Archive for Kip Kovar

UNBREAKABLE: Gavin Kritzeck’s leadership, resiliency an inspiration to all

HOWARD LAKE – Gavin Krtizeck’s life changed in an instant. At one point, he was just a teenager who recently got his license. That all changed when he was injured in a car accident shortly before the Section 4A True Team Meet a year ago. Fast forward to today, and the junior sprinter for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted track and field team is back to being one of the team’s top sprinters, and one of the best in the area as well.

Through the accident, the recovery, and the return, Kritzeck was able to rally his team together and work his way back to being a part of the team once again during his junior season. Being able to run, practice, and compete with his teammates is something Gavin has worked hard to accomplish this past year.

After Gavin Kritzeck inspired his team to win the Section True Team meet a year ago, he’s earning the respect and admiration of conference coaches and athletes this year with the way he has recovered from a severe car accident a year ago.

After Gavin Kritzeck inspired his team to win the Section True Team meet a year ago, he’s earning the respect and admiration of conference coaches and athletes this year with the way he has recovered from a severe car accident a year ago.


On the evening of May 7, 2016, the Kritzeck family was shaken. Gavin was in a one-vehicle car accident that evening, and suffered major injuries. Kritzeck was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center.

In the accident, Kritzeck suffered a fractured spine which took surgery to repair.  The surgery lasted multiple hours as doctors put screws and pins in his spine to help heal the damage. Kritzeck also suffered other minor injuries, but in the words of the doctors, he was lucky to be alive.

Following the surgery, doctors decided a halo was necessary to keep Gavin’s head still so that his fractured vertebrates in his neck could heal. Other injuries Gavin suffered and had to overcome included fractured ribs, a broken sternum, and a bruised lung.

When Gavin arrived at the hospital, he was unable to feel his legs. According to a post on Gavin’s Caring Bridge page, Gavin’s family said that the neurosurgeon wasn’t sure why the feeling came back to his legs, other than it was a miracle.

With the feeling back in his legs, the recovery for Gavin began.


The recovery process for Gavin was slow and painful. Not only was he dealing with major injuries, he was away from the team he wanted to be with so much.

Shortly after the surgery and having his halo added, Gavin began physical therapy. Although physical therapy starter well for him, it wasn’t always easy. The more Gavin did, the more pain he felt the next day.

“It was kind of tough,” Gavin said about completing physical therapy and being patient as he healed. “I knew what I had to do to be able to get back to where I was. That kind of pushed me to work harder.”

A few days later, Gavin began to walk around his bed and around his floor at the hospital. As he began to walk more and more, families and doctors were seeing improvement each and every day.

Eventually, Gavin was released from the hospital, but not before he was an inspiration to his team, his school, and his community.


The next day following Gavin’s surgery, the HLWW track and field team competed in the Section True Team Meet without one of their top sprinters, and without one of their friends.

The team wore orange shirts with the words, “Team Gavin” proudly displayed across them. While Gavin continued to work hard to make a full recovery, his team was thinking of him.

After an emotional practice on Monday when the team heard the news, the Lakers rallied around Gavin as they won the True Team Meet for the first time in school history. They won it for their teammate.

“Honestly, that was one of the most special meets I’ll probably ever have in my career,” Lakers coach Andy Hertwig said. “The emotions of Monday’s practice, where kids were crying, only to come back Tuesday and have personal bests after personal bests. It was honestly so special. There’s no other way to put it. It was so exciting. Not only the team, but the community. Everyone was wearing the orange team Gavin shirts. It was something I’ll never forget.”

“I think that was the main reason we went last year,” teammate and friend Brennan Barth said. “He was our main motivation. It was a big deal.”

After winning the Section True Team Meet, members of the team, along with the trophy, made appearances in Gavin’s room. Despite not being able to be there to support his team, knowing his team was thinking of him meant everything to Gavin.

“It meant a lot to me that they were supporting me,” Gavin said. “It showed me how much they have my back and stuff.”

While still working through physical therapy, Gavin was able to attend the State True Team meet in person as he was able to get away from the hospital for a bit.

“That felt good to be there for them after everything they did for me,” Gavin said about attending the state meet. “I was just glad I could support them.”


Flash forward to today, and Gavin is back as one of the top sprinters on the team, and one of the best in the conference. Although there were struggles and pain along the way, Gavin knew he would be able to get back to the sport he loves.

