Bison divers make huge splash at state

Basketball Preview: Bison hope to march back to state after magical ride in 2013-14

Hockey Preview: Top guns return as Bison hope to shoot down title

Buffalo hosts first Jazz Meet; Rogers finishes first

Parkside students roll through November class

Journal-Press Internet Sports & School -November 20, 2014
Rob LaPlante

Journal-Press Sports Editor Rob LaPlante may be reached
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Bison divers make huge splash at state

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

When Shannon Barclay took the position last fall as the new Buffalo girls’ diving coach, she knew she was inheriting a group of young and talented divers. What she wasn’t expecting was for one of them to come within three dives of becoming a state champ.

Rachel Bertram capped off a remarkable junior year by finishing second in the Class 2A state diving competition which started on Wednesday, Nov. 12 and concluded with a silver medal around her neck on Friday, Nov. 14 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

“I knew she was a really strong diver coming into the year,” Barclay said. “Before I even saw the (state) competition, I really thought she would place in the top eight.”

Even though Bertram was a first-time state participant, she came in as one of the hottest divers breaking pool and school records throughout the season and landing a first-place score of 467.90 at the section meet.

Bertram credits major improvements this season from time she’s put in competing for her diving club, which also competes at the Aquatic Center. She said the comfort of knowing her surroundings at the state meet helped, but she admitted nerves kicked in as soon as the meet begun.

“I’ve been here before and I knew a lot of the girls, but I was so nervous for this meet,” Bertram said. “My goal coming in was to just make it to finals. I wasn’t expected to finish in first place.”

The scoreboard after day one of the state preliminaries and semifinals not only had her among the final 16 divers, but her score of 304.75 had her atop the entire field heading into Friday’s final three dives.

With a day off between prelims and finals, Bertram said it was exciting knowing she was the leader, but she also knew some of the divers slightly behind her in score were saving their best dives for last. Stillwater senior and future U of M diver Liz Click took home first-place thanks to three final dives that she registered scores of 50 or above. Bertram sealed her fate as state runner-up scoring a total of 128.25 on her final three dives, including her 10th dive that registered a 41.60.

“I am actually glad that Liz won. I’m so proud of her,” Bertram said. “I didn’t really think about it (first place) too much. All I was worried about was the last three dives and I was pretty happy with how I did with those.”

Even though she predicted a top-eight finish, Barclay admitted afterwards she was a tad surprised at how high she placed.

“Second place was a little unexpected for me. Especially seeing her at the top heading into finals,” Barclay said. “She did everything she could do during finals. I’m totally happy for her.”

Barclay had the challenge of controlling the nerves of not one, but two state divers. Freshman Alex Zeiss was also making her state debut. She came into the meet finishing third at sections, and much like Bertram, Zeiss’ goal was to make it past day one.

Unlike her teammate, Zeiss was competing for the first time at the Aquatic Center, and admitted the nerves were getting the best of her early.

“The first dive was scary and a little intimidating,” Zeiss said. “I got used to things after my second dive, but it was pretty nerve wracking coming in.”

 “When she first came here, you could just see that she was nervous and intimidated,” Barclay said. “What’s really nice about state is I don’t have to judge during prelims, so I can sit and talk with them. That’s so much more relaxing for them.”

After a few first-day jitters, Zeiss started to prove she belonged among the state’s elite. Her day one score of 249.65 was good for 15th place and qualified her to Friday’s final round.

“At first, she felt like she didn’t belong,” Barclay said. “But I kept telling her that she deserved to be here. She is a good diver.”

While she didn’t get to stand next to Bertram among the state’s top-8, Zeiss said she was thrilled to see her teammate standing on the second-place podium.

“Rachel deserves it, she’s worked so hard all season,” Zeiss said. “I’m happy for her.”

Barclay was equally happy for both divers. Zeiss finished in 15th place overall with an 11-dive score of 342.90.

“For Alex as a freshman to place in the top half of the state tournament is incredible,” she said. “The experience they got should really help motivate both divers for next year.”



Delano freshman Jordyn Wentzel finished as Class A state champion in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:08.78.

Wentzel had a busy day competing in four events. On top of her gold medal in the distance race, she finished 12th in the 200 freestyle and also competed as part of Delano’s 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay squads.

Dassel-Cokato senior Elisa Burgstahler, a University of Minnesota Gopher recruit, finised third in the 200 freestyle in 1:52.85 and fourth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:06.10. She also competed in her team’s 200 medley and 400  freestyle relay squads. The Chargers finished 11th as a team with 73 points. Delano was 12th with 65.5 and Monticello was 15th at 41.5.

