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A sports year in review (Part 2)

In Part I of the 2010 Sports Year in Review, we noted Esko's stunning performance at track and field sections and the team's pending trip to state, but neglected to mention how the team members performed once they got there.

In Part I of the 2010 Sports Year in Review, we noted Esko's stunning performance at track and field sections and the team's pending trip to state, but neglected to mention how the team members performed once they got there.

In short, they rocked.

Sophomore Kate Shelerud became Esko's first track state champion in 15 years, winning the Minnesota Class A track and field state 800-meter finals. Guided by Shelerud, the Esko girls placed 12th overall with 24 total points, while the boys finished 30th with 11 points. Individuals including seniors Amanda Bergstedt and Katie Tonner sparkled on the girls side, while Jackson Lindquist, Max Reinertsen and Cody Salo excelled for the boys.

As high school sports took a break for the summer, summer ball kicked in. In fact, for the Cloquet VFW baseball team, things would have kicked off even sooner had the boys in purple not made their first trip to state in a generation. As it was, first-year VFW coach Dave Harwig had to cancel the first seven games.

A couple weeks later, American Legion baseball started its season all over Carlton County. Cloquet inched to a 3-3 record, Esko was 3-7 by the end of June with many young players gaining experience, and the Brookston VFW squad - with a mix of kids from Floodwood, Cotton and AlBrook - jumped out to a 3-0 record for its first season in six years.

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The Carlton Heat U-18 softball team began with a 5-4 record in the first nine contests. One of those wins came against the Xplosion, the U-18 Cloquet team coached by Ron Tondryk. It had to be a game of mixed feelings for Tondryk, seeing how the coach of the Heat was none other than his daughter, Brooke Lee.

Meanwhile, Barnum softball worked on continuing its winning ways by building an impressive summer program. Coach Randy Myhre took on the job of coordinating the 70-plus girls who played on the town's five summer league teams, including two U-12 teams, a U-10, U-14 and U-18 teams.

JULY

July was relatively good to the Esko VFW team. The players, made up of seventh-graders through freshmen in age, beat Duluth East in the first game of a doubleheader to notch the program's first win in three years. Following a 0-6 start to the season, Esko split four straight doubleheaders to stand 4-10 as the season began to wind down.

The postseason VFW tournament was disappointing for both the Cloquet and Esko teams, when Cloquet lost to a much younger opponent to end their year, while Esko was 10-runned in all three of their playoff contests and barely had enough bodies.

The Cloquet Legion team finished its season at 12-8 after coming within one game of the championship game in the district tournament. The Esko Legion team had a 7-11 overall record and one win in the district tournament, a first-round 7-1 win against Chisholm. The Brookston American Legion team finished its season with a 10-12 overall record, including 10-10 in district play.

On a quirkier note, the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College held its first annual Cloquet Croquet tournament in July, complete with awards for "best dressed."

AUGUST

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The last month of summer vacation saw the sport of lacrosse - an American Indian invention - come to the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation, along with a number of teenage boys from reservations around Minnesota and Wisconsin. The boys participated in a camp led by staff from the Swarm, Minnesota's professional indoor lacrosse team.

The Xplosion U-18 softball team also played four games in the American Softball Association's national tournament in Missouri, gaining valuable experience but no wins.

Meanwhile, other schools around Carlton County were preparing for fall sports, holding tryouts and captains' practices for a range of activities including soccer, volleyball, football, cross country, swimming and tennis. Some teams consolidated - including Carlton-Fond du Lac football, as well as AlBrook-Cotton football. The Wrenshall football program, on the other hand, elected not to field a varsity team for the fall season, instead rebuilding through its JV program.

Cloquet cross country coach Mike Bushey had roughly 40 kids turn out for the first day of practice, while Cloquet volleyball coach Heidi Anderson had closer to 50 the first day.

Setting a pattern for the season, Esko sophomore Marisa Shady won the first cross country race of the season, an exhibition meet at Chub Lake featuring runners from Cloquet, Esko, Carlton, Moose Lake-Willow River-Barnum, Cromwell-Wright, Hermantown and Proctor, who faced off in a quartet of races throughout the afternoon.

Tennis, on the other hand, got a jump start. By the time school started, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton tennis team was at mid-season.

