Long hours, pain and personal sacrifices too numerous to count all are part of the routine for athletes and teams that see their seasons extend deep into the playoffs.
This fall four Bemidji High School programs decided that their campaigns would not end without section titles.
The parade began Oct. 25 when the boys cross country team won the Section 8-2A title at Greenwood Golf Course.
Last weekend another two Lumberjacks programs ventured into state-tournament waters when the volleyball team finished sixth at its state tournament and the football squad demolished Moorhead 35-14 in the Class 5A quarterfinals at St. Cloud State.
Saturday’s game marked the fourth straight fall with BHS in the state football playdowns while the volleyball team played in the state meet for the second consecutive season.
This also was a banner weekend for the Jacks swimmers and divers at the Section 8A meet in Warroad. On Friday the team advanced the majority of its athletes to Saturday’s finals. On Saturday everything came together as Bemidji claimed its second straight section crown and advanced all three relays and eight individuals in six different events to the state meet.
“We’ve had a great season,” said BHS coach Woody Leindecker. “We’ve never repeated as the section champion before. We’ve never competed in nine events at state and we’ve never advanced all three of our relays.
“It’s been a good year but we’re still not done. The work is over and the now fun part begins. I’m curious to see how it all ends.”
Last fall it ended with 12th place at the state meet and All-State honors for diver Jana Hedstrom and Steph Frey in the 100 individual medley and 100 free.
Hedstrom finished sixth in her events while Frey was third in both of her individual races.
The 2012 state meet is hosted by the University of Minnesota and begins with Friday’s preliminaries. The top eight finishers following the preliminaries advance to Saturday’s championship round. Athletes who place ninth through 16th in the preliminaries will earn berths in the consolation finals.
“We were 12th last year and our goal is to do better this year,” Leindecker said. “If everything goes well I can see us placing in the top 10 as a team.
“But it is impossible to tell where people will finish just by looking at their seed times,” the coach continued. “The best swimmers swim their fastest times at state but most teams peak for the section meet and can’t duplicate those times at state. I really don’t think our swimmers have hit their peaks yet and if they do that at state it will be very interesting to see how we do.”
Bemidji’s individual state qualifiers include Lexie Hendricks in the 200 free and 500 free, Frey in the 200 IM and 100 free, Erin Arndt in the 200 IM, Kylei Grosfield in diving, Libby McRae in the 100 fly and Alyssa Wright in the 500 free.
The state-bound 200 free relay unit included Morgan Williams, Katie Krause, Maris Jahner and Frey while the 400 free relay team featured Danielle Hoven, Jahner, Arndt and Williams.
Claiming the section’s 200 medley relay were Arndt, Hoven, McRae and Frey.
“We raced well enough at sections to earn the places that we wanted and now we move ahead,” Leindecker said. “At state, if you have a lane you have a chance, and we have the lanes we wanted.”
On paper the BHS football season should have ended a month ago. According to seedings, QRF rankings and general perception, the Lumberjacks were underdogs in their Section 7-5A semifinal at Cambridge, in their section final at Chisago Lakes and last Saturday in the state quarterfinal against Moorhead.
But Bemidji hasn’t paid any attention to rankings all season. Instead, the coaches have concentrated on making the players better each week and the athletes have responded.
That improvement was on full display Saturday when the Jacks reversed a 34-30 season-opening loss at Moorhead with the 35-14 win in the state quarterfinals.
In the other Class 5A quarterfinals, Totino-Grace pounded Apple Valley 42-14, Owatonna blanked Lakeville North 28-0 and St. Thomas Academy blitzed Elk River 30-7.
On Friday St. Thomas Academy (10-1) will face Owatonna (11-0) at the Metrodome and on Saturday the Lumberjacks (9-3) will square off with Totino-Grace (11-0).
Saturday’s contest is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. but it also is the fifth game of the day at the Metrodome so the odds of it beginning late are good.
The semifinal winners return to the Metrodome 4 p.m. Nov. 24 for the state championship game.
Prior to the state tournament Totino-Grace owned the top QRF ranking among Class 5A teams at 159.7. Owatonna was second at 140.9 and St. Thomas Academy fourth at 120.0.
Moorhead was ranked fifth at 119.5 while Bemidji was 19th at 88.0.
The football boosters will be sponsoring fan buses for Saturday’s game and all who want to take advantage of the ride can register from 8 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the BHS activities office.
The cost is $27.50 and payment is required when the reservation is made.
The bus will board from the high school at 1 p.m. and depart at 1:30 p.m.
Advanced tickets for the game are also available at the activities office. The cost is $8 for students (K-12) and $12 for adults. Tickets can be purchased from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. but they must be bought prior to noon on Friday.
The BHS volleyball team ended its season with a 24-9 record and won the first state-tournament match in the program’s history when it downed Owatonna 27-25, 25-17, 24-26, 25-14 in the consolation semifinals.
The Lumberjacks fell to Blaine 3-0 in their state opener and dropped a 3-1 decision to Roseville in the consolation final.
Lakeville North captured the Class 3A crown Saturday night with a 3-1 win over Eden Prairie. Blaine topped Shakopee 3-2 for third place.
Jess Yost caught the attention of the coaches during the state tournament and the Bemidji senior was named to the 10-player All-Tournament Team as an outside hitter.
Lakeville placed three players on the squad, Eden Prairie and Blaine had two and Shakopee and Roseville each had one.
The Lumberjacks opened the year Friday with a 4-4 tie at East Grand Forks and today they head east for a contest at Grand Rapids-Greenway. The Jacks will make their home debut 8 p.m. Friday when they host South St. Paul at the Bemidji Community Arena.