Sports Notebook with John Nalan

October 29, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Greenway Volleyball State Ranked

    The Raiders are the seventh ranked Class A team in Minnesota based on the latest Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association poll. The full poll with section and total votes follows:

    Minnesota (3A), 180

    Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2A), 166

    Mayer Lutheran (2A), 155

    Mabel-Canton (1A), 143

    Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (5A), 113

    Henning (6A), 96

    Greenway (7A), 93

    Fosston (8A), 89

    Medford (1A), 76

    Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (3A), 42

 

Titan Football

    Playing last Friday in light snow with temperatures in the mid-thirties, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin lost an overtime thriller to Two Harbors on the artificial turf field at Mountain Iron. After a scoreless first period, the Titans opened the scoring on a 40-yard cross field pass from Aidan Rajala to Darric Davidson. Davidson caught the ball on the 20-yard line and outran four Agate defenders to the endzone. Two Harbors scored on their next possession and the game was tied 6-6 at halftime.

    GNK scored early in the third period when Ty Donahue ran the ball in for both a touchdown and the 2-point conversion. The Agates again answered back with a long pass for a touchdown and the game was tied 14-14 after three quarters. 

    The Titans drove the ball within the Two Harbor’s five yard line twice in the fourth quarter, but could not score and the game remained tied after regulation time. Both teams scored in the first overtime. The Titans converted with another Donahue run. However, the Agates scored first in the second overtime and GNK was unable to answer, giving Two Harbors a 26-20 win. Ty Donahue finished the game with well over 100 yards rushing.

 

• The Titan Box: Week Four

    Opponent: Mesabi East (1-2)

    Game Time: Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.

    Location: Dahlin Field in Aurora (Artificial turf).

    Radio Coverage: 105.5 FM with Tom Downing and Dan Persons.

    The Match-up: GNK won at Aurora last year by a 56-16 score. Before that, you have to go back to 2008, before the GNK merger, when Nashwauk-Keewatin beat the Giants 53-29.

    The Titans: It looks like GNK’s running game and defense are both getting on track after the unusually late start due to COVID-19. 

    The Giants: Mesabi East plays in Section 7AA, a class lower than GNK. They lost to Virginia by a 22-18 score last week.

 

Spartan Volleyball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin hosted Deer River last Thursday and the visiting Warriors took a 26-24, 27-25, 25-16 win. The Spartans came out playing well, taking a 17-11 lead in the first game. Deer River picked up their hitting and rallied for a win in extra points. In the second game, it was Nashwauk-Keewatin’s turn to rally. Trailing 24-19, the Spartans won six straight points to take the lead, but Deer River again closed out the game and cruised to a 3-0 win. Addy Gangl had seven kills. Jazlynn Svaleson had four and Johnnie Waldvogel added three. The Spartans have a 1-3 record. They host Wrenshall on November 2 and travel to Bigfork on Nov. 5.

 

Raider Volleyball

    Greenway won two more matches this week and extended their season record to 5-0. The Raiders made a serious statement against Deer River when they won the first game in dominating fashion, 25-5. Greenway continued their superiority in the next two games winning 25-13 and 25-11. The 3-0 win was among the fastest high school volleyball games I have ever seen. Senior Claire Vekich had 13 kills and junior Bri Miller had six ace serves.

    The Raiders also started fast against Hibbing on Oct. 22, winning 25-6, 25-16, 25-18. Claire Vekich again led the way with 18 kills. Senior Kaisa Reed added 10 kills. Greenway travels to Chisholm to face the undefeated Blue Streaks (4-0) on Nov. 2 and then play at Cloquet against the talented Lumberjacks on Nov. 5.

 

Alaska-Anchorage Hockey

    The Seawolves will be playing in the WCHA this winter with Coleraine native Taylor Lantz on the roster. The university announced the program would be cut after the completion of this season, unless the program raises $3 million to fund ongoing operations. The fundraising deadline is February 2021. Lantz is a sophomore who had two goals and eight assists last year.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    Coming off a bye week, the Vikings (1-5) have a tough task as they travel to Green Bay (4-1) to face the Packers at noon on Sunday on FOX TV. To make matters worse, Green Bay should be extra motivated after a loss last week. I am afraid this game could get ugly.

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

October 22, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Titan Cross Country Streak Snapped

    Pequot Lakes edged the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin boys cross country team by four points to win the Section 7A team title at Cloquet Country Club on Oct. 13. The Titan boys had won the section title the last two years, but could not match the Patriots’ depth this time around. The second place finish would normally have qualified the Titan team for the state cross country meet. However, all state tournaments were cancelled this fall due to COVID-19 restrictions.

    Individually, Geno Uhrbom of GNK won his fourth consecutive Section 7A title. Uhrbom outran Virginia sophomore Cameron Stocke by 27 seconds, finishing with a time of 15:58.7. Stocke had been recording faster times throughout the regular season with Uhrbom closing the time gap a little bit each week. Geno Uhrbom finishes his high school cross country career with two state titles, four section titles and six conference titles.

    Daniel Olson finished sixth with a time of 17:25 and Connor Thoennes was 12th in 17:48. Both would have qualified for state individually regardless of the team’s finish. They are both juniors. Freshman Levi Danielson placed 20th. Seniors Weston Marx (32nd place) and Michael Butterfield (35th) complete the state qualifying team. A total of 23 teams and 155 runners competed.

    On the girls side, the Titans finished 10th. Senior Baylie Norris placed 41st. The rest of the team included Kaitlin Olson (49th place), Nadia Rajala (51st), Karly Mann (58th), Lola Champlin (70th), Hailey Kilduff (91st), and Brooke Petrich (96th).

 

Titan Football

    Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin picked up their first win of the season last Thursday with a 32-7 win over Eveleth-Gilbert. Playing a Thursday afternoon game at Dixon-Barle Field with temperatures hovering in the mid-thirties, the Titans gave up an early touchdown. GNK quickly turned the game around when Grant Hansen grabbed a tipped ball for an interception. Quarterback Aiden Rajala passed for 103 yards and ran for another 39. He connected with Darric Davidson for a 25 yard touchdown pass and ran in another from the one yard line. Ty Donahue led the rushing attack with 62 yards and two touchdowns. Dacoda Thoennes added a rushing touchdown. Keegan Warmuth was a defensive force with three quarterback sacks.

    The Titan Box: Week Three

    Opponent: Two Harbors (1-1)

    Game Time: Friday, Oct. 23 at 7 pm

    Location: Dixon-Barle Field in Coleraine.

    Radio Coverage: 105.5 FM with Tom Downing and Dan Persons.

    The Match-up: GNK won at Two Harbors last year by a 30-7 score.

    The Titans: GNK (1-1) showed what they can do offensively last week. This week the defense will be tested.

    The Agates: Two Harbors edged Virginia last week after an opening night loss at Pine City. They had beat the Titans three straight times before last season’s loss.

    My Thoughts: I have more questions than answers about the Titans right now. This week will be a good indication of how good this team can be.

 

Lightning Girls Tennis

    Grand Rapids/Greenway finished their season with a win over Hibbing in the Section 7AA consolation bracket. Claire Vekich won a three set match at third singles and Jordan Troumbly lost to Hibbing’s regular #1 singles player, Abby Sullivan, at second singles. At first singles, Eva Kangas beat Maddie Rewertz, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Abby Gustason and Hailey LaFrenier won a three set match at fourth singles.

 

Multi-sport Athletes

    It was nice to see Claire Vekich and Abby Gustason complete the girls tennis season, even though they had begun volleyball competition. It was a classy move by Raider volleyball coach Rhaya Anderson to let the two seniors complete their commitment to the tennis program. It was good sportsmanship by everyone involved.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    Mercifully, the Vikings have a bye week. Watching the team struggle against the Falcons last week was painful. Hopefully the off week will give us a healthy Dalvin Cook for the Packers game on Nov. 1.

 

Raider Volleyball

    Greenway won twice last week, defeating Aitkin and Hermantown. Claire Vekich had 52 kills over the two games and Kaisa Reed had 21. Lexi Hammer had 39 set assists against Aitkin and Ellie Vekich had 15 digs against Hermantown. The Raiders play at Hibbing tonight and host Duluth Marshall on Oct. 26.

 

 

Spartan Volleyball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin lost a pair of close games last week to Mesabi East and Chisholm. Addy Gangl led the team in kills during each game. Setter Misty Bozich had 55 set assists over both matches. The Spartans host Deer River tonight and play at Northland-Remer on Oct. 27.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

October 15, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Titan Cross Country Makes It Six in a Row

    The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin boys cross country team extended their dominance by winning the Iron Range Conference meet edging Ely at Eagle Ridge Golf Course on Oct. 6. Weston Marx picked up valuable team points when he beat his Ely runner by six places. The Titans scored 40 points in the nine team meet. Ely had 47 and Virginia tallied 50 points.

    Individually, Virginia’s Cameron Stocke won the meet by eight seconds over GNK’s Geno Uhrbom. Uhrbom has been closing the gap on Stocke all season and looks to be in good position to attack the Virginia runner at this week’s section meet.

    Other scorers for the IRC champions were junior Daniel Olson (5th place), senior Michael Butterfield (6th), junior Connor Thoennes (13th), and senior Weston Marx (14th).

    The girls team finished sixth. Senior Baylie Norris led the way with an 18th place finish. Other scorers for the Titans were Kaitlin Olson (21st), Karly Mann (24th), Nadia Rajala (25th), and Lola Champlin (28th).

    The runners finished their season earlier this week at the Section 7A meet in Cloquet. Watch for results next week.

 

Titan Football

    Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin opened their season with a 38-0 loss at Aitkin. The Titans held the Gobblers scoreless in the first quarter before Aitkin blew the game open with 20 second quarter points. Ty Donahue led the Titans with 75 yards rushing. Dacoda Thoennes added another 30 yards on the ground. GNK was only able to convert two of eight third downs. 

 

The Titan Box: Week Two

    Opponent: Eveleth-Gilbert (0-1)

    Game Time: Thursday, Sept. 15 at 1:30 p.m.

    Location: Dixon-Barle Field in Coleraine.

    Radio Coverage: 105.5 FM with Tom Downing and Dan Persons.

    The Match-up: GNK beat Eveleth-Gilbert last year by a 42-0 score.

    The Titans: This week should be better competition for the young Titans after facing one of the most experienced teams in northeastern Minnesota last week. 

    The Golden Bears: Eveleth-Gilbert got overwhelmed by Mora last week, losing 52-0. They last beat GNK in 2016.

    My Thoughts: A rare Thursday afternoon kickoff for the Titans home opener this season. I’m looking for GNK to play better this week and improve as the season goes along. They have talent, they just need playing time.

 

Junior Hockey Update

    Former Greenway hockey player Donte Lawson is currently playing for the Minot Minotauros of the NAHL after his team last year, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, had their arena destroyed in a storm. Lawson is committed to play at Bemidji State. 

 

Lightning Girls Tennis

    Grand Rapids/Greenway stormed past Cloquet in the opening round of the Section 7AA tennis tournament last week and then dropped their quarterfinal match to top seeded Duluth East. Against Cloquet, the Lightning won 6-1 with singles victories from Claire Vekich and Abby Gustason. Gustason won a marathon match, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 (10-4) at fourth singles. Jordan Troumbly and Taryn Hamling won at first doubles.

 

    Duluth East showed their strength at each position in a 5-2 win in the section quarterfinals. Since there will not be an individual section singles or doubles tournament this year, the plan is to play a consolation bracket for the teams. The Lightning played Hibbing Oct. 12 after our newspaper deadline.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings play the Atlanta Falcons at home on Sunday. The game will be televised on FOX at noon. After last week’s bitter loss to the Seahawks, I am expecting a win this week. I like the way the Vikings are developing with several new players and a bit of a COVID depleted roster. They are better than their 1-4 record suggests.

 

High School Volleyball

    It is finally time for some volleyball. Both Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway opened their seasons last weekend with victories on the road. 

    The Spartans traveled to Eveleth-Gilbert and came away with a thrilling five set win. Nashwauk-Keewatin won the first two games in convincing style, 25-12 and 25-23, but dropped the next two games. In the fifth and deciding game, the Spartans rallied from a 12-10 deficit to win 15-12. Addy Gangl had two kills in those final five points. The team has home games against Mountain Iron-Buhl on Oct. 20 and Deer River on Oct. 22.

    Greenway opened their season with a dominating 25-10, 25-17, 25-11 win over Mesabi East. Claire Vekich made a smooth transition from tennis to volleyball recording 20 kills. Kaisa Reed had six kills and seven ace serves. The Raiders play Hermantown tonight at home with an early 6 p.m. start. They also host Deer River on Oct. 20 and travel to Hibbing on Oct. 22.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

October 01, 2020

With John Nalan

 

High School Sports Updates

    The Minnesota State High School League board decided at a Sept. 21 meeting to play football and volleyball this fall instead of in the spring. Practice started this week for both sports. 

    The board will meet again today to make decisions on possible state tournaments for fall sports and the calendar for winter sports. Restrictions on the number of competitions, as well as team scheduling and participation for winter sports, will also be made.

 

Titan Cross Country

    Both of the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin cross country teams scored a perfect 15 team score at Deer River’s Blueberry Hills Golf Course on Sept. 24. A cross country team needs to have all five of their scoring runners outrun every other runner in the meet to score a 15. Hill City was second in the girls standings and Deer River/Northland was the boys runner up.

    Baylie Norris won the girls 5000 meter race in a time of 22:07. The boys winner was Geno Uhrbom with a time of 16:38. The other point scorers for the girls were Kaitlyn Olson, Karly Mann, Lola Olson, and Nadia Rajala. On the boys side, point scorers were Uhrbom, Daniel Olson, Connor Thoennes, Michael Butterfield, and Weston Marx.

    The two teams will next be in action on Oct. 2 when they travel to Ely. 

 

Titan Football

    The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin football team started practice this week and will open their 2020 schedule on Oct. 9 with a rematch against Aitkin. The Titans lost to the Gobblers twice last season, including a season ending game in the Section 7AAA semifinal. GNK finished last season with a 7-3 record. This is their regular season schedule for 2020. Attendance will be limited.

    • Friday, Oct. 9, @ Aitkin, 7 p.m.

    • Thursday, Oct. 15, Eveleth-Gilbert, 1:30 p.m.

    • Friday, Oct. 23, Two Harbors, 7 p.m.

    • Friday, Oct. 30 , @ Mesabi East (Aurora), 7 p.m.

    • Friday, Nov. 6, Virginia, 4 p.m.

    • Thursday, Nov. 12, @ International Falls, 7 p.m.

    The current plan is to have a two week postseason. A format for the playoffs has not been determined.

 

High School Volleyball

    Both Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway started practice this week for the delayed volleyball season. Competitive games will begin next week with the Spartans hosting Eveleth-Gilbert on Oct. 8 and the Raiders travelling to Mesabi East on October 9. The first home game for Greenway will be Oct. 13 against Aitkin. Attendance will be limited at all games. Greenway is the defending Section 7A champion.

 

Lightning Girls Tennis

    The Grand Rapids/Greenway tennis team pushed the Hibbing Bluejackets to the limit on Sept. 24. The Lightning forced three matches to a third set, but Hibbing won two of them to come away with a 5-2 victory. Eva Kangas won 6-0, 6-2 at number one singles against the Bluejackets Megan Bussey. Claire Vekich, playing at second singles, dropped a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 nailbiter to Mercedes Furin. At fourth singles, Abby Gustason lost to Opal Valeri, 6-2, 6-3.

    The team finishes their regular season this week with two home matches at the middle school in Grand Rapids. They play Virginia today and Eveleth-Gilbert tomorrow with both matches starting at 4 p.m. Tennis will have a team section tournament this year, but no individual sections. Seeding for the team section was completed last night after our press deadline.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings play at Houston against the Texans on Sunday at noon on FOX. Both teams are 0-3. Minnesota deserves to be winless this season, but it was sure nice to see some signs of life last week against Tennessee. Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson’s big game showed what a potential partnership with Adam Thielen can look like. Opposing defenses - who are already contending with Dalvin Cook - will not be able to double cover either receiver consistently. 

    The Vikings real problem, of course, is on the defensive side of the ball. It was nice to see them make a lot of third down stops, but giving up six field goals is little consolation. The Vikings season is in trouble. A loss this week to the Texans would put us in an absolute freefall.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

September 17, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Titan Cross Country

    The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin boys cross-country team won their home invitational at Eagle Ridge last week and the girls team finished third. Geno Uhrbom was the top finisher for GNK on the boys side, finishing 2nd with a time of 16:24 over 5000 meters. Baylie Norris was the top Titan finisher in the girls race, placing 11th with a time of 22:00.

 

    Junior Daniel Olson had an excellent day, finishing in 17:09 for 4th place. Connor Thoennes was 8th, Michael Butterfield was 9th and Weston Marx was 19th. The Titans beat out Section 7A rivals Virginia and Ely, as well as Grand Rapids, for the team title. Virginia sophomore Cameron Stocke was the overall winner with a time of 15:57.

    Ninth graders Kaitlin Olson and Karly Mann finished right behind Norris in 13th and 14th place. Seventh grader Lola Champlin was 24th, eighth grader Hailey Kilduff placed 26th, and junior Brooke Petrich was 41st.

    The two teams run at Olcott Park in Virginia today and at Blueberry Hills in Deer River on Sept. 24.

 

MSHSL Board to Make Decisions

    The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors will meet on Oct. 1. They are scheduled to decide whether to have a postseason for the fall sports and the format of the upcoming winter sports seasons. 

    The board met in early August and agreed to sponsor shortened regular seasons for cross-country, tennis, soccer, and swimming this fall. A two week window was left open at the end of each season for possible section and state meets. They will decide at the October meeting whether to have a postseason, and if they do, what the format will be.

    The decision will be of particular interest to the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin boys cross-country team. Senior Geno Uhrbom is the two-time defending state champion and the team has won the last two Section 7A team titles. 

    The board will also be looking at how to proceed with the winter sports season which includes hockey, basketball, and wrestling. Last August, the board decided to proceed with some sports and move two others, football and volleyball, to a unique March to May season. They will not have the same flexibility with winter sports. Expect winter sports seasons to have fewer games and less travel, but I would guess they will not be cancelled.

 

Success for Slovenia

    Enthusiasm is overwhelming this week in the nation of Slovenia as two of their cyclists sit atop the standings in the world’s most important bicycle race, the Tour de France. The small nation with strong ethnic ties to the Scenic Range has never had a top three finish in the 107 years of the race. This year, however, Slovenian riders hold the top two places through 15 of the 21 stages.

    Primoz Roglic wears the yellow jersey signifying he leads the race and Tadej Pogacar sits in second place just 40 seconds behind after more than 65 hours of cycling in the three week race. The race continues daily until its conclusion Sept. 20 on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

 

Lightning Girls Tennis

    The Grand Rapids/Greenway tennis team lost a pair of matches to Duluth schools last week. The Lightning lost at Marshall on Sept. 10 and dropped a match to East at home the next day. 

    GRG won two doubles matches at Marshall. Jordan Troumbly and Courtney Brandt took a thrilling 7-5, 7-6 match at #1 doubles and Claire Vekich and Taryn Hamling won 6-3, 6-3 at #2 doubles. Duluth Marshall swept the singles matches and won the meet 5-2.

    The Lightning pushed Duluth East to the limit, but came up just short, losing 4-3. Troumbly and Brandt again won at #1 doubles and Vekich picked up a key win at #2 singles. Abby Gustason and her partner Hannah LaFrenier forced a second set tiebreaker at #3 doubles, but dropped a 6-4, 7-6 match that wrapped up the win for East.

