Sports year in review: 2020 was eventful what what happened and what didn't happen

The sports year of 2020 will be remembered in southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa largely for what didn’t occur. Big events in the early part of the year were allowed to happen, and they produced memorable individual and team moments. Other events didn’t happen at all because a global pandemic got in the way.

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The Southwest Minnesota Christian Eagles celebrate their 2020 Section 3A boys basketball championship after defeating Central Minnesota Christian in Marshall. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

Things that happened … things that didn’t happen.

The sports year of 2020 will be remembered in southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa largely for what didn’t occur. Big events in the early part of the year were allowed to happen, and they produced memorable individual and team moments. Other events didn’t happen at all because a global pandemic got in the way.

For better or for worse, it was a year like no other.

We put together a Top 10 list. It’s a ranking of the top ten sports stories of 2020 that occurred (or didn’t occur) in The Globe coverage area. The items that follow this paragraph were very difficult to rank, for the very simple fact that the year was so weird. Here goes:

1. The Edgerton Southwest Minnesota Christian Eagles and the Jackson County Central Huskies had hardly come down to earth after winning section boys basketball championships before the Minnesota State High School League announced the cancellation of the state tournament. The Huskies, led by all-time leading scorer Rudy Voss and buoyed by fellow 1,000-point scorer Andrew Hesebeck, compiled a 20-7 record in 2019-20 with a 69-60 victory over Minnewaska Area in the 3AA title game at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, but that’s where their season ended.


The cancellation of the state tournament hit Southwest Christian like a ton of bricks. The Eagles, who beat Central Christian 71-64 for the 3A title, also at SMSU, would’ve entered the state tourney with a perfect 29-0 record and with realistic dreams of winning the state championship. Thousand-point scorers Avery Pater, Jacob Van Dam and Kade Fey led a deep squad that seemingly had no weaknesses. The desire for a state tournament to show off their abilities was as deep as their talent, but it wasn’t to be.

2. Before Minnesota high school sports was canceled in March, the Worthington High School gymnastics team was able to showcase its abilities in yet another state Class A tournament. At Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, the Trojans represented Section 3A in team and individual competition, led by Hali Bullerman, Kara Thuringer, Gracia Elias, Mekyla Nystrom and Presley Eggers. State tournaments are special in their own right, but 2020 marked the program’s sixth consecutive appearance there.

Head coach Joni Reitmeier, minutes after the team’s sixth straight section championship was achieved, remarked that it’s dedication and hard work that gets it done. “I don’t know if there’s a secret. It’s that these girls who’ve come up through my youth program, they’re ready for anything. It’s just drive. They wanna be there, and you gotta have that,” she said.

3. The on-again, off-again Minnesota fall sports season sent athletes, coaches and fans on a crazy roller-coaster ride. Soccer, tennis and cross country seasons moved forward, but with shortened schedules and special rules. The football and volleyball seasons were suspended at first, then started late.

In the two-year college ranks, the entire football and volleyball campaigns were called off. The disruptions that caused for Minnesota West Community and Technical College were major. For Coach Jeff Linder’s football program, it put large numbers of athletes in limbo, leaving them to make difficult decisions about their futures.

4. Iowa high schools played on. For two northwest Iowa high schools, the fall season was memorable. An undersized Harris-Lake Park football team, which was blown out in its first two regular season games against top-ranked competition, won its next six games including 8-player playoff contests against River Valley and Coon Rapids-Bayard. Central Lyon/George-Little Rock, led by its outstanding sophomore quarterback Zach Lutmer, went undefeated before falling 28-14 to Waukon in the Class 2A championship game.

5. Spring high school seasons were wiped out in Minnesota, and at Minnesota West the baseball and softball seasons were terminated before the Bluejays could play their first home games. Confusion dominated the summer, but eventually there were American Legion-level baseball games played (though technically, the Legion didn’t sponsor any of it) and girls softball games were played, too, along with an amateur baseball season.

6. Optimism was high in Worthington prior to the 2020 Section 2A boys soccer championship. The WHS Trojans took an 11-0-1 record into the final at Trojan Field against underdog Bloomington Kennedy and the match was unforgettable. Kennedy finally won it, 1-0, in a second 10-minute overtime period.


The loss was a terrible shock to the Trojans, leading head coach Juan Flores to put his feelings into sharp focus. “This one stings. And it’s going to sting for a long time,” he said.

7. The Luverne High School girls hockey team competed in its first section championship in four years and won the 3A title with a 4-1 triumph over Mankato West at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. The Cardinals assembled in 2019-20 with hopes of playing in the state tournament after returning nearly all of their best players from the previous season, and they saw their goals realized. They lost both of their state tournament games (8-1 to Breck and 8-4 to South St. Paul) but finished the season with a 22-6-1 record.

8. Two southwest Minnesota high school wrestlers, Jackson County Central’s Payton Handevidt and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove’s Trevor Eisfeld won individual crowns at the state tournament. Handevidt, a sophomore, controlled Chatfield junior Seth Goetzinger 8-3 in the 145-pound Class A championship match. Eisfeld, a senior fighting nausea, headaches, body aches and shortness of breath throughout the state tournament’s final day, defeated senior Nathan Trio of Maple River 14-10 for the 184-pound Class A title.

Eisfeld had enough energy left over to do a cartwheel after his arms were raised in victory.

9. The high school cross country season was primarily a story about the Luverne and Murray County Central/Fulda girls squads, each blessed with an overabundance of talent. MCC/F was an especially intriguing story. In 2019, team leader Morgan Gehl earned her first state Class A individual championship after qualifying for the elite race for five consecutive years. In 2020, sophomore twins Ashley and Amanda Overgaauw joined the senior Gehl as legitimate state championship contenders, actually out-kicking their teammate in some regular season events.

Not surprisingly, MCC/F longed for a chance to compete for a state team championship this year, which could have been its first ever. But due to the pandemic, the state meet was canceled.

10. Thank goodness for Hills-Beaver Creek that the Minnesota high school football season happened at all. The Patriots had a powerhouse team, and they knew it. They finished 7-0 for the year and won all seven games by at least 36 points. Quarterback Gavin Wysong and running back Tyson Bork were named South 9-Man District offensive players of the year, and teammate Tory Knobloch was named the district’s top linemen.

Of course, there was no state tournament to enter in 2020. Indeed, it was a year like no other.


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