SEPTEMBER

As of Sept. 1, the CEC girls tennis team was unbeaten in conference play ... but the non-conference teams were giving them a hard time. CEC started the week before Labor Day with a 5-2 win against Duluth Central but then lost consecutive non-conference matches to Duluth East, St. Francis, Cambridge and Hibbing to stand at 2-4 on the season.

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The Esko-Carlton girls soccer team beat arch-rival Cloquet 3-2 in their first contest of the season, thanks to a goal by Esko junior Caitlin Lilly scored in the 68th minute of the game. Meanwhile, coach Archie Clark watched his Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys soccer team win, lose and tie on the pitch for their first three games.

For Barnum as well as Moose Lake-Willow River football, the season started with a roar. Barnum beat Rush City 39-0, while ML-WR trounced Mesabi East 75-0 in their season opener. Ouch.

Esko quarterback Max Reinertsen rushed for 211 yards and four touchdowns as the Eskomos buried a young Cook County team 30-6 in Esko's season opener at Les Knuti Field.

Cromwell-Wright and Cloquet both lost their season opening games by one point: the Cardinals to Nevis 27-26 in overtime; Cloquet to International Falls 20-19. Penalty flags helped doom the Carlton Bulldogs in an 18-14 season-opening loss against Hinckley-Finlayson, while AlBrook-Cotton fell to Littlefork-Big Falls 46-8 in their debut.

FDLTCC volleyball struggled to win, while the Thunder football team came up with mixed results, dropping its season opener 21-6 to defending conference champion Central Lakes College, followed by a thrilling 32-26 win over the Bluejays in Worthington, Minn.

Esko volleyball marched through September undefeated, while other teams had more of a rollercoaster ride. Cloquet was 7-5 by the last week of September, as were the Barnum Bombers. Cromwell-Wright was 8-9, AlBrook 8-2 and ML-WR was 3-10 by the end of the month while the Wrenshall girls were still looking for their first victory (0-11).

OCTOBER

The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton tennis team finished its season at second place in the Lake Superior Conference followed by one win and one loss in the section playoffs. After dropping the final match of the regular season to Aitkin, CEC rebounded with a 7-0 first-round playoff win over Hermantown Oct. 11. The next day, the team's season came to an end with a 7-0 loss against an excellent Hibbing team.

Cloquet football player Joey Singpiel was named the U.S. Air Force National High School Player of the Week for his performance in Cloquet's 14-0 win over the Proctor Rails Oct. 8.

Halted early by a pair of Chisago Lakes Area goals in the first 15 minutes, the Eskomo girls soccer team fell 3-1 in the Section 7A championship game at Duluth's Public Schools Stadium Oct. 21.

The Cloquet volleyball team won the Lake Superior Conference championship, with a historic 3-1 upset over longtime rival Hermantown Oct. 19. It would be Hermantown, however, who would knock Cloquet out of the 7AA sections, during the semifinals Oct. 29. The Esko volleyball team (25-1) led the Northland in victories, winning 64 of their 70 sets before the start of the Section 7AA tournament.

The Barnum volleyball team headed into the Section 5A Tournament after a 3-2 win over Carlton in the final game of the season, but fell to top-seeded East Central in the second round of the tournament. The night before, the Bombers had ousted Cromwell-Wright with a 3-0 sweep.

Wet and snowy conditions at Corey Veech Memorial Field in Hermantown were a factor when Hermantown beat Cloquet 18-7 in the first round of the Section 7AAAA high school football playoffs Oct. 27. The same weather conditions and only 11 healthy players (no substitutes) spelled the end of Carlton-Fond du Lac's season, when their Section 7A playoff game with Barnum was called at halftime with the Bombers leading 48-0.

Moose Lake-Willow River football continued its crushing ways, wrapping up its fourth consecutive undefeated high school season with a 49-6 defeat of Esko to wrap up the Great Polar Alliance White Division title. It was the Rebels 38th straight regular-season game and 27th in a row at Willow River. Esko finished the regular season 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference.

Moose Lake went on to win the Section 7AA championship, defeating Braham 35-8 in the finals before heading to the state tournament for the fifth year in a row.

Esko defended its Section 7A cross country crown successfully, winning the team competition at the Cloquet Country Club by a large margin while Marissa Shady clocked a personal best and came in a full 47 seconds before the second-place finisher, Esko eighth-grader Kailee Kiminski. Erika Shady placed fourth. Junior Jackson Lindquist took third on the boys side.

Cloquet cross country runners Erik Swanson and Halee Peterson also advanced to state after placing eighth and sixth in the Section 7AA meet in Princeton.

October ended with good news for the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College football team: the Thunder finished its first winning season in school history by demolishing Vermilion Community College 53-6.

NOVEMBER

November was a remarkable month for area high school teams.

On Nov. 4, both Barnum (7A) and Moose Lake-Willow River (7AA) punched their tickets for the state football tournament, while Cromwell-Wright's nine-man football team added its name to the list the next day in a 5A section upset over McGregor.

Esko's Marisa Shady shocked Minnesota - and herself - by winning the girls state cross country meet. That same night the Esko volleyball team advanced to its first state volleyball tournament since 2004, beating Hermantown in three straight games for the section championship.

Once they got to the state tournament, however, things got more challenging for the local teams.

Esko volleyball was swept by Stewartville 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-18) one day, then got eliminated by Visitation 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-15) the next.

The Barnum football team fell 45-6 to defending Minnesota Class A champion Minneota in the state football quarterfinals at St. Cloud.

The undefeated Moose Lake-

Willow River football team also met its match in the Class AA quarterfinal game, as the third-ranked Rebels lost 21-6 to second-ranked Eden Valley-Watkins.

The Cromwell-Wright Cardinals nine-man football team, however, continued to surprise. After starting the season by losing four of their first six contests, the team got on a winning streak that didn't end. At state, the Cardinals made an 18-point fourth-quarter comeback rally to stun Underwood 18-12 in the semifinals, then came back the next week and won the Minnesota state Nine-Man Prep Bowl championship over Lanesboro 49-42. Led by quarterback Jordan Suhonen's record-breaking 374 yards via the ground and five touchdowns, the Cardinals became the fourth team in the school's storied history to hoist the state's ultimate prize.

Also in November, the CEC swim team placed 10th out of 11 teams at the Section 5A Meet finals in Grand Rapids, totaling 63 points in the pool.

DECEMBER

With basketball season under way and early snow allowing ski teams to start practice earlier than usual, winter sports teams hit the hardwood, the mats, the ice and the slopes.

As returning state champs, the Barnum girls basketball team continued to dominate. By the end of the December, their win streak was up to 30 games and this year's record was 9-0, with the closest contest coming against Isle, a game the Bombers won 51-45.

The Barnum boys were winning, too. On Dec. 28, the unblemished Bombers dumped Two Harbors 69-33, making their record 6-0.

Other area basketball teams turned in mixed results in December. By the time Christmas break was under way, both the Moose Lake-Willow River boys and girls teams were 5-2. The Fond du Lac Ojibwe boys team was 2-4; the girls team was 1-7. A win still evaded the Wrenshall girls, but they were scoring more and more points as the season progressed. The Cardinals boys basketball team placed second at the Pillager Holiday Invitational, while the Cromwell-Wright girls team went winless at the Ogilvie Holiday Tournament. The Carlton girls dropped seven games straight to end the year and the Bulldogs boys team closed the year winless.

The Cloquet-Esko wrestling team began the difficult job of rebuilding, after losing three seniors to graduation and several more who simply didn't come back this year or moved out of state. Jake Baker was the team's most consistent winner. CEC alpine and Nordic ski teams struggled as well.

On the ice, the CEC girls hockey team had a rough go of it at the Eden Prairie "Mid-Winter Meltdown" holiday tournament, where they lost all three games. The Moose Lake Area girls team won two games in the Schwan Cup, beating Appleton and the University School of Milwaukee but falling to Henry Sibley.

The CEC boys hockey team ended the month on a high note, improving their record to 8-3 after sweeping three games in three days and going unbeaten in the Heritage Holiday Classic tournament a second straight year. CEC routed Duluth Central 7-2 in the championship game.

The Moose Lake Area boys hockey team ran the table at the Silver Bay Holiday Tournament - and boasted a record of 7-3-0 as the year ended.

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