Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Al Rose
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

More than just a job to cover sports last 17 years


January 4, 2018

Editor's note: Al has a lot to say about covering sports here for the last 17 years. Here is part one of two.

As many of you have likely gathered from the grapevine, social media or via spotting the ad in the Star Gazette and Evergreen Shopper, yes it is true; I have retired, effective Friday, December 22, from the position of sports reporter. After 17 years in the field of human services, the new job evolved into a second 17-year career that I strongly feel, and hope others have seen, gradually changed me forever in what I believe to be mostly positive ways. I certainly took liberties with the journalism credos of inform, entertain and educate. I confess that I was verbose and opined more than an objective reporter should. I was given a lot of latitude by bosses. I am very grateful to have been able to do something different rather than just the standard top few who scored the touchdowns, got the most kills, sets and blocks, who had the most hoops points, hockey goals, strikeouts or hits on the diamond or who were the top two finishers in track or cross county meets.

The job became very much more than just a job to me. I became a job “for” me. A very wise mentor of mine would often remind me, “Sometimes your job is just a job. Sometimes your job is plain, old hard work. Once in a while, if you are really lucky, your job is fun. All the time your job is to do what you are told to do, that’s why they are the boss and that’s what you get paid for.” I have been blessed with fair and generous bosses in the persons of the late Skip Hansen, the late Jerry DeRungs and most recently the Star Gazette’s editor, Colette Stadin. We all had our disagreements, but the majority of the time we have agreed to disagree and many times this is what brought us to the best resolutions as the results of our cooperation.

It is among my strongest hopes that the communities, school boards, athletic liaison committees and all involved can cooperate to realize that the co-op between the Moose Lake and Willow River schools should continue as is - likely with plenty of work left to do with considerate and fair final fixes with a great reduction in squabbling. Let’s quit playing pin the tail on the donkey and put the tar and feathers away. Ben Franklin once said, “If we don’t all hang together, chances are we will hang separately." It is very hard to argue against the success the co-operative has produced across all sports as well as some other extracurricular activities with the fostering of lifelong friendships among the students of the two schools.

Finally, before attempting to present as complete and accurate spotlight upon hundreds of memorable thrilling - and sometimes agonizing, yet inspiring moments - of many of the thousands of remarkable student-athletes and teams from Barnum, Cromwell and Moose Lake-Willow River, please understand, I was watching and supporting you all. It was not just the stars. I deeply cared then and I deeply care now about each and every one of you. There was a method to the madness to make the best effort to be as inclusive and accurate in presenting as many names and statistics as possible. You know who you are if I incorrectly spelled your names or messed up your stats. I have always appreciated your patience, tolerance and feedback. Of course, I sincerely want to express my deepest heartfelt thanks to all the loyal readers of the various versions of all the local newspapers over these truly most purposeful and meaningful years of my life. It has been a great joy to be a close witness watching boys and girls grow up into outstanding young citizens moving into adulthood applying the wide wealth of life knowledge gained by participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities. Student-athletes and those involved in other activities have less attendance and discipline issues and get better grades. They take with them those work ethics and practical experiences of learning how to be good teammates and listening to and respecting coaches who want the best for their team charges to better prepare them as they to go out into the world. Whether they become more successful college students, effective business owners or co-workers, or not, they head out with a booster-shot which enables them to quickly comprehend that it is just as important to learn from mistakes as it is to have immediate success from triumphs.

The following is a compilation of fall sports, beginning in alphabetical order of activities and communities:

CROSS COUNTRY - Moose Lake/Willow/River/Barnum under Head Coach Adam Whelan - Number of participants steadily grows; 2015 Sydney Bexell qualifies for State Meet; 2016 boy’s team meets a big goal-beating Esko in Section 7A-119 to 122 points for third place; 2015 Ethan Olson wins Section 7A title with time of 16:38.4 and places 5th at State Meet with a time of 16:02.4; Summer 2016 Olson sets new standard by breaking the 16-minute mark in the 5K with a time of 15:55.0 in South Dakota Meet; 2016 Savannah Gamst places 5th with a new school-record of 20:10.3 at Section Meet to qualify for State Meet; 2016 and 2017 Olson wins Moose Run 10K with respective times of 36:14 and 34:20.

