November 6, 2003 at 9:55 a.m.
It doesn’t matter what sport we’re talking about, take you pick. Football, volleyball, cross country, soccer; they all had record years, and what about swimming? The season isn’t even over yet! It might sound like I am complaining, that’s because I am. How can you keep track of it all?
Okay, so maybe I’m being a little sarcastic, but the fact still remains, from the football field to the volleyball court, the tales of success this fall aren’t exactly lacking. For instance:
-Despite losing in the section finals to Totino-Grace, the Chisago Lakes football team finished tied for first in the conference this season with a 6-1 record, 9-2 overall. That’s after going 3-6 last year! The Wildcats running game stood out all season. On the ground, the ‘Cats averaged just under 300 yards per game, paced by three different running backs with 600 yards or more rushing.
-Speaking of football and turn arounds, how about the North Branch football team? Last year Joel Swanson’s first year in Viking-ville was rough, finishing 2-7 overall. This season, the Vikings went 7-3, tied for third in the conference. That is a five game turnaround! Just wait until next year.
-The Chisago Lakes volleyball team edged out North Branch in sections this season, moving them into the section 7AAA semifinals. Even though they lost to Hibbing, the win was their 23rd of the season. Nobody can remember a Chisago team winning that many games in quite some time. Oh, and by the way, the ‘Cats finished tied for second in conference after running fourth last year.
-Tied for second with North Branch who might have been the biggest surprise on the court this season. The defending Rum River champs lost four key letterwinners from 2002. Nobody was sure what to expect this time around, including North Branch head coach Jim VanEerden.
“I was very pleased with our season,” said VanEerden. “We had a lot of close games and we won a majority of them. I’m very happy with the way some of our younger players stepped up and our seniors were steady.”
Steady sums up next season as well. The Vikings lose six to graduation and return six.
-Exceeding expectations is what the Chisago Lakes boys soccer team did all year. The Wildcats were young, and still are. After winning just four games last season, Chisago responded with 12 wins this fall, including program building wins over Concordia Academy, Fridley, and Duluth Denfeld. The ‘Cats also added another playoff win to their resume. To further stir the pot, they only lose five to graduation, making them the team to watch next season. and the season after, and the season after that.
-The Chisago Lakes girls soccer team also made brilliant strides, especially late in the season, picking up five wins after just two in 2002. Like the boys team, the girls are also stacked with young talent, only losing four to graduation. Everyone else will be back.
-Most will agree that cross country is not always the most entertaining sport to watch,but the Chisago Lakes boys squad changed that this season. The Wildcats fulfilled expectations by winning the conference. John Leaf was the ‘Cats top runner, he’ll be back next season along with several others. Next year, the ‘Cats won’t hope to repeat, they’ll expect it.
-Word of caution however for Chisago, watch out for North Branch. The Vikings started the season with four seniors on their cross country squad and ended the year with one. They still finished near the top of the conference. Individually, Nick Ramberg, J.J. Koerber and Rachel Souther finished as the Vikings best runners at the second meet. Ramberg and Koerber are freshman, Souther is an eighth grader!
-That brings us to the Chisago Lakes swimming and diving team. It’s been another ho-hum season for the ‘Cats, winning conference for the second season in a row and finishing undefeated in dual meets. Sections are next, but I might as well start making my state reservations now. All of this with only four seniors, great seniors, but only four! While I’m reserving my hotel room, I might as well book it for next year too.
In all seriousness, I am a local guy who has grown up surrounded by local sports. I have never seen the local sports scene as strong as it is today, and it’s only getting stronger. All of the athletes and coaches should be recognized for their efforts, the results are definitely showing. And please, don’t slow down on my account.