    The team plays at home on Sept. 21 against Cloquet and travels to Hibbing on Sept. 24. Both matches are at 4 p.m.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings play at Indianapolis this Sunday at noon on Fox. Minnesota will be looking to rebound from a bad loss to the Green Bay Packers last week. Frankly, they played like a team with a lot of new starters that have not played a preseason game. We can only hope the Vikings step it up a level or two this week. Indianapolis finished 7-9 last season and lost at Jacksonville last week, 27-20. 

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

September 10, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Lightning Girls Tennis

    The Grand Rapids/Greenway tennis team played at Duluth Denfeld last Friday and came away with a 6-1 victory. The Lightning won all three doubles matches with Jordan Troumbly and Courtney Brandt taking the win at #1 doubles with a 6-1, 6-0 win. Eva Kangas swept Madi Watts of Denfeld at #1 singles, 6-0, 6-0. Senior Claire Vekich played at #2 singles and got a 6-1, 6-4 win over Kaitlyn MacMillen. Sarah Kessler took a loss in her first varsity match at #4 singles.

    The Lightning play at Duluth Marshall today. They have a home match on Sept. 11 at 4 p.m. at the middle school in Grand Rapids against Section 7AA opponent Duluth East. 

 

Andy Sertich

    Greenway High School has officially named Andy Sertich as their new head hockey coach. Sertich replaces Grant Clafton who retired after five years as coach. The move was not a surprise. Sertich was the top assistant coach at Greenway in recent years and has a strong background as a professional hockey player. Sertich is a 2002 Greenway graduate and played college hockey at the University of Minnesota.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings open their regular season with a big game this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. The game will be at noon and televised on Fox. The Vikings finished with a 10-6 record last year and won a wildcard playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. Minnesota traded star receiver Stefon Diggs during the off-season for a first round draft pick that they used to acquire LSU receiver Justin Jefferson. The Packers were 13-3 last year and won the NFC North. I think home field advantage - even without fans in the seats - will be enough for a Vikings win this week.

 

Titan Cross Country

    The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin cross-country team traveled to Virginia on Sept. 2 for their first 5000 meter race of the season. Coach Will Florshiem took advantage of the opportunity and had both the girls and boys teams run as a team group for the beginning of each race. Known as “pack running,” the technique builds team unity and allows runners new to varsity to learn from their more experienced teammates. 

    “I was really proud of our varsity girls,” Florshiem commented. Senior Baylie Norris was the team’s top finisher. Other varsity finishers for the Titans were Kaitlin Olson, Karly Mann, Lola Champlin, Brooke Petrich, and Naomi Serfling.

    The boys team finished in second place, just one point behind Ely. Scorers were Geno Uhrbom, Daniel Olson, Michael Butterfield, Connor Thoennes, and Weston Marx.

    The Titans home invitational is today at Eagle Ridge in Coleraine. Competition starts at 5:30 p.m. with the varsity race spread over several different waves to accommodate COVID restrictions.

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    Racing action for the summer concluded at both Hibbing and Grand Rapids last weekend. Hibbing hosted the 42nd Labor Day Shootout over two days on Sept. 5-6. Grand Rapids moved their race schedule to Friday night for the 26th annual Wissota Classic.

    In Hibbing on Saturday, Jeffrey Massingill of Keewatin won his heat race and finished sixth overall in the 40-lap Late Model feature race. Ryan Jensen also won his heat race in the Modified class, but slipped to 18th place in the 30-lap feature race. Austin Herr of Bovey was sixth in the Hornet class.

    The next day in Hibbing, Massingill again won his heat race and then finished third in the feature race. In the Midwest Modified class, Charlie Castle of Bovey placed 12th and Andy LaBarge of Nashwauk was 15th. Austin Herr was eighth in the Hornets.

    In Grand Rapids on Friday night, Chris Miller of Bovey finished fourth in the Pure Stocks and Massingill did the same in the Late Models. Ryan Jensen placed eighth out of the 21 starters in the Modifieds. Action at the Grand Rapids Speedway concludes for the summer on Sept. 12 when the track hosts their last Enduro race of the season.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

September 03, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Titan Cross Country

    The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin cross-country team opened their season last Friday with the GNK Early Bird meet at Swan River Country Club in Pengilly. South Ridge and Carlton joined the Titans for the event. Everyone looked a bit rusty as they hit the shortened two mile course for the first competitive race in close to a year.

    GNK won the boys meet with 19 points. Titan senior Geno Uhrbom, the two time defending state champion, finished first in the boys race. Connor Thoennes, Daniel Olson, and Michael Butterfield ran as a group and finished third, fourth, and fifth place. Weston Marx was the final Titan scorer, placing sixth.

    The GNK girls finished in second place. Baylie Norris was the top placewinner for the Titans in fourth place. Other scorers were Karly Mann (6th place), Kaitlin Olson (7th), Lola Champlin (10th), and Brooke Petrich (11th). 

    The next meet for the two teams will be on their home course at Eagle Ridge in Coleraine on Sept. 10 at 1 p.m. This will be their last home appearance of the season.

 

UAA Hockey

    Last week, Alaska-Anchorage proposed plans to cut their men’s Division I hockey program along with three other sports. Former Greenway star Taylor Lantz had 10 points in 31 games for the Seawolves last year as a freshman.

    The Anchorage sports community is rallying to save the team before the cuts become official, likely on Sept. 10. However, the limited time involved will make any fundraising a challenge. State budget cuts require the university to reduce spending by $27 million. The hockey team has a $1.54 million dollar annual budget. 

    The team was already facing the loss of a conference home. Their conference, the WCHA, is left with only three programs after seven conference members announced plans to leave last February to re-establish the CCHA in 2021.

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    Two drivers from the Scenic Range won track championships last weekend when the Grand Rapids Speedway crowned their season winners. Charlie Castle of Bovey won the Midwest Modified title and Jeffrey Massingill of Keewatin took the top spot in the Late Model category.

    Castle won one feature race this summer and finished in the top five on five different occasions. He ended up 21 points ahead of Coleraine’s Travis Krumrei, who was second overall. Massingill won his title in a tiebreaker over Kyle Peterlin. Both drivers had 209 points.

    Ryan Jensen picked up his first career checkered flag in a feature race when he won the Modified race at Hibbing Raceway on Aug. 22. Jensen also finished second place in the season points race at Grand Rapids for the second consecutive season.

    The biggest race weekend of the year in the Northland is this weekend. Grand Rapids hosts the 26th Annual WISSOTA Classic on Friday Sept. 4 and Hibbing conducts the 42nd Annual Labor Day Classic over two days on Sept. 5-6. Racing starts at 6:30 p.m.

 

Lightning Girls Tennis

    The Grand Rapids/Greenway tennis team split a pair of matches to start the 2020 season. The Lightning beat Superior and lost to Hibbing. Both matches were on their home court at the middle school in Grand Rapids. The team has a large group of seniors that include veteran players Jordan Troumbly and Nicolle Ramirez. Joining the team this year are seniors Claire Vekich and Abby Gustason. Normally, the pair would be on the volleyball court for the Greenway Raiders this time of year. However, with the volleyball season moved to April and May due to COVID-19 issues, the pair picked up tennis rackets this fall.

    Against Superior, the Lightning won 5-2. Troumbly and Ramirez teamed up to win at #1 doubles and Vekich won at #3 singles. Hibbing beat GRG, also by a 5-2 score. Eva Kangas won her match at #1 singles. The doubles team of Troumbly and Ramirez again won, this time in thrilling fashion with a 7-5, 7-6 win over one of the top doubles teams in the area. The Lightning play at Duluth Denfeld today and also travels to Duluth to play Marshall on Sept. 10.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

August 27, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Lew Smiley Retires after 41 Years Coaching at Greenway

    After 41 years at the helm, Lew Smiley is retiring as the head girls tennis coach at Greenway. During that time, his teams won five section titles and consistently sent individual players to the state tournament. 

    “I have nothing but good memories,” he says. “It was a joy to work in the program. I had a really nice run and a great time with the girls and boys over the years.”

    Although he is retiring from the high school program, he loves tennis too much to set his racket down. Last Monday, while his old Grand Rapids/Greenway team were having their first practice since 1978 without Smiley as the head coach, he was on the court in Coleraine conducting a group lesson for younger players. He still plays as often as he can and is a big advocate for the sport that he played as a kid with his father. However, it was not until after high school that he started to take the game seriously.

    “I got a job at a tennis center and just fell in love with tennis,” he remembers. “I like the athleticism of it and I love what a great life-long sport it is. I got my wife and kids playing. Even now, I still play whenever I can.”

    Smiley’s love of the game is contagious and has resulted in plenty of success over the years. His Greenway teams qualified for five state team tournaments. The first came in 1980. In just his second year coaching, the Raiders surprised northern Minnesota tennis with an unexpected trip to the state tournament. The Raiders were dominant during the late nineties, making three consecutive trips to state between 1996 and 1998. The 1998 team advanced to the state semifinals where they were edged by Foley in a 4-3 match. Greenway ultimately finished fourth at state. 

    “Usually in Class A tennis,” Smiley noted, “the private schools dominate. So, we were excited to do as well as we did.”

    The last section title came in 2006. That group was also the last team to be made up of all Greenway players. 

    “That was really fun,” he recalls. “At the time, Greenway was kind of struggling in a lot of sports, so when we went to state, it was a big deal. The town had a special parade for us. It was a real highlight for me.”

    The next season the Raiders and Grand Rapids combined to form a single team. Both schools had low numbers. Smiley felt merging would benefit everyone. 

    “That first year the teams were together,” he remembers, “Emily Erickson from Greenway and Sara Stejskal from Grand Rapids went to state together as a doubles team. That was a great way to combine the teams.”

    Interestingly, Smiley also played a part in the two school’s girls hockey teams combining. He had helped start the girls hockey program at Greenway along with David Troumbly because his daughter, Kara, wanted to play. Greenway started on their own with 25 players that first year, but the two schools eventually combined their programs in 2004 to provide better stability and experiences for the players.

    Smiley made his first connections with the Greenway area while he was playing college hockey at Dartmouth. He had played his high school hockey at the Blake School in Minneapolis, but three of his teammates at Dartmouth, Mike Barle, Jeff Kosak, and Kent Nyberg, had all played on the Greenway state championship teams in the late sixties. The group became good friends and Smiley started spending his summers on the Iron Range. After graduation from Dartmouth, the area continued to interest him.

    “I had been teaching for a couple years in Kimball, Minnesota,” he recalled. “But when there was a job opening at Greenway, I applied and ended up with it. Lou Barle was my first boss here. He was like my surrogate father and a great man.”

    Once established in the Greenway community, Smiley took advantage of almost every coaching opportunity he could. Aside from coaching the girls tennis and hockey teams, he coached in the school’s football, boys hockey, basketball, and boys tennis programs. During the seventies, he was the head tennis coach at Itasca Community College for both their men’s and women’s programs as well as a season in charge of the girls basketball program in Hill City.

    “I’ve always enjoyed coaching,” he says. “I developed the summer tennis program and was able to teach some kids from age three right up through high school. It was an amazing experience.”

    Those experiences and positive relationships kept Smiley coaching on the high school level for over 40 years. The connections he makes with people and his love of tennis will likely keep him on the court for a long time to come. 

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

August 20, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Greenway Tennis Gets a New Coach

    Jennifer Dulong has been named the new coach for the Grand Rapids/Greenway Lightning girls tennis program. Dulong becomes just the third head coach since Greenway started girls tennis in 1974. She takes over for Lew Smiley who had coached the program since 1979.

    “I am excited to coach the girls program.” Dulong says. “Although I have big shoes to fill after the reign of Lew Smiley and Chris Granley, I am looking forward to the upcoming season.”

    Dulong was Greenway’s #1 singles player when she was in high school while Smiley was serving as head coach. She has vast experience coaching the junior varsity team and youth tennis in the area. She teaches at Cohasset Elementary and her daughter, Megan, is currently playing college tennis at Wisconsin-Superior.

    The Lightning advanced to the Section 7AA quarterfinals last season and return most of their top players. The regular season for tennis is expected to run until Oct. 3 with a postseason to follow. Teams are limited to just 11 events, all of which must be dual meets with only two schools competing.

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    The tracks in both Grand Rapids and Hibbing saw action last week with several area racers taking top five positions on the podium. Charlie Castle of Bovey maintained his season long points lead at Grand Rapids Speedway in the Midwest Modified class with a third place finish last Thursday. Travis Krumrei from Coleraine finished fourth. Andy LaBarge of Keewatin was 15th in the Midwest Modified race in Hibbing last Saturday.

    The Pure Stocks also raced at both locations with Chris Miller of Bovey finishing third out of 23 cars in Grand Rapids and placing fifth at Hibbing. Mark Gangl was 16th and 7th and Jon Burt was 13th at Grand Rapids. Ryan Jensen was fourth in the Modifieds at Grand Rapids and won his heat race in Hibbing before finishing sixth overall.

    The Late Models ran at Hibbing with Deven VanHouse winning the feature race. Ben Heinle of Bovey was third. Jeffrey Massingill finished 10th and Mark Heinle was 14th. The exciting non-winged sprint cars ran in Grand Rapids with Nick DaRonco winning the feature and Teal Arnason of Balsam placing 14th. Austin Herr of Bovey was fifth in the Hornet race at Grand Rapids.

    Other feature winners at Grand Rapids included Kevin Burdick (Super Stock), Chad Finckbone (Pure Stock), Bob Broking (Modifieds), Michael Blevins Sr. (Midwest Modifieds), and Chaston Finckbone (Hornets). In Hibbing, feature winners were Kevin Burdick (Super Stock), Chad Finckbone (Pure Stock), Johnny Broking (Modifieds), Skeeter Estey (Midwest Modifieds), and Tyler Schamm (Hornets). 

    Racing action this week is in Grand Rapids tonight and Hibbing on Aug. 22. Both events start at 6:30 p.m.

 

Amateur Baseball

    The Roseau Royals had their season come to a sudden end at the Region 10C tournament last weekend in Roseau. The Royals team consisted of four Marble Mallards that joined the team after Marble had too few players to field a team in this summer of COVID-19 limitations. The Royals met the Dilworth Raildogs in an elimination game that went to extra innings tied 8-8. Roseau scored in the top of the tenth inning, but Dilworth drilled a three run home run in the bottom of the inning for a walk-off victory. Marble’s Lane Gerber was drafted by the Bemidji Blue Ox to play for them in next weekend’s state tournament.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

August 13, 2020

High School Sports

 

    The Minnesota State High School League has decided to move this year’s football and volleyball season from the fall to a special season this spring. Cross-country, girls tennis, soccer, and girls swimming are going to remain in the fall with a shorter season and limited travel. A decision on whether there will be section or state tournaments this fall will be made at a later date. Spectator attendance will be based on Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for gatherings and local restrictions.

    The league is creating a special season for football and volleyball that will last from mid-March to mid-May. The current plan is to have the regular winter season followed by the special football and volleyball season. The traditional spring season will go from May to early July.

    Locally, the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin cross-country team will compete from late August through October with seven meets spread over ten weeks. Senior Geno Uhrbom of GNK has won the last two state Class A cross-country titles.

    The girls tennis team is a coop with Grand Rapids. They can have eleven meets spread across nine weeks between late August and early October. Senior Jordan Troumbly was the team’s top singles player last season.

    The situation is a bit more complicated for the GNK Titan football team and the Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway girls volleyball teams. The seasons were moved to the spring out of concern that it may not be possible for a fall season in those sports to be completed due to COVID-19 spread.  

    Field conditions for football across northern Minnesota in March and early April will be a concern with snow and mud likely covering many fields. GNK does have the advantage of being able to practice in the spacious Hodgins-Berardo arena, but may have to move some games to artificial turf fields in the area.

    Locally, the change in the volleyball season affects one of the top teams in the state. The Greenway Raiders won the consolation title at last year’s state tournament and will more than likely open the newly created spring season ranked among the top ten Class A teams in the state. 

    All of the plans for high school sports this school year are subject to change based on COVID-19. The virus is ultimately controlling what officials can and cannot allow.  

 

Amatuer Baseball

    The Marble Mallards were not able to play this summer, but several of the team’s players have been suiting up for the Roseau Royals. The Mallards making the long drive to Roseau for games have been Nick Shea, Tanner Shepard, Lane Gerber, and Brooks Bachmann. 

    The Royals have had a great season so far, compiling a 16-3-1 record and winning the Northwest Border League. Gerber is their top pitcher with a 5-0 record and a 0.97 ERA. Shepard has been the team’s top hitter with a .509 batting average and 8 home runs. Shea is batting .371 and Bachmann has won both of his starts on the mound.

    Roseau is hosting the double elimination Region 10C tournament this month. The top two teams earn a trip to the state tournament. So far, the Royals have beat Hawley, lost to Ada, and defeated Warroad. They will need to win twice this Saturday to qualify for state. Last year, Marble qualified for the state amatuer baseball tournament for the 18th time in their nearly 100 years of existence. 

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    Charlie Castle maintained his points lead for the season in the Midwest Modified class at the Grand Rapids Speedway last Thursday. The Bovey driver finished second in the feature race, right behind Darrin Lawler of Grand Rapids. Travis Krumrei of Coleraine finished sixth.

    Ryan Jensen also picked up a second place finish, racing in the Modifieds feature. It was Jensen’s strongest finish of the summer, however, he could not get past Johnny Broking of Grand Rapids who has won all three Modified races at the track this season.

    In Pure Stock action, the Bovey trio of Jon Burt, Chris Miller, and Mark Gangl were very competitive in the 18 car field. Burt finished fourth, Miller was fifth, and Gangl came in seventh. In Hornet action, Dyllan Herr of Bovey placed ninth. Other feature winners were Robert Lore (Super Stock), Chad Finckbone (Pure Stocks), and Travis Olafson (Hornets). There was no action at the Hibbing Raceway last week The cars return to the Hibbing oval on Aug. 15. The next racing in Grand Rapids will be Aug. 13. Both events start at 6:30 p.m.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

July 30, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Greenway 18U Softball

    It has been a crazy summer for the local nine. Putting together a consistent schedule and finding tournaments to play in during this summer of COVID-19 has been a challenge. But, when the masks come off and the team hits the field, there has been a lot of success. Using quality pitching and solid defense, Greenway has won 12 of 17 games. Plenty of home run power has helped along the way. 

    Pitching is the basis of softball success and Miranda Gernander and Hannah Kinnunen have played great this summer. Both missed the chance to start for their high school teams - Gernander for Greenway and Kinnunen for Grand Rapids - this spring when that season was cancelled, so the extra innings this summer have been helpful. Defensively, Claire Vekich at shortstop and Kennedy Hanson at second base anchor a solid unit that has played error free ball most of the summer.

 

    The season started with Greenway sweeping a pair of doubleheaders against Cherry and Virginia in early June. The team then went to a tournament in Cherry, where Greenway beat Mountain Iron, Virginia, and Proctor. Proctor had beaten Greenway in a scrimmage earlier in the season, so the win was extra sweet. Kennedy Hanson hit a home run in the game with Vekich, Kinnunen, and Lexi Hammer providing key hits.

    A memorable performance came in mid-July at the Fargo Tournament. In the opening game, Greenway trailed Fargo-Moorhead by four runs with two out in the final inning. Then Vekich and Abby Gustason both got on base to spark a rally. Gernander drove a ball to score both runners and then Lindsey Tuula hit a home run to complete the two-out rally and tie the game. With the momentum on their side, the game ended in a tie due to time restraints. Greenway finished the tournament placing second in the silver bracket.

    The team is hoping to play a few more games, but scheduling this summer is hard and the already short season may be over.

