A lesson for my grandchildren: Sometimes things don’t always start so well. But hang in there. They usually work out just fine in the end.
The 2019 spring high school sports season began horribly. It came on the heels of a horrible winter, so just when we were settling in for our longed-for spring and the athletic events that go along with it, weather patterns persisted in disrupting our fun.
We knew spring would get here eventually. But why must we wait so long?
That doesn’t matter now, of course. Spring has given way to summer, but what a remarkable spring it finally was. It ended with an Edgerton/Southwest Christian girls fast-pitch softball championship, with an historic Worthington Trojans boys tennis year, with a repeat first-place finish in the 4x800-meter relay by the same four girls from the Luverne track and field team, and a whole bunch more good times.
I was fortunate to be able to witness the Section 3A boys tennis team tournament in Redwood Falls, where lousy weather forced the outdoor meet indoors for the final between Worthington and Luverne. That, alone, made me happy. Tennis in the cold and rain is one of my least favorite things.
The Trojans, under head coach Mike Marquardt, were exceptional this year, and entered the tournament as the top seed. Luverne, seeded No. 2, lost to Worthington in the regular season and looked forward to the rematch. Nobody questioned whether the Cardinals were capable of winning -- they were gunning for a remarkable 10th straight berth in the state tournament.
And, of course, they won.
The indoor tennis facility in Redwood Falls is unusual for the fact that it bends toward silence. That is, it just doesn’t seem right, indoors, to whoop and holler. It was especially silent on the Worthington side of things at the conclusion of the Section 3A meet, because a state tournament bid was a real possibility.
But, as I said earlier, things usually work out fine in the end. They did for the Trojans, because No. 1 singles player Blaine Doeden qualified from the section individual tournament for his second consecutive state berth. And teammates Kipton Jenson and Cade Lindner played remarkably to qualify for state in doubles.
The Trojans worked hard all year. It was nice to see them end strong. Kip, he’s just a great kid. Cade, I don’t think anyone out-worked him in the off-season to fine-tune his game. Blaine won’t be back to WHS next year, because he graduated. But I’ve gotta say, he gets my vote as the most thoughtful and eloquent high school athlete that I’ve interviewed in years.Hard work works
The state high school girls fast-pitch tournament was played at Caswell Park in North Mankato this year. Caswell, as I know I’ve stated before, is one of my favorite places anywhere. It’s where I played a ton of men’s fast-pitch games in my heyday, and I love covering the state girls prep tourney there.
I must confess, I didn’t expect the Dutchmen to win the Class A championship. They were seeded third in the tourney, and although they played well in the regular season (don’t they always?) they didn’t always dominate like championship teams often do.
When they did win it all, I chastised myself a little bit for my lack of assuredness. The E/SWC teams coached by veteran mentor Andrew Fleischman are always -- I mean always -- built for the big tournaments. They’ve had so much experience at it (2019 marked E/SWC’s sixth straight state appearance and fourth straight year in the championship game), that in the biggest games it’s foolish to bet against them.
I think there’s a lot to say about what the players reminded me about after the gold medals were draped around their necks.
“It just comes from confidence in our practice, and all the time we put into it in the offseason,” said first baseman Hannah Nerem.
The Dutchmen really do work hard. I’d say they work extra, extra hard. It’s not enough for them to know they’re talented; they never allow themselves the opportunity to waste it.
Take that to heart, grandkids.
One more thing I want to touch upon, and that is the Luverne 4x800-meter relay foursome of Regan Feit, Jadyn Anderson, Tenley Nelson and Brooklynn VerSteeg, who I’ve gotten to appreciate a great deal over the last couple of years at regular season and state track and field events. I was especially proud for Jadyn, who I’ve grown quite fond of in my grandfatherly kind of way.
All year long, these girls knew all the dangers awaiting them as they dreamed of a second consecutive state title. Jadyn confessed to me, “It’s hard to dare to dream to win. Because if you don’t, your heart is crushed. But you gotta put all of your heart into it, otherwise you can’t push yourself to win.”
Think about that one for a while. She’s right.
In summary, it’s fun to write stories about high school kids achieving great things. Twenty-nineteen taught me, once again, that hard work pays off for good and deserving people.