The Magic were led by eighth-grader Alyssa Eckstein’s  sixth-place time of 2:13.34 in the 200 individual medley and her sister Amber Eckstein, a junior, who finished second overall in the 100 breaststroke in 1:04.64.

The Section 8AA champion STMA Knights qualified  seven swimmers in six events.  Eighth-grader Emma Lezer enjoyed the most success finishing sixth in the 100 breaststroke, 12th in the 200 individual medley and took part in both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays. Lezer and the Knights finished 14th as a team with 52 points. Buffalo finished 22nd overall with 19 points.


Class A Finals

(Friday, Nov. 14 at U of M Aquatic Center)

Team scores (Top 5; Wright County area finishes): 1. Visitation 309.5, 2. Sartell 180, 3. Albert Lea 172, 4. Breck 151, 5. Mankato West 142, 11. Dassel-Cokato 73, 12. Delano 65.5, 15. Monticello 41.5.

200 Medley Relay: 1. Albert Lea 1:44.73; 10. Delano (Morgan Frank, Jordyn Wentzel, Jenna Grangroth, Lauren York) 1:53.07; 15. Dassel-Cokato (Kallie Evans, Elisa Burgstahler, Amy Weiss, Olivia Travis) 1:54.56.

200 Freestyle: 1. Chantal Nack (Mankato West) 1:50.91l; 3. Burgstahler (D-C) 1:52.85; T-12. Wentzel (Delano) 1:59.45; 14. Travis (D-C) 1:59.60.

200 Individual Medley: 1. Lindsey Horejsi (Albert Lea) 1:59.77; 6. Alyssa Eckstein (Monticello) 2:13.34.

50 Freestyle: 1. Anna Anderson (Albert Lea) 23.65.

1-Meter Diving: 1. Megan White (Blake/Providence) 415.70; 10. Paige Draack (Monti) 347.35; T-12. Taylor Boraas (Monti) 338.50; 15. Bethany Mayfield (D-C) 322.80; 16. Caitlin Latt (D-C) 316.10.

100 Butterfly: 1. Bre Thorne (Breck) 55.88.

100 Freestyle: 1. Abbie Dolan (Visitation) 49.60; 13. Travis (D-C) 55.20.

500 Freestyle: 1. Wentzel (Delano) 5:08.78; 9. Frank (Delano) 5:17.43.

200 Freestyle Relay: 1. Visitation 1:35.52. 

100 Backstroke: 1. Nack (Mankato West) 55.72.

100 Breaststroke: 1. Horejsi (Albert Lea) 59.56; 2. Amber Eckstein (Monti) 1:04.64; 4. Burgstahler (D-C) 1:06.10.

400 Freestyle Relay: 1. Visitation 3:30.82; 5. Dassel-Cokato (Travis, Amy Weiss, Emily Kivisto, Burgstahler) 3:39.71; 9. Delano (Frank, York, Kalley Johnson, Wentzel) 3:40.22.


Class AA Finals

(Friday, Nov. 14 at U of M Aquatic Center)

Team scores (Top 5; Wright County area finishes): 1. Wayzata 337, 2. Edina 281, 3. Minnetonka 192.5; 4. Chanhassen 186, 5. Rochester Mayo 140, 14. St. Michael-Albertville 52, 22. Buffalo 19.

200 Medley Relay: 1. Wayzata 1:42.30; 11. STMA (Kelsey Kocon, Emma Lezer, Kristina Swenson, Lexi Heil) 1:50.41.

200 Freestyle: 1. Courtney Evensen (Robbinsdale Armstrong) 1:49.22.

200 Individual Medley: 1. Madison Preiss (Wayzata) 2:01.50; 12. Lezer (STMA) 2:08.27.

50 Freestyle: 1. Rachel Wittmer (Edina) 22.62.

1-Meter Diving: 1. Liz Click (Stillwater) 463.25; 2. Rachel Bertram (Buffalo) 423; 15. Alex Zeiss (Buffalo) 342.90.