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    The Grand Rapids Speedway finally saw its first action of the season last Thursday. After two months of COVID-19 restrictions and poor weather, the Northland Super Stock Series attracted 35 drivers from four states to the track with Kevin Burdick of Proctor winning the race. Other feature winners were Ken Hron (Non-winged Sprints), Chad Finckbone (Pure Stocks), Johnny Broking (Modifieds), Tyler Kintner (Midwest Modifieds), and A.J. House (Hornets). Locally, Charlie Castle of Bovey finished third in the Midwest Modifieds. Travis Krumrei of Coleraine was fourth and Andy LaBarge of Keewatin was 7th. In the Pure Stock class, the Bovey trio of Jon Burt, Chris Miller, and Mark Gangl finished 6th, 10th, and 12th respectively. Ryan Jensen was 7th in the Modifieds.

    In Hibbing on July 25, feature winners were Doug Koski (Super Stock), Bob Broking (Modifieds), Michael Roth (Pure Stock), Travis Budisalovich (Late Models), Hunter McDougall (Hornets), and Tyler Kintner (Midwest Modifieds). Jeffrey Massingill of Keewatin was second in the Late Models and Ben Heinle of Bovey was 11th. Mark Gangl and Ryan Jensen both finished sixth in their class and Charlie Castle won his heat race, but did not finish the feature.

    The next racing card is tonight in Grand Rapids and Saturday in Hibbing. Both races start at 6:30 p.m. Grand Rapids will host an Endro Race on July 31.

 

Senior Babe Ruth Baseball

    The Taconite Under-19 baseball team won two of three games in a three-day homestand last week in Marble. They beat Grand Marais and Esko by identical 4-3 scores and lost to Grand Rapids, 4-1.

    Taconite forced a very good Grand Rapids team to extra innings on June 20 before losing in eight innings. Pitcher Jager Nash gave up just four hits over the first seven innings. Ty Donahue was 2-2 with a run scored. On June 21, Taconite won an extra inning game over Grand Marais when Donahue drove in Mathias McKnight with a ninth inning hit. Donahue was also the winning pitcher. Taconite picked up another win the next day over Esko. Tom Cuellar was 3-3 at the plate and Darric Davidson scored two runs. Ethan Endresan was the winning pitcher.

    The team has one more home game, tonight at 7 p.m. against Ely in Marble. They will be on the road this weekend in Ely and Aurora for tournament action.

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

July 23, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Greenway 18U Softball

    The Greenway girls fastpitch softball team made a trip to Fargo, North Dakota last weekend to compete in the Red River Rage Tournament. The Raiders played six games and ended up finishing second in the silver division. Greenway opened the weekend on Saturday morning with a 7-7 tie against the Fargo-Moorhead Blaze. In the afternoon session, Greenway lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to Proctor and then lost a game against the Pierz Diamond Devils.

    The two losses dropped the team into the silver bracket on Sunday. Greenway came out strong with a 7-6 opening round win over North Dakota Elite from Bismarck. The team kept the momentum going in the next round with an impressive 10-4 win over the Diamond Divas from Brooklyn Park. The win advanced the Raiders to the silver bracket championship game against the Southwest Metro Wildcats out of Burnsville. Greenway lost a 5-3 game to finish in second place.

    The team plays league games on Monday nights with home games played in Bovey. Greenway defeated Silver Bay at home on July 13 and swept Virginia in a doubleheader earlier this month.

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    The consistent storms and rain last week caused cancellations at both the Grand Rapids Speedway and the Hibbing Raceway. The bad weather was especially disappointing at Grand Rapids where they have not raced all season. A combination of COVID-19 restrictions and bad weather have made for a miserable local racing season so far. A couple drivers got in some laps by travelling to Superior for a rare Tuesday night event on July 14. Jeffrey Massingill of Keewatin finished 18th in the World of Outlaws series event that attracted 29 of the top Late Model cars from around the country. He advanced to the 50 lap feature race by finishing third in the Last Chance Qualifier. Travis Krumrei of Coleraine was 13th in the Midwest Modified class.

    Racing is scheduled for tonight at 6:30 p.m. in Grand Rapids. The non-winged sprint cars will be in action. Admission is limited to the first 675 fans with pre-sale tickets available at the Grand Rapids Speedway website. In Hibbing, racing is scheduled for July 25 at 6:30 p.m. with a special Hornet Swarm race planned for the new four-cylinder class that was added last season.

 

Lightning Lacrosse on the Move

    The Grand Rapids/Greenway girls’ lacrosse team has called Dixon-Barle Field in Coleraine their home for the last two seasons. That will unfortunately come to an end when the team moves to the new turf field at Grand Rapids High School starting next spring. The team had a winning record on the natural grass in Coleraine.

 

Senior Babe Ruth Baseball

    The Taconite Under-19 baseball team that is made up of players from Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway will resume play this week after a two-week hiatus. They are scheduled to play home games at Marble Field against West Duluth on July 29 at 8 p.m. and Ely on July 30 at 7 p.m. They also travel to Aurora for a single game on July 28. Taconite played a couple home games earlier this week after our press deadline. Grand Rapids was in town on July 20 and Grand Marais visited on July 21. Discussion on whether the local teams will sponsor a post-season tournament – and if they do, whether or not Taconite will play - are ongoing.

 

St. Thomas Moves to Division I

    Last week, Minnesota added a second school sponsoring all sports at the NCAA Division I level. St. Thomas is the states’ largest private school and is located in St. Paul. The Tommies join the Minnesota Gophers as the state’s only full Division I programs. Most of the school’s 22 athletic programs will compete in the Summit League where North Dakota and NDSU are both league members. The football team will join the non-scholarship Pioneer league and the women’s hockey program will join the WCHA with Bemidji State. The men’s hockey team is still searching for a league to join and a suitable arena to play in.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

July 16, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    Jon Burt of Bovey was the big winner last Saturday night at the Hibbing Raceway. Burt won the WISSOTA Pure Stock feature race when he brought his number 31 car to the checkered flag in front of eleven other competitors, including one of the best Pure Stock drivers in the area, Chad Finckbone of Grand Rapids. Chris Miller from Bovey finished sixth in the race and Mark Gangl, also from Bovey, was eighth. Other feature winners included Tristan LaBarge (Super Stock), Keith Koski (Modifieds), Tyler Kinter (Midwest Modifieds), Derek Vesel (Late Model), and Aaron Reimers (Hornets).

    In Midwest Modified action, Charlie Castle of Bovey finished fifth and Travis Krumrei of Coleraine was eighth. Ryan Jensen was fifth in Modifieds. Ryder Gangl made his local debut placing eighth in the Hornets and Ben Heinle was eleventh in the Late Models. Both drivers are from Bovey. 

    The long awaited start to the racing schedule at the Grand Rapids Speedway got pushed back to tonight after last Thursday’s races were canceled on account of rain and muddy track conditions. 

 

Senior Babe Ruth Baseball

    The combined Taconite and Nashwauk 18U team won once and lost twice last week to even their record at 3-3 for the COVID-19 shortened season. The win came in a road game at Proctor on July 7 by a 6-4 score. Jager Nash jump started a four run third inning with a leadoff home run. Mitch Vekich and Austin Storlie each singled and scored in the inning. Ty Donahue was the winner on the mound, striking out four Proctor batters.

    On July 2, the team lost a tough game up in Ely when they could not quite rally from an early deficit and fell 4-3. Ethan Endresan gave up three first inning runs before settling in for a solid performance, striking out eight Ely batters. Taconite rallied for three runs in the fourth inning on a string of singles from Endreson, Nash, Darric Davidson, Storlie, and Vekich. Davidson went 3 for 3 at the plate. The team also lost a 10-0 game in Grand Rapids.

    The status of games for the rest of the season is a bit up in the air as COVID-19 concerns have put a damper on much of the schedule. The trade-off of keeping players playing, but also safe, will likely continue to be a challenge in the months to come.

 

Itasca Community College Sports

    It looks like it is going to be a busy spring at Itasca. Last week the school’s conference, the MCAC, cancelled all sports activity for the fall semester. It now appears that all of Itasca’s athletic teams - including football - may be planning to play during the spring semester. The NJCAA, which is the national governing body for junior college sports, is proposing to move all athletics to the spring of 2021 in hopes that the COVID-19 situation has improved by then. This would include a seven or eight game football schedule beginning in late March or early April.

    The change could be interesting for Itasca’s volleyball and softball programs which normally have several players competing for both teams. With the teams potentially competing at the same time, both rosters may have to be adjusted. For football, the change will affect the usual recruiting schedule for four-year schools that normally sign JUCO players in December.

 

Professional Sports Starting

    The professional sports leagues that had their seasons interrupted in the spring are starting to reschedule them. They are all using some sort of a Covid-19 “bubble” that places players, team personnel, and game officials in an isolated environment to slow the spread of the disease. All games are being played without fans in attendance. However, almost all games will be televised for your home viewing pleasure.

    The NHL is going straight to the Stanley Cup playoffs with games scheduled to start on August 1. All games will be played in Toronto or Edmonton. A champion should be crowned by early October. The NHL Draft has been tentatively rescheduled for October 9-10.

    Major League Baseball has decided on a 60 game season starting on July 23 with the World Series set to begin on Oct. 20. Games will be played at each team’s home field. Travel will be restricted with teams only playing opponents in their division or the interleague division that is in the same geographic region they are in.

    The NBA will be playing all of their games at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. On July 31, the top 22 teams will begin completing the regular season with eight games each to determine playoff seeding. The top 16 teams will then begin the traditional NBA Playoff format.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

July 09, 2020

    Mountain biking is a unique way to spend time in the natural beauty of northern Minnesota. I have started mountain biking more this summer, and it has been fun to get out and experience our beautiful trails in a new way. On July 4, I decided to try biking in someplace new to me: a stretch of trail through Golden Anniversary State Forest just southwest of Blackberry along Itasca County Highway 3, which is better known as the River Road. 

    Mountain bikes provide access to a wide variety of terrain through all four seasons. These days they seem mostly confined to the purpose-built trails popping up along the Iron Range such as Redhead Mountain in Chisholm and Tioga Recreation Area in Cohasset. I really enjoy riding those trails, but lately I have been taking my bike off the beaten path a bit. It turns out there are many trails along the Scenic Range designed for hiking, cross country skiing, or grouse hunting that are ideal for mountain biking. These trails provide their own unique challenges, but they are also a lot of fun.

    I started my July 4 adventure with a simple plan. I needed to bring enough water to survive the 90 degree heat. I did not get going until late afternoon and ended up pedalling through the full heat and humidity of the day. Something I should have planned for but did not, was the ticks. It turned out that the trails had not been mowed in quite some time and the fully grown grass and weeds gave the pesky ticks a good opportunity to share my biking adventure. A bit of bug dope to accompany the water I brought would have been a good idea.

    Although I had never biked the Golden Anniversary trail before, I have skied on it in the winter dozens of times, so I was familiar with what I would be facing. The trail is relatively flat, which I have to admit is why I chose to ride it. I started on the trail to the right as I left the parking lot and headed through the mixed pine and poplar forest. It was not long before I heard the familiar sound of a deer heading to safety. I wanted to get a good look at it, but never did. Unfortunately, I had not developed enough confidence on the unmowed trail to take my eyes off the rocks and tree roots in my path. By the time I had been on the bike long enough to build up the confidence to look around, all I heard was the occasional squirrel. 

    The trail runs to the edge of McKinley Lake - which shined a bright blue in the afternoon sun - and then through a young stand of aspen. I kept my bike in the middle gears through this section. The tall grass obscured the occasional stumbling blocks along the way. That kept my eyes focused on upcoming obstacles and forced me to go slowly down the descents.  A hillier region of the trail was coming up and I was concerned I would not be able to build up enough speed on the downslopes to get back up the long sloping hills that I knew were up ahead.

    My fears were realized when - despite my best efforts - the bike slowed to a stop on an extended climb on the furthest stretch of trail from the parking lot. I walked the mountain bike up the remaining 50 yards of the hill, probably picking up the couple of ticks I would find on my calves at the end of my ride. 

    I had planned to take two loops around the trail, but as I huffed and puffed back to my car, I started thinking that maybe one go-round would be enough. However, after a short break and full bottle of water, I was ready for my second lap. This run went a little smoother as I was able to plan for the hills and stay on my bike the whole way around. I was even able to smile as I cleanly navigated a stretch where I had plowed through an annoying spider web on my previous lap.

    I particularly enjoy the time I spent in my lowest - and slowest - gear.  It is amazing to me how slow you can go on a mountain bike without a lot of exertion or loss of balance. The low speed provides a great opportunity to see the beauty in the surrounding nature while working your way up a hill. 

    By the end of my second lap, I had not only spent some valuable time in the forest, but I had completed a ride of 3.6 miles at an average speed of 5.5 miles and hour. Surprisingly, I also gained 323 feet of elevation. The trail I had selected thinking it would be rather flat turned out to have a lot of hills. I guess what feels like a gentle slope on a pair of cross country skis can seem a lot steeper on a mountain bike.

    Summer is a time of year when it can be difficult to venture out in the woods. Nevertheless, my trip through Golden Anniversary was one I was glad I took, despite the heat. Mountain bikes make accessing favorite hiking, skiing, or hunting trails a little easier, all while seeing the natural beauty of northern Minnesota’s forests at a slightly different speed.

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

July 02, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Senior Babe Ruth Baseball

    It took about three months longer than originally planned, but the high school-aged baseball players of the Scenic Range finally took the field last week. The Taconite Senior Babe Ruth team won two games, defeating Cook County on June 25 and beating International Falls in Marble on June 26.

    The Minnesota Department of Health okayed outdoor youth sports competitions starting on June 24. The Minnesota State High School League had cancelled the regular high school season that takes place in April and May and the Minnesota American Legion cancelled their normal summer season. In response to this go-ahead by state health officials, area coaches organized under the umbrella of the Senior Babe Ruth organization in order to get in some games this summer. Players from both Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin high schools combined to form the Taconite team with coaches Gene Storlie, Tim Endreson, and Richard Davidson.

    The team traveled to Grand Marais for their season opener against Cook County and held on for a 6-5 win. After falling behind early by two runs, Taconite did all of their damage in the fifth inning when they put six runs on the board. Jager Nash and Brent Keranan each singled to open the inning. Mitchell Vekich followed that up with a double and then Eric Davidson, Adam Storlie, and Ty Donahue each singled before Ethan Endreson hit into an inning ending double play. It turned out Taconite would need all of those runs when Cook County rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh. Pitcher Jager Nash ended the game with a strikeout. Ethan Endreson was the winning pitcher.

    Last Friday the team beat International Falls by a 5-0 score in front of about 85 fans in Marble. Adam Storlie went 2-2 at the plate and scored two runs. Ty Donahue was the winning pitcher.

    The team travels to Ely tonight and Proctor on July 7. Their next home game will be on July 9 against Hermantown in Marble.

Marble Mallards Amateur Baseball

    The Mallards are taking the year off. The team made the difficult decision to take a one year hiatus when there simply were not enough players available to field a team. The team is made up largely of college-age players and recent high school graduates from the area. The Hibbing Miners are also cancelling their season, leaving the area with no amateur baseball this summer. 

    The Minnesota Baseball Association, the group that organizes over 200 teams from around the state, has been flexible with their normal team eligibility rules. That will allow some of the Mallards to play this season for other teams. Tanner Shepard, Nick Shea, and Lane Gerber will all be suiting up for the Roseau Royals this season. The Royals are normally a Northwest Border League opponent for the Mallards, but will provide a welcome landing spot for Marble players this summer.

    The Mallards played in the Minnesota Class C State Tournament last season and have been a fixture on the local baseball scene for almost 100 years. They made their first state tournament appearance in 1924.

Local Dirt Track Racing Opens Up

    The checkered flag made its first appearance of the season last Saturday night at the Hibbing Raceway. A total of 80 cars hit the track for what turned out to be opening night for the race track. Grand Rapids Speedway is scheduled to have their opening night on July 9 at the Itasca County Fairgrounds. The next action in Hibbing will be on July 11.

    On the track, feature winners were Kevin Burdick (Super Stock), Chad Finckbone (Pure Stock), Johnny Broking (Modifieds), Mark Kangas (Midwest Modifieds), Kyle Peterlin (Late Model), and Kyle House (Hornets).

    Our local drivers struggled a bit with the race only getting approval from the Hibbing City Council on Wednesday, June 24. Jeffrey Massingill of Keewatin won his Late Model heat, beating Peterlin to the finish, but ended up 13th in the feature race. Charlie Castle of Bovey was 10th in the Midwest Modifieds and local favorite Ryan Jensen was 10th in the Modifieds. Mark Gangl and Jon Burt, both from Bovey, placed in their Pure Stock heats but did not finish the feature race.

    Jeffrey Massingill had a good week out of the area, finishing 4th out of 21 cars in Superior on June 19 and 3rd out of 18 in Grand Forks, North Dakota on June 26.

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

June 25, 2020

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With John Nalan

 

Colin Kaepernick

    Colin Kaepernick could look good in purple and gold. He has the potential to transform the Minnesota Vikings from their current position as a very good team into Super Bowl contenders. As with any player, he would come with possible risks or rewards. But, I think his upside cannot be ignored just because he has not played a snap in the NFL since 2016. There would be some obvious pros and cons of having Kaepernick in Minnesota, so let’s dig into some of them.

 

The Quarterback Position

    The Vikings currently have a decent quarterback, 31-year-old Kirk Cousins. He is reliable, but he is not one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. Kaepernick is 32 years old and led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC championship game the next season. He is a more mobile runner than Cousins and would take some pressure off of the Vikings inconsistent offensive line. Several injuries that required surgery and a string of failed head coaching hires by the 49ers had Kaepernick riding the bench as a backup by the time he was released in 2016. 

    The NFL is a league where successful teams have an elite coach teamed with an elite quarterback. The Vikings head coach, Mike Zimmer, is an elite coach. Kirk Cousins is not - and never will be - an elite quarterback. This is where Kaepernick’s potential star power comes into play. Kaepernick has proven that he can be an elite quarterback in the right coaching situation. The Vikings need just such an elite quarterback to advance from being a playoff team to a Super Bowl contender.

    Just a few months ago, the Vikings did what they normally do, the safe thing, and signed Kirk Cousins to a hefty contract extension through 2022. Kaepernick could be signed as a backup and come into the Vikings organization to see if he could help the team. Mike Zimmer would be more than capable of managing the situation. If Kaepernick proves himself to still be the elite quarterback he was in 2012, the Vikings become a better team. If things don’t pan out, the Vikings are no worse off than they are now.

 

The Controversy

    Colin Kaepernick does not come without controversy. In 2016, he started kneeling during the national anthem, rather than standing, in protest of racial injustice, police brutality, and systematic oppression in our country. At the time, his protest created a lot of backlash as some people saw his actions as disrespectful. Kaepernick was released by the 49ers and has not been signed by another NFL club since. He filed a grievance against the NFL alleging he has been intentionally excluded from football and reached a settlement with the league in 2019.

    This country has changed a lot since 2016, especially since the murder of George Floyd just a few blocks from the Vikings’ home field in Minneapolis last month. The worldwide protests over the killing has been seen as something of a redemption for Kaepernick, as his views on police interaction with the community have become better understood. Certainly, there would be some negative reaction to his return, but if the NFL plays in 2020, I suspect the reaction to Kaepernick and his cause will have changed for the better.

 

The Locker Room

    This is the place I think Kaepernick can have the biggest long-term impact on the Viking organization. I know this might be a difficult thing for us die-in-the-wool Minnesotans to hear, but right now, Minneapolis may not be a desired destination for NFL players. Cities develop reputations and good NFL organizations need to work to enhance their reputation.

    I think of Hall of Famer Reggie White and the Green Bay Packers back in 1993. Before White’s arrival, the Packers were struggling to win games and sign players. The city of Green Bay was just not seen as a place that a lot of NFL players wanted to be at. The team had not won a division title in 20 years and people were wondering if the franchise would ever regain its lost glory. Reggie White changed that. He worked with the city and team management to make Green Bay a sought after landing place for NFL players.

