A sports year in review (Part 1)The 2010 calendar year could be called “The Year of the Small Schools” in Carlton County sports. The state championship for the Barnum Bombers girls basketball team wasn’t the only state trophy in the county, Esko cross country runner Marissa Shady placed first at the state meet in October, then the Cromwell-Wright Cardinals nine-man football team surprised everyone by turning around a losing season in time to march to a Prep Bowl win.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The 2010 calendar year could be called “The Year of the Small Schools” in Carlton County sports. The state championship for the Barnum Bombers girls basketball team wasn’t the only state trophy in the county, Esko cross country runner Marissa Shady placed first at the state meet in October, then the Cromwell-Wright Cardinals nine-man football team surprised everyone by turning around a losing season in time to march to a Prep Bowl win.
But sports isn’t only about championships. It’s about playing the game honorably, and to the best of your ability, win or lose. That’s something every school can be proud of, from the smallest to the biggest, high school or collegiate.
Join us as we take a brief look back at the highlights – and a few simply gritty moments – of the past year in sports.
Cloquet native Jamie Langenbrunner, 34, was named to the Olympic team on a Friday – he was named captain of Team USA – then the New Jersey Devils’ captain scored a hat trick Saturday against the Wild. He’s played in more NHL games than anyone to grow up in Northeastern Minnesota – at the time, Langenbrunner had scored 222 goals and 358 assists for 580 points in 924 games.
The same week found the Cloquet-Esko-Cloquet boys hockey team on a five-game winning streak with a 7-0 win over Ashland Jan. 4, bringing their season record to 6-6-1, a number equal to the prior season’s regular-season win total.
On Jan. 4, the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College women’s basketball team continued an 11-game losing streak with a loss to Gogebic Community College. Coach Jen MacKay said the team – which only won a single game in its inaugural season the year before – was struggling with numbers, after the squad of 12 dropped to seven following Christmas break.
On Jan. 12, Esko senior Raleigh Goessling won yet another Nordic skiing meet when he took home the annual Cloquet Invitational 5K title for Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, finishing in 12:56.9, less than a half second before the runner-up on the well-groomed trails at Pine Valley.
Later in the month, Melissa Clark and Emily Gustafson scored goals to back Nicole Lund’s 22-save shutout in CEC’s 2-0 victory over the Duluth Northern Stars in a Lake Superior Conference game at the Heritage Center in Duluth.
The winter sports season heated up. First the Wrenshall boys team tipped Carlton 54-52 in the classic boys basketball rivalry before a standing-room-only crowd Feb. 5 at Wrenshall High School, keeping the “Little Brown Jug” in Wrenshall for another year.
On Feb. 11, Esko senior Raleigh Goessling was crowned Minnesota State Nordic skiing champion at Giants Ridge, becoming the first boys skier from the Northland to win an individual title since Duluth East’s Anders Osthus in 2001.
The Moose Lake Area boys hockey team lost all three games they played against the North Branch Vikings this season, the third of those games in the Section 5A quarterfinals Feb. 23 at Chisago Lakes Arena.
Meanwhile, in international play, Team USA pulled off its biggest Olympic hockey upset since the Miracle on Ice, stunning Canada 5-3 to advance to the quarterfinals. Next they beat Switzerland 2-0, then demolished Finland 6-1 on their way to the championship game.
Canada survived one of the greatest games in Olympic history to beat the Americans 3-2 in overtime and cap the host country’s record gold rush in the Vancouver Games.
Nine Cloquet-Esko-Barnum wrestlers traveled to the Section 7AA Individual Wrestling Meet. Cloquet senior Cody Hraban led the trio of Lumberjacks who placed, as the first-year standout and Great River Conference champ placed fourth at 189 pounds. Cloquet junior Jake Baker added a fifth-place finish at 171 pounds, while 112-pound Esko eighth-grader Reid Borchardt claimed sixth. No Lumberjack advanced to state, however.
The Cloquet girls basketball team lost to Hermantown in the first round of Section 7AAA playoffs after Hermantown sophomore Rachael Hoium sunk a 3-pointer with just three seconds to go, making the score 48-47 Hermantown.
The Cromwell-Wright Cardinals girls basketball team slipped by a bucket to Isle in a 60-58 loss in the Section 5A playoffs. The boys team also fell to Isle in the Section 5A quarterfinals, and went on to defeat the Barnum boys in the semifinals.
In Section 7A playoffs, No. 4-ranked Carlton beat the AlBrook girls 64-42. Carlton advanced to the quarterfinals, where they battled but were bounced by top-ranked Floodwood 60-47.
The Esko girls basketball team beat Deer River 75-38 in the Section 7AA semifinals, then lost 58-55 in a tough game with Braham. The Esko boys team lost 80-63 to Braham in the quarterfinals.
