July 2, 2015 at 11:16 a.m.

Top 11 stories of 2014-15 for CL and NB

Top 11 stories of 2014-15 for CL and NB
Top 11 stories of 2014-15 for CL and NB

America. Fireworks. Independence Day. Boating. Grilling. My Annual Top 11 Sports Story List. One of those things doesn’t belong with the others around the Fourth of July every year.

Well, my column does run around the Fourth every year, but I can’t imagine anyone looks forward to it as much the other things I noted.

Last year’s list was topped by the Chisago Lakes boys hockey team making only their second trip to the state tournament, and their first in over 20 years.

This year’s team made it all the way to the section final, but they did so in a relatively weak conference and section, so it’s going to be time for a new number one this season.
Each season had plenty of highlights, so without further ado, here is the first half of the top 11 sports stories of the 2014-15 season.

11. Individuals that competed at the state tournament
In 2014-15, there was plenty of reason to be optimistic for state chances. Some of those dreams came to fruition and some came up short, but the area still produced a boatload of state tournament participants.

They came in all different sports and were built in different ways. Some were ultra competetive and fiery like Sarah Greene in track and field. Some were more mild mannered and reserved like Nick Kress in golf.

They all strived for the same goal this year, and here are the ones that made the state tournament in their respective sport.

North Branch
Rhianna Rinke (cross country and track and field);    Nick Kress (boys golf); Arik Steele, Max Southbloom, Matt Marrin, Kennedy Ashley,  Jack Klun, Michael Hensch (boys track and field); Mikayla Johnson (girls track and field)

Chisago Lakes
Kalli Jo Olson and Payton Nelson (girls swimming and diving); James Falkowski, Jake Ewert, Riley Darling, Matt Braun, Jake Carlson, Jake Doble, Derek Frank, Austin Turman (boys swimming and diving); Zac West (boys cross country); Anders Brown, John Frischmon and Ellie Frischmon (alpine skiing); Riley Darling, Austin Turman, Jake Carlson, Derek Frank, Jake Doble, Colton Olson, Matt Braun, Charles Olson and Phil LaPlante (boys swimming and diving); Teddy Pierce, Kyle Schoenecker, Dylan Connell (wrestling); Sarah Greene and Quinton Lee (track and field; Thomas Gillach and Blake Lizotte (boys tennis); Eric Chambers and Bryce Thompson (boys golf).

10. Chisago Lakes football ranked third in the state after beating St. Michael-Albertville
The Chisago Lakes football team got off to a fast start in the fall, winning their first four games in pretty commanding fashion.

However, most people assumed that win streak would come to an end when they hosted third-ranked St. Michael-Albertville in the fifth game of the year.

But, in a wild and memorable game, senior Will Gillach picked off a late STMA pass that was then converted into a last-second Bryce Thompson field goal and a 24-21 win for Chisago Lakes. The kicker, no pun intended, was that Thompson had already missed two field goals earlier in the game already but Head Coach Bill Weiss trusted him enough to go back to him.
“That was the best feeling in the world,” said Thompson, just a few minutes after his game-winning field goal.  “It was awesome!  It was a beautiful night.  It was a great game.

Gillach, who set up the field goal with his pick, was equally enthused at the time. “I was looking to break up the pass.  All of a sudden the ball hopped into my hands and I scooped it up and took off.  It was all about luck and timing.”

The win catapulted the Wildcats from the 11th ranked team in the state to the third ranked team in the state after five weeks of play. At the time, sports writer Chuck Fitzer said of the game, “If you weren’t at Chisago Lakes High School last Friday night, you may have missed the most entertaining high school football game you are ever going to see.”

9. Riley Darling and Jake Doble rake in medals at the boys swimming and diving team
The Chisago Lakes boys swimming and diving team sent eight comeptitors to the state meet, which is impressive enough, but they got some very impressive finishes from two seniors making their final mark on the program. Riley Darling double-medaled in the 100 fly and the 200 individual medley and Jake Doble earned a fourth place finish in diving.

Darling had a rocky prelim in the butterfly, but his time got him into the finals, and that’s when he fine-tuned his stroke. He trimmed .17 seconds off of his personal best that he had at section finals and finished in third place in the event with a 51.40 mark.

The two finishers in front of him, Sean Donnelly of Chaska and Tommy Weiss of St. Thomas, had All-American Consideration times under 51 seconds.

Darling was able to improve his time in the individual medley too. He was the six seed going into finals, but trimmed 18-one hundredths of a second off of his time. The lower time didn’t improve his placing, but it showed he was still working to improve.

