During the fall Bemidji High School offers eight varsity sports programs. The first to begin its campaign and the first to end is girls tennis and, based on potential tournament success the fall sports schedule can continue this year through Nov. 26 with the state Class 4A football championship game.
Also on the Lumberjacks fall sports scene are volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer and girls swimming.
Each year the Lumberjacks expect an individual or two to qualify for state competition but BHS sports fans have been spoiled by the success of this fall's teams and individuals.
Qualifying for state is a tremendous achievement and this fall Bemidji has experienced a season to remember.
Of the eight programs, the girls soccer, volleyball, football and girls swimmers have claimed section championships. Individually, Jenna Truedson and Sam Carlson advanced to state in cross country and Saturday the Lumberjacks had five individuals and two relays earn trips to the state swimming and diving meet.
In the world of outstate Minnesota high school sports, you couldn't ask for anything more.
"I can't remember a season like this," BHS activities director Troy Hendricks told the student body during last week's pep fest to honor the state-bound volleyball and football teams. "This fall has been special."
Swimming and diving
Bemidji's depth and standout individual performances Friday and Saturday led the Lumberjacks to the Section 8A championship at Detroit Lakes. BHS finished with 426.5 points and shaded Park Rapids which tallied 400.
Among the state qualifiers is senior diver Jana Hedstrom who is making her third straight appearance at the meet. Hedstrom, and diving teammate Kylei Grosfield, will begin their quests for state medals noon Thursday during the diving preliminaries at the University of Minnesota pool.
The Jacks swimmers who will hit the water on Friday for the preliminaries include Lexie Hendricks in the 200 free and 500 free, Steph Frey in the 200 individual medley and 100 free, and Erin Arndt in the 100 fly.
Bemidji also will be represented by Kenzie Timms, Arndt, Danielle Hoven and Frey in the 200 and 400 free relays.
"We competed very well at the section meet," said Bemidji coach Woody Leindecker. "The relays came together at the right time, Erin Arndt came out of nowhere to win the 100 fly, Jana was at the top of her game in diving and Kylei handled herself very well. Lexie swam two smart races to qualify and Steph was her usual dominating self."
Most of the swimmers at the state meet will be one week past their taper peak but all year long Frey has designed her workouts to be at her best for the state meet.
"This is Steph's time now," Leindecker said of the state competition. "Steph will be shaved and she will be rested for the state."
In recent years Minnesota State High School officials have decided to rank the top four state tournament qualifiers in most of the team events.
That practice, however, is not followed for football. If it were, Bemidji and Mankato West would have been placed in different brackets and they would not be squaring off in Friday's Class 4A semifinals.
The Lumberjacks enter the 12:45 p.m. semifinal as the top Class 4A team in terms of the QRF rankings (record and strength of schedule) while Mankato West is second.
In the final Associated Press poll, Mankato West was rated first and Bemidji third.
St. Thomas Academy was rated second but it lost 32-31 in overtime to South St. Paul in the Section 3 final.
Last week, while BHS was defeating Spring Lake Park 24-6 in the state quarter-finals, Mankato West was manhandling South St. Paul 35-14.
Lumberjacks coach Troy Hendricks was proud of his team's efforts in the state quarterfinal and knows that Mankato West will present an even greater challenge.
"Our offensive line had a great game and defensively we played lights out," Hendricks said. "I thought we won all three phases of the game.
"But Mankato West is going to give us our sternest test of the year," the coach continued. "In my mind this probably is the state championship game. Mankato West is the real deal and our kids are playing great football. It should be a tremendous game."
Earlier this fall Bemidji captured the Lakes to Prairie Conference boys championship and was second in the girls division. As a reward the boys program received six first team all conference picks and an honorable mention selection. The girls team had five players named to the first team and another to the honorable mention squad.
Headlining the boys team is Isak Sommer who made the all-conference squad for the third time. Fellow senior Kyle Fodness earned the honor for the second consecutive fall.
Joining them were seniors Nick Gorick, Ian Sweeney Smith and Zach Jones plus junior goalie Connor McNallan.
Senior goalie Carl Graefe was named to the honorable mention team.
Senior Caitlin Blotske and junior Erin Booth were picked to the girls all-conference team for the second year. Joining them were seniors Josie Spry and Kiah Hartung plus junior Kelsey Merck.
Freshman Sierra Anderson was Bemidji's honorable mention selection.
Fodness also represented Bemidji at last week's soccer Senior Classic All Star game which matched the top seniors of Class A against their Class AA counterparts.
Fodness played a little more than half of the game and scored a goal to help the Class A team post a 6-4 victory.
The boys team held its season-ending banquet last week and Thursday the girls will stage theirs. The event will begin at 6 p.m. at St. Mark's Lutheran Church.
Bemidji's girls hockey team had a very successful debut as it stopped East Grand Forks 3-2 Friday at the Community Arena.
Allie Heifort, who began her Friday playing in the state volleyball consolation semifinals, scored Bemidji's first goal. Later in the game Francesca Huerd and Madelyn Tews also found the net.
The Lumberjacks will try to post their second victory Nov. 18 when they visit Thief River Falls at 7 p.m.
Pep fest honors teams
The state-bound BHS swimmers, divers and football players will be honored 2:45 p.m. Wednesday at a pep fest at the high school gym.
Football fans are also invited to take the bus to Friday's football game at the Metrodome.
The football boosters are sponsoring a coach bus which leaves at 7 a.m. Friday from the high school parking lot. The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for siblings of the players.
This bus is reserved for parents, family, alumni and community members.
Reservations will be accepted through 5 p.m. Tuesday by contacting Joe Bofferding at 556-0651.
A school bus also will make the trip and that cost is $15. Fans may register at the school activities office.
Advanced tickets for Friday's game ($8 for students and $12 for adults) are also available at the activities office through 3 p.m. Thursday.
Fans wishing to purchase Lumberjack hankies, T-shirts, key chains, dog tags and window clings may also do so at the activities office.
Winter sports begin
Monday represented the start of the winter sports seasons for girls basketball, cross country skiing, boys hockey and gymnastics as those teams staged their initial practices.
The boys basketball and wrestling teams begin their workouts Nov. 21 and the boys swimmers will hit the pool on Nov. 28.