|Monday, August 28, 2000|
|Another Succesful Worlds|
|Way to go Fergus Falls! You pulled it off again! The 12th World Barefoot Water Skiing Championships have come and gone, and the city of Fergus Falls can be proud of the way they hosted this event.|
Talk to any member of the Local Organizing Committee and they'll sing the praises of our civic clubs, businesses, government officials and individual volunteers. From the opening ceremonies to the closing banquet, things went very smoothly. That didn't happen by accident. Over the past year several committees have been meeting regularly, making plans for the week of August 22-27, 2000. The plans were executed to near perfection over the past week and the weather man cooperated, too.
Plus, the skiing was indeed world class. Team USA won the gold medal with Australia taking the silver and the Republic of South Africa claiming the bronze medal.
The USA men swept the individual slalom event, an event which saw Fergus Falls resident Jon Kretchman earn his first individual world medal, taking the silver with a score of 18.5. Jason Lee scored 19.1 to lay claim to the gold and Ron Scarpa won the bronze with a score of 17.8. Another Team USA member, Keith St. Onge, actually tied Scarpa's score but the Ragin' Bull got the medal.
It was a great day for Scarpa on Sunday, as he won the mens tricks and jumping competition on the way to his fourth overall world title, and his third in a row. No other mens skier medaled in all three events. St. Onge, who didn't medal in any of the individual events, was solid enough in all three of them to take the silver in the overall competition.
Lane 'Dawg' Bowers of Team USA was third overall and took home silver medals in tricks and jumping.
Team Australia's Brett Sands (3rd in tricks) and Team Italia's Massimiliano Colosio (3rd in jumping) prevented a clean medal sweep by the United States of America.
South Africa's Nadine DeVilliers thrilled the large crowds on Saturday and Sunday, as she walked away with gold medals in each event. Rachel George of Team USA claimed four medals (2nd overall, 2nd in slalom, 2nd in tricks and 3rd in jumping).
Gizella Halasz of Australia was the bronze medal winner in the womens overall competition while USA skier Katie Begell took the bronze in tricks. Desi Fielding of Australia was third in Slalom and Elisa Valerio of Italy took silver in jumping.
The media coverage was extraordinary! Mary Dolan and Chris Wasberg had a lot to do with that. They did a great job with pre-event publicity and covered the market with information about the event for several months. Coverage by Lakes Radio, with a morning show presence each of the first three days of the event, was thorough, and several of their on-air personalities had a turn on the P.A., working with several 'experts' from the barefoot world. On the web, the Midweek provided outstanding webcam coverage and up to date results through www.barefoot.org in conjunction with Brian Heeney. As far as print is concerned, the Midweek had a special four-page section and the Daily Journal provided daily 'special sections' on the tournament which included several great pictures. Fargo-Moorhead and Alexandria TV stations were visible at various times throughout the event and the Fargo-Moorhead radio coverage featured many live interviews with skiers and event officials. Plus, the program was a great collector's item. Very informative and colorful. If you didn't get one, talk to one of the UMBWSA members. I think there are some remaining at the bargain price of $2.00!
All-in-all it was a tremendous week and Fergus Falls and the Upper Midwest Barefoot Water Ski Association deserve a ton of credit!
|Sunday, August 20, 2000|
|A World Champion|
|Fourteen year old Adam Nelson of Fergus Falls won a World Championship in Texas last weekend. Adam, along with Adam Hendrickson from Jamestown, North Dakota and Guy Tietz of Detroit Lakes, became the first Minnesota/North Dakota team to win a world championship in the team penning event at the 29th annual American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship Show in Fort Worth. Their winning time was 36.78 seconds, tops among the 38 teams entered. Three cattle numbered between 0-9 have to be cut from a herd of 30 in the least amount of time. Adam was on his mom (Laurel's) horse, Colonel Geezer. He and his mother both ride the 14-year old gelding in competitions. Laurel told me she was extremely excited for her son, but also excited for the horse! Highlights of the world event will be shown on "GMC America's Horse" August 30, September 6 and September 13 at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN.|
1990 Ashby High School graduate and all-around student-athlete, Troy Nelson, is fighting a battle with leukemia. Troy's dad, Warren, told me that Troy was diagnosed with leukemia last winter and has been undergoing treatments for the past few months, including a bone marrow transplant in recent weeks. His family has been by his side throughout the treatment process and the Ashby/Dalton community came to his side with a fundraiser on Saturday night to help pay medical expenses. Troy has been teaching and coaching in the Bemidji school system for the past five years, working in both the football and basketball programs. He still has a long recovery process ahead of him, so keep him and his family in your prayers.