“During the finals session, he swam very well and attacked the first half of the race very aggressively,” McNally said. “He usually does this as his breaststroke is not as strong on the back half.”

Darling also got a chance to break two other school records, leading off in the 200 and 400 freestyle in the consolation finals when regular leadoff Austin Turman had to leave the meet early for a band trip to Hawaii. See each event description for details.

In diving, Doble had troubles early on. He was in only 11th place after prelims, but made his move in the semifinals. He jumped all the way up to fourth place, and that’s where he held in the finals to earn his second straight podium finish. “Jake dove really well this season,” McNally said.

8. Chisago Lakes basketball reaches 20 wins, makes section finals
Just weeks after beating Hermantown by double digits at home, the Chisago Lakes boys basketball team took on the Hawks again,  Friday, March 6 in Duluth with much more on the line than section seeding.

The winner would go on to the state tournament while the loser would end the season. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they ended up on the short side of the contest.

With only 12 seconds left in the tie game, Hermantown missed a shot that would’ve given them the lead and Chisago Lakes grabbed the board and looked to win on a last-second shot.
As Ethan Hickcox pushed the ball up the floor, he had it poked out from behind, and it popped right to a Hermantown player. Kole Zuidmulder, who had 22 points at that point, drove the lane and drew a flock of CL defenders to him. He dished out the biggest assist of his career, though, when he passed it off to a cutting teammate who was true on his shot from in close and put the Hawks up 50-48 with under three seconds left to play.

The Wildcats took a timeout to draw up a play in the short time they had, but they couldn’t come up with the winning formula. Jake Lindquist was the in-bounder, and he got the ball in to Dylan Wood, and Wood dished it back out to Lindquist who had to launch an NBA-range three pointer as the buzzer sounded. The ball sailed left, leaving the Wildcats crumpled and Hermantown ecstatic.

But it wasn’t a lost season, the ‘Cats earned 20 wins for the first time since 2004-05 and were the closest they’ve been to state in that decade run.

7. North Branch volleyball takes Cambridge-Isanti to the limit in section finals
In North Branch’s final team huddle after Cambridge-Isanti clinched the  state tournament berth, some girls cried, some offered words of encouragement, some just stewed quietly. But they all had one thing in common on that gym floor: they left it all out there in their section finals game, the final game of a few of the girls careers.

The Vikings and Bluejackets took part in an epic five-set section final match that had huge emotional swings both ways and left the packed fans of both schools weary and hoarse.The match was played at neutral Chisago Lakes High School, but it didn’t matter, both schools were making the trek, even if the game was played on another continent. Cambridge-Isanti had never qualified for the state tournament in volleyball before and North Branch hadn’t made it to the big dance in 20 years.

After splitting the first two sets, North Branch won the third set 28-26 in a back-and-forth affair that looked like it might decide the match. The Vikings were up against the wall as C-I had set point on multiple occasions, but NB held them off.

In the fourth set, C-I won convincingly to send it to a fifth and final set. The Lady Vikes took the early lead at 8-6 in the race to 15, but C-I’s All-World hitter Claire Sheehan put the Jackets on her back and carried them to a win.

“It was such an exciting atmosphere, a large, vocal crowd, pep band and huge momentum swings both ways,” Assistant Coach Ron Trunk said. at the time “It was an emotional roller coaster.”

“I thought the girls did a fantastic job of controlling emotions,” Head Coach Mike Selbitschka added at the time. “Even during tough times, they held their head up and moved on to the next play. We discussed before the game, to leave it all on the court and not to leave a ‘what if’.”

6. Anders Brown and Ellie Frischmon both finish top five at the state alpine ski tournament
Anders Brown and Ellie Frischmon had high hopes going into the state alpine ski tournament at Giants Ridge last week.

They both had impressive regular seasons and successful section runs. They both were veterans of the state tournament. They both have skied Giants Ridge more times than they can count.

And they both earned fifth place finishes in the stacked fields of the alpine ski state tourney.

Brown made it two top 10 finishes in a row, as he skied to an eighth place finish at last year’s state meet.

This year, Brown finished in 1:11.97, earning a fifth place finish in the field.

Frischmon did very well. This was her third trip to the state tournament, and this result was a long time coming.

Two years ago, she had a promising debut, finishing in 15th place with a time just over 1:21. Last year, she was really hoping to take a jump into the top 10 but a fall derailed her goals. This winter, she regiserted a 1:16.52 to finish in fifth place and take her place among alpine skiing’s elite.

That’s the first half, we’ll get to the second half next week. In the meantime, have a GREAT Fourth of July and enjoy your holiday responsibly!

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