FOOTBALL - Barnum - 2006 Section 7A Champs; 2010 Section 7A Champs and State Participant; 2012 Great Polar Football Alliance Blue Division Champs; 2013 Great Polar Alliance Red Division Champs; 2013 Section 7A second place; 2017 After two one-win seasons, Barnum bounces back with 7-2 record to advance to play in Section 7AA semifinal against ML/WR. The Bombers show very commendable sportsmanship to allow Beau Moffett to run for his first-ever two-point conversion. Cromwell - Nine-Man State Champs 2000, 2005 under Head Coach Keith Bergstedt; State Champs 2010 under Head Coach Jeff Gronner (Individual Records - Jordan Suhonen, Best Rushing Average, 13.4 yards and Most Touchdowns Rushing, 5) - Moose Lake/Willow River - Under Head Dave Louzek - Conference Champs; 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014; Section Runner-Ups; 2004, 2005; Section Champs; 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017; State Quarterfinalists; 2007, 2010; 2013, 2014, 2015; State Semi-Finalist; 2000, 2006, 2008, 2017; Prep Bowl; 2009, 2011, 2012 (A few of the greatest/saddest memories are as follows: 2000, playing at Holdingford in quarter-final game in sub-freezing weather with snow stacked up about two feet deep on the sidelines, comes down to fourth-and-less than a yard with seconds left in regulation and Alan Hjelmberg helps with key blocks to get a Rebel across the goal line on a controversial call for the win; 2009 Journey 250-plus miles to play Hawley (40-mile drive) - in 80-plus degree Fargodome. Quarterback Hayden Hoffmann (5th on all-time passing list) comes out and Rejean Carlson goes in. Carlson plunges through on what is believed may have been an audible to win on a QB sneak in OT for a joyous victory; 2012 Heartbreaking defeat-Rebels ahead of nemesis Caledonia and chance to “clock-it” for win, but pass play called and goes off receiver’s hands for interception. Caledonia gets close enough to win 25-22 with a 33-yard field goal with time expiring. Some Rebels’ records - Rushing, 2011 Jake Disterhaupt, 2,276 yards; Scoring, 2007 Nate Zuk 270 points; (Disterhaupt and Zuk both still hold the distinction of being the only two players to twice be honored as Duluth News Player of the Year); Ezra Szczyrbak earns one Player of Year recognition. Passing, 2008 Joe Bohaty 1,231 yards; Receiving, 2008 Dan Anderson 745 yards; Tackles 2017 Dilon Louzek tied Joe Bonk’s 2005 record of 176 stops; Interceptions 2007 Dan Anderson 12; QB Sacks 2006 Jon Pietz 10.5. 2017 Rebels courageously respond from a 2-5 record to win five in a row to go as far as the semifinals and finish with a record of 7-6.

VOLLEYBALL - Barnum, under head coach Corina Newman, garners 2009 Section 5A Sub-Section second place. Moose Lake-Willow River, under head coach Sue Caroline, earns 2000 Section 7AA Championship and brings home Consolation Championship trophy, 2001 Sub-Section 18 Championship; 2002 Section 5AA second place. Revamped Rebels under head coach Becky Jackson, host Section 7AA second round match in 2015 and host Section 7A second round match in 2017.

The winters sports are also presented in alphabetical order by sports and communities as follows:

BOYS’ BASKETBALL - Barnum, 1999-2000 team, under 500-plus-win head coach Rich Newman, wins Section AA Championship and State Participant; 2006-2007 Section 7A championship and State Participant; 2012 Section 5A Sub-section Champs, 2011-2012 Section 5A second place; 2014-2015 Section 7AA second place. MLWR, 1999-2000, under head coach Scott Hendrciks and assistant Brian Hennen, wins Section 7AA title (the semifinal game was against Esko after the team had went to a funeral for a lost classmate and temmate). The team focuses to beat Esko and subsequently beats Virginia to earn the title and a trip to the State Tournament. Rebels fall to Pequot Lakes in quarterfinal game; Geoff Probst finishes with 1,848 points to smash school career-scoring record of 1,386 by Brian Jamros. Jamros goes on to be second-highest career scorer for Condordia-St. Paul; 2015 Former Barnum player Wes Cummins takes over head coaching job and boys record improves from 7-20 in 2015 to 15-12 in 2016.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL - Barnum - Under 600-win head coach Randy Myhre - 2000-2001, Section 7A second place; 2001-2002 Section 7A Champs and State Participant; 2005-2006 Class A Third Place; 2006-2007 Class A Third Place; 2007-2008 Section 5A Sub-section Champs; 2007-2008 State Class A Fourth Place; 2009-2010 Class A State Champions; 2013-2014 Section 7AA Second Place.; Katrina Newman goes on to become third highest all-time career scorer for UMD-Duluth Bulldogs. Cromwell - goes to State under head coach Dave Foster and assistant coach John Gronnes; Kylee Smith sets new school standard for career points. 2004-2014-2015 and 2015-2016 Cardinals go to State twice under head coach Jeff Gronner; Chelsea Swatek smashes Smith’s career points record. MLWR - Adri Jusczak finishes with 1, 680 career points in 2015 to trump Annie Adamczak’s 1,535 career points, set in 1982.

BOYS’ HOCKEY - 2009-2010 team, under head coach Sherm Liimatainen, makes it to second round, Michael Unzen ties hockey legend John Mayasich’s record of seven goals in one game, but receives little recognition. 2014-2015 Bryceton Butkiewicz went to 104 points in his junior season as he broke Tyler Cisar’s career record of 99 points. Butkiewicz opted not to play high school hockey his senior season and went on to play with the NAHL team, the Minnesota Wilderness; 2016 team, under new head coach Lee Costley, upsets Becker/Big Lake in double overtime to advance to second round.

GIRLS’ HOCKEY - 2015-2016 - Senior forward Jessica Bird shatters individual records for goals (51) and points (75) to lead area in both categories and ends up as first in state in goals and third in state in points. Junior goalie Maddy Gamst leads the area in both saves percentage and goals average at .925 and 1.65, respectively. Senior forward Sage Gerard finishes first in area for assists (34) and ends up with 49 points; team has highest finish in program history by making it to the semifinal game and sets a new standard for the girls’ hockey program with a record of 20-6-1. All three girls, along with senior defenseman Jamie Bird selected to play in Fire and Ice All-Star game. All four of the girls make contributions in the game.

More thoughts and Part 2, next week.


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