with some of them in the section, such as Forest Lake. Rinke always humbly went about her business, never showing anyone up on the course and just working hard to be the fastest runner out there. Most of the time, she was.

Congratulations to Rhianna on an astounding high school career and good luck to her as she continues her running career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

4. Thomas Gillach finishes second in the consolation championship at the state tennis tournament.
Thomas Gillach became the first Chisago Lakes tennis player to qualify for both the doubles and individual state tournament in his career when he went on his own this year in the spring season.

Once at the state tournament, Gillach got a nasty draw against the top seed in the state and returning third place finisher from the year prior.
Although he didn’t beat Ben Van der sman, he made a nice run through the consolation bracket to show just how talented he is.

His first round of the consolation bracket ended up being a bye. Petro Alex of Mounds View was injured in his opening round match up and that left Gillach with a consolation bye, as that would have been his opponent.

In the semifinals of the consolation bracket, Gillach took it to John Webb of Edina. Webb had lose his opening match to fourth seeded Conner Olsen of Orono before beating Jonathan Nudler of Wayzata in the first round of consolation.

Gillach breezed past Webb 6-0, 6-0, showing his talent is good enough to hang with nearly all of the competitors at the state meet.

“Thomas turned a lot of heads in his match against Edina. That was the best I’ve seen him play, ever,” Head Coach Jon Pieper said. “He played as though he had a lot to prove and approached and attacked the net like a man on a mission, which is very uncharacteristic for most singles players.”

In the consolation files, Gillach drew junior Ben Wheaton, who had beaten Tanner Lundberg of Brainerd and Bjorn Swenson of Mounds View to earn his spot.

But, he couldn’t get back into rhythm in the finals. Wheaton was able to break Gillach early, and that put him in an early hole that he was never able to recover out of. Wheaton ended up winning 6-3, 6-2, ending Gillach’s run with a sixth place finish and finishing up his record-setting career as a Chisago Lakes tennis player. “He never found his groove versus Wheaton,” Pieper said. “But either way, he held is own against the best tennis players in the state.”
Gillach will be playing tennis next year at St. John’s University in St. Cloud.

3. Anders Brown caps his lengthy career with a second place finish at the state tournament
Anders Brown was the lone qualifier for state from the boys team this year, but he made his presence known.

In his sixth straight state meet, Brown earned his highest finish ever, in second place, just eight one-hundredths of a second behind state champion Elliott Boman of Northfield.

Much had been made about Boman’s international skiing schedule that was light on high school competition. He did just over the minimum participation at the high school level to be able to qualify for the section and state meet.

That didn’t matter to Brown, as he still put together two of the best Giants Ridge runs of his career. It didn’t appear that way at first, however. Because of posting errors, the girls times were getting displayed where the boys times were supposed to be, and Brown thought his time was much slower than he anticipated, leaving him far behind Boman.

Shortly before his second run, though, Brown learned that he was in fact just a few hundredths behind Boman and that he would have a chance. He got faster in his second run, but it just wasn’t enough to make up the difference.

“Wow, how about Anders’ performance?” Coach Leslie said after the meet, astounded that he was right there with Boman at the end. “Just shows that a small town guy who skis his tail off at Wild Mountain can compete at that high of a level.”

The finish to his career was certainly on a high note, with all five of his other state tournament appearances leaving him wanting more. Brown was an elite skier for the Wildcats and will be impossible to replace going forward. He always set the tone for races and rarely made mistakes. He almost always grabbed top points for his team.

Brown was also a heck of a baseball player, being named the Mississippi 8 Conference East Division Most Valuable Player two years in a row. He also recently participated in a high school All Star baseball game.

Although Brown will be dropping competitive skiing in favor of baseball when he goes to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth, he’ll find plenty of snow and hills to carve up in that neck of the woods.

2. North Branch soccer stuns Section 7A, earns berth to state tourney
Eighth-grader Khyah Harper scored a golden goal with 6:48 left in the first overtime to give the sixth-seeded Viking girls’ soccer team a 2-1 win over top-seeded Princeton in the Section 7A championship game on Thursday, October 20.  

That goal sent the Viking fans into a frenzy, and that win sent the Vikings to the state tournament for the first time in team history.  

The section championship game was played at Chisago Lakes High School.

 The game was scoreless until late in the second half.  Possession time was even, but Princeton had 15 to 20 solid scoring chances throughout the game and the Vikings had three or four.  The Vikings only had two shots on goal in the game – and both resulted in goals.

With four minutes to go in regulation, Harper dribbled the ball just inside the top of the Tiger 18 yard box and took a hard shot toward the middle of the net.  The ball hit the Tiger goal keeper and bounced out a couple of yards.  

