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Les Knutson: Weather cooperates for college track outing

BY LES KNUTSON The Globe sports reporter HERON LAKE -- A wise decision was made by hosting Northwest Missouri State University to move up last Saturday's big MIAA/NSIC Showdown track and field meet to Thursday (April 5) when a "window of spring" ...

BY LES KNUTSON

The Globe sports reporter

HERON LAKE -- A wise decision was made by hosting Northwest Missouri State University to move up last Saturday’s big MIAA/NSIC Showdown track and field meet to Thursday (April 5) when a “window of spring” was forecasted for Maryville, located about 50 miles south of the Iowa border and about the same distance east of I-29.

It sure was spring-like at Bearcat Stadium on the campus of NMSU last Thursday. The mid-afternoon temperature reached the projected mark of 63 degrees and sunshine prevailed as numerous collegiate track and field teams from the Midwest Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) went head-to-head in ideal early-season weather conditions.

I made the trip (323 miles down and 275 miles back, took Highway 71 on the way home, after traveling down I-29 from Sioux City on the way there) to watch my son, Logan Knutson, run a couple of events for the Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) Mustangs where he is a freshman. Logan ran well in the third heat (the slowest) of the 1,500-meter run, clocking a fourth-place time of 4:26.27 -- which was his personal record for that distance -- after holding the lead for the first two laps. There were 10 finishers in his heat, so he competed well, but his time (which is about equivalent to a 4:44.5 mile) was far off the fast times run in the first two heats.

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Both Augustana and the University of Sioux Falls (USF), powerhouse track and field programs from the NSIC, had a flock of top-notch distance runners clock fast times, including several who ran the 1,500 under four minutes.

Doug Petersen, who coached Adrian’s girls to four straight state cross country championships a decade ago, is the head track and field (and cross country) coach at USF and is enjoying immense success with the Cougars.

What a contrast Thursday’s weather in Maryville was to the conditions in Council Bluffs, Iowa, just five days earlier. While I traveled to Missouri on my own, sons Chad and Lucas went with me down to a small meet at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

With the temperature hovering in the mid-30s and a strong wind blowing, it was brutally cold.   Logan’s second-place 1,500-meter time that day was 4:43.36. So, five days later, with warmer weather and virtually no wind, he improved his time by a bit more than 17 seconds.

Chandler native Clayton Hartle, a 2016 graduate of Murray County Central High School, also competed at both Council Bluffs and Maryville, running in the 5,000-meter event (12.5 laps around the track). In the wind at Iowa Western, Hartle ran a third-place time of 18:00.29  At Bearcat Stadium, he knocked more than 57 seconds off, running a fine 11th-place time of 17:03.11 among a quality field of distance runners from a six-state area.

College teams from Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri were represented at the big MIAA/NSIC Invitational last Thursday -- before the weather turned cold and snowy in the northwest corner of Missouri, too.

A little more about
Balaton’s Carl Johnson
While we anxiously await the start of high school spring sports in the area, I have been finding out more information about Balaton legend Carl Johnson -- thanks to research by retired Edgerton grocery store owner Mike Drooger, who now has more time for those kinds of things.

According to Mike’s research, Carl -- who is chronicled by the Minnesota State High School League for his 62-point, 38-rebound performance while playing for Balaton -- accomplished his 100 stat total in a 101-34 victory over Ruthton on January 21, 1966. We are still not sure if the game was at Balaton or at Ruthton.

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Johnson’s Warriors were edged by Wood Lake in the 1966 District 9 finals, on a last-second reverse layup by Charley Fischer. Wood Lake, which was coached by Jerry Vanek (who later coached Renville to state-tournament appearances in 1971 and 1972), had rallied from 10 points down to defeat Marshall in the semifinals and needed a late-game rally to beat Balaton in that ’66 title game -- which legend has it that Johnson was playing despite not feeling well.

Wood Lake lost to Hutchinson in the Region 3 semifinals and the Tigers advanced to the state tournament for the second time in three years.

Johnson, listed at 6-10, went on to star at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, finishing a stellar four-year career with 1,768 points (second most in Gusties history), 631 made field goals (fourth most), 1,110 rebounds (first all-time) and 506 made free throws (most all-time).

After finishing at Gustavus, Johnson was drafted in 1970 by the NBA Cincinnati Royals in the 10th round, fifth pick. We have not been able to find out if Johnson tried out with the Royals, who later moved to Kansas City (Kansas City-Omaha Kings) and are now, since 1985, the Sacramento Kings.

We have learned that Johnson is a retired missionary, but are not sure where he is living now.

On a website listing Mystical Minnesota Mr. Basketball high school players from the 1960s, Johnson, along with Worthington legend Marty Jorgensen, is listed among the five finalists of 1966. The Peterson twins -- Dick and Bob -- from Henning shared Mr. Basketball honors in ’66 according to the website.

Round Lake’s Wendland
passed Johnson at BHS
Round Lake area farmer and tiler Brad Wendland had a storied career as a basketball player, starring for SMSU during his junior and senior seasons in ’86-87 and ’87-88. After that, Brad played on an Independent Traveling Team which won all kinds of tournaments in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Several years ago, the 6-4 Wendland was inducted into the Hall-of-Fame for his stellar all-around play in the fabled history of the annual tournament in White, S.D.

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“We played a lot of basketball in those first years after college,” recalled Wendland, who shot a lot of 3-pointers while playing in independent leagues and tournaments. “I wish the 3-point shot had been a part of high school when I played.”

Wendland played on some great teams at Balaton in the early 1980s and, during his senior year (’83-84), he passed up Carl Johnson’s as the Warriors all-time leading scorer.

“I had a couple of 44-point games and caught Johnson before the season ended,” Wendland remembered. “We had heard a lot about Johnson and how good that ’66 team was, but we had a great team at Balaton when I was a sophomore in 1982 and maybe even a better one in 1988 when my younger brother, Brandt, was playing.”

Wendland (1,388), Johnson (1,292), Dan Kirk (Class of ’82, 1,056) and Brandt Wendland (’88, 1,047) are the four BHS players listed on the 1,000-point club, according to Starbuck’s Matt Pedersen who compiles all sorts of high school basketball.

Masterson had a
great year in 1967
Going back to the Mythical Mr. Basketball list of the ‘60s, finds that Walnut Grove’s Tom Masterson was the winner in 1967, after leading the Loggers to District 10 and Region 3 titles.

Richfield’s Bill Davis (1960), Duluth Central’s Terry Kunze (1961), Danube’s Bob Bruggers (1962). Alan Redman of Wells (1963), Benilde’s Larry Mikan (1964), St. Paul Central’s LeRoy Gardner (1965), Edina’s Bob Zender (1968) and Duluth East’s Lew Rickert (1969) are listed as the other year-by-year Mr. Basketball winners of the 1960s.

Area players -- besides Johnson and Jorgensen in 1966 -- who are listed as finalists, include Edgerton’s Dean Veenhof (1961), Luverne’s Greg Thone and Marshall’s Terry Porter (1964), along with Luverne’s Del Jessen (1965).

Two small guys, both of whom played in the state tournament, were finalists in 1963. Guards Bobby Kelly of Bloomington (5-7) and Dave Meisner (5-8) of Cloquet were both considered among the state’s best five players that year.

Terry Kunze’s younger brother, Bill Kunze, was the head basketball coach at Balaton for many years, including when the Wendland brothers were pouring in points during the 1980s.

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