The Lumberjack boys basketball team let a first-half lead slip away in a 62-56 loss to the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks in the Section 7AAA championship game.
The Rush City Tigers ended the Rebel boys basketball season with a 55-52 loss in the Section 7AA quarterfinals.
Things couldn’t have gone better in March for the Barnum girls, however. Senior Katrina Newman reached 2,000 career points as the Bombers cruised through the Section 5A playoffs, first beating Northland-Remer in the semifinals, then taking out Sebecka 82-37 in the Section 5A championship game at Crosby-Ironton High School. Barnum went on to the state tournament and never stopped, dominating Nashwauk-Keewatin 55-23 in a Minnesota Class A quarterfinal game, then beating Parkers Prairie 61-52 before facing Goodhue in the state championship March 20. Barnum won that game 43-31, earning the school’s first state title and ending a 26-year drought in any class for teams from Northeastern Minnesota.
With winter on its way out, spring sports kicked off with track and field, tennis, golf, softball and baseball teams starting practices as well as competition. Aided by unusually warm weather, teams got more practice than years past.
The Cromwell-Wright girls and the Barnum boys excelled at the McGregor Track and Field Invitational April 13, as the squads each took second place in their division.
Cloquet outlasted a young Esko softball team 3-2 April 19 in an 11-inning game in Cloquet.
AlBrook baseball demolished Barnum in its fourth win of the season, while the Cloquet baseball team started its season with wins over Ashland and Mora. Esko baseball won its first four games, before falling to Duluth Central 17-7 in five innings.
Carlton’s softball team beat Moose Lake-Willow River 7-4, but things were turned around on the boys side of things, as the Rebels beat the ’Dogs 20-0 in a five-inning, mercy-rule contest in Moose Lake. Meanwhile, No. 14 Class AA state-ranked Cloquet strung together some timely hitting to earn a 6-5 victory over Virginia.
In boys golf, Cloquet defeated Duluth Central in a Lake Superior Conference dual meet by shooting a 341 compared to the Trojans’ 343 in their home opener at the Cloquet Country Club.
Esko-Carlton girls golf placed third, shooting a team score of 413 at the annual Cloquet Invitational at Cloquet Country Club. Hermantown placed second and Duluth East followed Esko-Carlton in the standings. Cloquet was also in action, as the hosts rounded out the field with their fifth-place finish of 521 as a team.
Foreshadowing a successful season, Cloquet won the annual Esko Baseball Tournament with a pair of victories – first against Duluth Central and then in the title match against Warroad.
The FDLTCC Thunder lost a doubleheader to Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, capping the end of the softball season with the Thunder posting a 9-18-1 record.
The Cloquet softball team earned the top seed in Section 7AA’s Subsection 1, and used that seed to hammer Crosby-Ironton 14-0 in their playoff opener. However, a 1-0 loss to Denfeld ended the Lumberjacks’ playoff run.
Meanwhile, the No. 2-seeded Moose Lake-Willow River drubbed No. 7-seeded Aitkin 12-2 in six innings in the first round of Section 7AA softball, while No. 3-seeded Esko was upset by No. 6-seeded Two Harbors 12-2.
The Esko girls and boys track teams breezed through sections and on to state (once again). The girls put up 148 points on the drizzly day at UMD, while the boys notched 103. To put their dominance into perspective, no other squads had more than 67 points.
The Barnum softball team won the Section 5A tournament, earning another trip to state – the team’s first since 2002. At state, Katrina Newman tossed her third no-hitter in four games, her ninth of the season and the 28th in MSHSL tournament history as Barnum defeated Menahga 4-0 in a Class A semifinal at Caswell Park. The third-ranked Bombers routed second-ranked New Ulm Cathedral 7-0 in a quarterfinal game. Barnum played defending champion New Life Academy for the crown and lost 2-0.
On the boys side, the Barnum baseball team outslugged McGregor 14-12 in a Section 7A first-round playoff game before losing to AlBrook 5-4 to end the season. AlBrook then lost to Deer River.
The Lumberjacks boys golf team placed sixth out of 19 teams in the Section 7AA boys golf tournament and sent Eric Fryc, Andrew Castle and Jack McFarlane to compete for the individual crown, where they all finished in the top 20.
The Cloquet baseball team kept folks guessing, first with a loss to Hermantown, then with a win against the Hawks when it mattered most: in the Section 7AA finals. In the championship game, Cloquet rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to stun Hermantown 7-6 to capture the Section 7AA title and send the Lumberjacks to their first state baseball tournament in 35 years. However, Mankato East spoiled Cloquet’s run with a 5-3 victory in the Minnesota Class AA quarterfinals at Dick Putz Field.
The year in sports will continue in next week’s Pine Journal.