Some amazing stories are being told this week at the boys state tennis tournament. Probably the most well-known player is Ingrid Neel, a seventh-grade female who is part of the Class 2A boys championship team from Rochester Mayo. Montevideo senior Eric Johnson qualified for the 1A tournament with doubles partner Jesse Brace. Oh by the way, Eric has a prosthetic left leg as a result of a childhood accident.
And then there is Brendan “Beezer” Skime, who is the busiest athlete in Minnesota this week. The senior from Thief River Falls competed with his Prowlers tennis teammates as they finished fourth in the Class 1A tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday in Minneapolis. He’ll stay in town for the rest of the week, but he’s not finished competing at state.
Come Friday, Skime (right) will compete in the 3,200-meter run in the 1A state track meet at Hamline University in St. Paul. On Saturday he will run the 1,600 meters, and that will complete a high school career like few others. By the time Skime hits the finish line on Saturday, he will have competed in 12 different state tournaments in four sports.
He’s been to state six times in tennis (joining the varsity as a seventh-grader), three times in cross-country, twice in track and once in hockey. He’s especially busy in the spring, going to tennis practice after school and getting in some miles for track in the evening. He’s the only two-sport spring athlete in Thief River Falls for as long as anybody can remember.
“Sometimes it’s hard,” he said Wednesday at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center, site of the 1A tournament. “You don’t get to spend time with friends when you have to practice with the tennis team and then do a running workout. But it’s still fun.”
About that nickname. When Brendan was young, his favorite hockey player was NHL goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, whose nickname was Beezer. “My dad shot a softball at me, it hit me and he said, ‘Bonk on the Beezer.’ It just stuck with me ever since.” I asked Brendan if anyone ever calls him Brendan. Answer: Negative. In fact, the lane assignments for the state track meet have him officially listed as “Beezer Skime.”
Beezer is not only a committed and experienced athlete, he also is talented. He placed 15th and ninth at state in cross-country the last two years and was 15th in the 3,200 at the state track meet last year.
“He manages everything real well,” said Thief River Falls tennis coach Tim Engelstad. “He’s an exceptional young man.”
Beezer didn’t join the track team until his junior year. It’s no surprise that Prowlers boys and girls track coach Lynn Dyer urged him to give it a try.
“I made it to state when I was a sophomore in cross-country and then I wanted to (join track) as a sophomore but it didn’t work out because it was too late,” Skime said. “My junior year the track coach, Lynn Dyer, said, ‘The 3,200 would be a good race for you.’ ”
Beezer will attend North Dakota State University in the fall and be part of the cross-country and track teams. He calls tennis his No. 1 priority because it’s the sport he has played the longest.
One of his toughest decisions came last month when the Section 8 tennis tournament coincided with a sub-section track meet. Beezer -- who qualified for state tennis as an individual last year (when the two sports didn’t have a section conflict) -- had to make a hard decision this year and he chose track.
“This year it didn’t work out,” he said. “It was tough.”
His senior year has been pretty special, considering that he will have competed in four state tournaments. But it all seems to be part of the plan.
“I’m always practicing and working out, trying to improve,” he said.
--I’ll be in North Mankato on Thursday and Friday for the state softball tournament and at Hamline on Saturday for the second day of state track. As always seems to be the case, weather may play a factor in the softball tourney at Caswell Park. There’s a 70 percent chance of rain in the Mankato area on Friday with a high temp of 59 degrees (out with the sunblock, in with the umbrella). But looking at the half-full glass, the conditions Thursday for softball and Saturday for track look outstanding. Cross your fingers, everybody.
--To see a photo gallery from the boys state tennis tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 699
*Miles John has driven: 10,488
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn