Sports teams in the region shine in 2021 | Local news
Last year was a wonderful year for the sports teams in the region.
True, the handling of COVID-19 concerns has been less than wonderful. But the area teams didn’t just solve these problems; Some of them positioned themselves among the best teams in the country in various fields.
The year actually began with a “delayed” start, with the Minnesota State High School League winter sports teams banning training until January 4th, while games weren’t allowed to begin until January 14th.
Winter sports teams were not allowed to play a full program – and the teams had to wear masks during training and games.
But none of these restrictions stopped a number of local athletes from climbing to the top, a trend that continued throughout the year.
Here is a look at some of the top athletic performances of the past year in chronological order.
GYMNASTS FALL UP
North Branch’s Dakota Esget took fourth place on the uneven bars in the Class A state gymnastics hosted by Champlin Park High School on March 26th.
Esget, who was an eighth grader at the time, got a score of 9.2750 on the bar en route to a 17th.
Her team colleague, Senior Paige Bauer, took 10th place in the jump (9.425).
In class 2A, Laci Leverty from Cambridge-Isanti, at that time junior, finished 17th in the uneven bars and 19th in the jump, while the second grader Laci Lorinser 19th balance beam (8.55).
Cambridge-Isanti’s Leo Edblad crowned a good freshman wrestling season by advancing to the Class 3A state wrestling tournament held March 25-26 from St. Michael-Albertville.
While Edblad lost his two Â£ 106 matches at the state tournament, that did nothing to detract from a season in which he had set a 34-3 record.
The Cambridge-Isanti bowling team had a blue ribbon day at the MSHSL state tournament, which was held virtually on May 13th.
On the tracks, the then junior Bryce Tinnel won the boys’ individual title in the cognitively impaired division with a total of 464 pinfalls.
Off the lanes, Senior Hunter Carpenter received the Russ Bakko Most Outstanding Bowler Award from the Minnesota Adapted Athletics Association. The award is given annually to a senior-adapted bowler who has competed at a high level, has shown good sportsmanship and has shown positive leadership.
The Braham girls’ golf team flashed the field at the Class A Section 7 tournament at Virginia Golf Course May 26-27, winning the tournament with a whopping 42 strokes. The Bombers took seventh place at the state tournament, with the senior Tessa Burmaster having the nose in front with 29th place.
The senior citizen Jasmyn Sibell from Cambridge-Isanti finished 20th individually.
SOFTBALL CRUISES TO NORTH BRANCH TO THE STATE
The North Branch softball team were undefeated in rolling for the Class 3A Section 7. The Vikings came from behind to defeat Chisago Lakes 5-4 in the championship game on June 10 at Forest Lake to take the school’s second state championship course win.
While the Vikings lost 10-0 to the state’s top-ranked team, Mankato West, coach Kathy Crudo said the defeat didn’t reflect their team’s season.
“I felt like we’ve grown every single game this season,” she said. “Our girls should be proud of themselves because they made the community proud and gave the younger generation something to shoot.”
BRAHAM BASEBALL ACHIEVES FIRST SECTION FINAL
Braham’s baseball roster was number 2 in the eastern section of Class A, Section 5, and the Bombers opened the game with wins over East Central, Onamia and Ogilvie.
After losing to Sebeka in the Winners Bracket final on June 7, Braham then fought his way through the Losers Bracket by whipping Hinckley-Finlayson 13-3 in six innings to force a rematch with the Trojans.
Neither team scored a goal in that section final game until the Bombers gave up a grand slam in the fifth inning and eventually lost 5-0 on the program’s first appearance in the section finals.
“I think we have a lot of great kids here who love the game, understand the game and are ready to put their work into it to be successful,” said Braham coach Aitor Leniz. “That’s why I was happy that this was the first team to make it into the section championship.”
There were a number of strong track and field athletes in this area who performed great in the spring.
The most impressive was that of Cambridge-Isanti Senior Jacob Ziebarth, who won a state title in the high jump at the Class 2A State Championships in St. Michael-Albertville on June 19th. Ziebarth cleared 6-7, beating his closest competitor by 2 full inches.