It didn't take long for bad news to hit the Otter Tail Central Bulldogs football camp. Junior Brent Speer suffered a broken collarbone on the opening day of practice last Monday and will likely miss the entire season. Speer was probably going to be the starting middle linebacker and backup fullback for Don Seipkes' team. You always hate to see injuries happen to everyone, but at least Brent has an opportunity to come back from his injury and play his senior season. It will make for a long fall, though.
Scott Bjerke took about 22 varsity soccer players to a scrimmage at Blaine on Saturday. The team played five games, each consisting of two-twenty minute halves. They won two, lost two and tied one, with their two losses coming against defending state champion, Edina, by a 1-0 score and a 2-1 defeat at the hands of another tough metro area school, Minneapolis South. Fergus Falls started the day with a 1-1 tie against Centennial, then beat Anoka 2-0 before losing to Edina. In their fourth game, they beat Maple Grove, 2-0. The Otters, who qualified for their first ever state tournament last year, will open the regular season on Thursday at four o'clock against Brainerd at the Middle School Field.
Defending Champion Rona Nitz repeated as Ladies Club Champ at Pebble Lake Golf Course over the weekend. Her two day total of 168 was fourteen strokes ahead of runner-up, Sharon Boldenow. Nitz shot an 86 on Saturday and came back with a strong round of 82 on Sunday. Boldenow shot rounds of 94 and 88 for a 182. Judy Klaers took third place with a 186 and Terry Halbakken was fourth with a 194.
|Sunday, August 13, 2000|
|I promise I won't do this too often over the next few years, but let a proud dad brag for a couple of minutes. My 15 year-old son Ben, is experiencing a summer of great competition on the golf course. Ben made the high school golf team as an 8th grader two seasons ago and got his feet wet with a few appearances, was a regular on the team as a 9th grader, taking second place at Detroit Lakes with a 75 and has also been involved in many Junior PGA Tour events over the last two summers. This summer he was on one of their four different tour legs, featuring some of the top high school age golfers in the state of Minnesota. It's a tour where you need to shoot par or better to be in the top 3, every week. Dustin Harris, one of Ben's teammates, had a tremendous summer on the tour and will play in the tournament of champions this week at Izaty's. Ben had one top ten finish in the six events, but tasted some great competition on the golf course.|
Over the last couple of weeks, he has competed against some of the best golfers in Fergus Falls as he played in the Men's stroke play and match play championships at Pebble Lake Golf Course. The tournament field was low in numbers this year, but the competition was still great. Asko Rajaniemi won the stroke title by one stroke over Aaron Sletten and it went to the last hole. Ben had a good first round with a 76, then skied to a 90 and finished with a one-over 38 on the front nine to complete his 45 holes. He finished in a tie for eighth and qualified for the match play event this past weekend. Unfortunately only six golfers played as apparently the other qualifiers had commitments that prevented them from taking part in the tournament. It's too bad that more club members don't take part in their club tournament. This should be a popular tournament for the members and I can't quite put my finger on why the numbers have decreased. I do know that several area tournament take some of the players away from the club tourney, but 13 golfers is a poor turnout no matter how you look at it.
