Every year, someone or some team rises to the occasion and makes headlines at the state level. This year, there were plenty of teams that punched a ticket to the state tournament and even more individuals who made the trip. But not all the top accomplishments this year came at the state tournament. There were a few big upsets from both North Branch and Chisago Lakes sports, and a few outstanding individual performances. This top 10 list, which I’m officially expanding to 11 this year because it’s always too hard to fit a whole year of sports into 10 spots, highlights the accomplishments and awards of numerous high school individuals throughout the year. Last year, Whitney Tinjum’s record-breaking senior season in which she set new school marks in scoring and rebounding and new state marks in free throws and free throws attempted, was a shoo-in for the number one story. This year, there was a few stories in contention for the top spot, but the top five will be revelaed next week. As always, this first week will focus on stories 11 through seven in the countdown and next week will be the top six. Enjoy...
11. Individuals that competed at the state tournament
The 2012-13 season is dotted with individuals who qualified for the state tournament in their respective sports. The top two finishers were Hannah Nordby competing for Chisago Lakes in the 400 meter dash in track and field and Dylan Connell for Chisago Lakes wrestling. Nordby, who is only a freshman, was an underdog going into the state tournament. She was one of the bottom seeds to advance, but that didn’t stop her from breaking a school record in the prelims and qualifying for the finals. In the finals, she turned it up another gear and broke her own school record again, finishing the race in 57.48 seconds, putting her in sixth place in the event. Connell, a sophomore, also finished sixth in the grappling tournament. He buzzed through the first couple rounds of the state tournament and was in the semi-finals, only two wins away from a state title. But, in his 120 pound division, there were some tough wrestlers, and Connell stumbled against them. He lost his last three matches of the tournament to drop to sixth, but with two more years left of eligibility, Connell expects to be challenging for that top spot again. Other individuals who qualified for state tournaments throughout the year: North Branch Rhianna Rinke (cross country and track and field); Reid Johnson, Sam Peltier, Zack Sundly and Eric Bergstrom (wrestling); Katy Trunk and Casey Hovland (gymnastics); Mikayla Johnson, SherahLynn Linkert, Kadie Mattson, Cassie Kunshier, Maddie Kunshier, Gina Amundson and Arik Steele (track and field) Chisago Lakes Sam Thomsen and Thomi Lee (girls swimming); Ellie Frischmon, Jake Sandgren and Anders Brown (alpin skiing); Eric Brown, Jonah Westbury, Quade Zupko, Mark Sontag, Joe Virga and Kyle Schoenecker (wrestling); Zach Halfen, James Falkowski, Riley Darling, Avery Turman, Austin Turman, Aaron Wiger, Jake Ewert and Jake Doble (boys swimming); Sam Thomsen (gymnastics); Sarah Greene, Beka Meyer and Lauryn Delzer (track and field).
10. North Branch baseball beats top-seeded Elk River in sections
The eighth-seeded Vikings were 7-10 heading into their match up with the top seeded Elk River Elks, who were 14-3 on the year. There wasn’t many pundits who had North Branch even making it as far as they were, and even fewer who thought they stood any chance against the state-ranked Elks. But, senior Blake Jorgenson had the game of his life, going the distance and only giving up four hits and one run while striking out six. Meanwhile, the offense was led by another unsung hero, Matt Solberg. The senior was batting .208 coming into the game, but he hit a key two-run double to stretch North Branch’s lead to 5-1. “That hit gave us some breathing room,” Head Coach Steve Christensen said at the time. “That was a big hit.” The Vikings ended up losing their next two games in the final four of the sections, but their upset victories over fourth-seeded Anoka and top-seeded Elk River will be remembered as much for the result as for the story of the scrappy underdogs from the four-day a week school toppling some of the biggest suburban schools in the state.