“Once I got out of the hospital, I knew that eventually that if I worked hard, I’d be able to get back,” Gavin said. “It’s great just to be back. All my teammates make it just a bunch of fun just to be on the team. It felt great to be back and running and everything.”

Not much has changed since Gavin returned to the team this spring. According to coach Hertwig, Gavin continues to show a work effort that is unmatched by anybody.

“It’s funny because he still has that same drive,” Hertwig said about the difference between Gavin before the accident and after. “He worked unbelievably hard last year as a sophomore to put himself in a situation to be All-Conference.  I still see that same drive, but maybe I see just a little bit more of a chip on his shoulder. While he’s racing, or even during a workout, I’ll see just a little bit more of a fight. He’s always been a really hard worker, but I maybe just see it a little more now. In some races, it’s just like, I want this more than you do.”

That extra fight and work Gavin puts in doesn’t go unnoticed. Whether it’s his friends,  teammates, or peers, there was no doubt in their minds that Gavin would be back to his old self.

“The dude is like unbreakable,” Barth said. “That’s what it’s about. Even his spirit and everything he does, you can’t match that. That’s just what he’s about. That’s what has impressed me the most about him.”

“It’s crazy,” teammate and friend Noah Bundrock said. “I don’t understand how he did it. I saw him lifting all throughout the fall and all through spring. It’s pretty crazy.”

While having one of your top sprinters back is always a plus. It’s the friendships, motivation, and leadership that Gavin brings to the table that has his coach and teammates glad he’s back.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Barth said. “It’s cool to hang out with him. It’s nice to have him around and not in the halo, neck brace, and all that stuff. You get to see who he was before.”

“He’s not necessarily the most vocal guy,  but he definitely leads by example,” Hertwig said. “You will see if someone is not doing what they should be doing, he will be quick to get on them and say hey, let’s get going. He knows what it takes to be successful. He’s worked from basically not being able to walk, to would have been All-Conference had he not blown out his hamstring  in the final 10 meters.”

Not only has Gavin earned the respect and affection of his friends and teammates, the conference and area teams have admired him as well, and rightfully so.

“It’s amazing,” Hertwig said. “It really is. I got some emails from opposing coaches too that were just saying so happy to see Gavin back on the track. One coach even said, happy to see him back out on the track, maybe not so happy to see him kicking our butts for the rest of the year. The level of respect he has throughout the conference says what kind of athlete and character he has.”

Gavin came up just short of his ultimate goal of being All-Conference as he blew out his hamstring at the conference meet this past week. That doesn’t mean he’s done though.  He has a chance to be back for the Sub-Section meet coming up May 23. Even with the injury, there’s no doubt that he’ll be working hard to get back to try and help his team.

“Probably the biggest thing, he is the hardest worker,” Hertwig said. “He gets pissed off if he gets beat in any rep. There’s a lot of times where I’ll jump in and do the workouts with him, and he will not let me beat him ever. That just sets the tone right there.”

What ever happens to the Lakers and Gavin at the Sub-Section meet, he’ll know he did everything he could to get back to doing what he loves the most. In the end, it’s the relationships, memories, and fun that Gavin created that mean much more.

“They mean a lot to me,” Gavin said about all the support, memories, and friends he’s had over a crazy past year. “I know that if I ever need anything, they’ll be right there for me.”


SOFTBALL: Thompson, Lakers use two-out rally to knock off Litchfield

HOWARD LAKE – Just when it looked like the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted softball team was about to have their season come to a disappointing end, things changed in an instant. After watching the Litchfield Dragons rally to take the lead in the top of the sixth inning, the Lakers scored three runs with two outs to retake the lead as they hung on for an 8-6 win in the opening round of the Section 5AA tournament.

“We’ve been that way all season,” Lakers coach Chris Johnson said about her team rallying with two outs. “We never give up.  I’m proud of the girls. It was a tough game.”

The HLWW bench celebrates as AJ Thompson touches home plate after hitting a triple and scoring on a bad throw. Thompson went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBI to lead the Lakers to an 8-6 win against Litchfield in the Section 5AA tournament.

The HLWW bench celebrates as AJ Thompson touches home plate after hitting a triple and scoring on a bad throw. Thompson went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBI to lead the Lakers to an 8-6 win against Litchfield in the Section 5AA tournament.

After both teams rallied back and forth, the Dragons took their first lead of the game since the first inning on an sacrifice fly. With the Lakers needing a baserunner, Moran Niesen delivered with a lead-off single. After a pair of outs, the Lakers looked like they would let they were about to let a chance to tie the game slip away. AJ Thompson, a university of Minnesota commit, made sure the Lakers didn’t let it slip away.

“We’ve really been putting a lot of pressure on her to not just be a bunter or slapper, but to hit the ball,” Johnson said. “Today she did that, and look what happened. Good things happen.”

Thompson drove a line drive into center field that went just off the center fielders glove for a base hit and to tie the game at six. It was Thompson’s third RBI of the game, all of which came with two outs.

“I’m just going 100 percent every single time,” Thompson said about her mindset on the bases. “I’m just focusing on the play right now, and then onto the next one and I’m constantly working to be better.”

The Lakers didn’t settle for just one to tie the game though. Macee Streich, who has been red-hot for the Lakers as of late, delivered her biggest hit of the day that drove in two more runs, giving the Lakers a two-tun lead.

“Some kids just hold up under pressure,” Johnson said about Streich coming through in the clutch once again for the Lakers. “They thrive on it. She’s one of those kids that thrive under pressure.”

Things didn’t go easy for the Lakers though as they tried to wrap things up in the top of seventh. A lead-off walk followed by a base hit gave the Dragons runners on first and second with nobody out.  With the tying runs on base, Litchfield opted to move the runners over with a bunt, setting up runners on first and second with one out.

With the tying runs in scoring position, Haley Wiegert came through for the Lakers. Wiegert who struggled a bit with location in the game, dug deep and got a big strikeout to leave the runners on second and third with two outs.

Shortstop Annella Lammers sticks with the play and throws from her knees to record a big out for the Lakers.

Shortstop Annella Lammers sticks with the play and throws from her knees to record a big out for the Lakers.

“Haley likes to live on the low,” Johnson said about Wiegert powering through for the team. “He wasn’t giving us that. So we had to fight back. We came in thinking we were going to go low in and low out. We couldn’t go that way, so we battled back with high in and low out.”

Following the big strikeout for Wiegert, the Dragons had the right person at the plate with the game on the line. Jasmin Estrada stepped to the plate with a golden chance to tie things up. In her first at-bat, Estrada hit a solo home run to left field. With Estrada up, Johnson opted to intentionally walk Estrada for a fourth straight time, loading the bases with two outs.

Following the intentional walk, Wiegert got Litchfield’s Kyndra Beavers to ground out, sealing the comeback win for the Lakers.

“I think we have a really good atmosphere on our team this year,” Thompson said about the reason for the comeback win. “We’re all playing as a team. Everyone is fighting together for a win, and that definitely showed tonight.”

With the win, the Lakers get another shot at their rival and top-seeded Maple Lake Tuesday night. The Irish swept the Lakers earlier this season, but there’s no doubt the Lakers are ready for another shot at the top-ranked team in Class AA.

“Definitely,” an enthusiastic Thompson said about getting another chance at Maple Lake. “I definitely want to win.”

Morgan "Mo Money" Niesen fires a throw over to first for an out.

Morgan “Mo Money” Niesen fires a throw over to first for an out.

The Lakers are Irish are set to square off Tuesday, May 23 in Maple Lake at 4 p.m. Should the Lakers knock off the Irish, they will play again Thursday, May 25 in Maple Lake. If the Lakers lose against Maple Lake, they will face the loser of Eden Valley-Watkins and Annandale at 6 p.m. Tuesday night.


To stay up to date with the HLWW softball team and get in-game updates, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports




UPDATE: Dugout dedication has been postponed

Due to rain and wet conditions the Cologne Hollanders game against the Hamburg Hawks Friday, May 19,  and dugout dedication and fireworks has been postponed and will be rescheduled for mid-June. We will inform all of the new date when it is determined.


Cologne Hollanders dedicating new dug out Friday night

The Cologne Hollanders will be having a new dug out dedication Friday, May 19 when they host the Hamburg Hawks in a Crow River Valley League matchup. The Hollanders received a grant from the Twins Community Fund to construct new dugouts, and they were completed this past fall.

The game starts at 7 p.m. at Robert G. Fritz Memorial Field. Both the Hollanders and the Hawks enter with a 1-1 record in the CRVL this season.



