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2009 Sports in Review: Bemidji High School highlights included state football team, record-setting volleyball team

Bemidji High School's 24 varsity sports teams enjoyed varied success during 2009.

The nine winter teams led off the year led by the girls basketball squad, which made another strong run at gaining the state tournament, a drive that came up a bucket short at the section semifinals in a 61-59 loss to Elk River.

Bemidji ended 23-4, led by sophomore center Kayla Hirt, who scored a school record 658 points, averaging 25.5 and raising her two-year total to 1,054.

Paige Jensen and Megan Larson went on to college ball.

The boys had a winning basketball season as well, ending 16-10 and also falling to Elk River by two points in the section tournament 76-74.

Ryan Telander, Ray Walker and Sam Weaver advanced to junior college ball while Simon Anderson and Joe Kingery moved on to play Division I baseball and football.

Both hockey teams enjoyed successful winters.

The girls went 18-8-1, bowing to Moorhead 4-1 the section semifinals.

Eleven seniors left the veteran unit with several moving into the college ranks this winter.

Jess Christofferson, now at Mercyhurst, was the scoring leader with 37 points.

The boys had their first winning season in eight years under new head coach Wade Chiodo.

They finished 14-12-1 and were ousted in the section semifinals by Thief River Falls.

Junior Jesse Nemgar led the scoring with 43 points.

Only five senior lettermen graduated, including key goalie Derek Dudgeon.

Both ski teams came up one place short of gaining the state meet, each taking third place at the sectional.

The girls sent Molly Manske to the state meet again and return four of their seven tournament starters this year.

The boys qualified Zac Oelrich and Matt Lee for state and graduated six of their seven tournament starters.

The wrestling squad operated with its smallest cast in history and was seldom able to put a full squad on the mats for any match.

It ended 4-13 in dual matches with its best showing a third at the Rick Lee Invitational.

Corey Huber (1-2) and Evan Olson (2-2) reached the state, neither placing.

The swim team was unbeaten in six duals and won the Detroit Lakes and Bemidji Invitational titles. It took second at the sectional and scored a strong 77½ points at state, its second highest total in history.

It lifted the Jacks to a ninth-place finish.

Graduation claimed only four seniors but they were four of the top seven scorers.

The gymnastics team, without a single senior, went 4-2 in duals and won the Park Rapids Invitational title.

Spring sports

A young Jacks baseball team, with several freshmen and sophomores in the starting cast, stayed around the .500 mark all spring and finished 11-11, losing 2-1 to Moorhead and 1-0 to Brainerd in the sub-section.

With limited graduation losses and a strong supply of talent coming from successful B and C Teams, things look brighter for this spring.

A highly successful softball team took a 19-2 regular season record to the section before falling to Elk River and Apollo to end its year 19-4.

With the B Team 16-2, things also look bright for upcoming years.

Toughest to replace will be hurlers Chelsey Yost (11-3) and Paige Jensen (6-1).

The boys tennis team enjoyed its finest season in many years, ending 14-3, losing to Alexandria in the second round of the section playoffs.

Sam Weaver and Ben Holter combined to win the section doubles title and become the first Jacks to gain the state since Peder Engelstad and Austin Seaverson in 2002. They finished 1-2 and failed to place.

Again a solid nucleus returns this year with another good season in prospect.

Both track squads had average springs though again faring poorly at the section where the boys were eighth and the girls 12.

Erik Truedson placed fifth in the 3200 at the state meet, giving Bemidji its five points. Selina Gilbertson gained the state in the discus but failed to place.

Both teams suffered heavy graduation losses, especially the boys, who graduated a dozen seniors including scoring leader Nate McGriff.

Both golf teams had disappointing seasons.

The girls won the Rogers Invitational and were second in two others meets but sagged to fifth at the section and failed to qualify any state entrants.

Five of the six section starters are back.

The boys won the Wadena title, their only finish higher than third.

They were a distant 11th at the sectional with only freshman Jake Hoffman reaching the second day's play.

All six tournament starters, however, are back with only three of them seniors this year.

Summer play

Action switched from school ball to independent play for the summer.

The Bemidji Mudcats won another Arrowhead League amateur baseball title at 13-3, finished second to newcomer Blaine at the Region 6B tournament but fell at state 5-0 to Sauk Rapids in their only start.

Bemidji ended 27-9-1, led on the mound by Tyler Norland (6-0) and Paul Fenner (8-1).

The team faces a managerial change next summer with assistant Coach Neil Huewe moving up to take over the reins from Scott Seaton, who retired after the state tournament after nine seasons at the helm.

The Blue Ox finished their third summer of play at 11-14, bowing out of the regional when the team found it would not have enough players available to play at the state meet.

It carried the Mudcats to a third and deciding game before losing the city series title and sharing the North Border League title with Roseau at 5-3.

Colton Smith (4-0) and Justin Huether (3-0) paced the mound staff.

An extremely young Legion team went 14-18 including 8-8 in the District 6 regular season chase for third place.

It fell to champion Little Falls and Brainerd in the district meet.

Only four players graduated, with Simon Anderson going on to Division I play at NDSU and Billy Statton to play at Northland CC.

No pitcher won more than three games.

The VFW was 25-10, gaining the state meet where it went 2-2.

Matt Schneider (6-2) led a deep mound staff.

Fall sports

The volleyball team again paced the eight fall sports.

The Jacks ended 22-6, the 22 wins a school record. They fell to Alexandria 3-1 at the sectional after a first round bye.

The team had great balance, size and aggressiveness led by Kayla Hirt on the front line and setter Brooke Homer.

Graduation claimed five of the top 10.

The football team enjoyed a revival under Troy Hendricks, who returned after an eight-year absence to take over the program for a second time.

It ended its regular season 3-5, then swept all three Duluth teams to claim the section crown before losing to Sartell 27-6 in the opening round of the state meet to close 6-6.

Along the way Bemidji swept Brainerd and Moorhead for the first time since1998.

Graduation claimed 17 senior lettermen though only around a dozen were regulars.

The girls tennis team had another fine year, going 11-2 but falling to Brainerd 6-1 in the section final to miss out on a return trip to the state.

It also failed to qualify any individual for the state meet.

Its only other setback was an early season 4-3 loss to East Grand Forks on a day it played shorthanded. It won the Crookston tournament title and had two seconds and a third in its other three major meets.

Both soccer teams played well.

The boys ended 12-5-2, losing at the section to St. Cloud Cathedral 3-0. It outscored its foes 49-40 led by Rylee Curb with 28 goals and 33 points.

Kevin Larson was strong in the net.

The girls were 9-9-1, losing to champion East Grand Forks 2-0 in the section.

It outscored its opponents 43-34.

Goalie Nicole Ramos, a three-year starter, was the MVP with double figure scoring from Bronwyn Boyd, Erin Booth, Caitlin Blotske and Andrea Hanson.

Both cross country teams struggled with the girls ninth and the boys 10th at their section meets and no one reaching the state.

Each, however, graduated only one senior off the section teams and should be better in 2010.

The swim team continued its fine showing with a 7-2-1 finish in dual meets. It won the True Team section title in its first try in Class A and scored seven points at the state.

Graduation will take senior scoring leaders Selina Gilbertson and Katie Verchota. But the team had good balance and seems set for continued success in coming years.