9. Zack Sundly and Dan Sargeant’s football seasons
Zack Sundly and Dan Sargeant played for different teams -- Sundly suited up for the North Branch Vikings and Sargeant for the Chisago Lakes Wildcats -- and they played wildly different positions, but the two both had magnificent seasons on the gridiron. Sundly played quarterback for the Vikings and led them to a 4-6 record, rushing for 1,886 yards along the way. His 2,731 career rushing yards fell just short of 1999 grad Zack Kartak, leaving him in second place all time in school history. He accounted for 2,290 all-purpose yard for the Vikings and 20 touchdowns as they won their first playoff game in years. Sundly was elected to represnet in North half of Minnesota in the Minnesota High School All-Star football game. He will be attending St. John’s, where he is expected to make a switch to defense for the Johnnies. Sargeant, playing southeast of Sundly, racked up awards as a punishing offensive lineman. The senior is in the middle of a long line of successful Chisago Lakes football players from the Sargeant family, but Dan was the first to be elected to the Associated Press All-State team. He played offensive line, linebacker and kicked long field goals for the Wildcats. As a captain, he led them just one game short of the state tournament, as the team fell in the section championship game after a 7-2 campaign. Sargeant also played in the Minnesota High School All-Star football game, making blocks for long-time rival Sundly. Sargeant will attend North Dakota State University to play football.
8. North Branch girls track and field wins Section 7AA True Team
The Lady Vikings had an impressive year, winning the Section True Team meet and competing at the State True Team meet. The Vikings narrowly topped Grand Rapids to earn the berth, and they needed all of their top performers to earn them points. SherahLynn Linkert, a senior, won the 110 and 300 meter hurdles, eighth grader Rhianna Rinke ran a personal best in the 3,200 meter run, and freshman Mikayla Johnson was all over the event, winning the pole vault, finishing fourth in the 100 meter dash and running a leg in the 4x100 relay team that took third place. Crystal Snaza finished second in the discus while Cathie Larson finished fourth. “I am so proud of the girls taking first place at True Team,” Head Coach Norm Nagel said at the time. “The girls have been working really hard in practice and the younger athletes are really stepping up and giving our team some depth, And that is what the True Team is all about. Everyone scores points for their efforts. I was really happy with them.”
7. Chisago Lakes football upsets Mahtomedi in the season opener
The monkey came off the back of the Chisago Lakes Wildcat football team when they topped former section rival and perennial pain in the you-know-what Mahtomedi. Mitch Berg’s 46 yard touchdown pass to Miles Turk with just under three minutes left in the game and a two-point conversion by Josh Parks gave the Wildcats a 29-22 lead over the Zephyrs, who had ended the Wildcats four years in a row from 2007-2010. The Wildcat defense came up with a big stop on fourth down at the Wildcat ten yard line with 18 seconds left in the game and, for the first time in 11 years, the Wildcats had beaten the Zephyrs. The season opening non-conference game was played last Friday, August 31 at Mahtomedi. The victory really set the tone for the Wildcats in the 2012 season. They went on to finish 7-2 in the regular season, drawing the top seed in their section. They fell just yards short of the state tournament on a missed field goal in the section championship game.
6. Chisago Lakes boys cross country earns state tourney berth and wins North Suburban Conference title
The boys cross country team was expected to be good coming into the season, but good enough for a conference title and state berth? Not many people expected that. They earned the North Suburban title when a Totino-Grace runner was disqualified for cutting the same corner twice. The DQ gave CL 69 points and Totino 73 points. “It was an interesting day, but we had some unbelievable performances,” Head Coach Ken Orwoll said at the time. “It is so nice to have so many quality runners that work so well together. It makes every run so exciting to watch.” The most exciting sight was yet to come. The boys finished in second place in the Section 7AA meet, earning a trip to the state tournament in the process. They were led by junior Andy Magnuson and sophomore Zac West. Sophomore Quinton Lee and juniors Carl Osterberg and Carson Velaski finished out the varsity scoring for the state-bound ‘Cats. They ended up finishing 13th place at the state meet, and have a memory bank full positive images and results from the year.