    By no means is Minnesota struggling to the degree that Green Bay was thirty years ago. However, Colin Kaepernick is the kind of leader that can attract top level talent to Minneapolis and change the Viking’s reputation around the league. His role has transformed in the last six months into one of a leader in a movement to make America a more equitable place. The Vikings organization would only benefit from having him in the fold.

    Would there be risks in bring Kaepernick to Minnesota? Certainly. He has not taken an NFL snap in three years. The rust may not come off that arm, but if it does, the Vikings could reap rewards far beyond what they would ever get with Kirk Cousins.

 

Babe Ruth Baseball

    The first local sporting event of the summer could take place tomorrow night in Marble when International Falls is scheduled to face the local group of Under-19 players in a baseball game. With the Legion season cancelled, the Babe Ruth team made up of Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin players will take on the Broncos at 6 p.m. in Marble on June 26. Everything is still a little up-in-the-air as far as the schedule is concerned, so the game may potentially be moved back to a later date. The team is also scheduled to travel to Grand Marais for a game on June 25.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

June 18, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Dialing Up

    Slowly, signs of sports activities are starting to return to the Scenic Range. Our efforts to slow down COVID-19 created a pause in our sporting life that has lasted for about three months. None of us know what the future of local sports holds, but for now things are improving. As I walked my dog the other night, I saw some kids at soccer practice. It was the first organized event I have seen this summer. It wasn’t quite as strange as seeing an airplane in the sky the week after 9/11, but it did cause me to do a double take.

    At this point in time, youth teams are allowed to organize and practice, but games and competitions are not being scheduled. Practices are limited to 25 participants for outdoor activities and 10 for indoor sports. When and if competitions start up this summer, the games are likely to be just among nearby teams. Most state and regional tournaments have been cancelled.

    Normally, the summer youth sports season finishes up around the beginning of August with the official end date in the middle of August when high school volleyball and football start up. However, if the fall sports season does not happen, we could potentially see summer sports extend into September or October.

    Several issues that need to be worked out is the availability of fields and umpires/referees. Many local governments, school districts, and colleges have not opened their fields. Umpires will often work multiple games in a day at a single site. If the games are spread out in various towns, having enough umpires to cover the games may become an issue.

 

Local Youth Softball

    The youth softball teams sponsored through the Greenway Joint Recreation Board have begun practicing a couple times a week. In a normal season, they play competitive games in the Arrowhead League against northern Minnesota teams stretching from Deer River to International Falls and Virginia. If and when games can be played, a schedule will be made up. Currently teams across the league are simply practicing and waiting.

 

Local Youth Baseball

    Practice has begun in Marble for both the Legion age players (19 and under) and the VFW (16 and under) teams. The traditional American Legion season has been cancelled for the summer, but team’s from the Arrowhead region have banded together for the summer under the Babe Ruth League umbrella. Players from the Nashwauk Legion and the Taconite Legion teams have been practicing together. If and when games start, a decision will be made if there are enough players to field one or two teams.

    The VFW teams are in a similar situation. The organization’s postseason has been cancelled, but teams can still play regular season contests under the VFW umbrella. Again, the teams are just practicing at this point. If or when games take place, the local coaches will develop a schedule.

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    Tracks in Minnesota have not opened yet, but across the state line in Wisconsin they have been racing for almost a month. Keewatin’s Jeffrey Massingill took his Late Model to New Richmond last weekend for three nights of racing. His strongest finish was on Thursday night when he finished fourth out of 42 total racers. Midwest legend Jimmy Mars from Menomonie, Wisconsin won the race. On Saturday night, Massingill won his heat race before finishing sixth overall in the 50 lap feature race. Massingill’s best finish of the season so far was a third place finish in New Richmond on May 30th.

    Jon Burt of Bovey brought his Pure Stock to the Superior Speedway last Saturday and finished fourth. Coleraine’s Travis Krumrei was 11th that same night in his #14K Midwest Modified. Andy LaBarge of Keewatin has made several trips to Wisconsin with his Midwest Modified car. His top finish was in Ashland on May 30th 

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

June 11, 2020

Kayaking the Lower Prairie River

    For years, whenever I kayaked down the Mississippi River, I would always look to my left at the point where the Prairie River flowed into the mighty Mississippi. What would await me if I took a sharp turn and explored the Prairie River instead of continuing on down river to the Blackberry Bridge? 

    Last Saturday, I decided to find out. I have to admit, I did not put as much research into the trip as I should have. I wanted the mystery of what would await me around each bend in the river to be a surprise. It turns out that I got my wish.

    The Prairie River wanders throughout the Scenic Range, but I wanted to focus my kayak trip on the last five miles. That is the stretch south of the last portage at Lower Prairie Lake west of Coleraine. I planned to put in at the Prairie River Dam and exit the river at the wayside rest near the old trestle bridge on Highway 2 just outside of LaPrairie.

    As I headed out County Road 61 to my start point, I was not even sure if the route I had selected would be open all of the way to the end. River levels vary and routes that can be traveled with a motor boat during the snow melt can be a dry crossing of rocks by September. None of this bothered me much. I was wearing my old shoes that had seen their share of water in the past and chose my old ten foot Pelican kayak that I knew could take a beating.

    The sun was bright through a thin cloud layer as I pushed off just downriver from the Prairie River Dam. The first thing I saw was a couple bicyclists on the old bridge that is now part of the Mesabi Bike Trail between Mt. Itasca and the Itasca County Fairgrounds. To my surprise, those would be the last people I saw until I arrived at Highway 2. 

    I floated onto the first of what would turn out to be three distinct parts of the river. This first part had the feel of lake kayaking. The river was wide and the surface was fairly still. Every rock and deadhead log had a Painted Turtle sunning itself until they scurried into the water as I approached. The river banks were covered with hardwood trees that covered the view of the mine pits just behind them. Tall cattails and the first shoots of wild rice lined the shore. I was paddling pretty steadily into a bit of a headwind, but the river carried me along at a stable 2.3 miles per hour. The undeveloped shoreline and the consistent entertainment of momma ducks shepherding their ducklings made for an enjoyable first three miles.

    The character of the river started to change just as I rounded a bend and found myself approaching the Highway 169 bridge just east of Itasca Community College. The right side of the river was blocked, so the only way through was over some gentle, fast moving water on the left side. My kayak grounded out briefly and came to a stop, but a solid shove with my paddle propelled me under the bridge without any need for me to stand up. I started thinking that keeping to the left side of the river would serve me well.

    Past Highway 169, the river took on a more populated feel. Suddenly, there were a lot of boat docks to see and the wood duck houses had changed from faded grey to painted red. The signs of civilization were a nice change of pace and alleviated some of the boredom that was setting in after almost two hours on the river. I encountered more fast moving water and continued to find the left side of the river provided a friendly path. A highlight of the trip came as I approached a good sized beaver lodge on the right bank. I never actually saw any beavers, but the disturbances in the water as they swam just under the surface satisfied me.

    The third stretch of the river began just a half mile from my destination when the river channel narrowed considerably and the water started to pick up speed. Sticking to the left side of the river, I was able to avoid a few spots with white water rapids, although I did get caught up on the rocks a few times in the shallow water. 

    Moving quickly and keeping left, I spotted the old train trestle bridge near Highway 2 that I had hoped to photograph. Everything was starting to happen quickly now. The kayak sped up on its own and I was distracted by my camera. Before I knew what had happened, I had turned sideways and almost tipped. I managed to keep the kayak upright, but had taken on enough water to ensure a bad ending. After straightening the canoe back down river, a sharp turn toward the trestle bridge tipped the kayak and sent me sprawling into the fast moving, three foot deep water. I managed to haul the flooded kayak to a nearby sandbar, but my glorious river trip was over. Fortunately, I was uninjured. A nearby group using bow and arrow to fish for suckers witnessed my misadventures and willingly called my son to come pick me up. 

    The mystery of what awaited me down the Prairie River turned out to be no great surprise at all. The trip was simply a reminder that being in the great outdoors can be just as humbling as it is refreshing.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

June 04, 2020

Clafton Leaving Raider Hockey

    Grant Clafton is resigning from his position as the head hockey coach at Greenway High School after five years at the helm of one of Minnesota’s most storied programs. His resignation was accepted by the Greenway School Board at their May 27 meeting.

    “When I took the job,” Clafton said, “I felt it would be about a five to seven year deal for me to do it right. Coaching Greenway has been my number one priority for the last five years. I’ve put 150% of my energy into this. When you can’t do that every year, then it is time to step down and let someone else who is the right person for the job do it.”

    Clafton leaves behind a legacy of success that includes coaching the Raiders to the 2019 Class A state championship game and picking up state coach of the year honors in 2018. Greenway had a 90-41-2 record over his five year tenure and played in three consecutive Section 7A title games.

    “The best memories for me are that each season we seemed to have a building block that led to another step the following year,” he recalls. 

    The team had been struggling to fill a roster in the years before Clafton arrived. In his first season, the team made their first appearance in the section semifinals in Duluth since 2003. The next year, the Raiders made it a step further to the section final game against Hermantown before a 5-1 loss ended their season. Greenway pushed the Hawks to double overtime in the section final the following season before losing a 5-4 nailbiter. The Raiders finally broke through the next year and beat Hermantown to advance to state. That win propelled Greenway to the state title game.

    “There was always something that was the next step of the process,” Clafton remembers. “I thought it was pretty neat how that worked out each year.”

    The players certainly bought in to Clafton’s philosophy.

    “I told the kids we couldn’t accomplish everything in one season,” he continued. “It takes time to get to the ultimate goal. That’s why I feel every single kid in the rebuilding process the last ten years played a role in our success.”

    Greenway athletic director Dan Mell has been more than satisfied with what Clafton brought to the program.

    “It’s been good having Grant here,” Mell said. “When you go 18 years without being down at the state tournament and a coach brings you there, that’s success. We would have loved to have had Grant back next year. He left on good terms and I appreciate him both as an individual and for what he did for our program.”

    Clafton’s hiring five years ago did raise a few eyebrows on the west end of the Iron Range. As a 2001 Grand Rapids graduate who starred on Thunderhawk teams during one of the fiercest era’s of the Greenway-Grand Rapids rivalry, some people saw him as an enemy. 

    “From the day that I arrived,” he said. “I felt like I was accepted. The support I got from the community was really good and it continued on that way. I am really appreciative of the Greenway program. I feel really lucky to have coached the kids I coached and to be associated with these families.”

    The 37 year old Clafton will likely have plenty of coaching opportunities in the future.

    “He is a die-hard coach, Mell added. “I think coaching hockey will be something he does for a long time.”

    For now, Clafton is not sure what the future will hold.

    “I don’t have plans,” he said. “There comes a time when you just need to move on in another direction. Right now, I’m not sure what that direction is.”

    However, he does feel he is leaving the Greenway program in good shape.

    “The next four years should be pretty good,” he noted. “The bantam team was strong last year and with guys like Ty Donahue, Aidan Rajala, and Bodie Jorgenson back, they have the chance to be competitive. Also, the numbers at the mite level are quite high and there are some legacy players there, former players’ kids, that will do well.”

    The search for Clafton’s replacement will be a little delayed due to coronavirus issues.

    “We don’t know what is going on with fall sports and sports in general right now,” Dan Mell said. “We will kind of hold off on putting the job out there until we have a better time frame from the state high school league on when we can start high school athletics again.”

    The name of Andy Sertich, Greenway’s current lead assistant, will certainly be brought up for the position. If interested, his familiarity with the program and experience as a college and professional player would seem to make him an ideal candidate. Clafton was a bit more direct about Sertich.

    “I do think Andy should get the job,” Clafton said. 

    Regardless of what the future holds for the Greenway hockey program, the five years Grant Clafton spent with the program will be remembered as a time of improvement for the team and success on the ice.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

May 21, 2020

Tourney Time: Stories from the Minnesota Boys’ State Hockey Tournament

    I got a chance to read a great book over the last week while at home. It was “Tourney Time,” a new book about the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament from the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Journalists David La Vaque and L.R. Nelson do an entertaining job of telling some great stories from the past 75 years of hockey. I have seen the book described as a history, but it does not contain dry facts or list game results. Rather, it is filled with lots of quotes, vintage photographs, and well told stories from some pretty colorful characters. 

    La Vaque and Nelson have written a story for each year of the tournament. This not only makes it read like a journey through time, but also makes it easy to find the stories you want to read. When I first opened the book, I went right to 1967 and 1968 when Greenway won the last two state tournaments held at the old St. Paul Auditorium.

    The stories from both years captured the spirit of the west range. Familiar names like Bob Gernander, Mike Antonovich, and Kenny Lawson jump off the pages. L.R. Nelson writes the story of the 1967 Greenway team through the lens of the youth hockey rivalry the players had as kids growing up in towns spreading from Pengilly to Coleraine. For the 1968 story, he starts with the great nicknames on the Greenway team, but expands into the story of how the defending state champions lost in both the district and region tournament, but still managed to repeat as state champs.

    The book also contains a wonderful page on the short lived coaching tactic of having a team’s goaltender play as an attacking player during delayed penalties. Greenway’s “Pie” Joy was a master of the technique. His play on both ends of the rink during the 1967 tournament made him a tournament legend, but likely played a part in the practice being banned starting the next season.

    The story format skips some golden Greenway moments such as the 2019 run to the championship game and no mention is made of the Tier 2 champions in 1992. The 1987 team that placed third at state is mentioned in the book as a foil for Bloomington Kennedy’s state title run that year. The duo of Gino Guyer and Andy Sertich is listed as one of the top forward combinations in state history for their part in Greenway’s 2001 third place effort. In addition, stories about the great Grand Rapids, International Falls, and Eveleth teams of the past give a great overview of the hockey culture here in northern Minnesota. 

    Overall, it’s a fun read. The short story format and ample interviews with coaches and players makes it very readable. The multitude of old photos from the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society alone are worth the purchase price. I would recommend it to any area hockey fan. The book is titled “Tourney Time: Stories from the Minnesota Boys’ State Hockey Tournament” by David La Vaque and L.R. Nelson, ISBN: 978-168-134-1491. It is available at your local library.

Junior Hockey Draft Picks

    The USHL and NAHL junior hockey leagues each held their annual drafts over the past few weeks. A pair of graduating seniors from Greenway were selected. 

    Defenseman Christian Miller was picked in the seventh round of the USHL entry draft by the Madison Capitols from Wisconsin. The Capitols had a 12-34 record when the season was suspended on March 11. Miller is committed to play college hockey at St. Cloud State. He is currently listed as the 205th best non-goalie player in North America by NHL Central Scouting. That means he could potentially be selected in the upcoming NHL entry draft. The draft was originally scheduled for June 26-27, but since the NHL season is still in limbo due to COVID-19, the entry draft was postponed and has not yet been rescheduled.

    Forward Ben Troumbly was selected in the first round of the NAHL supplemental draft last week. The Bismarck Bobcats from North Dakota used the 21st pick overall to select Troumbly. He was Greenway’s leading scorer last season with 44 points (16 goals and 28 assists). Troumbly is committed to play college hockey at St. Cloud State.

    Donte Lawson, a 2019 Greenway graduate and Bemidji State commit, is planning to return to Cedar Rapids, Iowa this fall. Lawson scored four goals and five assists for the RoughRiders in a COVID shortened season last winter.

 

Hockey Day Minnesota Replay

    Greenway’s 2019 game with Bemidji at Hockey Day Minnesota on the shores of Lake Bemidji will be rebroadcast on Fox Sports North. The game will be shown at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday May 30.

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

May 14, 2020

With John Nalan

 

There is New Turf in Town

    An artificial turf field is coming to Itasca County and the landscape of high school football in the area is going to be changing as a result. Grand Rapids High School is in the process of installing an artificial surface on their current football field. With the field scheduled to be ready this fall, the possibility of the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin football team having play-off games close to home becomes a reality.

    Turf fields are spreading quickly around the Northland. They are a playing surface made of synthetic fibers and designed to look and feel like natural grass. High school football playoff games are scheduled on them due to more consistent field conditions. Natural grass fields deteriorate and become dangerous for the players as the season stretches into late October. Several schools in the area now have artificial turf. Esko and Proctor have turf fields and Virginia is in the process of building one. Other area schools with turf include Mountain Iron, Mesabi East, Duluth East, Duluth Denfeld, and Brainerd.

    The advantage of the turf fields is a stable playing surface that does not get slippery in the rain or snow. It also eliminates a lot of injuries that normally occur with holes and ruts getting dug into natural grass fields. 

    Greenway athletic director Dan Mell has seen the effect late fall weather can have on a natural grass field.

    “When you get a full day of rain,” he explained, “or a stretch with three days of rain and the field is not drying because the sun isn’t out, it really does damage.”

    Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin was forced to move their home playoff game last season to Mountain Iron because it rained all week, making both of their home fields in Coleraine and Nashwauk unplayable. 

    “We were scrambling last year and had to go to Mountain Iron,” Mell added, “but obviously having Grand Rapids right nearby would give us a lot better option for the fans.”

    Even with a turf field available nearby, Mell does not imagine a situation where they would use the field in anything but an emergency situation.

    “We want to keep our home games as home games,” Mell said. “We can play in Coleraine or Nashwauk. Because we have two fields, I think we would almost always be able to play our regular season games at one of those venues.”

    The turf field in Grand Rapids will help field conditions in Coleraine in a couple of other ways. Both the Grand Rapids/Greenway boys and girls lacrosse teams were scheduled to play in Coleraine this spring. Now, both teams will be using the new field in Grand Rapids in 2021. Also, the Itasca Community College football team has been playing one game a year in Coleraine. With the turf field, Itasca will move their full home schedule to Grand Rapids.

    Another benefit the turf field will have for local football players is the opportunity for playoff games nearby. Currently, the Minnesota State High School League plays all section final games and first round state tournament games on fields with artificial turf. 

    According to Grand Rapids athletic director Anne Campbell, the school is interested in hosting playoff football.

    “We would certainly like to be thought of as a place to host state tournament and section final games,” she said. “We’ll throw our hat in the ring to host those games. We want people to come up to see our beautiful field. We have great restaurants in town and feel we run first class events.”

    The opportunity for playoff games certainly exists. Last fall, for example, Esko hosted four section final games and state tournament games were played in Brainerd and Duluth Denfeld. The new turf field in Grand Rapids looks like it will be a winner for football fans across the region.

 

American Legion Baseball 

    The Minnesota American Legion baseball board decided last weekend to cancel the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. The national organization had already cancelled the American Legion World Series, but last week learned that they would not be able to offer liability insurance to the 3,800 teams nationwide. That decision forced the hand of the Minnesota organization, causing them to cancel the season. 

    The cancellation affects both the teams from Nashwauk Post 307 and Taconite Post 301. Taconite coach Dan Persons, who also coaches the Greenway high school team, thought the cancellation seemed inevitable given the restrictions in place right now.

    “That doesn’t make it any easier for the kids,” he added. “Losing a season like this can be tough to deal with, but they are strong kids with good character. I know the spring season can be miserable sometimes. Once you get to Legion ball in the summer, however, you get to play a lot of games. That’s when it is fun. It’s too bad they have to miss that opportunity.” 

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

May 07, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Does Marvel Have a Baseball Team?

    Things have been a little different at my house lately. For example, my dog, Angel, must be wondering why we seem to be home all of the time. Fortunately, she appears more pleased than annoyed with this new arrangement. I am not sure I can say the same for the full-time college student living in my basement. It turns out doing college without the actual college around is pretty boring.

