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Journal-Press Internet Sports & School - August 16, 2018
Rob LaPlante

Journal-Press Sports Editor Rob LaPlante may be reached by phone at 763-682-1221 or click here to email him



Expectations high after breakout season

Experience key as Bison look to repeat last year’s success

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Two key spots will be noticeably different in this year’s lineup for Scott Larsen, now starting his third year as head coach of the Buffalo girls’ tennis team.

Buffalo returns seven of 10 varsity regulars from last year’s team that posted a 22-4 overall record, went undefeated (9-0) in the conference, and finished runner-up to Wayzata in last year’s Section 5AA championship match.

“Last year was very cool and fun to be part of that group,” Larsen said. “The beauty of coaching is you have experiences like that, and the tough part is you have to put that year to rest, and you move forward with another group who is excited to do something similar.”

While plenty of key faces return from last year’s group, a few key faces no longer are around, including Simona Potockova, a foreign-exchange student last season from Slovakia, who secured Buffalo’s top-singles position as a senior.

Potockova went 22-4 a year ago, and became the first female tennis athlete from Buffalo to qualify for state since the 2007 season.

Also gone are doubles players Claire Stevens and Mya Lubben. Both players spent the majority of their careers bouncing between the singles and doubles lineup, but last year the duo primarily played No. 1 doubles and advanced to round three of the individual section tourney.

“We maybe won’t have a standout number one like last year,” Larsen said. “But the strength of our team this year is going to be our depth. Our core group of varsity athletes is still very defined. We’re going to win a lot of matches, because we’re tough at 3-4 singles and 2-3 doubles. We’ll be hard to beat at those spots.”

With both No. 1 spots gone, last year’s starters most likely will slide up a spot in the rotation they played a year ago.

Freshman Anna Lee comprised a 24-3 singles record a year ago, including a 3-0 mark to start last season in the No. 1 spot, prior to Potockova joining the team. Lee will likely be Buffalo’s top-singles player.

Senior Emma Carlson and junior Vanessa Blanchet also return to the singles lineup. Carlson played mostly No. 3 a year ago and Blanchet was in the fourth spot.

“I don’t know exactly where I’ll fall in the lineup, but I know I will always have good competition,” said Carlson, who is one of three senior captains, along with Perrin Thompson and Cassie McNitt. “I’m a senior now, and I’m just super-excited to have a winning year with my team.”

The fourth singles position is the only spot early on that appears up for grabs.

Lee’s younger sister Alaina, an eighth-grader, could fill that void when needed, but she emerged late in the year as one of Buffalo’s top-doubles players.

Larsen says his doubles teams have experience, but the key early on will be finding the right mix. McNitt and Thompson will solidify two doubles spots. Lee, along with juniors Ella Stevens, Ohnica Melenich and Hillary Hovland will round out the doubles lineup. 

“We have a heavy group of juniors and some great senior leaders,” Larsen said. “But we have some other great young talent that’s looking to push those players. We had 36 girls come to our opening practice. We’re definitely happy with the number of athletes we have coming out. It will give us a chance to continue building our program, and we have a lot of people pushing each other for those playing spots.”

Buffalo gets only five days of practice prior to Saturday’s season-opener at the Coon Rapids Invitational starting at 8:30 a.m. They resume next Monday, Aug. 20 with the Champlin Park Invite at 9 a.m.

Larsen isn’t overly concerned with the lack of practice time leading into the season. Buffalo had the same scenario a year ago, and went 3-0 at Coon Rapids and 2-0 at Champlin Park.

“Girls tennis is unique in that if you’re a player, you’ve been hitting the ball all summer and you come in at a different spot of readiness,” Larsen said. “But, it’s nice to have those early-season invites. To mix three matches in a day is a good indicator for us as we evaluate where we want our players to play in the lineup.”

Ironically, Carlson is one of the few on the team that doesn’t play much summer tennis. As a 3-sport athlete, Carlson spends most her summers playing on club lacrosse teams.

“When captains practice started, that was literally the first time I picked up my racket all summer,” Carlson said. “All these girls play year-round, so it’s going to be really important for me to use my athletic ability to get back into it.”

Buffalo’s first conference match will be Sept. 4 at home against Monticello. The Bison’s conference title a year ago was their first since 2012, and the first time anybody but Princeton has won the Mississippi 8 since they joined the conference in 2012.

Princeton and Buffalo have traditionally met late in the season in recent years, but this year they meet in Buffalo on Sept. 10.

“That one is certainly on our calendar, and we’re already looking forward to the rematch from last year,” said Larsen, who lost 6-1 to the Tigers his first season, but won 5-2 a year ago with a conference title on the line. “I think everyone is going to look at Princeton as the favorite, just on who they lost and who we lost, but we’re going to be right there. St. Michael has made improvements and Rogers is getting better, so there will be some good conference matches.”