5. Chisago Lakes girls basketball returns to state for second year in a row
The Chisago Lakes girls basketball team was supposed to regress heavily after losing Whitney Tinjum, Britney Land and Zoe Hansen from their first ever state-tournament bound team. Instead, junior Bryanna Fernstrom and sophomore Sarah Greene teamed up to be a lethal frontcourt tandem and senior Hannah Trandahl guided the point for the third straight year. The year started off bleak for the ‘Cats, as they went 3-5 in their first eight games while adjusting to life without Tinjum. But, once the ‘Cats gelled, it was a thundering storm. They won 19 of their last 21 games en route to the state tournament, including a dominating section performance where they won their games by 17, 16 and 16 points. In the first round of the state tournament, however, the Wildcats drew three-time defending state champions DeLaSalle. The Islanders prevailed, but not until after the ‘Cats put up a strong effort in the first half. DeLaSalle went on to win their fourth consecutive state title, but Chisago Lakes is gathering a tradition as a basketball program not to be taken lightly in the North Metro.
4. Quade Zupko breaks Chisago Lakes’ wins and falls record in the same match
Senior wrestler Quade Zupko has been a standout on the team since middle school. The 138 pounder just piled up wins at a dizzying pace throughout his career, and going into his senior season, there was a very real possibility that he could break the school’s wins and falls record on the year, both held by 2011 graduate Travis Kammerer. In a triangular that featured Chisago Lakes, Columbia Heights and Totino-Grace, Zupko knew if he had the opponents, he’d have a chance at the record. Heights cooperated by sending out a wrestler at 138, who Zupko promptly pinned inside of 30 seconds, leaving him tied for both the wins and pins record. In the night cap of the doubleheader, Totino-Grace sent out freshman John Lewis against Zupko. After earning three takedowns in under a minute against Lewis, Zupko finished the match with a fall at 1:19, breaking both the wins and falls record all at once. “I was pretty pumped up coming into the night. I knew I was close to the pin record, too. It’s a lot of fun to set both records in the same night.” Zupko said at the time. He then praised Kammerer, the wrestler whose marks he had broken. “Travis is a good guy and a good role model,” he said. “I really look up to him and it meant a lot to me to pass up his records.”
3. Chisago Lakes football plays a classic section championship game against Bemidji
Everything was falling right for the Wildcats to earn their first trip to the state tournament in over a decade. They were the top seed in Section 7AAAA. The second-seeded Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets had been upset by Bemidji. And to top it off, they had a high level of skill and talent on their team that they hadn’t seen in a while. Chisago Lakes took a 23-10 lead into halftime, on the back of 41-yard and 20-yard touchdown scampers by Eric Brown, a 12-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Berg to Josh Parks and a 25-yard field goal from Dan Sargeant. In the second half, the Wildcats began to unravel with turnovers galore. That led to 21 unanswered Bemidji points, and all of a sudden, the Wildcats went from a 13-point lead to an eight-point deficit. The ‘Cats answered right back when Parks, a punishing junior tailback, scored on a bruising run up the middle. However, he was stopped a foot short of the goalline on the two-point conversion attempt, leaving the Wildcats down two points with just over one minute left in the game. Chisago Lakes had stockpiled their timeouts, though, and got the ball back at their own 21 with 46 seconds left. With no timeouts left, Berg methodically moved the Wildcats down the field to the Lumberjacks 30-yard line with four seconds left. The Wildcats trotted senior captain and All-State pick Sargeant out for a 47-yard field goal attempt. His boot was just right and just short, but the Lumberjacks had piled into him after the kick, earning a running into the kicker penalty and a retry. With the whole stadium tensely watching and waiting, the second kick never materialized as the snap went awry and the holder never recovered, sending Bemidji to the state tournament and Chisago Lakes into disbelief and despair. “I’ve got to give our kids credit,” said Weiss on that chilly fall night. “They fought back and had a chance to win on the last play of the game. We dug a hole for ourselves, fought back and lost. In every close game this year, we had a chance to win at the end and were successful most of the time. On this particular Friday night, it didn’t happen.”