100 Butterfly: 1. Zoe Avestruz (Chanhassen) 53.36.

100 Freestyle: 1. Wittmer (Edina) 49.82.

500 Freestyle: 1. Kallyn Barkey (Rochester Mayo) 4:55.34.

200 Freestyle Relay: 1. Edina 1:33.80; 9. STMA (Carly Roberts, Jordyn Schnell, Heil, Lezer) 1:39.16.

100 Backstroke: 1. Avestruz (Chanhassen) 51.98.

100 Breaststroke: 1. Olivia Anderson (Edina) 1:01.47; 6. Lezer (STMA) 1:04.76.

400 Freestyle Relay: 1. Chanhassen 3:22.37; 15. STMA (Roberts, Julia Pieper, Maddie Gallagher, Taylor Pehrson) 3:39.30.



Basketball Preview: Bison hope to march back to state after magical ride in 2013-14

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Buffalo High School head coach Nick Guida demands a lot from his players, particularly his upperclassmen.

This season is no different. With experienced seniors Zach Dahl, Jonny Senger, Jared High, Cory Thielman and Taylor Spier all returning from last year’s team that made a remarkable run to a Section 8-4A championship, this year’s squad is hungry once again to reach that Target Center floor come March.

“Once you experience it once, you want more of it,” explained Senger, who played a key role as the team’s primary sixth-man last season. “You have that urge to go back there and get revenge for what we didn’t accomplish last year and see if we can accomplish that this year.”

The Bison finished the regular season 23-7 overall and were a perfect 13-0 in the Mississippi 8. They went on to defeat Rogers, Elk River and St. Cloud Tech in the section playoffs before losing to eventual Class 4A state champion Lakeville North 59-47 in the state quarterfinal game.  

Dahl is the lone returning starter off last year’s team. He said it will be difficult to replace the four starters that graduated in Andrew Iverson, Collin Olmscheid, Levi Bean and Sam Ortmann. The team also graduated popular role players in Cameron Sonju, Josh Braxton and Austin Johnson.

“The biggest thing we lost was size,” said Dahl, who likely will retain his role as starting point guard. “We had some great seniors graduate. We know we’re not going to be the team we were last year. We have to create our own mold and see what’s going to work for this team.”

Dahl is the team’s leading returning scorer. His 8.0 points per game ranked fourth behind Olmscheid’s 17.6, Ortmann’s 13.8 and Bean’s 13.5 scoring average.

Buffalo will look for increased production from some old faces in High, Thielman, Spier and Senger. The Bison have a lot of new faces in the mix fighting for spots. Six-foot-nine, 260-pound senior, Matt Laidlaw, could see an increased role to help replace the inside presence both Bean and Olmscheid presented. Juniors Matt Montplaisir, Jonny Miller and Dylan Rohlin are talented guards that will also fight for playing time.

Guida admitted that last year was a special year, but feels with a little time and hard work, this year’s squad can pull off some of the same magic.

“We lost a great senior class last year and a lot of people after a season like that would question what we’re going to do now,” Guida said. “We’ve had that question asked almost every single year since I’ve been at Buffalo. Although we lost a great senior class, in my mind every year we’ve had a great senior class and this team this year is capable of getting to the state tournament.”

Guida’s troops begin their five-month journey with a schedule that is very similar to years past. The season opener begins with a 7:15 p.m. home game on Friday, Nov. 21 against another Class 5A state tournament squad from a year ago in the Osseo Orioles. That will be followed up with two tough section matchups against Elk River and Moorhead.

Buffalo posted a 1-2 record against the same teams early in the season a year ago. Guida said this year will be no different the way he approaches the season.

“Early in the season, it’s always a process,” Guida said. “I’ve never been one to expedite the process for early results. I’m looking for results in the long term.”

The Bison were actually a .500 team (5-5 overall) at the beginning of last year. After Jan. 1, they went on to finish the season on a remarkable 18-2 run, which included a team-record 16-game winning streak.

“A lot of people might bring out our early season record saying we don’t have a lot of success,” Guida said. “In reality, that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking to teach kids to play our systems and play the game of basketball the right way. If you look back, often times we have the long term results.”

While players and coaches like to look forward rather than look behind, both Dahl and Senger realized how special last season was.

The Bison made it to state thanks to a remarkable 83-75, five-overtime victory over St. Cloud Tech on March 6, 2014 in the Section 8-4A title game at Monticello. They went on to face and lose to eventual state champion Lakeville North in front of a huge crowd of Buffalo supporters at Target Center in the first round of the state quarterfinals.

“We had a great run,” Dahl said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted to at the end, but we have a lot to build off of and there is good opportunity for some of our younger players this year.”

The Bison did not name team captains in the early season, but Dahl, a four-year varsity player, will no doubt be the leader of the team. He and three-year varsity players, Senger, Spier and High should provide enough floor leadership to keep the ship moving forward.

