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Carlton votes to expand athletic co-op agreement with Wrenshall

Carlton and Wrenshall will field cooperative teams in all sports per the agreement, though questions remain as to when it will go into effect.

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The Carlton-Wrenshall Raptors combined football team with coaches stand for the national anthem before the season-opening game Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, against South Ridge.
File / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CARLTON — An expansion to the district’s athletic cooperative agreement with Wrenshall was approved unanimously by the Carlton School Board at its Monday, Oct. 17 meeting at Carlton High School.

Under the new agreement, the two schools will field cooperative teams in all sports, though the question of when it will go into effect is still up in the air.

The Carlton School Board rejected the original motion to begin the agreement immediately via a 3-2 vote citing timing as an issue. Had the motion passed, the co-op would have gone into effect just in time for the winter sports season, allowing the schools to merge basketball teams.

In lieu of the failed motion, board member Ann Gustafson proposed an amended motion to begin the full co-op in the spring, which was approved on a 5-0 vote.

The decision to add the remainder of the sports to the cooperative agreement stems from a recent co-op subcommittee meeting, where the group composed of representatives from the two school boards added the proposal prior to their Oct. 13 committee meeting.

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Carlton Superintendent John Engstrom shared that the initial plan for the subcommittee meeting was to discuss plans for shared co-curricular activities before the topic of expanding the co-op agreement became the focal point.

The rush to expand the agreement weeks before the start of the winter sports season was a source of frustration for Engstrom.

“I think the process was awful, and it’s exactly the process that we were trying to avoid, and that part drives me absolutely, quite frankly, insane,” Engstrom said in reference to the rush to form a softball co-op team last spring.

Engstrom reminded the board of its past history in trying to establish a full cooperative agreement.

“I think it’s worth noting in April everyone on the Carlton side was prepared to vote for a co-op for all sports effective this year,” Engstrom said. “That ultimately got kind of pared back and so we ended up with staying with the sports that we have now, but we have a process in place.”

The co-op subcommittee will meet again in early November to finalize the details related to when the agreement will be officially put into place.

Multiple members of the community spoke at the meeting voicing their approval of the agreement, including Carlton varsity baseball coach Ryan Schmidt, who pointed to the competitive benefits that it would offer.

“I wished we were together with Wrenshall for baseball when we were one swing away from going to state and they had two kids that had great bats,” Schmidt said in reflecting on the 2018 Section 7A championship game.. “I guarantee you we would have beaten South Ridge, and I think that’s the kind of thing that we can work at. We have the potential with our athletics to be the next South Ridge. They’re going to state in pretty much everything.”

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Tommy Jacobson, a father of two young children involved in youth sports, said the continuity of establishing one solitary team is among the biggest reasons why he supports it.

“I like the stability factor,” Jacobson said. “I don’t want all of a sudden (to be a) Bulldog right now but then in a couple of months, I’m going to be a Raptor and now all of a sudden I’m back to a Bulldog.”

Before the vote took place, Carlton Board and co-op subcommittee member Sam Ojibway raised his concerns about what would happen if the motion fails to pass.

“I think this is a great idea. I’m afraid that if it’s voted down tonight, and we don’t approve it, I’m just going to say it, I'm afraid that the other board will be spiteful and in the future it won’t be discussed again. I’m fearful of that,” he said.

The board will meet again on Monday, Nov. 17, for its monthly Committee of the Whole meeting at Carlton High School.

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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