Wayzata, Buffalo and Maple Grove will likely be the top teams once again in the section, but with Wayzata graduating seven of its 10 players that defeated Buffalo 6-1 in last year’s section final, Larsen is optimistic that another post-season run could be in the works.

“I think we’ll have a team that will be relevant at the end of the year,” he said. “I like how we match up with some of the other section schools. Wayzata lost a ton of players, so I think they are going to be down a bit, but I think Maple Grove is going to be solid. We’ll be ready to go when it comes time for section play, but for now, our focus is on the start of the season.”

Carlson is confident that this year’s squad has the talent to make another long run.

“Coming out from last year, we know what we can be,” she said. “We can make it again, we just have to put in the effort. It’s going to be a really good season.”



Hansen throws first pitch at Target Field

Buffalo High School 2018 graduate, Emily Hansen. throws out the first pitch prior to Tuesday night’s Minnesota Twins home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Target Field in Minneapolis. Hansen was named Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year and Ms. Softball winner her senior year. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)








Hutch wins region title

Errors prove costly for Maple Lake

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

When it comes to rivalries in the North Star League, none are better right now then the Hutchinson Huskies and Maple Lake Lakers.

In a rematch of the 2016 and 2017 Region 12C championship games, it was Hutch earning its third straight region title with a 6-5 win in 10 innings last Sunday over the Lakers at Memorial Park in Howard Lake.

“Absolutely,” said Hutch Manager Michael Kutter, when asked if Maple Lake is their top rival. “That’s a team who gave us trouble all season, but we were able to take advantage of some mistakes and win a big game.”

The Hutch victory avenged a 6-3 loss two nights earlier in the tournament to Maple Lake. Hunter Malachek allowed just one earned run over six innings to record the victory for the Lakers.

“These last three years, we’ve been neck-and-neck with them. They are a good hitting team, but we came out better this game,” said Malachek, who contributed to his own winning cause with two hits and three RBI in last Friday’s win.

Maple Lake’s 17-3 record during league play earned them the region’s top seed. Two of those regular-season wins came against Hutch, who came in as the No. 2 seed.

The Huskies and Lakers both clinched spots in this year’s Class C Amatuer Baseball State Tournament with two wins in the opening weekend of regions. Friday’s win for Maple Lake meant Hutch needed to play one extra game, which they defeated seventh-seeded Howard Lake 8-2 in last Saturday’s elimination game.

Not having to play the extra game over the weekend seemed to bode well for the Lakers, but Sunday’s championship game looked like a team that could have used an extra day of work.

Five errors, including a key throwing error that would have ended the game ahead 5-4 in the top of the seventh, proved to be the difference in a 6-5 loss.

“Defense was the big sore thumb,” said Maple Lake Manager Casey Pack. “We had five errors, and that ended up costing us.”

Hutch never trailed in Sunday’s game until Maple Lake scored three times in the bottom of the eighth inning to grab a 5-4 lead.

Pitching in relief of Nick Preisinger, Grant Mergen was two outs away from picking up the victory. Mergen was the winning pitcher in Maple Lake High School’s Class AA state championship win last spring against Duluth Marshall.

With one out and a runner on first, Luke Fobbe induced a ground ball that was thrown into left field on a potential game-ending double-play ball. Fobbe then retired the next batter on a force out. With runners on the corners and two outs, a hard grounder to third base was fielded cleanly, but a wild throw to first allowed the tying run to score.

Fobbe remained in the game in the 10th, and nearly escaped a bases loaded jam, but a 2-out RBI single by Adam Katzenmeyer proved to be the eventual winning hit.

A key error by Hutch in the bottom of the 10th allowed the Lakers to load the bases, but with one out, Fobbe grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

“Offensively and pitching wise, we did what we needed to do,” Pack said. “We just have to shore up the defense.”

Hutch received a first-round bye in this weekend’s state tournament with the win. Maple Lake opens with a 2:30 p.m. contest against Windom, the third-seed from Region 13, on Sunday, Aug. 19 at Shakopee.

In his third season as manager of the Lakers, Pack compares this year’s squad to that of the 2012 team that won the Class C state championship.

“In 2012, we had a good mix of veterans and good group of young guys,” Pack said. “Now the young guys that were on that team are now the veterans on this one.”

Maple Lake has plenty of talent from that 2012 squad, including Mitch Wurm, who will most likely pitch sometime during this Sunday’s game. He and Malachek have given the Lakers a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.

“It’s nice to have options. Mitch and Hunter are both front-line guys,” Pack said. “Those first two weekends, everybody is on board. There is no saving anybody for the next game. It’s single elimination and if you win, you get a week off prior to the second weekend.”


Scary moment

Maple Lake’s Nate Maas suffered a severe concussion after colliding head first with Hutchinson’s Jayden Juergensen during the eighth inning in last Friday’s playoff game.

Juergensen won a foot race to first base to record the out. In doing so, Maas’ head hit Juergensen’s shoulder at full speed and knocked Maas to the ground, where he laid motionless for several minutes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a collision harder than that,” Malachek said, “When you see him go down like that and he’s not moving, you start to worry.”

A stunned Memorial Park gave Maas a nice ovation as he was assisted into an ambulance. Later reports diagnosed him with a severe concussion.

“Nate was out for a while, and I know Juergensen felt terrible, but it was just an accidental collision,” Pack said. “Nate’s had concussions in the past from football, so that’s the worrisome thing about that. It was pretty precautionary, but we’re very optimistic he’ll be okay. He’s out for the rest of the season though, which is a tough way to end it.”


Howard Lake, Delano

Howard Lake’s 7-6 victory over sixth-seeded Delano in last Saturday’s Region12C elimination game assured the Orphans the third seed for the upcoming Class C state tournament. Delano is the fourth seed.

The Orphans open state with 1:30 p.m. contest on Saturday, Aug. 18 at New Prague against New London-Spicer, the second seed from Region 4. Delano plays earlier that day at 11 a.m. against Lake City, the second seed from Region 5.



Hutchinson selected Maple Plain’s Judson McKown with the first-overall pick in Sunday’s Region 12C Player Draft. Other first rounders included: Loretto’s Colton Petron (2nd, Maple Lake), Loretto’s George Faue (3rd, Howard Lake), and Dassel-Cokato’s Jordan Flick (4th, Delano).

Round two draftees included: Maple Plain’s Billy Soule (5th, Hutch), Buffalo’s Carter Vogt (6th, Maple Lake), Buffalo’s Jon Euerle (7th, Howard Lake), and Loretto’s Kent Koch (8th, Delano).

Round three draftees included: Dassel-Cokato’s Tyler Zweibohmer (9th, Hutch), Maple Plain’s Andy Johnson (10th, Maple Lake), Litchfield’s Joey Hyde (11th, Howard Lake), and Maple Plain’s Colton Peters (12th, Delano).

For Maple Lake, the addition of Petron, Vogt, and Johnson should bolster an already deep pitching lineup.

“Petron is a guy who can help us in the back end in relief, but he can also start a game and get you really good innings,” Pack said. “Vogt is a bulldog with a good reputation, and he threw a hell of a game against us in Maple Lake. Andy is also a guy who can get some outs in the back end.”

For Euerle, this is the third time he’s been drafted by the Orphans.



Mills helps US Juniors earn Bronze Medal at Nationals

Egan Mills, an incoming senior at Buffalo High School, recently played for Team USA in the World Junior Lacrosse Championships on Aug. 9-12 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Team USA went 1-2 over the four days. Mills recorded a goal and three assists over the tournament, which included an 11-9 win on Sunday over Team Swat. Mills was one of the youngest players on the US 20U-team that took home ther bronze. (Photo by Tony Mills)







Northwinds’ principal excited to join BHM School District

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Carmen Tubbs can relate to her new students when the opening day of school starts on Tuesday, Sept. 4 at Northwinds Elementary School.

Tubbs is currently in the middle of her second month as new principal at Northwinds, replacing Shawn Gombos, who retired from the district after serving five years (2013-2018).

“Yes, absolutely,” said Tubbs, when asked if she will feel like a new student as well. “I’ve identified with all the new students that have come in to register in the summer. I tell them all that I am going to be learning along with you, and that I will be just like you.”

Tubbs grew up in Hendricks, a small town in southwest Minnesota with a population of 713. She and her husband, Nick, and three-year old daughter moved to Buffalo this summer from North Dakota, where she spent the past three years as principal at Wahpeton Elementary.

“My family and I have already felt very welcome by the community,” Tubbs said. “We’re happy to be here and are very excited for the opportunity.”

This past school year, Tubbs was named one of 20 recipients of the 20 Under 40 award. This was a local award presented by the Daily News Media and News-Monitor Media in the area of Wahpeton, which recognized 20 young professionals for their contributions to the area.

Tubbs graduated in 2009 from Minnesota State University–Moorhead with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education. She received her Master’s of Special Education Strategist degree in 2011 from the University of North Dakota, and her Education Leadership Master’s Degree in 2014 from MSU-Moorhead.

“My initial teaching background was in special education,” said Tubbs, who was a Special-Ed teacher from 2011-2015 in the West Fargo School District. “Most of my background has always been with students in elementary school settings. I would say most of my passion lies is at the elementary level.”

Despite a number of job openings, Tubbs says she was drawn into the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District based on its reputation.

Northwinds and Montrose Elementary School of Innovation (MESI) were both named Reward Schools during the 2015-16 school year.

It was the second year in a row MESI was given the honor and first for Northwinds.

Reward Schools are recognized by the Minnesota Department of Education for having demonstrated exceptional student outcomes and success in closing achievement gaps.

“The BHM School District and its reputation is widely known,” Tubbs said. “We were drawn to the Buffalo community, because of that. People have lots of good things to say about Northwinds, and I know the school is in a very good place. I’m looking forward to joining and keeping that progress going.”

Tubbs joins current district principals, which include: Mark Mischke (Buffalo High School), Matt Lubben (Buffalo Community Middle School), Mat Nelson (Discovery Elementary), Brad Koltes (Hanover Elementary), Tony Steffes (Montrose Elementary School of Innovation), Michelle Robinson (Parkside Elementary), and Don Metzler (Tatanka Elementary STEM).

“We often would come through town on the way to visit family, and knew that if anything ever opened in the area that we would seek out that opportunity,” Tubbs said. “We are grateful that the district was willing to give us this opportunity to be here.”


Minnesota Voyageur 50-mile run fulfills dreams

By Arynn Maznio

Early Saturday morning of July 28, several hundred runners, including myself (Arynn Maznio), gathered at the front of the high school in Carlton, Minnesota. 

The bright colors of hydration packs, running shoes, and Hawaiian print shirts contributed to the excitement as we anticipated the countdown at the starting line. I was about to test my limits at the farthest distance I have run, to date: 50 miles – on trail!

Rewinding four years, I just finished an inspiring book, “Eat and Run,” written by a famous ultramarathoner Scott Jurek. I was intrigued by his take on a vegan diet and running adventures across the globe. In particular, there was a race he mentioned called the Minnesota Voyageur – the race that started his journey. I told myself that one day I would sign up and experience it myself. 

Last February, I decided that 2018 would be the year. The Minnesota Voyageur 50-mile Ultramarathon takes place every July, rain or shine, in Carlton. The course follows the Munger Trail, the Superior Hiking Trail, and road to the 25-mile turnaround adjacent to the zoo in Duluth. Founded in 1982, the Voyageur is one of the oldest trail ultramarathons in the United States and a tough one, boasting just over 4,000-feet ascent and equal descent over the duration of the course. The rugged terrain, along Jay Cooke State Park, and the steep hillside overlooking Lake Superior allow runners to experience rocky forest single track and grueling climbs through a notorious “powerline” section.

When the race officially started, we took off down the neighborhood roads and paved trail to reach the first, and most technical, section of the Superior Hiking Trail, which resulted in a bottleneck at the entrance. We ran through Jay Cooke State Park, where we were treated to the scenic views of the St. Louis River from the bridge and overlooks. The luxury of the beautiful trail soon gave way to a section known to runners as “Purgatory,” a set of two steep hills, followed by a run through the trees to the powerlines.

Thankfully, I managed to run both the out and back before the thunderstorm hit. On rainy race years, course officials place cables along the hills to provide runners a means to pull themselves up and over, because the near-vertical climbs lose all manner of footholds and grip, since the trail becomes 100-percent mud.

Along the course route, volunteers set up fully-stocked aid stations with treats to help racers maintain our nutritional needs. During ultras, loading up on snacks is an effort to prevent, or at least delay a “bonk,” the result of losing energy from not consuming adequate calories. Aid stations provide anything and everything you could hope for in the middle of the woods, when a race this distance can take anywhere from 6-1/2 hours to over half a day. 

I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the aid station volunteers who spent their day hauling goodies out to designated stations to help us reach our running goals. Some of my favorite treats from these aid stations were the Swedish Fish candies, mini peanut butter sandwiches, and pickle juice.

This year, the Minnesota Voyageur was one for the books, not only due to the beautiful cool weather and amazing volunteers, but because the race record, held for 20 years by world champion ultrarunner, and author of “Eat and Run” Scott Jurek, was broken by Duluth native Ben Cogger. His time, a lightning-fast 6 hours, 40 minutes and 34 seconds, topped the charts, skimming past Jurek’s 1998 record of 6:41:16. Maznio placed 193 out of 346 total runners in 11:33.54.

While I can’t imagine running 50 miles that swiftly, I know for certain that this new record created plenty of excitement within the ultrarunning community!

The ultrarunning community, while small, is a diverse and welcoming group of runners of all ages. My personal journey to run this race spans over 4 years of dreaming, training, and taking risks.

While 50 miles is only the beginning of the distances I hope to race in the next few years, I hope that the ultrarunning and trail running culture encourages individuals to test their comfort zones, to take a risk and try something new, and explore local trails, one mile at a time.


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