All it takes to understand the depth and breadth of high school sports taking place in Minnesota right now is one quick gander up a few inches, at the top of this web site.
Everything is laid out for us: Scores and brackets in girls’ lacrosse, boys’ lacrosse, boys’ tennis, softball …along with clickable tabs with information on the upcoming state track meet as well as the state baseball tournament, which will culminate the spring season in a very sweet way at Target Field.
Take a step away from the worldwide web, however, and visit one of the many scenes of all these events. There we see cheering crowds, celebrating student-athletes and the culmination of countless hours of hard work, planning and even a little bit of dreaming.
I always try to gather up my favorite moments from tournament time and savor them. I already have a frontrunner in that category this spring, and it is something new: a smiling female student manager, taking center stage during the presentation of state championship medals for a boys’ sport.
Her name is Lauren Brumback. After the Eagles defeated Eagan 6-1 Wednesday at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center to claim the school’s first Class 2A boys’ tennis team title, coach Dean Rudrud had Lauren take over as master of ceremonies. She announced the names of each player as they stepped forward, bowed their heads and had a gold medal draped around their necks. Then she stood and smiled some more, in the midst of the boys as they posed for a team photo. It was tremendously neat.
Speaking of tremendous things, Eden Prairie is experiencing a sports year that is something to behold. The boys’ tennis championship was part of a long line of success stories since the 2009-10 school year began. The Eagles football team went to state last fall for about the 99th time in the last 100 years, falling to Cretin-Derham Hall in the Class 5A championship game. But there’s plenty more where that came from…
--The Eden Prairie girls’ lacrosse team fell to Blake 11-10 in Wednesday night’s state championship game at Chanhassen. The Eagles had won two of the first three state titles since that sport came under MSHSL sponsorship. Blake's title capped a darn good day for the Bears, by the way; the boys' tennis team also won a state title earlier in the day.
--The baseball team won the Class 3A, Section 2 title Tuesday night and will play in next week’s state tournament.
--Heading into next week’s state track and field meet, the Eagles have the state’s best time this spring in the boys’ 4x100 relay, along with the top long jumper (Rumeal Harris) and triple jumper (Mike Sandle) in the state.
--In cross-country, the boys’ team won the Class 2A state title last fall and junior Aaron Bartnik was the individual champion.
--Sophomore Meghan Cummings won a state swimming title in the 100-yard butterfly last fall.
--In girls’ tennis last fall, senior Makenna Borg and sophomore Maddie Buxton won the Class 2A doubles title.
--The boys’ basketball team went to state in Class 4A last winter, finishing fourth.
--And the wrestling team went to state in Class 3A, also finishing fourth.
Rudrud said Eden Prairie’s success begins with athletic director/football coach Mike Grant.
“Mike Grant’s philosophy at our head coach’s meetings is that everybody should have 100 percent great experiences,” Rudrud said. “If the kids are having fun and they’re improving, winning will take care of itself. Mike is such a great leader and he’s not just about football. At least in our meetings, he’s like, ‘OK, tennis, what do you need? Choir, what do you need?’ He’s really kind of raised the bar. It starts at the top and just kind of works down.”
Wednesday’s tennis championship was not a world-class surprise, at least not to the coach. Rudrud began the season with a very young team and saw it take home the gold with a lineup that featured ninth-graders in the No. 2 (David Zhou), No. 3 (Salam Bachour) and No. 4 (Sam Doud) singles spots. The No. 1 singles player Wednesday was a relatively seasoned veteran: sophomore Scott Elsass.
“I’ve got four ninth-graders, and they could have made the team as seventh- and eighth-graders, but we can’t take seventh- and eighth-graders because of district policy,” Rudrud said. “My focus was winning the state championship this year. It would have been disappointing if we hadn’t won the state championship.”
Eagan, which also was seeking its first boys’ team tennis title, is almost as young as Eden Prairie. The top singles players – Vishal Yelsetti and Brian Fisk – are seniors, followed by sophomore Ben Ekstein at No. 3 singles and eighth-grader Zach Eckstein at No. 4. Half of the Wildcats’ six doubles players also will return next season.
NOW IS WHEN MILES begin to be added to a few odometers. The state softball tournament kicks off Thursday in North Mankato, leading to a stream of vehicles coming in from all over the state. I may attempt a long-distance doubleheader Thursday, driving to North Mankato in the morning and heading to Mounds View for Thursday evening’s boys’ lacrosse semifinals. If not on Thursday, that will definitely happen for me on Friday.
Let's see, driving from my house to North Mankato to Mounds View and then back home; how many miles is that?
I better go get my oil changed …
--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