The year 2020 will be one to remember for several reasons. Of course, the main reason is the global pandemic going on that seems it will trickle into 2021.
High school sports were no stranger to the changes and craziness that this pandemic touched. From not having a spring sports season to all the changes that have affected the fall and winter sports season, it’s been a crazy year to be a sports editor for sure.
I started this year by covering four schools by myself. Then I added two more schools in Dassel-Cokato and Delano as Brad Salmen and Matt Kane stepped down from their positions. That left six schools to cover by myself and that was a challenge. It was a challenge I welcomed. I always knew what was going on with D-C and Delano sports with doing layout for all the sports sections, but it’s been fun to be directly involved in the coverage. Still, six schools to cover by myself was a lot to handle.
Being a sports editor is the best job I could ask for. I truly enjoy trying to find the stories that go beyond the stats and the games themselves. Over the past 5+ years as sports editor for the Herald Journal, I’ve been able to develop some awesome relationships with players, coaches, and athletic directors in the area. I look forward to continuing that in 2021, especially with the D-C and Delano communities.
Covering six schools can be a lot for just two guys. We sometimes have the habit of getting through one week of coverage and then moving right on into putting together the next week’s paper. There’s so much going on that you really don’t have much time to look back and see what you did.
At this time of year, things
tend to slow down a bit here in the sports world due to the holidays. This year is different. We’re eagerly awaiting the start of the winter sports season as the season has been put on hold by the pandemic.
Each year around this time I take the time to look back on the past year of coverage. This year is even more important for that. Instead of looking back and remembering all that was taken away or lost, it’s important to look back on all the memories that were made.
I want to thank everyone for following along with this crazy year of sports coverage and I hope you continue to do so in 2021. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the top high school sports moments from the past year.
Delano ballpark ranked No. 1
Longtime baseball devotee Bob Greeley of Kimball recently completed a Twitter countdown of the top 100 town team baseball parks in the state of Minnesota.
Greeley did substantial research over a number of years, including visiting many ballparks and taking copious notes to come up with his Top 100+ list. He released the results one per day for 100 days, with the No. 1 selection having been revealed Christmas Day.
That No. 1 pick was Delano Municipal Baseball Park.
“It’s a real privilege to be considered in this select group of ballparks,” said Delano’s Joe Schleper.
Bob Greeley’s top-10:
6. Cold Spring
7. New Ulm
Kuechle nets hat trick in win over Waconia
Delano’s Chloe Kuechle had a game to remember for the Delano Tigers in their 4-0 win over Waconia. The senior had three goals as the Tigers as she recorder her first hat trick of the season. It was also brought her season goal total to 11.
Kuechle scored the only goal of the first period, at 4:16. Goal number two came 46 seconds into the second period, with assists going to Kivisto and Annika Reierson. Kuechle called for the hats at 8:34 of the third.
In between Kuechle’s second and third goals in the second period, Grace Daly scored at 4:06. Tori Bekkala assisted.
Delano’s Glasrud a semifinalist for Let’s Play Hockey Senior Goalie of The Year
Grace Glasrud was the backbone of the Delano girls hockey team this season and for much of her four-year career with the varsity team.
Fans around the Delano/Rockford Area and in the Wright County Conference knew this entering the season. Now, it is evident that the entire State of Hockey is well aware, as, on Monday, Glasrud was named a semifinalist for 2020 Let’s Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year Award.
“It’s a wonderful feeling because I am also the first person to be up for that award from Delano,” Glasrud said Wednesday afternoon after committing to Post University on National Signing Day. “There are a lot of good goalies out there, and I know six or seven on that list from training with them. Knowing I am just as good as them, only with a worse record and from a small town, it’s pretty good.”
Glasrud was one of 10 semifinalists. The others were St. Paul/Henry Sibley’s Veronica Morse, Sauk Rapids-Rice’s Chloe Stockinger, Faribault’s Mikayla Bohner, Andover’s Amanda Pelkey, Hill-Murray’s Rachel Kennedy, Apple Valley’s Keni Allen, Forest Lake’s Allyn Goehner, Woodbury’s Anna Julius, and North Wright County’s Anna LaRose.
Jaunich’s four-point play lifts Tigers to win
The zero that occupied the win column in Delano’s Wright County Conference East record for two months came to an end in a dramatic way. The Tigers cracked the egg Feb. 7 with a nail-biting 55-54 home win over Holy Family.
“That was a fun one,” said Delano coach Seth Potter.
The host Tigers did just enough with a 29-point second half for itself while holding the Fire to 27.
The Tigers trailed by three points with 14 seconds to play in the game and possession of the basketball with Holy Family.
Delano’s plan to foul off the Fire inbound play never had to be lived out, thanks to senior captain Olivia Jaunich, who stole the ball and dribbled the length of the floor.
Jaunich stopped and popped from 3-point land. The ball found the bottom of the net to tie the game just as the whistle blew to signal a foul on the shot.
Jaunich calmly drained the free throw to give the Tigers the one-point win. That four-point play gave Jaunich a game-high 24 points.
Pinoniemi, Stoudt qualify for state meet
Delano gymnasts Leah Pinoniemi and Gabby Stoudt survived the Section 5A championships Feb. 13 in Watertown and kept their seasons alive by qualifying for the Class A state tournament.
A senior, Pinoniemi’s state trip will include appearances in uneven parallel bars and floor exercise. Stoudt, a sophomore, will compete in vault.
“It’s a big deal. I’m really excited and my parents are really excited,” said Stoudt, who will make her state debut. “I’m ready to go. It’s very exciting.”
Tigers have four wrestlers reach state
The annual tradition of sending wrestlers to the state tournament continued this season for Delano, as four Tigers wrestled their way through the Section 2AA tournament all the way to a state berth.
Three of those wrestlers are going as section champions. The fourth is wrestling as the section’s second-place finisher in his respective bracket. The section tournament was Feb. 21-22 at Hutchinson High School.
Seniors Tyson Kroells and Edward Hajas, and junior Carson Tschudi are Delano’s section champions. Senior Matt Baker finished second. While Hajas and Tschudi are both making return trips to state, Kroells and Baker will end their high school wrestling careers with their first state appearances.
“Tyson and Matt making it their senior years was well-earned,” said Delano coach Jeff Olson. “Neither was going to have an easy road; they were going to have to earn it, and they did.”
D/W-M sends swimmers and divers to state
Delano/Watertown-Mayer (DWM) was represented at the Class A Swimming and Diving Championships this week at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
Three relay teams, three individual swimmers, and one diver all posted qualifying finishes Feb. 22 at the Section 2A Championships at Hutchinson Middle School.
DWM junior Colby Kern and sophomores Nick Black and Gentry Nuytten swam in four events — two individual and two relays at the state meet.
Delano boys hockey wins section title in double overtime
In a game to remember, Delano pulled off a 3-2 win over Robbinsdale Armstrong/Cooper in double-overtime Feb. 27 at the St. Louis Park Rec Center to claim the Section 2A championships and the state berth.
The white-hot stick of Jesse Peterson delivered the winner for the Tigers with 8:30 remaining in the second extra session.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable. It still hasn’t sunk in,” Peterson said from outside the Tigers locker room, where the celebratory party with classmates was still strong.
On the game-winner, in one motion, Peterson caught a perfect pass from Adam Brown in the high slot and whipped the puck high over the left shoulder of Wings goalie Owen Reeve.
“The pucks were bouncing and we were having problems handling them, then, two periods into overtime, Adam gave me a great puck and I buried it,” said Peterson.
It was a perfect storm.
“No joke, when A-B (Brown) got the puck and was coming up the left side and I saw 11 (Peterson) was in the middle of the ice, I said in my head ‘These are the two guys we want,’” said Delano coach Gerrit van Bergen. “Those two guys were phenomenal tonight, and it was really fun to see them be rewarded.”
After watching the puck hit the back of the net, Peterson immediately turned and sprinted toward the opposite end of the ice, dodging gloves and helmets, to celebrate with his teammates and the Delano student section.
“Unreal. I don’t have words for it now,” one of those teammates, senior forward Michael Weber, said. “It’s unreal.”
Tschudi, Hajas medal at state
Delano’s Carson Tschudi finished his junior season as the fourth-place wrestler at 145 pounds in the Class AA State Tournament Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
Senior Edward Hajas ended his high school wrestling career with a fifth-place finish at 220 pounds.