Senger saw an increase in playing time as the season progressed a year ago, and scored several key baskets in Buffalo’s state tournament run. He pumped in a career high 20 points in their section playoff win over Rogers and later added nine in their loss to Lakeville North.

“Jonny is not afraid to put his head down and get to the rim,” chuckled Dahl. “He plays good defense, but we want him to get to the rim and draw some fouls and every now and then we’ll let him shoot a three.”

This year’s seniors know it’s their year to shine on the court. Despite losing some big-time talent, Senger said he’s looking forward to the challenge of hopefully making a repeat trip back to the Target Center.

“A lot of other teams in our section lost a lot of talent, too,” Senger said. “I think we have the talent. Jared is a fantastic shooter who will rip it up for us when he’s on fire. Cory plays the game hard and has some height we really need. We really need him to step it up for us. We’re going to put in a lot of hard work and I’m confident we’re going to make it back to state.”



Hockey Preview: Top guns return as Bison hope to shoot down title

Bison graduated 11 seniors, but top scoring line remains in tact as team seeks conference title and section playoff home-ice advantage

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Buffalo boys’ hockey head coach Aaron Johnson should have no problem looking down at his bench and finding the right players to throw on the ice when searching for offense.

Much like last season, Johnson will rely heavily on the players wearing the uniform numbers 3, 9 and 12. The number three belongs to Jerame Schuetzle, a big-bodied winger with a heavy shot and is not afraid to go to to the front of the net. Number nine belongs to Gunnar Goodmanson, a speedy forward with quick hands, quick feet, good shot and enjoys playing the physical game, and number 12 is Jake Ramsey, a solid playmaker with good vision and good hands.

The all senior line accounted for nearly half of the teams total offense a year ago scoring 54 of the team’s 109 goals and 128 of the team’s 280 total points.

“We’re excited about having our top line back,” Johnson said. “In high school hockey, when you have your top three scorers back and they play together on your top line, that’s a really good place to start. We think we’ll be able to match up with anybody’s top line and come out on the plus side of that every night.”

Goodmanson was responsible for a good bulk of those numbers leading the team with 26 goals and 51 points. Ramsey finished with 41 points and led the team in assists with 27. Schuetzle finished with 14 goals and 36 points.

After tripling his offensive output from his sophomore to junior year, Goodmanson said he’s looking forward to what he and his line can bring to the table this season.

“I’ve set a few personal goals, but I’m just longing for winning and I’m really excited about this year,” Goodmanson said. “I think we’re going to do a lot of good things. We have a lot of younger kids coming up that should fill a lot of roles that we lost last year.”

Even with half of the offense returning, Buffalo was hit hard by graduation losing 11 players off last year’s squad that finished second to Rogers with a 9-3-0 conference record.

Take away this year’s top line, and Buffalo only returns two players who scored goals last season, both coming from defensemen. Senior captain Reed Morehouse is the top returning scoring blue-liner with four goals and 19 points. Junior Luke Merz owns the other two goals. Merz, Morehouse, junior Mike Sawdy, senior Tim Pearson and junior Noah VanderKooi will try and fill a hole on defense that no longer includes the big bodies and big minutes filled by Justin Laven, Loren Lindvall and starting goaltender Mikey Otten.

“There definitely are a lot of question marks,” Johnson said. “I think there’s some potential from some of our young skilled players. But making the leap from either junior varsity or the bantam level to varsity is a big jump. If these young guys adjust quickly, I think we’ll be a pretty good team.”

Morehouse, Ramsey and Goodmanson are this year’s team captains. Morehouse said he’s learned a lot from his former teammates and is excited to be wearing a letter on his jersey this season.

“I started as a sophomore, so I kind of know what it’s like to look up to some of the older players,” Morehouse said. “Just like Justin Laven did for me last year, I kind of hope to do the same for guys like Merz, Pearson and VanderKooi.”

Much like some of the skilled forwards on the team, Morehouse isn’t the biggest guy on the ice, but he offers a lot of speed and great skating ability.

“We don’t have the size that we did a year ago with last year’s seniors,” Morehouse said. “I think speed is going to be our strength this year. We have three lines that have guys with speed and we definitely need to use that to our advantage.”

Junior forwards Kevin Kemp, Brady Hartman, Nick Jensen, senior James McNamara and sophomore Blake Habisch are a few of the new names that will look to replace the size and grit players like Hunter Thompson, Jake Michalko, Kody O’Neill, Casey Anderson and Dylan Kumlin provided.

“I’ve learned from the last couple years where the seniors did a good job of leading, and I’ve picked up a few things,” Goodmanson said. “Our forwards are going to be really strong again, and our defense and goaltending should be good. So far it’s looked really well.”

Habisch, who spent this fall playing in the U-16 Elite League, will make the jump from bantams to varsity and has impressed a lot of his coaches and teammates early on in practice.

“I think Blake is going to be a very good varsity player for us,” Johnson said. “He’s a skilled kid who can step in as a sophomore.”

Unlike a year ago when Johnson had the luxury of returning an experienced goalie in Otten, this year he had four goalies competing in early season tryouts, but only junior Ben Zitur has varsity experience. Zitur saw limited action a year ago playing in only 133:59 as backup to Otten.

“Goaltending is definitely an open competition,” Johnson said. “Last year we only had two goaltenders and this year we have three juniors and a sophomore out. It’s kind of nice because we have a little bit of competition with four goalies to see who steps in and takes that job.”

Buffalo’s season gets underway with a road game at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22 at Osseo.



Buffalo hosts first Jazz Meet; Rogers finishes first

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

The usual suspects highlighted the first competitive dance meet of the season Monday, Nov. 17 at Buffalo High School.

Seven Mississippi 8 schools competed in the opening Jazz Meet and it was the top three finishers of last year claiming the top three spots with defending conference champion Rogers taking first place with four rank points. Last year’s conference runner-up Chisago Lakes was second with six rank points and third-place finisher St. Francis finished with eight. The remaining four teams all receive judging scores but  the results are not made public until after the meet. The Bison finished in sixth place with 18 points.

Bison head coach Kaitlin White said she saw tons of improvement from her squad since the opening week of practice two weeks ago.

“The girls have worked really hard in practice and tonight’s meet they put everything they needed to on the floor,” White said. “That’s all we ask of them.”

Each dance team is judged based off a seven minute performance. St. Francis opened the meet followed by Monticello, Rogers, Big Lake, Buffalo, North Branch and Chisago Lakes.

The Bison were one of the smaller schools participating with only 15 total dancers. Buffalo and North Branch were the only two schools not to have a junior varsity squad perform while judges were tallying their scores.

Some schools preferred to dance to a musical montage. Others, like Buffalo, stuck to one particular song. The Bison performed to the song “Distortion” by David Guetta. Senior captain Sarah Nowezki had mixed opinions on the opening meet.

“We did pretty well for the first competition,” she said. “We definitely have room for improvement. But that should improve each week as the season goes along.”

Nowezki added that she and junior captain Mia Woodwick are dancing with some new faces this season. She could tell nerves were hitting some of the girls as they sat and waited for their turn to take the stage.

“A lot of people I could tell were really nervous when walking on stage,” Nowezki said. “But once the music starts, everybody just kind of goes into their zone. I don’t think anybody really messed up too much. I’m really happy with how we did.”

Buffalo finished sixth in the conference in both jazz and kick a year ago. Being a first-year kick program in 2013, White is excited to see what improvements they have made at the next conference meet, which will be a High Kick performance at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24 at St. Francis.

“We look forward to our first kick meet,” White said. “After that, we’ll be adjusting both dances as needed to make them better for the next competitions.”


Mississippi 8 Jazz Meet

(Monday, Nov. 17 at Buffalo High School)

Team scores: 1. Rogers 4, 2. Chisago Lakes 6, 3. St. Francis 8, 4. Monticello 12, 5. North Branch 15, 6. Buffalo 18, 7. Big Lake 21.



Parkside students roll through November class

By Rob LaPlante

School News Editor

Each student in grades 1-5 at Parkside Elementary School had the opportunity for the month of November to wheel through their physical education class.

Thanks to parent donations, the students had the opportunity once again to roller skate in their school gymnasium during a phy-ed class taught by Mrs. Marci Willis.

This is the second time the school has offered this activity called SkateTime. The last time was in 2012.

This opportunity allows the students to learn and have fun. Kids skated to some of their favorite music and were taught lessons of balance, as well as how to skate forwards and backwards.

This was the second opportunity for PES third-grader Mara Hagen to take part in this activity. She said her skating has improved a ton since the last time she participated as a first-grader.

“I fell down a lot in first grade,” Hagen said. “I like to go fast and I enjoy skating forwards and backwards.”

Different classes met each day from 9:40 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. in the school gymnasium. Hagen said she would like to someday be a professional skater.

“I roller skate at home in my shed,” she said.