Enough of my commentary on that issue ... now on to the match play tournament. Ben played Dan Madsen and beat him 2 and 1 in the quarterfinals and Tom Morstad was a winner over Lance Walvatne. Lance, like Ben is a high school player, playing for Hillcrest Lutheran Academy. He loves the game and spends a lot of time at the course. That theme is what this column is eventually getting too ... a love for the game, and what it takes to put yourself in a position where you can compete at a high level as an amateur. Ben loves the game. He loves to practice the game, and I'm convinced that this is a key to his success. He has spent countless hours hitting countless numbers of range balls, spends time almost everyday in front of a full-length mirror or viewing a video tape of his swing, trying to improve every aspect of it, and reads volumes about the game. Where I have seen him grow the most this summer though, is his mental approach to playing. The ability to forget a bad shot or a bad hole and to be able to focus on the next shot or the next hole is what separates the good players from the great players. When you're a high school player, it's even more difficult to do that. Ben has shown great progress in that part of his game and I believe it was that ability that allowed him to compete with the likes of Asko and Erik Johnson over the weekend. Those two guys have played some great golf through the years at Pebble Lake Golf Course and have their share of high tournament finishes. Ben and Asko had a great match (that Ben didn't want me to watch), going two extra holes before Ben rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt for the win. Asko told me Ben made a great recovery on the first extra hole to save par, after hitting his approach shot over the green. Against E.J. in the title match, Ben was 3-under after 5 holes and took a 3-up lead, but the experience of Johnson kept him right in the match, and he was able to catch Ben on the 14th and take the lead on the 15th. The two players halved the final three holes and E.J. won it 1-up, his second such win of the day, having ousted Tom Morstad 1-up in the semi's. Tom really put together two solid weeks of tournament play. By the way, E.J. has been very helpful to Ben through the years, always willing to help him out and answer his questions. He and Asko, along with Morstad and Madsen, were very good to the two youngsters in the tournament, and all made comments to me about how enjoyable it was to play with them. Madsen and Walvatne played a competitive match with Madsen dominating early but Lance rallied to within one hole, falling 1-up in the consolation finals.
What makes me most proud is not that Ben was able to play so well against such good players, but that he has dedicated himself to try to make himself a better golfer, has strived for improvement in his game and has worked hard at accomplishing it. He's reaping some of the benefits now. It's just like anything in life ... you get out of it what you put into it. Now, if I can just convince him to put that effort into school work over the next three years ......
|Monday, August 7, 2000|
|Arnes a Spartan|
|Electrifying! I've used that word on more than one occasion when describing Justin Arneson's athletic ability. In all my years of covering high school sports (27), I can honestly say that Arne is as exciting as any player I've had the opportunity to follow. When he made his decision to accept a partial scholarship from the NDSU football program, I, among others, was a bit surprised. Not because Arne couldn't play for the Bison...I believe he could be a contributor to their program and who knows, may still be in that position after his FFCC days, but because of the fact that Justin Arneson is a 3-sport athlete. He's one of those players who, when asked what his favorite sport is, will answer depending on the season. I just couldn't see Arne settling for one sport at this time in his life. When I visited with Justin on Monday morning he said the opportunity to play all three sports in a college setting was the major contributing factor in his decision to walk away from the scholarship offer and stay in Fergus Falls.|
Three people who are very excited about this bit of news are the coaches whose programs will benefit from Arne's decision. The Spartan football team will open practice on Friday, and Arne will be there. "What makes this so good is that he is such a quality person, as well as a superb athlete," said coach Lloyd Danzeisen. "We'd like to see Arne is those positions where he'll get several opportunities to get his hands on the ball and make the big play. As a wide receiver and a return man he'll have the chance to utilize his quickness and his moves."
As for basketball, Coach Dave Retzlaff has coached Arneson in Pacesetter tournaments and team camps through the years, and will now be able to pencil his name in on his college roster. "Arne will be a great addition to FFCC, both as a student and an all-around athlete," commented Retzlaff. "His speed, quickness and athleticsm will make him a succesful player at our level."
When I've talked with coaches and sports people over the years about Arneson they all say, 'baseball is probably his best sport'. He excels at all three, but the most potential may be in baseball. Spartan baseball coach Kent Bothwell agrees, "After watching Arne all summer in American Legion ball it's obvious that he has some long range potential in the game. Some things that are attractive are his above-average speed and throwing arm and his ability to generate good bat speed at the plate. He can really help our program. He will make an already good recruiting class even better."