Sophomore Mercedey Harper emerged from the crowd of players in the box and shot the rebound toward the right post.  The ball hit the inside of the post and bounded into the net to put the Vikings up 1-0.  But just two minutes later, the Tigers broke out of the Viking zone in a two on one counterattack.  The ball was passed from the left to a Princeton forward on the right who went in on a breakaway.  Anderson had no chance as the Tiger player ripped the ball by her to tie the game at 1-1.

Three minutes into the first overtime,  Harper got the ball on the left side just inside the Princeton half of the field.  Harper sped downfield with the ball, moving to the right to avoid a Tiger defender. At about 15 yards out and a few feet to the right of the right post, Harper ripped a shot toward the left post.  The ball eluded the diving Tiger goalkeeper, hit the inside of the left post and rolled into the back of the net, sending the Vikings to the state tournament.  The entire Viking team ran to midfield, joined a minute or so later by 100 jubilant North Branch students.

The Viking goalkeeper, junior Claudia Anderson, did her part to keep the game close.  She acted as an extra defender time and again during the game.  Eight to ten times, Anderson came way out of the box to knock away through balls that were being chased down by Tiger forwards who had gotten behind the defense and were looking for a breakaway.   She came away with several big saves.

Harper was knocked down three times in the Princeton penalty area in the first 15 minutes of the game, but the referee refused to call a foul and award the Vikings a penalty kick.  This signaled it was going to be a rough game.  But the referee called things evenly and the style of play didn’t seem to faze the Vikings.

A few minutes after the game, junior co-captain Keely Ertl said, “I am so excited.  I believed in this team from the start I knew we could pull it out tonight.  Early in the season, I knew the potential of this team and it just kept building and building and as soon as we beat Cloquet [in the section quarterfinals] I knew that we were going to do it.”  Ertl was asked how she felt when Princeton tied the game after the Vikings had taken the lead just a couple of minutes earlier.  She said, “I knew and the girls knew, we had to come back stronger than they did.  We had to fight for it.  I am excited to be where we are right now and I am living in the moment, for sure.  We are going to the state tournament thinking that we have the confidence to beat anyone.”

Although the Vikings fell in the first round of the state tournament, being a part of the magical run and the pomp and circumstance of the state tourney is something no one can ever take away from them.

1. Chisago Lakes girls alpine ski team wins school’s first ever state title
Only one team can go home happy with their results at the end of the year. Only one champion is crowned in each high school sport.

And for the first time in the school’s history, Chisago Lakes High School has a team that came home jubilant.

On the day after Valentine’s Day, the Chisago Lakes girls alpine ski team beat the warm temperatures, their own best times, and every other team that competed at the state tournament, capturing the state team title with 152 points, nine ahead of Lakeville North, who scored 143.

There is no class distinction, either, in alpine skiing. Because of the relatively small number of schools that participate in the sport, it’s all one class. So the girls, headlined by Ellie Frischmon’s fourth place finish overall, beat the biggest and best schools in the state to bring the title to Wild Mountain and Chisago Lakes.

Frischmon, like she has all year, led the Wildcats with a fourth place finish overall, including a fourth on the red course and a third on the blue course. Her combined time of 1:16.94 was six seconds faster than her section-winning time from the week prior.

Her fast runs allowed the other skiers to barrel down the hill relaxed and in control, the best recipe for quality runs.

Those quality runs came from three familiar faces. Hannah Stec, Mikayla Granfors and Hannah Janzig all stayed upright, and they’ve shown over the past few years when they stay upright, they are elite level skiers.

Stec, a junior, finished the red course in 41.83 seconds to claim 14th place in that run. In the blue run, she improved quite a bit, finishing the tougher course in 41.06 seconds, which was the 10th best time of the day on that course. Her combined time of 1:22.89 put her in eighth place overall and gave the Wildcats a huge second score.

Granfors, who was in her last ski race of her high school career, went all out. She’s usually put up the fourth score for the Wildcats, but she carved down the side of Giant’s Ridge faster than she ever had before. She was over eight seconds faster than her section time.

She combined her two runs for 1:23.19, which was good enough for 11th place overall at the meet and where the ‘Cats really started to separate themselves from Lakeville North, who had two top five finishes.

Janzig didn’t disappoint in her run, either. The junior sealed the deal for Chisago Lakes with a combined time of 1:24.66. Her time featured another sharp drop in times from sections, and she finished in 21st place overall, giving Chisago Lakes a very good score of 152.

The Panthers of Lakeville North didn’t get their fourth skier in until 30th place, so the ‘Cats had an inkling they’d win the state title early after those results.
“What a great state meet for the Wildcats,” Assistant Coach Su Leslie said. “I was so proud of these girls after their runs!”

That included the fifth and sixth Wildcat skiers, who constantly pushed the others and were there with top notch scores in case someone stumbled. Junior Bailey Letourneau finished in 29th place overall with a combine time of 1:29.93 and seventh grader Sophie Janzig finished in 1:33.45, which was good for a 35th place finish at the state meet. Not bad for a skier fresh out of elementary school.

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