2. Chisago Lakes wrestling wins the consolation championship at state
The Wildcats got a bad draw when they were pitted against the Simley Spartans in the first round of the state tourney. The Spartans had won the last three Class AA state championships, and went on to finish a close second in this years tournament. The ‘Cats went up 13-0, but then Simley went on a 45-12 run to close out the match, winning 45-25 and sending CL to the consolation bracket immediately. Chisago Lakes rebounded with a huge win over conference rival Totino Grace, winning 41-19. The Eagles had beaten a depleted, injured Chisago Lakes team earlier in the year, so the revenge factor was paramount for the ‘Cats. In the consolation championship, the Wildcats took on 10th-ranked Perham. Again, the Wildcats raced out to a quick lead, going up 12-0 early before Perham tied it with two straight falls. Huge wins came from Mark Sontag at 160 and Joe Virga at 170. Sontag needed to come from behind his whole match before winning 10-7 and Virga battled through a near debilitating knee injury to secure a fall and six points for CL. Sargeant, who was wrestling in only his fifth varsity match after playing hockey throughout the winter season, lost, but didn’t give up any bonus points, a key for the ‘Cats as they only trailed by three with Jonah Westbury coming up at heavyweight. Westbury made quick work of his opponent, pinning him at 1:12 and giving the Wildcats a 33-30 win and the consolation championship.
1. Thomi Lee wins state title in the 500-yard freestyle
No Chisago Lake Wildcat swimmer had ever won a state title before 2012. That was until Thomi Lee came along. The junior had been placing in the event since her eighth grade year and she finally broke through with a championship this year. She came into the state tournament with only a 5:16 qualifying time, which was by design as Lee rarely had any competition during the regular season, and she was building up for the end of the season in the state tournament. In the prelims, Lee blazed through the pool, swimming a personal best time of 5:05.02. The time gave her the top seed heading into the finals, and the first pick in lane assignments. After picking the fourth lane, Lee opened with the fastest first leg, but there was nary a body length between the top four competitors. Lee kept a miniscule lead throughout the first couple legs, but then Mackenzie Braden, a senior from Holy Family, began to make a little move and pulled ahead of Lee for a second. Just as Braden began to turn up her heat, Lee and Chantal Nack of Mankato West took off and regained the top two spots. Lee stayed just an edge ahead of Nack and every time she came up for a breath with her head tilted slightly back, Nack was in her sight line. Both swimmers’ kicks got bigger at about the 400 yard mark and the race boiled down to a two-person battle between Lee and Nack. Every turn and every stroke, Lee held off the charging Nack at about a half a body length. On the last turn, with only 25 yards left in the grueling marathon, Lee burst off the wall while Nack came up a bit slower and Lee suddenly had a full body length lead. She finished out her kick while the challengers huffed and puffed behind her. Lee touched the wall in 5:00.72, shaving over six seconds off of her personal best on the weekend. Nack touched at 5:02.31 to take second place. She proudly climbed the highest step of the eight-person podium as the first ever state champion in Chisago Lakes girls swimming. “I just trained hard and I focused on the things that I knew I had trouble with and I worked on making them better,” Lee excitedly said after the race. Next up for Lee is the school record of 4:58, held by her older sister Brogan Lee. “This is just really awesome right now,” Lee said at the time. “I’ve always had to live up to my sister and I feel like I might have now.” Lee’s historic accomplishment wraps up the top stories of the 2012-13 athletics year at Chisago Lakes. It also wraps up the North Suburban Conference era for the Wildcats and Vikings, and there should be plenty more memories to reflect back on now that the schools will be competing in the Mississippi 8. Cheers to 2012-13 and here’s to looking forward to 2013-14! Enjoy the summer!