    I am trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. I still get up at 6:30 each morning to walk Angel and I still keep small piles of things around the house that I use in my many projects. My checkbook and bills sit on a dining room chair. Everything I need to repair drywall sits beside the living room lamp. All of my notes and the voice recorder that I use for writing are on the piano bench. 

    I have tried to maintain a regular schedule. My bicycles indicate that I am just doing okay with that. Even with a lot of free time on my hands, I have still managed to use my bicycles a lot less than I feel that I should. I have been telling myself for years that I was too busy to bike regularly. I may now be realizing that is not true. I own a mountain bike, a racing bike, a road bike, and a bike rack for the car, but I still find time to take my scheduled nap most days.

    One daily routine, however, has changed a lot. After dinner, as the sun goes down, I normally enjoy sitting down and watching a game on my television. Spring is a great time of year for this. Hockey and basketball are in the playoffs. None of the baseball teams are 20 games behind the Yankees. I love the French Open tennis, the Formula One racing season, and the Tour de France. All of this makes the spring season a fun one for watching sports on television. But lately, whenever I turn the television on, there are not any live games on. Sure, there are a few old games from 2006 being replayed, but that feels forced. I guess I need live action.

    I am getting my action during the quarantine from action movies. It may not be live action, but at least I do not know how it ends.

    My nights are now filled with Marvel movies. In the last ten years or so, they have made over twenty of these movies. Featuring the old comic book heroes like Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, they are pretty good movies. I suspect that none of them won an Oscar, but they are engaging and entertaining. Some are more fun to watch than others, but Minnesota Wild games can be that way, too. In several of the movies, the superheroes all team up against evil and call themselves The Avengers. They are loosely controlled by a character played by Samuel L. Jackson. Like Tony Romo, Samuel L. Jackson just makes everything he is in easier to watch.

    I understand that I am going to run out of Marvel movies long before there are live sports again on television. I guess that is one of the things I like about watching sports, they never end. Or at least I thought they would never end. Have I mentioned things have been a little different at my house lately?

 

Trampoline America

    With organized youth sports mostly on hold due to COVID-19, it seems the youth of Itasca County have taken to trampolining. Almost everywhere I go, I see new trampolines in people’s backyards. For me, the best part of this phenomenon is the noise. There is nothing quite like the happy giggling sounds made by kids of all ages on a trampoline. 

    Some adults may be frustrated by this loss of control over children’s activities, but the kids seem to be enjoying it. I asked my neighbor what his favorite part of owning a trampoline was. I was expecting to hear something about the value of exercise or the sense of accomplishment that comes with learning new skills.

    “I like to jump,” was his answer. I would like to think this is a kid most adults in charge of youth activities would describe as coachable.

    If you have not already gotten a trampoline, you might be out of luck. I have not seen one in a local store for weeks. The Target website says they are out of stock all across the country. The salespeople at L&M told me they might get more by June. I guess we should have seen this shortage coming. I mean, who could have imagined that a combination of kids being home from school, a $1,200 check from Uncle Sam, spring weather, and parents supervising their own children would result in a run on trampolines?

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

April 30, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings are a better football team than they were last week. That is the beauty of the draft. Every team thinks they got better, even when they did not. The Vikings, however, seem to have actually gotten better. The team filled some holes, replaced some departed players, and got a lot of players with the potential to help the team.

    Minnesota used their first pick to get receiver Justin Jefferson from LSU. He is slated to.replace Stefan Diggs who has moved on to Buffalo. The NFL is a passing league and no team can be successful without star receivers, so Jefferson was a good pick. He caught the ball consistently in college, and since the Vikings are the type of team that sees a lot of third downs, that is important.

    It is no secret the Vikings had problems in the secondary last year. They definitely tried to address that by picking Jeff Gladney from TCU in the first round along with four other defensive backs in the draft. Gladney looks like he is ready to start in the NFL, so all we can do now is hope he pans out as a reliable defender.

    The offensive line got some relief with the arrival of Ezra Cleveland, a second round pick from Boise State. At 6’ 6” and 310 pounds, he should be just fine up front.

    One of the things about the NFL draft is that you can not take it too seriously. While it is true that one way to build a solid team is with great draft picks, the truth is there is a lot of luck involved. Sure, the Vikings got Randy Moss and Randall McDaniel in the first round, but they also got Stefan Diggs in the fifth round and claimed Hall of Famer Cris Carter off waivers for $100. Adam Thielen and another Hall of Famer, John Randle, were both undrafted free agents. The current Viking’s management team seems to have a very good eye for talent. With 15 players drafted this week and another nine new undrafted free agents, I think that in ten years we will look back on this draft as a very good one.

High School Sports

    With Minnesota schools now closed for the remainder of the school year, the high school sports season for this spring has been officially cancelled due to COVID-19 and concerns for student safety. The Minnesota State High School League voted to cancel all activities and post-season tournaments for the 2019-20 school year on April 23. 

    That is unfortunate for our local high school athletes because this spring had all the makings of another great season. The weather has been very cooperative, eliminating the advantage teams further south usually have due to their fields and tracks drying sooner. 

    The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin track team was returning the state champion at both 1,600 and 3,200 meters, junior Geno Uhrbom. Also back was senior Dylan DeChampeau who was a state tournament qualifier last season in both the 100 meters and the high jump. Three out of the four members of the state tournament 4x100 relay team also returned. Eli Conaway and JJ Hall were on that team with DeChampeau.

    Gordon Skaar will not get the chance to redeem himself on the golf course this spring. The senior qualified for the state golf tournament in 2016 and 2018, but missed qualifying last season by a single stroke.

    In softball, both the Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin teams were looking to improve as both returned ninth grade pitchers that now had a solid year of varsity experience from last season. The Raiders had Miranda Gernander returning in the circle and the Spartans had Addy Gangl. Junior Claire Vekich of Greenway looked to be one of the top offensive threats in Northern Minnesota.

    I was really looking forward to seeing the local baseball teams in action this spring. Nashwauk-Keewatin were a legitimate state tournament contender in Section 7A with a lot of pitching and offense returning. This could have potentially been the breakout season for ninth grader Daniel Clusiau. He will be a player to watch for several years to come. The Greenway baseball team showed a lot of promise last season with the players making a lot of improvement during the Legion season. They would have been an entertaining team to watch.

    The beginning of the summer season in all of the local sports will be spent waiting for activities to start dialing back up again. While professional and collegiate sports are dependent on nationwide progress in containing COVID-19, our high school sports for the fall season are a bit more within our control. If the statewide plan to contain the virus that is being coordinated by the governor is successful in seeing schools reopen in the fall, expect there to be a fall season. 

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

April 16, 2020

With John Nalan

 

More Questions than Answers

    Our sports world has become a waiting game. We are all waiting for things to get back to normal. Right now, we are simply getting by with no high school sports, no NHL or NBA, no Masters golf in Augusta, and no NCAA basketball or hockey tournaments.

    There is plenty of enthusiasm to get things started up again. We all want to see a world again where our golf courses are open, our young people play sports, and our televisions are filled with playoff games.

    For the sports organizations that ultimately decide when to play - like the Minnesota State High School League and the NCAA - there is enthusiasm to find out what comes next. Will the high school sports seasons start up again or will they be cancelled? Will the NBA and NHL seasons resume? What about the draft for each sport? What about college football?

    Players, coaches, fans, and parents all want answers. I would love to give you those answers, but the reality is that none of the decision makers have answers at this point. They can show their enthusiasm by rescheduling events or merely postponing seasons instead of cancelling them, but at the end of the day, no one knows. The conversations I have with the decision makers all point in one direction - no one knows what is going to happen next or when that “next” is going to happen.

    The reality is that our country is still fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down all but our essential businesses. That is the reason we are waiting. That is the reason we have more questions than answers when it comes to our sports world. I think we would all love to wake up tomorrow morning and have our health experts tell us everything is okay now, but that is not realistic.

    In the meantime, we wait. When, how, and if our sports will be returning is dependent on a lot of factors. The availability of a vaccine, rapid testing options for COVID-19, and the ability to see when a person has developed antibodies are all part of the answers to the question of when we can play and watch again. Those are things that we, individually, cannot control. There is a lot to figure out and the facts of the situation change every day. All we can do is wait until the science says it is safe to play again.

    Here are some updates from local sports organizations. The state government has a stay at home order in place until at least May 4. No public events can happen while the stay at home order is in place.

    Local Dirt Track Racing: For now, the Hibbing Raceway and the Grand Rapids Speedway have not altered their schedules. Opening night in Hibbing is May 16 and in Grand Rapids it is May 21. 

    High School Sports: Currently, all games and practices have been cancelled. This will continue through at least April 30 or as long as schools across the state are closed. The spring sports season has been postponed, but not been cancelled at this time.

    Legion Baseball: The summer baseball season for Nashwauk Post 307 and Taconite Post 301 have not been cancelled. Any final decision will not be made until at least May 9.

 

Be The Light Minnesota

    High schools across the Scenic Range have been joining a nationwide effort to let their students and communities know they are thinking of them during this challenging time when the schools are closed due to COVID-19 concerns. Schools are turning on the lights of their football fields at different times during the week just to let the students know they have not been forgotten. The lights at Angelo Tadie Field in Nashwauk and Dixon-Barle Field in Coleraine will be lit each Monday night from about 8 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. The schools ask people not to congregate and simply view the lights from a distance.

 

Serratore named WCHA Coach of the Year

    Coleraine native Tom “Ernie” Serratore was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Coach of the Year for the 2019-20 season. Serratore is in his 19th year as the head hockey coach at Bemidji State. The Beavers finished the shortened season with a 22-10-5 record and a #12 national ranking that would likely have assured them a spot in the NCAA Division I tournament. Serratore also won the award in 2017.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

May 21, 2020

Tourney Time: Stories from the Minnesota Boys’ State Hockey Tournament

    I got a chance to read a great book over the last week while at home. It was “Tourney Time,” a new book about the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament from the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Journalists David La Vaque and L.R. Nelson do an entertaining job of telling some great stories from the past 75 years of hockey. I have seen the book described as a history, but it does not contain dry facts or list game results. Rather, it is filled with lots of quotes, vintage photographs, and well told stories from some pretty colorful characters. 

    La Vaque and Nelson have written a story for each year of the tournament. This not only makes it read like a journey through time, but also makes it easy to find the stories you want to read. When I first opened the book, I went right to 1967 and 1968 when Greenway won the last two state tournaments held at the old St. Paul Auditorium.

    The stories from both years captured the spirit of the west range. Familiar names like Bob Gernander, Mike Antonovich, and Kenny Lawson jump off the pages. L.R. Nelson writes the story of the 1967 Greenway team through the lens of the youth hockey rivalry the players had as kids growing up in towns spreading from Pengilly to Coleraine. For the 1968 story, he starts with the great nicknames on the Greenway team, but expands into the story of how the defending state champions lost in both the district and region tournament, but still managed to repeat as state champs.

    The book also contains a wonderful page on the short lived coaching tactic of having a team’s goaltender play as an attacking player during delayed penalties. Greenway’s “Pie” Joy was a master of the technique. His play on both ends of the rink during the 1967 tournament made him a tournament legend, but likely played a part in the practice being banned starting the next season.

    The story format skips some golden Greenway moments such as the 2019 run to the championship game and no mention is made of the Tier 2 champions in 1992. The 1987 team that placed third at state is mentioned in the book as a foil for Bloomington Kennedy’s state title run that year. The duo of Gino Guyer and Andy Sertich is listed as one of the top forward combinations in state history for their part in Greenway’s 2001 third place effort. In addition, stories about the great Grand Rapids, International Falls, and Eveleth teams of the past give a great overview of the hockey culture here in northern Minnesota. 

    Overall, it’s a fun read. The short story format and ample interviews with coaches and players makes it very readable. The multitude of old photos from the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society alone are worth the purchase price. I would recommend it to any area hockey fan. The book is titled “Tourney Time: Stories from the Minnesota Boys’ State Hockey Tournament” by David La Vaque and L.R. Nelson, ISBN: 978-168-134-1491. It is available at your local library.

Junior Hockey Draft Picks

    The USHL and NAHL junior hockey leagues each held their annual drafts over the past few weeks. A pair of graduating seniors from Greenway were selected. 

    Defenseman Christian Miller was picked in the seventh round of the USHL entry draft by the Madison Capitols from Wisconsin. The Capitols had a 12-34 record when the season was suspended on March 11. Miller is committed to play college hockey at St. Cloud State. He is currently listed as the 205th best non-goalie player in North America by NHL Central Scouting. That means he could potentially be selected in the upcoming NHL entry draft. The draft was originally scheduled for June 26-27, but since the NHL season is still in limbo due to COVID-19, the entry draft was postponed and has not yet been rescheduled.

    Forward Ben Troumbly was selected in the first round of the NAHL supplemental draft last week. The Bismarck Bobcats from North Dakota used the 21st pick overall to select Troumbly. He was Greenway’s leading scorer last season with 44 points (16 goals and 28 assists). Troumbly is committed to play college hockey at St. Cloud State.

    Donte Lawson, a 2019 Greenway graduate and Bemidji State commit, is planning to return to Cedar Rapids, Iowa this fall. Lawson scored four goals and five assists for the RoughRiders in a COVID shortened season last winter.

 

Hockey Day Minnesota Replay

    Greenway’s 2019 game with Bemidji at Hockey Day Minnesota on the shores of Lake Bemidji will be rebroadcast on Fox Sports North. The game will be shown at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday May 30.

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

March 26, 2020

With John Nalan

 

COVID-19

    The area sports scene remains completely shutdown due to COVID-19 Coronavirus concerns. It is a time for a lot of different emotions. Concern for others is certainly one of them, as are frustration at entire seasons being cancelled and fear of the unknown future we face. But, this is also a time that we witness our community spirit and a willingness for people to sacrifice to help one another.

    Sporting events are a way we exhibit our community spirit during more normal times. Caravaning to Williams Arena and the Target Center to celebrate the Nashwauk-Keewatin basketball team at the state tournament or being part of that incredible wave of green at the state hockey tournament last March during Greenway’s run to the state final is how we usually enjoy spending this time of year. When it comes to community pride, however, social distancing just does not measure up with the excitement of watching Geno Uhrbom win another pair of state track titles.

    But such are the times we are in right now. The distraction of sports is not available as we watch a virus with no vaccine bounce through our society in seemingly random ways. We show our community pride by staying home with our children, making sure our restaurants and convenience stores stay open, and keeping our neighbors as safe as possible. There is no sports action to help us through this, but I like to think that the years we spent cheering on our local teams helped prepare us for this moment. Social distancing is no party in the stands at a high school game, but it is what we have been called to do.

 

Schedule Updates

    With both local and national events all cancelled or postponed, the sports calendar is literally bare. As of this writing, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) will not be allowing any organized practices for the spring season until at least March 27. No games can be scheduled until at least April 6. Coaches can provide optional individual workouts and emotional support for athletes through electronic means with the school activities director being included in all communications with students. 

    It appears to me that the MSHSL is planning to follow the Governor’s lead with activities and practices likely resuming when school around the state also resumes. Competition would then likely follow a week later. The situation is, of course, evolving rapidly, so I guess all we can do is wait and see when the high school sports seasons resume.

 

All-Conference Selections

    Ten Greenway athletes and four from Nashwauk-Keewatin have been named all-conference for the 2019-20 season. The Iron Range Conference and the Northern Lakes Conference announced their all-conference selections for the winter sports season last week. Greenway competes in the IRC for hockey and basketball. Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway both compete in the NLC for basketball.

    In the IRC, first team all-conference selections for boys hockey are seniors Ben Troumbly, Logan Wright, Christian Miller, and Brock Trboyevich. Junior Claire Vekich is both an all-conference selection and IRC player of the year in girls hockey. Girls basketball first team members are junior Baylie Jo Norris and sophomore Jadin Saville. Boys basketball first teamers are seniors Dylan DeChampeau and Gordon Skaar.

    Honorable mention selections in the IRC for Greenway include Mitchell Vekich, Micah Gernander, Ty Donahue, Kennedy Hanson, Chloe Hansen, Nicolle Ramirez, and Grant Hansen.

    The Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway wrestling team had two wrestlers finish with over ten wins. Brennan Perkovich won 16 and Domonick Holcomb had ten.

    In the NLC, first team all conference picks for boys basketball include Nashwauk-Keewatin’s senior Jager Nash and junior’s Jack Lorenz and Jeff Lorenz. On the girls side, junior Madi Owens is a first team selection. For Greenway, first team selections are DeChampeau, Skaar, and freshman Grant Hansen for the boys and Saville, Norris, and junior Kennedy Hansen for the girls.

    Honorable mention picks in the NLC for the Nashwauk-Keewatin girls are Misty Bozich and Johnnie Waldvogel. For the boys, Spencer Engel, Brent Keranen, and Gage Waldvogel are named to the team. For Greenway, NLC honorable mention selections are Morgan Walsh, Chloe Hansen, Nicholle Ramirez, and junior JJ Hall.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

March 19, 2020

COVID-19

    Pretty much every sporting event or athletic practice in northern Minnesota has been either cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus concerns. The biggest effect on the local sports scene has been the cancelation of the Section 7A boys basketball title game. Nashwauk-Keewatin had advanced to the section final for the first time in 16 years. They were the top seeded team in the tournament and were scheduled to take on the defending section champions and second seeded North Woods. 

    Restrictions due to the coronavirus started on March 12 when the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) announced that all basketball playoff games would be played with limited fans in attendance. The original idea was to restrict attendance to only the players’ families. I am not sure how that would have worked, but it turned out that the question did not need to be answered because the game was cancelled outright 24 hours later.

    News of the cancellation broke just hours before Nashwauk-Keewatin’s section final game was scheduled to tip-off. The MSHSL also cancelled the girls and boys state basketball tournaments. The sudden tournament cancellations caused quite a bit of anxiety among the players, especially the seniors, as they suddenly realized their high school careers were ending prematurely.

 

High School Spring Sports

    The MSHSL is also restricting the spring sports season due to coronavirus concerns. This is a fluid situation and frequent changes are being made. As of March 16, high school teams are not allowed to conduct any practices, use the weight room, or do any other organized training until at least March 27. Games, scrimmages and any other competition will not be allowed until April 6. 

    It is unusual for high school teams to compete in this part of the state before April 6, so for now, at least, the effect should be minimal. Of course, further cancellations are possible as the situation unfolds.

 

Spartans Defeat Fond du Lac in Section 7A Boys Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin met the challenge of Fond du Lac’s high octane offense and outplayed the Ogichidaag in all aspects of the game during a 75-63 win in the Section 7A semifinals at the Hibbing Memorial Building on March 11. 

    The Spartans biggest concern was shutting down Fond du Lac’s high scoring Jordan Brown. The freshman had led his team to 13 wins in their last 15 games. Spartan junior Brent Keranan got the job of covering Brown and did a masterful job, holding him to just 15 points. 

    Offensively, the Spartans jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead and led 41-30 at the half. Center Jack Lorenz found himself in early foul trouble and only played sporadically. He finished the game with five points. However, as has happened all season for the Spartans, when one player struggles, the rest of the team fills the gap. In this game, Jeff Lorenz stepped up and scored 30 points.

    The second half was a back-and-forth affair with Fond du Lac making several runs to come within five points, but the Spartans answered each time. Senior Jager Nash scored 13 points for Nashwauk-Keewatin and fellow senior Spencer Engel scored 11 points, including a clutch 3-point shot late in the game. 

    This turned out to be the Spartans last game of the season. They finished with a 25-4 record and a #11 ranking in the state.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

March 05, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Section 7A Boys Basketball Playoffs

    Nashwauk-Keewatin earned the overall number one seed out of nineteen teams in this year’s Section 7A basketball tournament. The Spartans have a 22-4 record so far and have won sixteen of their last seventeen games. They have a 15-1 record within Section 7A. The team will need to win four straight games to qualify for the state tournament this season. Nashwauk-Keewatin made their only state tournament appearance in 2004 when they finished as state runner-ups.

    Section 7A play-offs began for the Spartans last night on March 4 with a home game against either #16 Littlefork-Big Falls or #17 Wrenshall. A win would advance them to the section quarterfinals at the Hibbing Memorial Building on Saturday, March 7. Nashwauk-Keewatin would play in the first of four quarterfinal games that day in Hibbing with their game starting at 11 a.m. The Section 7A semifinals are again scheduled for Hibbing Memorial Building on March 11 at 5:45 p.m. and the section final is at the same location on March 13.

 

Section 7AA Boys Basketball Playoffs

    Greenway will be the second seed in the North Subsection in Section 7AA. The Raiders have an 18-8 record so far this season and have won eight of their last nine games. Greenway opens their section campaign tonight in Coleraine at 7:30 against seventh seeded Eveleth-Gilbert. The Raiders beat the Golden Bears twice so far this season, once in December at home and again last week in Eveleth.

    A win tonight will advance the Raiders to the Section 7AA quarterfinals on March 7 at Romano Gym on the campus of UMD in Duluth. The Greenway game would be one of four quarterfinal games that day. They play at 4 p.m. against the winner of a playoff game between Duluth Marshall and Mesabi East. The section semifinals are March 11 at 7:15 p.m. and the final is on March 13 at 7 p.m. Both of those games would be at UMD.

 

Basketball Playoff Updates

    I will provide basketball updates on my twitter page, https://twitter.com/JohnNalan, including results and schedule changes throughout the playoffs. 

 

Spartan Boys Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin won their final two regular season games, defeating Fond du Lac on Feb. 25 by an 89-55 score and Cromwell on Feb. 28 by a 67-55 score. Against Fond du Lac, Gage Waldvogel led the Spartans with 18 points. Brent Keranen added 17 points, Jeff Lorenz had 15 points and Jack Lorenz put in 13 points. The Spartans finish the season ranked #10 overall in the state according to the QRF rankings that the MSHSL uses to seed post-season basketball.

 

Raider Boys Basketball

    Greenway scored 188 points in closing out their regular season with a pair of wins over Mesabi East on Feb. 24 and at Eveleth-Gilbert on Feb. 27. Dylan DeChampeau scored 37 points and JJ Hall had 22 in a 100-75 win against Mesabi East. DeChampeau put in 40 points in Eveleth and Gordon Skaar had 20 points in an 88-56 win. 

 

Section 7 Girls Basketball Playoffs

    Both Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewwatin bowed out of the section tournament in their first round games last week.

    In Section 7AA, Greenway ran into a defensive juggernaut at Virginia, managing only six first half points in a 57-20 loss. Senior Morgan Walsh scored seven points for the Raiders while Baylie Jo Norris added five points. Greenway finished the year with an 18-8 record, which is their first winning record since 2005.

    In Section 7A, Misty Bozich of Nashwauk-Keewatin scored nine of her 17 points in the final six minutes, but it was not enough as the Spartans fell to Northeast Range by a 47-42 score to end their season. Chloe Williams scored 8 points, Madi Owens scored 7 points and Kiara Clusiau added 4 points for the Spartans. The team finished the year with a 4-21 record.

 

State High School Hockey

    The state hockey tournament is this week in St. Paul. For Class A, Warroad is the top seed, while defending champion St. Cloud Cathedral is seeded second. Hermantown from Section 7A is seeded third. In Class AA, Andover from Section 7AA is seeded first and The Blake School is seeded second. The championship games will be played on March 7.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

February 27, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Section 7A Hockey

    The Greenway Raiders season came to an end at Amsoil Arena in Duluth last weekend when they fell to Duluth Denfeld in a Section 7A semifinal game. The Hunters scored two first period goals, putting Greenway on their heels enroute to a 4-0 final score. 

    The Raiders had several good scoring chances including a Mitchell Vekich shot that hit the crossbar in the first period and a Ben Troumbly poke shot in the second period that entered the net just after the whistle blew. Goalie Logan Wright made 30 saves including two fabulous efforts in the second period to keep the Raiders in the game.

    The Raiders beat Virginia in the section quarterfinals at Hodgins-Berardo Arena in Coleraine on Feb. 18 by an 8-0 score. Aidan Rajala, Micah Gernander, and Ben Toumbly each had two goals on the night. Troumbly added three assists to finish with five points. Troumbly, a senior, was the team’s leading scorer this season, tallying 18 goals and 31 assists. The team finished with a 13-13-1 record.

 

Section 7AA Wrestling 

    Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway placed four wrestlers at the section tournament in Mora last weekend. Freshman Mason Marx was the top place winner for the Titans finishing in fourth place at 170 pounds. Hunter Milstead placed fifth at 113 while Brennan Perkovich and Domonick Holcomb each finished eighth. The Titan’s tournament highlight was Mason Marx’s 9-6 win over fourth seeded Brant Mollet of Milaca.

 

Section 7 Girls Basketball Playoffs

    Greenway earned the #5 seed in the Section 7AA North Sub-section and played at #4 Virginia last night. A win will advance them to the section quarterfinals in Hermantown on Feb. 29 at 12:30 p.m. against #1 seeded Proctor.

    Nashwauk-Keewatin hosted their opening round game in Section 7A on February 24 against Northeast Range from Babbitt after our press deadline. It was the first home playoff game the Spartans have earned since 2015. A win in that game would advance the team to the round of sixteen tonight in Cromwell. The game against the top seeded Cardinals would start at 7 p.m.

    Get results and schedule updates from this week’s playoff games on my twitter site, twitter.com/JohnNalan 

 

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin earned themselves a home playoff game this season when they beat Northeast Range in Nashwauk on Feb. 18. The Spartans downed the Knights 49-43 in a fast-tempo game in Nashwauk. The team finished up their regular season on Feb. 21 with a 55-32 loss to Cook County up in Grand Marais. 

 

Raider Girls Basketball

    The defense ruled the day as Greenway beat Floodwood in Coleraine on Feb. 18 by a 50-47 score. Nicolle Ramirez drained a 3-point shot to give the Raiders a nine point lead with five minute to play. Then Floodwood pulled within three points with just a few seconds left, but Baylie Jo Norris blocked a 3-point shot and then Jadin Saville deflected another 3-point attempt and the Raiders came away with their 16th win in 17 games. Greenway closed out the regular season with a 68-30 loss to Cherry. Jadin Seville led the team with 10 points.

 

Raider Boys Basketball

    Greenway lost a hard fought overtime game in Crosby last week at one of the more difficult road venues in northern Minnesota. The Rangers beat Greenway 76-73 despite 25 points from Dylan DeChampeau and 18 more from Grant Hansen. The Raiders also travelled to Two Harbors on Feb. 21 and picked up a 74-47 win. Greenway closes out their regular season tonight at Eveleth-Gilbert.

 

Spartan Boys Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin won two of three games last week and remain on pace to earn the #1 seed in Section 7A. The two wins this week up the Spartan’s season record to 20-4. The team lost a competitive game at Esko, 77-74, and then won at Walker, 76-54 and at Grand Marais against Cook County, 76-52. Their regular season finale will be Feb. 28 in Nashwauk when Cromwell comes to town. Game time is 7:15.

    The Spartans are ranked #13 in the state according to the QRF rankings the MSHSL uses to seed post-season basketball.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

February 13, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Section 7AA Girls Hockey

    Grand Rapids/Greenway received the #4 seed in Section 7AA and lost to Elk River in overtime during a section quarterfinal game played in Grand Rapids on Feb. 6. The game was tied at 2-2 through regulation after two unassisted goals from the Lightning’s junior captain, Claire Vekich. After scoring a first period goal, she tied the game in the third period with a shorthanded goal, converting a wicked wrist shot at the 10:04 mark. Elk River scored the game winner five minutes into overtime.

    GRG finished the season with a 10-12-2 record. Claire Vekich led the team with 25 goals and 24 assists. Kaisa Reed had 4 goals and 11 assists.

 

National Letters of Intent

    Two Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin Titan football players signed their National Letters of Intent on Feb. 5. Eli Conaway will attend Division II University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota and Dylan DeChampeau will go to school at Division II Minnesota-Duluth. Titan head coach Bob Schwartz was a two-time all-conference selection for UMD in 1991 and 1992 as an offensive tackle.

 

Titan Wrestling 

    Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway picked up four individual wins at a quad meet at Nashwauk on Feb. 4. Brennan Perkovich won a thrilling 11-8 last second decision over Jackson Kendall of Virginia when he took Kendall down to his back in the closing seconds of the match. Domonick Holcomb won two matches by pinfall and Carter Wilson won in come-from-behind fashion, scoring five points in the final minute to win 13-9.

 

Raider Hockey

    Greenway was undefeated over four games last week and have now lost only one of the seven games they have played since a disappointing overtime loss at Eveleth on Jan. 16. The Raiders beat Hibbing Feb. 4 on home ice, 5-0, with two goals from Micah Gernander. They followed that up with a 3-1 home win over International Falls. Mitchell Vekich had a goal and an assist. Greenway then hit the road and beat St. Paul Johnson 6-3 and tied Totino-Grace in Fridley, 4-4. Senior Ben Troumbly had six points - a hat trick and three assists - against Johnson. They finish up their regular season tonight at Virginia.

 

Section 7A Hockey

    The section boys hockey tournament opens for Greenway on Feb. 18. The Raiders will likely be seeded third and play the sixth seed that night in Coleraine. A win would advance them to the section semi-final at Amsoil Arena in Duluth on Friday, Feb. 21. The game could potentially be a rematch with Duluth Denfeld who beat the Raiders 4-1 on Dec. 12.

 

Paige Bueckers

    Paige Bueckers is coming to Itasca County. Bueckers was the 2019 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year and is the top rated girls basketball player in the country for the Class of 2020. The consensus five star recruit plays for Hopkins and will compete against Grand Rapids at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15.

 

Raider Boys Basketball

    Greenway lost to a strong Hibbing team and beat Section 7AA rival Proctor last week in a pair of home games. Senior Gordon Skaar led the team in scoring both nights. The Raiders hit the road this week with games at Deer River on Feb. 13, Bigfork on Feb. 14 and Crosby-Ironton on Feb. 18. The team has an 11-7 record this season.

 

Spartan Boys Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin won two more games last week and upped their season record to 16-3. The Spartans beat Floodwood 97-19 and Northland-Remer 84-61. They play an important Section 7A road game on Feb. 14 against Mountain Iron-Buhl and then have a big test against a good Esko team in Esko on Feb. 17.

 

World Junior Biathlon Championship

    Four members of the Mount Itasca Biathlon Team competed at the World Junior and Youth Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2. World placewinners in the Junior 15K race were Garrett Beckrich finishing 37th and Vaclav Cervenka finishing 72nd. Emma Stertz was 69th in the Junior 12.5 K women’s race and Sam Stertz was 55th in the Boys Youth 12.5K race. The team trains at Mt. Itasca in Coleraine.

 

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin travelled to Bigfork on Feb. 3 and came away with a 49-27 loss. They also dropped a game at home to Chisholm, 60-44. They play at Northeast Range in Babbitt tonight and have a special President’s Day matinee game against International Falls at 2:30 in Nashwauk. They play Northeast Range again at home on Feb. 18 at 7:15 p.m.

 

Raider Girls Basketball

    Greenway upped their record to 15-6 this year with two wins last week. The Raiders beat North Woods 69-39 and Laporte 65-17. The team has three home games this week. They host Chisholm on Feb. 13, South Ridge on Feb. 14, and Floodwood on Feb. 18. Each game is at 7:15 in Coleraine.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

February 06, 2020

Lightning Hockey Begin Section 7AA Play

    Grand Rapids/Greenway begins Section 7AA tournament action tonight with a quarterfinal game. The time and opponent was not determined by our press deadline. The seeding process was pushed back on the calendar due to the Lightning’s rescheduled game against the Duluth Stars on Feb. 3. If the Lightning win tonight, semifinal action will be on Feb. 8, more than likely on the road. The Section 7AA final is Feb. 13 in Cloquet. Watch my twitter account at www.twitter.com/JohnNalan for seeding and schedule updates.

    The Lightning played a home game last Friday against Hibbing and came up on the short end of a 6-2 score. Both GRG goals were scored by junior Claire Vekich. Vekich leads the team in scoring with 20 goals and 22 assists.

 

Titan Wrestling Host Section 7AA Playoffs

    Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway has two home meets this week. Tonight, they wrestle against Deer River, Virginia, and Mille Lacs at 5 p.m. in Nashwauk. They also host the opening two rounds of the Section 7AA team tournament in Nashwauk on February 11 at 5 p.m. Last week, the team traveled to Walker and finished ninth at the Wolfpack Tournament. Place winners were Mason Marx and Carter Wilson, who placed fifth, and Brennan Perkovich, Michael Mell, and Alex Milstead who each finished sixth in their weight class.

 

Raider Girls Basketball

    Greenway had their ten game winning streak snapped at Duluth Marshall on Jan. 28 when they lost a 66-31 game to the Hilltoppers. Hailey Pederson scored 11 points. The Raiders rebounded quickly with a win at International Falls two nights later. Kennedy Hanson got Greenway out to an early lead with two early 3-point shots. The Broncos rallied late in the game, pulling within two points in the last minute, however, Nicolle Ramirez shut the door with a big 3-point shot that sealed a 46-42 win. The Raiders play a home game against Laporte tonight in Coleraine.

 

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin travelled to Ely on Jan. 28 and took a 67-35 loss to the Timberwolves. The Spartans also fell to Cherry at home by a 70-13 score. Madi Owens scored seven points and Kiara Clusiau added four for Nashwauk-Keewatin. The Spartans play two road games this week. They are at Chisholm tonight and Bigfork on Feb. 10.

 

Raider Hockey

    Greenway continued their good run of play last week with a spirited effort against state ranked Wayzata. The Raiders lost to the Trojans by a 4-1 score. Wayzata, the largest high school in the state, got a first period goal and another early in the second period. Ben Troumbly brought Greenway back to within a goal, redirecting the puck in the net for the Raiders when Christian Miller found him in front of a crowded Wayzata net halfway through the second period. Logan Wright was sharp in net as the physical Trojans put 44 shots on net. 

    Greenway has an important Section 7A game against International Falls at home tonight. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. The team travels to St. Paul Johnson and Totino-Grace this weekend before seeing a good Bemidji team at home on Feb. 11. 

 

Spartan Boys Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin’s winning streak is now eight games after two more victories this week. The Spartans beat Silver Bay by a 76-56 score and then ran past Lakeview Christian Academy, 88-32. Jack Lorenz led the way against Silver Bay with an 18 point performance. Spencer Engel and Jeff Lorenz each scored 12 points. This week, the Spartans are at home twice. They will entertain the crowd in Nashwauk on Feb. 7 against Northland (Remer) and on Feb. 10 against Littlefork-Big Falls. Both games start at 7:15 p.m.

 

Raider Boys Basketball

    Greenway won once and lost twice last week. The Raiders travelled to International Falls on Jan. 28 and lost 75-63 in a game Dylan DeChampeau did not play in. Gordon Skaar made up the scoring by hitting six 3-point shots and scoring 26 points. Greenway returned home and lost to Grand Rapids, 61-46. The Raiders came out hot and lead the game 32-22 at the half, but it was all Thunderhawks in the second half as the outscored Greenway by 25 points. Greenway finished up the week with a home win over North Woods, 71-63. DeChampeau hit several clutch free throws and Skaar buried a big 3-point shot down the stretch. 

    Greenway hosts Proctor on Feb. 7 and Chisholm on Feb. 11 in Coleraine. Start time is 7:15 p.m.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

January 30, 2020

Raider Hockey

    Greenway finished up a three game road trip this week with a pair of wins. The Raiders won at International Falls by a 6-1 score and topped Duluth Marshall 7-1 at Mars Lakeview in Duluth. The Raiders up their record to 7-11 on the season. Senior Ben Troumbly is the team’s leading scorer with 12 goals and 16 assists.

    At International Falls, all six goals were scored by different players. Micah Gernander got things going with a short-handed goal midway through the first period and Mitchell Vekich added another early in the second period. Sophomore Bodie Jorgenson netted his first varsity goal just two minutes later. Defenseman Christian Miller closed out the second period scoring. Troumbly scored early in the third and sophomore Aidan Rajala got his first career goal to give the Raiders the 6-1 win. The defense was superb with Logan Wright only called on to make 11 saves.

    In Duluth, Greenway overwhelmed the Hilltoppers. Seniors Miller and Troumbly both scored first period goals and then second period goals from Miller, Troumbly and Vekich sealed the deal. Brock Trboyevich and Ty Donahue added third period goals. The Raiders outshot Marshall 43-11. The Raiders are back at Hodgins-Berardo Arena this week for home games against Wayzata on Friday and Hibbing on Feb. 4. 

 

Lightning Hockey

    Grand Rapids/Greenway has their eyes set on post-season play as they will wrap up their regular season this week. The Lightning lost to Cloquet, 5-1, and Alexandria, 1-0 last week. Senior Ellie Tillma scored the team’s only goal with an assist from Claire Vekich against Cloquet. GRG will be looking to get the offense going on Jan. 31 when they play Hibbing at home in Grand Rapids. 

    Section 7AA play-off action will get started for the Lightning on Feb. 6. They are slated to receive the #4 seed and host their opening round game that night against Elk River. However, the final section seeding and schedule will be finalized later this week.

 

Nashwauk-Keewatin 79, Greenway 71

    The Nashwauk-Keewatin Spartans pick up their first will over rival Greenway since 2016 when they knocked off Greenway in Coleraine last Friday night. Gage Waldvogel led the Spartans with 19 points with Jager Nash adding 15 points. Dylan DeChampeau led all scorers with 32 points. The Raiders had beaten Nashwauk-Keewatin earlier this season in Nashwauk.

 

Raider Boys Basketball

    Greenway starts a five game homestand this week by hosting Grand Rapids tonight at 7:15. The game will feature two of the top players in the Northland as Greenway’s Dylan DeChampeau and Grand Rapids’ John Sutherland take the court. The Raiders will also have home games with North Woods on Jan. 31 and Hibbing on Feb. 4. 

 

Spartan Boys Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin stretched their current winning streak to six games when they knocked off Greenway by a 79-71 score last week. They beat Hill City at home earlier in the week, 80-37. They play at Silver Bay on Jan. 27 and Lakeview Christian Academy in Duluth on Jan. 31. They are at home against Floodwood at 7:15 in Nashwauk on Feb. 4. The Spartans are currently the top rated team in Section 7A according to the QFR rankings that are used to seed the section tournament.

 

Titan Wrestling

    Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway is preparing for their first home appearance of the season on Feb. 6 in Nashwauk with a start time of 5 p.m. The Titans will wrestle Deer River, Mille Lacs, and Virginia. Last week, the Titans lost to Walker 61-15. Winning individual matches by pinfall were Joss Parantala and Carter Wilson. Weston Marx also won a thrilling 9-8 match. On Jan. 25, the wrestlers were at the Skip Nalan Tournament in Grand Rapids. Brennan Perkovich, Domonick Holcomb, and Noah Mathis won matches.

 

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin played a pair of competitive games on the road last week, coming away with two losses. The Spartans lost at Hill City/Northland 43-34 and at Carlton, 68-53. They play their first home game in two weeks tonight when they play rival Cherry in Nashwauk at 7:15 p.m. They are also at home against Bigfork on Monday, Feb. 3.