SOFTBALL: Section 4A bracket released

The seedings and pairings for the Section 4A softball tournament was released Monday afternoon. Maranatha Christian claimed the top seed in Section 4A. The Mustangs had a regular season record of 16-2, and won the MN Christian Athletic Association conference title.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity earned the No. 3 seed and a first-round bye. The Bulldogs finished their season strong, winning eight of their last nine games and finishing with an overall record of 10-4.

Mayer Lutheran received the No. 4 seed for the tournament. The Crusaders currently have a 12-5 record overall, and a 4-2 record against section opponents.



No. 1 Maranatha Christian – BYE

No. 2 Kimball – BYE

No. 3 Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity – BYE

No. 4 Mayer Lutheran vs. No. 13 Chesterton Academy, at New Germany, 4:30 pm

No. 5 Heritage Christian vs. No. 12 Legacy Christian, at Heritage Christian, 4:30 pm

No. 6 West Lutheran vs. No. 11 Mounds Park Academy, at Plymouth Creek Playfields, 4:30 pm

No. 7 PACT Charter vs. No. 10 Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, at The Draw in Ramsey, 4:30

No. 8 St. Paul Humboldt vs. No. 9 North Lakes Academy, at St. Paul Humboldt, 4:30 pm


SECOND ROUND MATCHUPS: (All games at Central Park-Ramsey Field at 10 am)

No. 1 Maranatha Christian vs. Winner of No. 8 St. Paul Humboldt and North Lakes Academy

No. 2 Kimball vs. Winner of No. 7 PACT Charter and No. 10 ACGC

No. 3 Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity vs. Winner of No. 6 West Lutheran and No. 11 Mounds Park Academy

Winner of No. 4 Mayer Lutheran and No. 13 Chesterton Academy vs. Winner of No. 5 Heritage Christian and No. 12 Legacy Christian


For a complete bracket click here.


Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter for results, news, and updates throughout the Section 4A softball tournament.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 




Prep sports schedule for Thursday, May 11.



Eden Valley-Watkins at Paynesville (DH)

HLWW at Holdingford (DH)

Maple Lake at B-B-E (DH)

Kimball at Pierz (DH)



West Lutheran at Legacy Christian

Heritage Christian at PACT Charter

St. Croix Prep at Maranatha Christian

SW Christian at LP/HT



Annandale at New London-Spicer

Holy Family at Waconia

Glencoe-Silver Lake at Dassel-Cokato

Hutchinson at New Prague

Orono at St. Anthony

Mound Westonka at Rockford

Litchfield at Watertown-Mayer



LeSueur-Henderson at Sibley East



Holdingford at HLWW (DH)

Pierz at Kimball (DH)

B-B-E at Maple Lake (DH)

Paynesville at Eden Valley-Watkins (DH)



SW Christian at LP/HT

Heritage Christian at PACT Charter

West Lutheran at New Life Academy



Rockford at Mound Westonka (DH)

Watertown-Mayer at Litchfield

Dassel-Cokato at Glencoe-Silver Lake

Delano at Orono

Waconia at Holy Family

New Prague at Hutchinson



Tri-City United at NYA

LeSueur-Henderson at Sibley East



HLWW, Dassel-Cokato, Eden Valley-Watkins, St. John’s Prep, St. Cloud Cathedral, Zimmerman at Maple Lake, 4 pm



CHOF, Glencoe-Silver Lake, International School of MN, Liberty Classical Academy, Mayer Lutheran, Patrick Henry, SW Christian, and West Lutheran at Watertown-Mayer, 4 pm



CHOF, Glencoe-Silver Lake, International School of MN, Liberty Classical Academy, Mayer Lutheran, Patrick Henry, SW Christian, and West Lutheran at Watertown-Mayer, 4 pm



HLWW, Paynesville, B-B-E, Kimball/Eden Valley-Watkins, Pierz, Maple Lake, Osakis at Pierz Golf Course, 4:15 pm



Annandale, Mound Westonka, Dassel-Cokato, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Litchfield, New London-Spicer, Rockford, and Watertown-Mayer at Burl Oaks Country Club, 4 pm



Belle Plaine, Jordan, LeSueur-Henderson, Mayer Lutheran, Sibley East, St. Peter, and New Prague at Montgomery National Golf Course, 12:30 pm



Belle Plaine, Jordan, LeSueur-Henderson, Mayer Lutheran, Sibley East, St. Peter, and St. Anthony at Montgomery National Golf Course, 12:30 pm


Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter for in-game updates, scores, rankings, and analysis throughout the season on all your favorite teams.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports