WORTHINGTON -- Perspectives on the upcoming spring high school sports season are difficult to put into words. But a few Worthington Trojans coaches are giving it a try.
“We haven’t had a meet for two years. Think about it,” said track and field co-head coach Cory Smidt.
“We had six seniors last year that were going to be starters,” said softball coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka. “It’s so odd, you feel like you haven’t seen these kids forever.”
COVID-19 eliminated the 2020 spring season for every prep program in Minnesota. But there’s going to be a season in 2021, and in fact the regular season games and meets begin this week. Still, last year’s seniors had their seasons pulled out from under them. This year’s seniors haven’t played a spring sport since they were sophomores. What it means is that, for most sports, the 2021 season will be uncommonly short of varsity experience.
There are five boys and 10 girls competing this year in WHS golf between grades 9-12. The boys team, coached by Paul Barduson, is made up of freshmen and sophomores, and the girls team, led by Brooke Hermsen, are mostly inexperienced as well.
“We can start with the fundamentals with these kids and build ‘em up,” said Barduson, who oversaw the girls program prior to this year, when veteran coach John Koller stepped down. Hermsen is in her first year mentoring the girls.
Not surprisingly, Barduson will go hard on the basics as he leads his group into battle.
“We’re focused on doing the fundamental things right,” he said. “I want to show them different shots and different situations that they’re going to find on the golf course.”
On Friday in Windom, the Worthington golfers open the regular season. On the same day, the WHS track and field team heads to St. Peter for its first meet. The Trojan boys tennis team had its first match scheduled for Tuesday, April 6. On Thursday, the baseball team is set to travel to New Ulm for its opener, and the softball squad will host New Ulm on the same day.
There hasn’t been much time to prepare. No sooner did the winter sports season end before the spring sports athletes were engaged in practice. Considering that an entire season was lost last year, it’s a lot to ask that high school athletes be ready in time.
“Unfortunately, we have the shortest amount of time before the first game that we’ve probably ever had, and then we had Easter week, too,” Hayenga-Hostikka explained.
Fortunately for the softball team, its core appears solid. Returning are experienced seniors Sophie Wietzema (catcher), Taylor Ponto (first base-pitcher) and Stephie Bauman (third base), along with solid juniors Haley Grimmius (pitcher) and Olivia Hayenga (shortstop).
“We have some pretty high expectations, although we have some definite unknowns,” Hayenga-Hostikka said.
On the baseball side of things, head coach Skyler Wenninger, who was hired before the 2020 season was to begin, will finally have a team to coach.
Wenninger, the son of successful Luverne High School baseball coach Mike Wenninger, enjoyed an outstanding college career.
Young Wenninger appears as fortunate as his softball counterpart as far as incoming talent. There are several experienced players on hand, including a good number of strong pitching arms. Tate Gaul, Brock Bruns, Kent Lais, Michael Iverson, Jake Brandner, Danny Pavelko, Nathan Van Orman, Blake Ahrenstorff, Isaiah Noble and Damon Schutz together make up a solid baseball nucleus.
The boys tennis team, mentored by Mike Marquardt, figures to be led at least in the early going by juniors Alec Langerud and Levi Kuhl. Langerud played fourth singles and third doubles as a freshman and will probably start in singles now. Kuhl has experience at third doubles and may stay in doubles.
Marquardt says the top four singles positions look promising.
“The guys are interested in playing. They put in some time in the summer. It’s not going to be like brand new,” he said.
The Worthington track and field team has about 70 athletes on hand between grades 9-12, which is close to the normal number, said co-head coach Jessica Hogan. It’s a fairly balanced number between girls and boys, with probably a few more girls than boys.
Among the early notables are girl junior sprinters Brooklyn Scheitel-Taylor and Bailey Newman, both who had good freshman seasons. Abagotte Opiew, on the boys’ side, will be worth watching in sprints and jumps.
“The underclassmen, we really don’t know about,” said Hogan. “But we do have a good core of returners back who can anchor us for a few events. We got a good freshman turnout, too.”