 

Raider Girls Basketball

    Greenway got 21 points from sophomore Jadin Saville in a 61-48 thumping of Moose Lake-Willow River on Jan. 21. The Raiders also beat Bigfork, 62-20, last week to extend their consecutive game winning streak to ten. Greenway’s high pressure defense continues to stifle opponents in their own end. The Raiders have a 12-5 record this season and play at International Falls tonight.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

January 23, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Spartan Boys Basketball Win at the Target Center

    Nashwauk-Keewatin was in Minneapolis to face McGregor last Saturday at the Target Center, the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Spartans won 74-33 in a game that saw the entire roster get plenty of playing time. 

    “It took a bit for our players to get their rhythm and settle into the game,” head coach Kyle Georgi said. “I think they were too excited and trying to do too much early on, which led to a slow start. We were down 18 to 13, but went on a 61 to 15 run the rest of the game.”

    The team sold game tickets which also gave admission to the evening Timberwolves game against the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. 

    “The team is thankful to everyone who bared the harsh weather and came to watch,” Georgi added. “We have some amazing families and community members. As a team this game was a great experience that allowed us to play where the state tournament is held. We are going to work hard every day to be back in March.” The Spartans are 10-3 this season and are currently the top ranked team in Section 7A. They play at Greenway Jan. 24 and Silver Bay on Jan. 27.

 

Grand Rapids/Greenway to Play in Coleraine

    Grand Rapids/Greenway played on the outdoor ice at Hockey Day Minnesota in Minneapolis last Saturday. Playing in the shadow of the famous “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture, the Lightning lost 8-0 to Blake. They also won a tight 3-2 game at North St. Paul/Tartan. Trailing 2-0, Claire Vekich got a natural hat trick, scoring three straight goals, for the win. Kaisa Reed assisted on each goal. 

    The Lightning play their annual home game in Coleraine next Tuesday, Jan. 28, at Hodgins-Berardo Arena. Game time is 7 p.m. and the opponent is the Duluth Stars.

 

Greenway Versus Nashwauk-Keewatin Basketball on Friday

    The second of two games this season between Scenic Range rivals Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin will be this Friday at 7:15 p.m. at Scofield Auditorium in Coleraine. The Raiders won 64-57 in Nashwauk earlier this month. 

 

Raider Hockey

    Greenway’s defensive struggles continued last week as they dropped two games. They fell at home to Hermantown by an 8-3 score and lost in overtime at Eveleth-Gilbert, 4-3. In Eveleth, the Raiders held a 3-1 lead early in the third period with goals from Micah Gernander, Brock Trboyevich and Mitchell Vekich, but gave up the game’s last three goals. The Raiders travel to Duluth Marshall this Saturday for a 7 p.m. game.

 

Titan Wrestling

    Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway was is Crosby-Ironton last week where they lost two dual meets, one to the Rangers and the other to Grand Rapids. The wrestlers are in Walker tonight and then compete in Grand Rapids on Saturday in a twelve team tournament. Action begins at 10 a.m.

 

Raider Girls Basketball

    Greenway won two games last week in dominating fashion to up their season record to 10-5. The Raiders scored the game’s first 14 points against McGregor on Jan. 14 and cruised to a 60-17 home win. In another home game last Thursday, Greenway came back from a nine point first half deficit to beat Two Harbors 52-31. The team has won eight straight games and is at Section 7AA opponent Duluth Marshall on Jan. 28.

 

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin had a pair of home games last week. They fell to both Floodwood and North Woods to bring their season record to 2-12. The Spartans travel to Carlton for a game tonight and are at Ely on Jan. 28.

 

Raider Boys Basketball

    Greenway was victorious over both Hill City and Mountain Iron-Buhl last week. They are now 9-3 this season. The game at Hill City was highlighted by freshman Grant Hansen’s 52 foot buzzer beating shot to close out the first half. The Raiders won 79-38. Greenway won at home over Mountain Iron-Buhl by a 79-38 score in a game where they got 12 steals and outrebounded the Rangers 41-25. The Raiders host Nashwauk-Keewatin on Jan. 24 and Grand Rapids on Jan. 30. Both games are at 7:15 p.m. in Coleraine.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

January 09, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Greenway Sweeps Scenic Range Basketball 

    There was a lot of bruising and aggressive basketball as Scenic Range rivals Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin met in the Nashwauk Gym last Friday night. The Raiders came away with wins in both the girls and boys game. In the first game, the Greenway girls used their full-court press to keep the Spartans off balance all night. The Raiders stole numerous balls in the Spartan backcourt and came away with a 45-25 win. Offensively, Jadin Saville and Chloe Hansen each scored 10 points. Madi Owens and Misty Bozuch each had five points for Nashwauk-Keewatin.

    In the boys game, Greenway came out on top of a fierce battle under the basket for rebounds to propel themselves to a 64-57 win. The Spartans Jack Lorenz and the Raiders Dylan DeChampeau were the main rivals under both baskets. With Nashwauk-Keewatin unable to score consistently inside, the Raiders lead by as many as 15 points for much of the night. A spirited Spartan comeback late in the game was shut down by the Raiders. The two teams meet again in Coleraine on Jan. 24. 

 

Raider Hockey

    It should be a great week to get out to Hodgins-Berardo Arena to see the Raider hockey team. Greenway plays Roseau, Grand Rapids, and Hermantown at home during the next week. Roseau and Greenway have two of the richest hockey traditions in northern Minnesota. They play at 6 p.m. on Jan. 10. Greenway has beaten archrival Grand Rapids the last two years and this year’s game looks to be another barnburner. Action is at 7 p.m. on Jan. 11. The Raiders broke Hermantown’s stranglehold on the Section 7A title last year. This will be the two teams first meeting since the section final ended in overtime last year. Hermantowen is ranked #1 in the state. Gametime is at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 14.

    Last week, the Raiders beat Hibbing 3-2 when sophomore Cade Predovich notched an overtime goal at 4:13 of the extra session. Greenway also lost to Holy Family, 5-1.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    My bold prediction of a Vikings win last week made the team’s playoff win over New Orleans all the sweeter. This week the Vikings play at San Francisco on NBC at 3:35 on Saturday. And, yes, I am picking another win!

 

Spartan Boys Basketball Heads to the Target Center

    Nashwauk-Keewatin will be playing at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Jan. 18 against McGregor at 12:30. The Timberwolves play the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors later that night. Contact the school for ticket information. The Spartans are also at Ely on Jan. 10 and Mesabi East on Jan. 14.

 

Raider Boys Basketball

    Greenway travels to Duluth East High School this Saturday to compete in the Lake Superior Classic. The Raiders play Pine City at about 4:15 p.m. in the fifth of seven games at Duluth East that day The classic features the top teams in northern Minnesota facing teams from around the state. The Raiders also play at Mountain Iron-Buhl on Jan. 6.

 

Mount Itasca Biathlon

    Four local biathletes qualified for the World Junior and Youth Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland that will be held Jan. 26 through Feb. 2. Garrett Beckrich, Vaclav Cervenka, and Emma Stertz were named to the World Junior team (Under 21) and Sam Stertz was named to the World Youth team (Under 19).

 

Titan Wrestling

    Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway went 0-5 during the Bluejacket Duals in Hibbing last week. Picking up individual wins for the Titans were Joss Parantala, Alex Milstead, Brennan Perkovich, Michael Mell, Mason Marx, and Domonick Holcomb. The wrestlers are in Cloquet tonight for three more dual meets.

 

Lightning Hockey

    Grand Rapids/Greenway plays twice this week in preparation for their Jan. 16 appearance on the outdoor ice at Hockey Day Minnesota in St. Paul. The Lightning host Elk River on Jan. 10 and Forest Lake on Jan. 11. Both games are in Grand Rapids.

 

Raider Girls Basketball

    Greenway improved their season record to 6-5 with their win over Nashwauk-Keewatin last week. The Raiders have a home game against McGregor at 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 14.

 

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin has a pair of home games this week at the Nashwauk gym. They play Hill City/Northland on Jan. 9 and Floodwood on Jan. 14. Both games start at 7:15 p.m.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

December 26, 2019

With John Nalan

 

Mount Itasca Ski Jumping

    The Iron Range Classic will take place this Sunday on the 70 meter hill at Mount Itasca in Coleraine. This is a Junior National qualifier that will feature ski jumpers from Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Coleraine’s own Casey Flett will be one of the favorites this year. Competition is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Dec. 29. This is the largest event of the season on the Mount Itasca ski jumps and will be a great opportunity for locals to see the hills in use. Both 70m ski jumping and Nordic Combined - a competition incorporating ski jumping and cross country skiing - will take place on Sunday.

 

Christmas Tournaments

    Local high schools are off this week and that gives the athletes time to host or travel to a variety of Christmas tournaments around the area this week. Greenway hockey is co-hosting a tournament with Hibbing on Dec. 27-28. The Raiders two opponents will be Delano on Friday at 6 p.m. and Orono on Saturday at 3 p.m. Both Greenway games will be at Hodgins-Berardo Arena in Coleraine.

    On Dec. 27-28, both Nashwauk-Keewatin basketball teams will travel to tournaments. The girls team will be headed to Chisholm for a tournament that includes Northome-Kelliher and East Grand Forks Sacred Heart. The Spartans boys will be in Pequot Lakes for a tournament that also features Mora and Mountain Iron-Buhl.

    The Greenway boys tournament will be in Aitkin on Friday and Saturday. Foley and Pierz will round out the field. The Raider girls travel to Hinckley-Finlayson for a single game on Dec. 28. 

    The Grand Rapids/Greenway Lightning girls hockey team is at an eight team tournament in Edina on Dec. 26-28 and will face North Wright County in their opening round game today.

 

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Shots were going into the net from all over the Nashwauk gym as Nashwauk-Keewatin picked up a big 77-44 win last Thursday over Fond du Lac. The Spartans used a balanced attack that was led by Maddi Owens with 14 points and featured 13 points each from Misty Bozich, Johnnie Waldvogel, and Emily Howard. Earlier in the week, the Spartans lost to Deer River, 62-22 despite 11 points from Waldvogel.

 

Raider Girls Basketball

    Greenway split a pair of road games on the East Range this week, picking up a win at Eveleth-Gilbert and dropping a game at Mesabi East. The Raiders defense prevailed as they battled to a 43-37 win in Eveleth. The game at Mesabi East got away from them and ended up 71-35.

 

Raider Hockey

    Mitchell Vekich put in a first period goal that would be all the Raiders needed in a 2-0 Iron Range Conference win over Eveleth-Gilbert on Dec. 17. Brock Trboyevich added a third period goal to seal the win. Ben Troumbly had two assists. On their road trip out west last weekend, Greenway lost to Moorhead 4-2 and East Grand Forks 5-0. Troumbly and Christian Miller scored against the Spuds. The offense struggled against the Green Wave with the Raiders only putting nine shots on net.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings finish up their regular season this Sunday against the Chicago Bears at noon on FOX. Minnesota has locked-up a play-off berth, which they have certainly earned. Unfortunately, a trip to the west coast for their wild card game is a distinct possibility. 

 

Lightning Hockey

    Grand Rapids/Greenway mounted a furious comeback against Duluth last week, but came up one goal short in a 5-4 loss. Trailing 4-1 early in the second period, the Lightning rattled off three of the game’s last four goals and outshot Duluth 35-23. Claire Vekich finished the game with two goals and two assists. The Lightning also lost to top ten ranked Brainerd 3-1. The Lighting are 6-5-1 and ranked #18 statewide.

 

Titan Wrestling

    The wrestlers got their holiday tournament in early by traveling to Cass Lake for a 45 team tournament last weekend. Brennan Perkovich, Domonick Holcomb, and Noah Mathis each won matches for Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway.

 

Mt. Itasca Biathlon

    Garrett Beckrich of Mt. Itasca won the Minnesota Cup race in Coleraine last Saturday with a time of 32:01 over the 10k course that featured four shooting stops. Mt. Itasca’s Matej Cervenka was third place. Kaisa Bosek of Alexandria won the girls race. 

 

Spartan Boys Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin picked up two more wins last week and are now off to a 5-1 start. The Spartans dominated the rebounding game in an 85-56 win at Cherry that saw Jack Lorentz score 35 points. The team’s offense continued it’s torrid pace at Northome-Kelliher in a 99-56 win. The Spartans are averaging 87.5 points per game this year.

 

Raider Boys Basketball

    J.J. Hall showed nerves of steel hitting three free throws in the last 34 seconds to secure a 78-75 win for Greenway over Deer River on Dec. 17. Dylan DeChampeau had 31 points and Grant Hansen added 17 in the win over the highly regarded Warriors. Greenway also beat Eveleth-Gilbert 75-39 to up their record this season to 4-1.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

December 19, 2019

With John Nalan

 

Raider Hockey

    Greenway got off to a strong start when Ty Donahue put in the game’s first goal at Duluth Denfeld last Thursday with an assist from Bodie Jorgenson. Greenway outshot Denfeld 9-5 in the first period and held a 1-0 lead, however, Cooper McClure of the Hunters sparked a rally and ended up with a hat trick in a 4-1 Denfeld victory. Logan Wright made 29 saves in goal and the defensive power play stopped both Denfeld opportunities, but McClure ended up being too much for the Raiders to handle. The Raiders head west this weekend to face Moorhead on Friday and East Grand Forks on Saturday. Both opponents are ranked in the latest state hockey poll.

Minnesota Vikings

    This is it. The week all Viking fans have been looking forward to. Minnesota (10-4) plays the Green Bay Packers (11-3) in Minneapolis on Monday Night Football at 7:15 on ESPN. A Viking win over their hated rivals will not really improve their play-off situation, but it will sure feel good. The Vikings will most likely get the sixth seed in the NFC and have their first play-off game on the road. 

Mt. Itasca Biathlon

    Mt. Itasca will host the second Minnesota Cup Biathlon race of the season this Sunday, Dec. 22. The race is conducted in two parts, the sprint race and the pursuit race. The mass start for the Sprint race will be at 10:45 with the pursuit to follow at approximately 11:30. The first racer across the finish line wins. Garrett Beckrich of Mt. Itasca won the first Minnesota Cup race of the season on Dec. 8 with a time of 26:05.6.

Spartan Boys Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin destroyed Bigfork by a 102-47 score at home last week and lost an overtime matchup at Cook against highly regarded North Woods. The Spartans used their high tempo offense in both contests scoring 188 points in the two games. Spencer Engel had 27 points against North Woods and Jeff Lorenz scored 22. Both hit five 3-point shots in the 86-83 loss. The Spartans have their last game before Christmas tonight at Northome-Kelliher. 

Raider Boys Basketball

    Greenway broke open a close game late in the first half and then accelerated past the Littlefork-Big Falls Vikings in the second half to pick up a relatively easy 75-46 win on their home court last Thursday. Dylan DeChampeau scored 22 points and Grant Hansen added 18 to lead the Raiders. The Raiders sealed the win by hitting 11 of 14 free throws down the stretch. Greenway plays an Iron Range Conference game against Eveleth-Gilbert Dec. 20 in Coleraine.

Raider Girls Basketball

    The Raiders played an overtime thriller last week in Littlefork-Big Falls. Greenway came up just short in a 50-47 game that featured end-to-end action. The aggressive Raider defense once again played a big part with the team picking up 12 steals. Baylie Jo Norris scored all five of Greenway’s overtime points. The Raiders are on the road this week, playing at Eveleth-Gilbert tonight and at Northland in Remer tomorrow. Both games are at 7:15.

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin dropped a pair of games last week. Emily Howard scored seven points and both Johnnie Waldvogel and Misty Bozich added two points in a 56-11 home loss to South Ridge. The team also travelled to Aurora and came up on the short end of a 70-22 score against Mesabi East. They host Fond du Lac in Nashwauk tonight with a special 6:30 tip-off. Last season the Spartans beat the Ogichida, 55-50.

Lightning Hockey

    Kaisa Reed was the hero in Grand Rapids/Greenway’s Iron Range Conference game in Hibbing last week. Reed broke a 2-2 tie with an unassisted goal at the 9:31 mark of the third period to propel the Lightning to a 3-2 win. Hibbing jumped on the Lightning early, leading by two goals after two periods, but the third period was all GRG. Claire Vekich assisted on two Ellie Tilma power play goals to set up Reed’s heroics. The Lightning are ranked #16 in state and travel to face #10 Brainerd this Friday.

Titan Wrestling

    The wrestlers traveled to Ogilvie last Friday to compete in a four team event. The Titans picked up a number of individual wins. With an inexperienced team, dual meet wins will be hard to come by for Nashwauk-Keewatin/Greenway. The team lost to Ogilvie 55-9, Crosby-Ironton 54-21 and Proctor 48-28. Mason Marx won by pinfall and Brennen Perkovich got a 13-2 match win against Proctor. The Titans are at the 45 team Big Bear Tournament this Friday and Saturday in Cass Lake.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

November 21, 2019

With John Nalan

 

Itasca Football Heads to Red Grange Bowl

    Itasca Community College has accepted a bid to play in the Red Grange Bowl in Glen Ellyn, Illinois on Dec. 7. The Vikings will face DuPage of Illinois at 1 p.m. at Bjarne Ullsvik Stadium. Itasca had an 8-3 record during the regular season and DuPage finished 7-4. 

    “We are extremely honored and excited to be part of the Red Grange Bowl game and all of the related events,’’ said third-year Itasca head coach Weldon Braxton. “This is a historical moment for our college as it is the first ever bowl appearance in ICC history.”

    The Red Grange Bowl is one of five junior college bowl games and the only one dedicated to non-scholarship teams. All proceeds from the event will go to the Ronald McDonald House of Chicagoland.

 

Lightning Hockey

    Grand Rapids/Greenway got the winter sports season off to flying start with a 4-1 win at Bemidji last week. Just three days removed from leading Greenway to fifth place at the state volleyball tournament, Claire Vekich opened the scoring for the Lightning with a first period goal. Another volleyball player, Kaisa Reed, got an assist on the goal. After two periods, GRG had a 31-6 advantage in shots, but the score remained 1-0. Some physical play by the Lightning sparked the offense in the third period. After giving up a goal on a penalty shot, GRG scored two quick goals and added a late empty netter to secure the win.

    The home opener three days later was a gritty performance by the Lightning in an overtime loss to Holy Family from the southeastern suburbs of the Twin Cities. Junior Amber Elich scored with an assist from Vekich just 19 seconds into the game. Holy Family answered with a goal eight minutes later. The GRG defense took center stage the rest of the way. Goaltender Emily Trast stopped 34 shots before Holy Family got one in in overtime to defeat the Lightning 2-1.

    The Lightning are on the road for their next three games. They play at Cambridge on Friday, Rogers on Saturday and Cloquet on Nov. 26.

 

Raider Hockey

    Greenway begins the defense of their 2018-19 Section 7A title on Nov. 26 with a game against Virginia at Hodgins-Berardo Arena in Coleraine. The Raiders and Blue Devils start the Iron Range Conference rivalry game at 7 p.m. The game against Grand Rapids that opened the last two seasons has been moved to January.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    It is the Vikings bye week. Their record is 8-3. They are back in action on Monday Dec. 2 against the Seahawks.

 

Division I Update

    Ellyssa Peterson of Nashwauk finished her cross-country season for North Dakota at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet at Oklahoma State last Saturday. A junior for the Fighting Hawks, Peterson finished the 6000m course in 23:12.9 and was fourth out of the seven team runners. Illinois won the meet and North Dakota was 19th out of 33 teams. Peterson’s indoor track season for North Dakota begins Dec. 6.

    Hockey player Taylor Lantz of Coleraine will make his only regular season appearance in Minnesota this weekend when his Alaska-Anchorage team play at Mankato on Friday and Saturday afternoon. The freshman has five points in eight games this year and leads the Seawolves in plus/minus at +5.