Reaction of fans has been as I expected. Everyone that mentions it to me is very excited about the fact that they will get to watch and cheer for Justin Arneson in football, basketball and baseball for two more years in Fergus Falls. The recruiting classes look good in all three sports and fans of FFCC athletics will be in for some exciting seasons of competition, and with an explosive player like Arneson added to the existing rosters, the expectations will be high. We'll be featuring the Spartan Football team in a preview later this week and I'd like to invite you to check out the Spartan Basketball recruit information by clicking here.
|Tuesday, August 1, 2000|
|Coaches Making Decisions|
|As the summer baseball season comes to a close the faces in the dugout will be changing. Not only the players who will be moving on to the next level, but several coaches as well.|
In Fergus Falls, coaches Scott Bjerke and Steve Bradsteen are hinting strongly that they will not return for another season. The two have worked together with American Legion Post 30 for the past five years. Coach Bjerke has been a three-sport coach over that period of time, carrying the head coach title in Fergus Falls boys soccer and Legion baseball, and serving as a varsity assistant in the Fergus Falls boys hockey program. With a young family at home, you can certainly understand why coach Bjerke needs to take a break. He's an excellent coach and relates well to the kids. They love to play for him, in every sport. If Bjerke does indeed step aside it won't be permanent. He loves to coach the game of baseball and would definitely return after a short hiatus, at some level. Bradsteen is the head coach for Otter Tail Central in the spring and will continue in that capacity.
The Elks Babe Ruth team has enjoyed an outstanding season which has seen them qualify for the state intact Babe Ruth baseball tournament this Friday through Sunday in Barnesville. Their coach, Jim Poppen, didn't have a choice about returning for another year in that position. He was a victim of the budget cuts and will be moving his family to Cambridge where he has accepted a teaching/coaching position. Poppen's teams have had great success and Gary Schuler and the Otter basketball program will miss his input this coming winter. There's no question that Poppen will succeed wherever he has the opportunity to coach, and the kids who played for him in Fergus Falls improved their skill level and understanding of being a part of a team.
As for VFW Post 612 ... Gary Schuler has a decision to make. His team finished with a 22-10 record and placed second to Bemidji in the District 9 VFW tournament this past weekend in Perham. Schuler is in the process of completing his Master's Degree and may have to enroll in summer courses next year, which would eliminate any possibility of returning as coach. It's a situation he'll evaluate over the next couple of weeks, researching the class schedule and availability, and visiting with representatives of Post 612 concerning the coaching position. Gary loves baseball, in fact he'll tell you it's his favorite sport. Apparently he was quite a pitcher in high school and college, hurling for UND. As with Bjerke and Poppen, Schuler is a huge asset to any program he coaches. The Post 612 kids came a long way under his tutelage this summer and will benefit from their experiences under his leadership during their future baseball years.
Agassiz Valley football coach and Barnesville American Legion coach Al Krueger has taken a job with Corporate Technologies of Fargo as a software applications trainer. He too, was a victim of school district budget cuts. Although he won't be teaching, he will continue his coaching duties with the Thunder and his new employer is being flexible with his schedule during the football season. Al is a very dedicated young coach with a lot of enthusiasm to offer to a program and he's very conscious of promoting his players and his team. Al also is planning on continuing to coach baseball next summer. Al, whose Legion baseball team's season just ended this past weekend, has been working with 48 elementary kids this week in a 2-hour-per-day football camp. The fourth through sixth graders spend about an hour and fifteen minutes doing drills and learning the game, and then finish with 45 minutes of game time. Several of the Thunder varsity players assist the coaching staff with the camp, which will end Thursday.
Battle Lake boys basketball coach, Terry Haus, has resigned to go into the insurance business. Haus will be selling insurance in the Cass Lake - Bemidji region for the Horace Mann Agency. He will be helping with the early part of the football season and may be on the sidelines with the coaching staff on Friday nights. His teaching and coaching spots will be filled by Dan Peterka, a 1993 Osakis High School graduate, who has spent the last two years in Mora as a teacher and assistant basketball coach. Peterka played community college basketball at Mesabi and was a student assistant at NDSU. He will teach Physical Education and Health at Battle Lake and will also serve as an assistant football coach. Eric Olson, a former Battle Lake student-athlete, has been hired as a full-time elementary teacher and will be an assistant coach in football, wrestling and softball. A Henning high school graduate, Jenny (Hollatz) Scheidecker, has also accepted an elementary teaching position in Battle Lake. She will teach first grade and be an assistant to Barry Johnson in the volleyball program. Jenny was a standout track and field athlete for the Hornets, participating in many state tournaments on several succesful relay teams and in some individual middle distance events, too. Athletic Director Mike McCarney hinted that Jenny may also do some work with the track program in the spring.