Catching Up: Spring sports, Relay for Life and other notes

The spring high school sports season is officially completed for area teams.
For most of them, it was a whirlwind season, and we’re not just talking about the weather.
The weather did have a major bearing on the 2014 spring season, though it didn’t do nearly the damage that was done to the 2013 spring schedules. This year’s spring sports did get a bit of a late start and saw its share of washouts, but there was enough good weather where teams were able to get in complete seasons. That wasn’t the case the year before, when the horrid weather led to a rash of double-headers, and in many cases, a slew of canceled games.
For the Middle Border Conference, this spring wasn’t as successful as in past years in terms of getting teams to the state tournament. There were high hopes that Baldwin-Woodville would earn another trip to the state softball championships and that Ellsworth, Prescott or Somerset would advance in baseball. That doesn’t lessen the fact that they had outstanding seasons. The Ellsworth-Prescott rivalry in baseball has to be one of the most passionate in this part of the state. Both towns have long traditions of success in baseball and that doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.
Track athletes got a much better experience in 2014 than the previous year, though there were several meets washed away this year too. The area was represented well this year. Somerset had a pair of state champions in Aaron Joppru and Max Praschak. The Dunn-St. Croix Conference had state champions in Elk Mound’s Jonah Bauer and Spring Valley’s Zac Webster.
Webster was a treat to watch. When you see him standing among the other competitors, he’s one of the smaller guys in the group. It isn’t until you see Webster jump that you get an understanding of why he was the state triple jump champion and that he took second place in the long jump and high jump. He jumps like he was born with wings. His hang time is just incredible, especially in his final bound in the triple jump. It’s like he floats in the air, he’s got that sort of propulsion in his legs.
Getting to attend the WIAA state track meet is one of the highlights of my sports year. Each year, I am constantly amazed by the incredible athletic performances. Through the years Wisconsin track fans have gotten to witness Olympians like Suzy Favor Hamilton and future National Football League stars like Michael Bennett and Jim Flanigan. There have been milers who’ve lowered their times under 4 minutes, 10 seconds. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see a runner break the 4-minute mile at the state meet in future years.
One of the things that amazes me most is the progress made by female athletes every year. Female athletes have been becoming more and more dedicated to strength and conditioning each year and it continues to pay dividends. I remember covering Terri Tretsven of St. Croix Falls when she won the girls state discus championship in 1986, when the state meet was still held in Madison. She had a winning distance of 119 feet. That distance wouldn’t have gotten through most of the state’s sectional tournaments this year.

Relay for Life
Another great Relay for Life in New Richmond was completed over the weekend. At last count, they had nearly $95,000 raised for the American Cancer Society.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, it took me several years before I could get up the nerve to attend a Relay. Now it is one of the most rejuvenating steps in the cancer journey each year.
My favorite part is the introduction of the cancer survivors each year. Every one is an amazing story. Whether it’s the survivors who’ve won the battle for 20 years or more, or the people who are attending their first Relay as a survivor, they’ve had to fight the battle and they are winning.
My personal favorite is seeing some of the young people who were diagnosed as children and seeing how they’ve grown each year. To me, that’s why research for cancer and other diseases is so important. It’s giving life to young people who would otherwise by taken away from us. Seeing them get to live out normal, full lives goes beyond heart-warming. And I think it helps every one of us to fight a little harder.

Check out the University of Minnesota football website for Gaelin Elmore’s profile. Though he’s listed as a tight end, all the video clips feature his blocking prowess. One of the best parts of this time of year is seeing the May graduates starting their progression toward college. Those graduates hoping to gain a foothold in college athletics have an especially important summer. They need to be in peak condition heading into their freshman seasons so they can make a memorable first impression on their coaches and new teammates.
Is anyone fired up for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game coming to the Twin Cities? I thought there would be more excitement, but the Minnesota Twins aren’t doing much to grab the interest of local fans. There has been no publicity on all the events that surround the All-Star Game. With less than a month before the big event, you’d think the Twins would be doing more to promote the event, especially considering how much money they spent to bring the event here.