 

Big Dog Volleyball

    The Big Dog is the annual northeastern Minnesota volleyball all-star game pitting the top Iron Range players against the best of the Duluth area. Greenway had two players selected for the Iron Range team. They were senior Mikara Anderson and junior Claire Vekich. The match was played last Sunday.

 

Spartan Girls Basketball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin opens their season with two home games before the Thanksgiving holiday. They host McGregor on Nov. 25 at 7:15 p.m. and Ely on Nov. 26 at 6:30 p.m. Both games are in Nashwauk.

 

Raider Girls Basketball

    Greenway opens their season tonight when Hibbing visits Scofield Auditorium at Greenway High School in Coleraine at 7:15 p.m. They play another game before Thanksgiving at Virginia on Nov. 26. 

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

November 14, 2019

With John Nalan

 

Raiders Win Twice at State Volleyball Tournament

    Greenway won the consolation title at the Minnesota State High School League volleyball tournament last weekend at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Raiders lost to the eventual state champions, Minneota, in the opening round, but then dominated the consolation bracket by winning six of their next seven games.

    Greenway came out in their opening game against top seeded Minneota and challenged the Vikings right away. Claire Vekich had 51 attacks and converted 26 for kills. The cavernous Xcel Energy Center is an environment unlike any other in high school volleyball with its very high ceiling and extra space around the court. The Raiders struggled a bit to adjust and lost 25-22, 25-15, 25-19.

    In their next game, Greenway upset #4 seeded Mounds Park Academy, 25-20, 20-25, 25-10, 25-22. Lexi Hammer had 50 set assists and Vekich again led the way with 28 kills. Bri Miller had 11 kills and Mikara Anderson added 9. The Raiders committed 10 errors in the second game, but cleaned up their play nicely and only committed four errors the rest of the way.

    Greenway won their final game over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, 25-17, 25-21, 25-18. The quick Raiders blocking forced 23 errors and and the Greenway rolled to victory. The Raiders finished the season with a 28-5 record. Greenway has the potential to return to state next year with Claire Vekich, Lexi Hammer, Bri Miller, Emma Sutherland, and Kaisa Reed all returning for the Raiders. 

 

Itasca Football

    Itasca Community College finished one game short of a state title last weekend in St. Cloud when they came up on the short end of a 47-19 score. Central Lakes College from Brainerd beat the Vikings in what was a competitive game through three quarters of play. Itasca opened the scoring with a one yard touchdown run from Joshua Booker, but fell behind 24-7 at halftime. Two third quarter rushing touchdowns by Booker brought Itasca to within five points, but Central Lakes grabbed the momentum by intercepting the second extra point attempt and returning it 98 yards. 

    Itasca finished the season with an impressive 8-3 record. Head coach Weldon Braxton put another entertaining team on the field that played with energy on both sides of the ball. 

 

Geno Uhrbom Sets Personal Best

    State Cross Country champion Geno Uhrbom of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin set a personal best time at the Nike Heartland Regional meet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Uhrbom finished the 5000m course in 15:26.6, finishing in ninth place. Running in snowy and cold conditions, Uhrbom finished second among the high school juniors entered, placing just behind North Dakota state champion Brady Yoder.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings have a 7-3 record and play at home on CBS at noon this Sunday. The opponent is the Denver Broncos (3-6). The Vikings are starting to meld into a pretty solid team that could make some sort of playoff run. I think I may have just jinxed them, sorry.

 

Division I Update

    Freshman Taylor Lantz from Coleraine scored his first collegiate goal last weekend for the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves. Playing on the second line, Lantz scored in the second period of a 4-4 tie against Alabama-Huntsville. He also has four assists on the season. The Seawolves play at Minnesota State-Mankato the weekend of Nov. 22-23.

    Nashwauk native Ellyssa Peterson helped the North Dakota cross country team to a fourth place finish in the eight team Summit League conference race on Nov. 2. Peterson finished the 6000m course in 22:34.6 to score 26 team points for the Fighting Hawks. The next competition is the NCAA Midwest Regional in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Nov. 15. A junior, Peterson has been a point scoring runner for North Dakota all season.

 

Winter Sport Season Starts

    One sports season blends into another as practice and opening games begin for the winter sports season. The Grand Rapids/Greenway Lightning are the first team in action when they play their hockey home opener on Nov. 15 in Grand Rapids against Holy Family at 7 p.m. The Greenway girls basketball team hosts Hibbing to open the season on Nov. 21 at 7:15. The Nashwauk-Keewatin girls team also opens at home when they play McGregor in Nashwauk at 7:15 on Nov. 25. The Greenway hockey boys have a jamboree in Virginia on Nov. 19.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

October 17, 2019

With John Nalan

 

Lightning Tennis

    Greenway’s Jordan Troumbly advanced to the final pairing in the Section 7AA singles tennis tournament last week. The junior is in a group of four players that will compete for two state tournament spots. The matches were played last Monday before the paper went to press. Troumbly played Greta Gillach of Chisago Lakes in her first match. A win over Gillach would likely set up a showdown with Elk River’s Emma Anderson for a state tournament spot.

    Troumbly qualified for the final four pairing last week by beating Hibbing’s Annika Lundell by a 6-1, 6-1 score and then edging Duluth East’s Annabelle Humphreys in a 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 thriller.

 

GNK 40, Virginia 0

    Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin won their fourth game in a row in dominating fashion when they won 40-0 at Virginia last Friday. The defense controlled the game for the Titans, forcing a fumble and stopping the Blue Devils twice inside the five yard line. In the process they picked up their second straight shutout. Offensively, Eli Conaway picked up 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Quarterback Blace Tomberlin spread the ball around throwing touchdown passes to Tom Cuellar and Ty Donahue as well as a long pass to Dylan DeChampeau to set up the team’s second touchdown. The Titans have now won four games in a row by a combined score of 168-21.

 

Section 7AAA Football Playoffs

    The Titans played at Mesabi East last night after our press deadline in a game that determined their playoff schedule for the next few weeks. Before last night’s action, the top three teams in Section 7AAA - Esko, Aitkin, and GNK - were virtually tied in the QFR rankings that determine section seeding. The top two teams get a bye for the first playoff date. If the Titans end up as the #3 seed, they will host Virginia in either Coleraine or Nashwauk on Oct. 22. If the Titans end up as one of the top two seeds, they will host the section semifinal game on Saturday, Oct. 26. The section final is scheduled for Oct. 31 in Duluth. I will post section schedules on my twitter page, www.twitter.com/JohnNalan

 

Minnesota Vikings

    What a treat to see the Vikings play such entertaining football in last week’s win over Philadelphia. Linebacker Eric Kendricks is quickly becoming my favorite Viking. Minnesota plays in Detroit this week against the Lions at noon on FOX. I hope I am wrong, but I have a bad feeling about this game.

 

Itasca Football

    Itasca won a huge road game over Rochester last week to ensure themselves a home playoff game on Oct. 27. Coach Weldon Braxton’s team entered the fourth quarter trailing 28-20, but quickly scored a touchdown and then got the game winner with three minutes left when Antwan Downs pulled in a 12 yard touchdown pass from Brandon Hokkanen to seal a 32-28 win. The Vikings are now 6-2 this season.

 

Titan Cross Country

    Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin won the boys side and were fifth on the girls side of the Hial Pike race in International Falls last week. Geno Uhrbom did not race hard as the team tapers for the postseason and finished second. Greg Peterson was fifth and Spencer Engel was eighth. For the girls, Carlee Plackner, Baylie Norriss, and Kaitlin Olson ran as a solid wall and finished 13th, 14th, and 15th.

    The Titans race in the Section 7A meet in Cloquet on Oct. 24. The boys team is the defending section champion and Geno Uhrbom has won the last two section individual titles and was state champion last season. 

 

Section 7A Volleyball Tournament

    Greenway will enter the tournament as the top seed in the north subsection. Nashwauk-Keewatin will be seeded eighth and earned the right to host their first playoff game since 2009. The first round is Oct. 21 with Nashwauk-Keewatin likely hosting Mountain Iron-Buhl who beat them in a five game thriller in September. The next round will be Oct. 23 with the possibility that Greenway would be at home against Nashwauk-Keewatin. 

 

Raider Volleyball

    Greenway swept International Falls and Duluth Marshall last week to up their record to 21-4 this year. 

 

Spartan Volleyball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin had a tough week, losing at North Woods in Cook and dropping a home match to a good Ely team. The Spartans are 9-12 this season.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

January 01, 2020

With John Nalan

 

Raider Volleyball

    Greenway beat Grand Rapids in dominating fashion, 25-16, 25-10, 25-21, last week to break a nine game losing stretch against the Thunderhawks dating back to 2012. The Raiders passed the ball consistently well to setter Lexi Hammer who got the ball to Claire Vekich for 19 kills. Defensively, senior Mikara Anderson led the way with 19 digs. Last Saturday in Proctor, the Raiders went 2-2 getting wins over Esko and South Ridge to extend their season record to 19-4. They finish the regular season Oct. 15 when they host Virginia in Coleraine.

 

GNK 42, Eveleth-Gilbert 0

    Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin blew the doors off of Eveleth-Gilbert last week in a decisive homecoming win in Nashwauk. The defense registered their second shutout of the season and the offense had 36 points built up before halftime. Quarterback Blace Tomberlin was a big part of the offense, throwing for two touchdowns and 124 yards. On the ground, Tomberlin ran for two more scores and compiled 79 yards. Eli Conaway had another big night, running for 181 yards and scoring 16 points. Ty Donahue and Dylan DeChapeau each caught touchdown passes. Defensively, freshman Mason Marx came up with several key stops. The team is 4-2 this year.

 

The Titan Box: Week Seven

    Opponent: Virginia (0-6) 

    Game Time: Friday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m.

    Location: Ewen Stadium in Virginia

    Radio Coverage: 105.5 FM with Tom Downing and Dan Persons.

    Last Year: GNK won 56-22.

    The Blue Devils: Virginia is only averaging 10 points a game in their six losses this season.

    My Thoughts: This is a great chance for the Titans to build on the momentum they have gained in three straight wins. 

 

The Titan Box: Week Eight

    Opponent: Mesabi East (2-4) 

    Game Time: Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.

    Location: Mesabi East Athletic Complex in Aurora. (Turf Field)

    Radio Coverage: 105.5 FM with Tom Downing and Dan Persons.

    Last Year: These Iron Range Conference opponents have never played. The single school Nashwauk-Keewatin team beat Mesabi East 53-29 in 2008.

    The Giants: This will be Mesabi East’s second game on their new turf field. Last week they put up 335 rushing yards in a shutout win over Virginia.

    My Thoughts: It will be nice to get on a turf field with the playoffs on the horizon. The Titans need two wins this week to ensure a first round bye in the Section 7AAA playoffs.

 

Lightning Tennis

    Grand Rapids/Greenway began Section 7AA individual play this week at the Duluth Indoor Sports Center. Singles players will be Jordan Troumbly and Eva Kangas. Doubles teams will be Nicolle Ramirez/Taryn Hamling and Kalei Dowell/Courtney Brandt. Tournament action began Oct. 8 and will conclude Oct. 14. In team play, the Lightning opened section play with a 6-1 win over Cloquet and then lost a close 4-3 quarterfinal match to Princeton. 

 

Spartan Volleyball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin swept three straight teams to win the Bigfork Tournament last Saturday. The Spartans topped Bigfork and Blackduck before getting revenge on a Laporte team that had beat them earlier in the season in the finals. The team has won six of their last nine games and finishes the regular season with two home games. They host Ely tonight and Bigfork on Oct. 15. Both games are at 7 p.m. in Nashwauk.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The schedule is starting to get harder for the 3-2 Vikings as they play the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) in US Bank Stadium this Sunday at noon on FOX. I think Minnesota will surprise the Eagles with a strong home field performance.

 

Titan Cross Country

    The postseason is on the horizon for Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin with the Iron Range Conference meet scheduled for Oct. 15 in Hoyt Lakes. The GNK boys have won the last four conference titles and junior Geno Uhrbom has won the last three individual titles. The girls were fifth as a team last year with Carlee Plackner finishing eleventh.

 

Itasca Football

    Itasca had their offense contained for the first time this season last Saturday in Coleraine on Dixon-Barle Field. The Vikings lost a 14-6 game to Central Lakes College and dropped their record to 5-2. Tavian Edwards had 14 tackles and a quarterback sack. ICC finishes their regular season at Rochester this Saturday. Playoffs begin Oct. 27.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

October 10, 2019

With John Nalan

 

Marble Mallards

    Marble won two more games last weekend during the Region 10C amateur baseball tournament that they hosted in Grand Rapids. The pair of wins guarantee the Mallards a top two finish in the regional and advance them to the state amatuer baseball tournament. 

    The Mallards opened weekend play against the Ada A’s on Saturday night with Tanner Shepard taking the mound as the starting pitcher for Marble. The A’s got on the scoreboard first scoring a single run in the first inning. Marble then strung together three hits to tie the game at 1-1 in the third inning. The Mallards grabbed the lead with another single run in the fifth, but Ada manufactured a run in the seventh to tie the game. Travis Carruth came in to pitch in relief of Shepard and shut down the A’s the rest of the way. Marble picked up the winning runs in the eighth inning with a combination of some aggressive base running and Ada errors to come away with a 4-2 win.

    The win moved Marble into a winner’s bracket game against the Dilworth Raildogs on Sunday. Hunter Shepard started on the mound and held Dilworth scoreless with some clutch pitching through the first six innings. The Mallards’ bats were slow to get going, but then exploded in a big fifth inning that saw Marble put six runs on the board. The biggest hit of the inning came from the bat of Nick Shea who absolutely powered a ball over the left field fence. His three run homer seemed to deflate the Raildogs and Marble went on to secure an 8-0 win.

    Tournament action continues this weekend in Grand Rapids when the Mallards face the Bemidji Blue Ox in the tournament final at 3 p.m. on August 10. If Bemidji wins, a second game is scheduled for noon on August 11. Since the top two teams in the region advance to the state Class C tournament, the Mallards are assured of a trip to the state tournament which starts August 16 and continues over three consecutive weekends. This will be the Mallards first state tournament appearance since 2003.

 

High School Sports

    Practice for local high school teams begins this Monday, August 12. Competition will begin August 17 when both the Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway volleyball teams will host jamboree action. The girl’s tennis team has their first match scheduled for August 20 and then will be off to the races as they complete a good portion of their schedule before school starts. The Titan football and cross country teams will first see action on August 30.

 

Local Dirt Track Racing

    Racing action was in Grand Rapids last week. In Late Model action, Jeffrey Massingill of Keewatin was 3rd and Ben Heinle of Bovey was 8th. For the Pure Stocks, Jon Burt of Bovey was 6th and Chris Miller of Bovey was 10th. Ryan Jensen placed 11th in the Modifieds and Coleraine’s Travis Krumrei was 13th in the Midwest Modifieds. There was no racing in Hibbing last week, so Massingill took his Late Model to Proctor and placed 4th.

    Racing in Grand Rapids this week will be at 6:30 p.m. on August 8 and the Hibbing Raceway will be back in action August 10 with their annual Hall of Fame Night.

Longyear Lake 5k

    Kaytlin Olson of Nashwauk was the women’s winner at the Longyear Lake 5k that was run in Chisholm last weekend during the city’s Moonlight Graham Days. Olson will be an eighth grader on the Greenway/Nashwauk Keewatin Titan cross country team this season. Daniel Olson, who will be a sophomore this year, was second place in the men’s race.

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook

September 19, 2019

With John Nalan

 

Spartan Volleyball

    Nashwauk-Keewatin beat Northland-Remer and lost to Laporte in volleyball action at Nashwauk last week. The team combined for 24 kills in their five set conference win over Northland on Sept. 10. It was the team’s third Section 7A win this season. The Spartans play at Mesabi East tonight and then head to Virginia on Saturday for a twelve team tournament that features some of the top teams in the area including Cherry, Ely, and Hibbing. Their next home game is Sept. 26 against Littlefork-Big Falls.

 

Pine City 24, GNK 16

    Pine City scored twice in the first quarter to take a quick 16-0 lead at Dragon Field in Pine City. The Titans answered back with two scores of their own in the second quarter. DeAngelo Jefferson powered through the Dragon defense for the first score and Eli Conaway followed that up with a two point conversion to cut the lead in half. Conaway hit the endzone again with a 17 yard run before halftime and picked up another conversion to tie the game at the break, 16-16.

    Pine City scored on a 28 yard touchdown pass in the third to take the 24-16 lead. The Titans drove down the field in the fourth quarter, but were denied by two late interceptions that sealed the win for Pine City. Eli Conaway led the offense with 123 yards rushing and ten points scored. Jake Manee had six receptions for 48 yards. 

 

The Titan Box: Week Four

    Opponent: International Falls 

    Game Time: Friday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.

    Location: Dixon-Barle Field in Coleraine

    Radio Coverage: 105.5 FM with Tom Downing and Dan Persons.

    Last Year: GNK won at International Falls, 44-0.

    The Match-up: GNK has dominated the Broncos the last few seasons, winning five straight games in a lopsided manner. Both teams are members of the Iron Range Conference.

    The Titans: Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin (1-2) got their running game on track last week at Pine City. The combined quarterback efforts of Jagger Nash and Blace Tomberlin and the bruising running of Eli Conaway make the Titans a tough team to matchup with. 

    The Broncos: International Falls (2-1) moved to Section 7AA this year and are off to their best start in a while. They have beat North Woods and Deer River so far.

Quarterback Jace Hallin has thrown six touchdown passes this year.

    My Thoughts: I am expecting the Titans to extend their win streak over International Falls this week. As usual, the line play on both sides of the ball should be the deciding factor. 

 

Titan Cross Country

    The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin cross country girls finished 14th and boys were 7th at the Lucky Lindy Meet in Little Falls last week. The conditions were wet and sloppy as the runners contended with heavy showers and race delays. Baylie Norris was the top finisher for the girls, followed by Kaitlin Olson and Karly Mann. On the boy’s side, Geno Uhrbom was edged out by Staples Emmet Anderson by three seconds for the individual title. Spencer Engel and Greg Peterson both ran well, finishing 18th and 20th respectively.

    Both teams travel to Milaca this Saturday for one of the biggest high school sporting events in the state, the Milaca Mega Meet. Uhrbom won last year’s Division 3 race.

 

Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings play at home against the Oakland Raiders (1-1) this Sunday at noon on Fox. I think last week’s frustrating performance in Green Bay will be quickly forgotten as the Viking’s take on a Raiders team that still seems unsure of what play to run next.

 

Itasca Football

    Itasca Community College improved their record to 4-0 with a 39-6 win at Fond du Lac last Saturday. Joshua Booker ran for 161 yards and Antwan Downs caught two more touchdown passes to up his season total to six. The defense dominated the game getting five sacks and four interceptions. Itasca faces their biggest challenge yet this Saturday when they head to Mountain Iron to face undefeated Mesabi Range in a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.

 

Raider Volleyball

    Greenway extended their winning streak to eight straight with a 25-18, 25-21, 25-20 win at Hermantown on Sept. 10. Ninth grader Lexi Hammer continued her solid setting streak, picking up 37 set assists in the game. The Raiders are on the road this week playing at Cloquet tonight, Eveleth-Gilbert Sept. 24, and Duluth East Sept. 26.

 

Community College Volleyball

    Itasca is on a three game win streak and plays at home three times this week. The team features former Nashwauk-Keewatin setter Libby Korpi and Greenway hitter Karley Hansen. They play Mesabi Range Sept. 20 at 6:30, Hibbing Sept. 21 at noon, and Northland Sept. 25 at 6:30. Hibbing beat Vermilion and Northland last week.

 

    John can be reached at john.nalan@hotmail.com or on Twitter, @JohnNalan.

Sports Notebook with John Nalan

September 12, 2019

With John Nalan

 

Titan Cross Country