Ethan Hintermeister, senior CI colleague, almost came to the top of the podium alongside Ziebarth when he finished second in the pole vault, only behind Wayzata’s Jack Helmich. Those were just two of the highlights this season for the Bluejacket boys who also won the Mississippi 8 team title.
In the meantime, the Cambridge Isanti girls took third place in the 4×200 season of seniors Larissa Block and Kaylee Clement, then runner-up Anika Larson and then junior Aiyana Knight with a time of 1: 43.98. It was just one of the season highlights for the Bluejacket girls who also deserved a Class 3A True Team state meeting place.
Top performances for North Branch at the national meeting came from Senior Harrison Toussaint, who finished eighth in the 110 high hurdles with a time of 15.23, while his senior colleague Paige Bauer finished third in the pole vault with 11: 6.
Rush City runner-up Nolan Anderson finished fifth in the 110 high hurdles in the Class A meeting on June 18, while the Tigers won the Great River Conference boys’ team title.
And Brahams Hannah Cornelius crowned an outstanding career in high school by qualifying for the state meeting in three different events. She finished sixth in the 100 and 400, then ninth in the 200 as the only woman to attempt this difficult triple.
Isanti-born Grace McCallum overcame some difficult chances to win an Olympic medal.
After the Olympics were postponed by a year, McCallum had to overcome a “boxer’s fracture” of her little finger that she suffered in January and that negatively affected her preparation for the Midsummer Olympics.
But she overcame those obstacles and finished fourth in the trials, then she was selected for the Olympic team.
At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the US was an overwhelming favorite for the team gold medal – until the outstanding Simone Biles withdrew from the competition after the jump. At this point, McCallum and his teammates Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles made an impressive effort on July 27th to take silver in the team competition.
The Isanti Redbirds dominated the Class C Region 1 tournament, winning four games with a combined score of 48-1 to secure another spot in the state tournament.
With this title Isanti earned his third place in a row at the state tournament in class C.
The championship also gave the Redbirds a bye in the first round of the tournament, but the team suffered a 5-6 loss to Sobieski – the eventual national champions – in a second-round competition held in Chaska on August 29th.
CI GIRLS TENNIS HOLDS SERVE
The Cambridge-Isanti girls’ tennis team was one of the strongest teams in the region.
As a unit, the Bluejackets won the Mississippi 8 Conference title and reached the semifinals of the Class 2A Section 7 team tournament.
Individually, the Bluejackets had pushed several players in the matches that were played on October 12 within a very short time for a place in the individual tournament of class 2A. Senior Chloe Hajek won two singles matches and then left a match against Forest Lake’s Malia McKinnon, who was promoted to the singles national tournament.
And Seniors Maddie Lawrence and Maddie Troolin doubles won two games before losing just one round before entering the national tournament.
The girls’ soccer team of the northern branch almost advanced to the state tournament and reached the championship game of class 2A, section 7.
The Vikings, number 3 in the section, beat Hibbing 5-1 before beating Grand Rapids, second seeded, by a 1-0 lead to enter the championship game.
North Branch then suffered a 3-0 defeat in Duluth Denfeld on October 19 against top seeded Cloquet, who was 9th in the state. The Vikings finished the season with a 13-5-1 record.
Two local high school football teams had come very close to reaching the national tournament.
North Branch reached the Class 4A Section 7 championship game before losing his first game of the season.
The Vikings had beaten Grand Rapids in the regular season, but lost on November 5 at the Public Schools Stadium in Duluth with 14:12 against the Thunderhawks.
That was the only downside in a season that saw North Branch climb to fifth in the latest Class 4A state poll, set a 9-1 record and win the Northeast Red Division with a 6-0 record.
Meanwhile, Rush City got off to a quick start before losing to St. Agnes 26-8 in a Class 2A, Section 4 semi-final at Concordia University in St. Paul on Oct. 30. The Tigers finished with a strong 8-2 record and finished second in the Northeast Blue Division with a 5-1 mark.