Tschudi and Hajas were both making return trips to state. They were two of Delano’s four wrestlers who competed.
Tschudi had to battle back to gain the fourth-place medal. He lost his opening-round match Friday, but battled back with a wrestleback win later that day and two more Saturday to put himself in the third-place match.
Tschudi (32-7) faced Princeton’s Zach Wells (45-1) in that third-place match. Wells edged Tschudi for a 6-4 decision and took third place.
Tschudi settled for fourth.
After winning his two matches Friday, Hajas (41-5) was defeated by Simley’s Bennett Tabor (50-0) 4-2 in the semifinals Saturday.
In his first wrestleback match Saturday, Hajas was pinned by STA’s Garrison Solliday (18-3) at 3:55 of the match. Hajas took the fifth-place medal via an injury forfeit by Becker’s Brayden Weber (36-6).
Hajas pinned MFC’s Bodee Zens (26-13) at 2:44 in the first round Friday morning and took care of New London-Spicer’s Nick McKenzie (42-7) by a 5-1 decision in the quarterfinals later that day.
Tigers win Section 5AAA title, state tournament canceled
The mood was different March 12 when Delano defeated Fridley 80-51 in the Section 5-3A championship game.
There wasn’t any jumping around with uncontrollable glee and the student section didn’t rush the court, as is common when a team qualifies for the state tournament in any sport. The players had smiles on their faces and stuck mostly to high-fives and a few bro-hugs. The fans slowly made their way to the court, waiting patiently to greet the players after the medals and trophy were handed to the Tigers.
“It wasn’t like when we beat Willmar, that’s for sure,” said Delano coach Terry Techam.
Techam was referring to the 2018 season when Delano defeated Willmar 75-54 in the Section 5-3A title game at St. Cloud State. The Tiger fans barely waited for the final horn to sound on the win, storming the court at Halenbeck Hall to engulf the players.
Of course, that 2018 season ended with another rush of the court, this time at Target Center after the No. 6 seeded Tigers defeated Columbia Heights 65-61 to win the Class 3A championship.
A combination of things may have led to the calm mood following the recent win over Fridley: The score was lopsided in Delano’s favor for most of the game; the Tigers were expected to come out of the section, and the threat of the COVID-19 Coronavirus completely erasing the upcoming state tournament was in the back of people’s minds.
Not long after Delano accepted the Section 5-3A championship trophy — one day later — the players, coaches, and fans found out there would be no state tournament for the Tigers to play in.
Friday morning, March 13, it was declared by the Minnesota State High School League that all state tournaments, including the girls’ basketball tournament, which was underway, were canceled immediately due to the Coronavirus.
“Obviously, they are very disappointed, but they understand why the tournament was canceled,” Techam said of his players dealing with the unforeseeable situation. “Personally, I really feel for them to miss out on such a great experience. Only two players on this team were on our team two years ago so it was going to be a new experience and thrill for most of our guys. You do not get a lot of opportunities to be able to play in Williams Arena or the Target Center, but, again, the health of people is much more important.”
Jaunich’s big day leads A’s past Anoka
The Delano bats were ready for the home opener June 24, when the Anoka Bucs visited Delano Municipal Baseball Park for a non-league game.
The host A’s rattled 12 hits around the ballyard en route to a 9-5 win over the Bucs.
Trevor Jaunich continued to swing a hot bat, finishing 2-for-4 with two home runs, five runs batted in, and two runs scored.
Jaunich hit a two-run homer off Steven VanVleet with nobody out in the second inning to give the A’s a 2-0 lead. In the fifth, he connected for a three-run shot off reliever Hunter Smith to make it an 8-2 game.
A’s top rival Loretto to reach state
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Delano was one hit away from a 10-run rule victory over Loretto. A half-inning later, Loretto was one hit away from tying the same game.
A tight, well-played affair early, the Region 12C second-round game between the A’s and Larks Aug. 8 at Irish Field in Maple Lake turned into a slop fest, where errors and walks ruled the latter innings.
In the end, Delano held on for a 10-8 victory over the rival Larks, and, in doing so, became the second team out of the region to claim a spot in the Class C state tournament.
“That was our goal after fizzing out of the last playoffs,” said Delano third baseman James Otto, who drove in two runs for the A’s in the win over Loretto.