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Bemidji High School fall, winter seasons overlap this week

Bemidji's representatives at the state swimming and diving meet are diver Jana Hedstrom (front) and swimmers Steph Frey (left) and Lexie Hendricks. Pioneer Photo/Pat Miller

The fall sports spotlight will shine on three members of the girls swimming and diving team this week while the winter competition officially begins Friday when the Bemidji High School girls hockey team invades the Bemidji Regional Event Center to host Thief River Falls.

The girls hockey players have been practicing since Nov. 1 and the team is coming off a 19-6-2 season which included a berth in the Section 8AA title game. The Lumberjacks lost six players to graduation but return 13 letterwinners including seniors Chaniel Nelson, Becca Gregg, Janie Johnson, Casey Miller, Amanda Hunt, Emily Denzer and Laura Thompson.

Also back are junior Allison Lapp and sophomore Allie Heifort.

"We have a nice core of returning players but overall team depth is a slight concern," said BHS coach Matt Menne. "Bemidji has a very strong tradition of being competitive against all opponents and I expect the same this year."

The Jacks will play three games at the BREC this winter. In addition to Friday's contest Bemidji will use the new facility Dec. 11 against Moorhead and Feb. 3 against Roseau.

The bulk of the home games will be played at Nymore Arena while the Lumberjacks will skate at the Community Arena Dec. 9 against Grand Rapids and Jan. 20 against Warroad.

Headed to state

Bemidji will have three representatives at the state Class A swimming and diving meet which will be held Friday and Saturday at the University of Minnesota pool.

Steph Frey earned the trip to state in two events as she won the 200 free (1:56.07) and 100 breast stroke (1:08.04) during Saturday's 8A meet in Bemidji.

Lexie Hendricks qualified in the 500 free when she finished second in 5:32.98.

Jana Hedstrom punched her ticket to state by claiming second at the section diving competition (324.55).

Frey's section performance in the 200 free ranks fourth among the state qualifiers and the BHS sophomore will enter the state 100 breast stroke with the fifth lowest qualifying time.

The top 16 swimmers score at the state meet, and Hendricks is hoping to add a few points to Bemidji's total. Accomplishing that feat will not be easy, however, as the sophomore enters the state race seeded 29th.

Hedstrom will be making her second consecutive trip to state. A year ago she placed 16th at state and her goal this year is to improve upon that finish.

A game to remember

The season ended Friday night in Duluth for the BHS football team, and coach Troy Hendricks has replayed the game in his mind more times than he can remember.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't come out any differently," Hendricks said of the 24-21 loss to Rogers in the state 4A quarterfinals. "It was a great game that I know I'll never forget. Nobody wants to see the season end, but at the same time the kids have nothing to feel badly about because they left everything on the field.

"We may have lost the game but the kids can hold their heads very high," Hendricks added.

The coach expects Rogers to make a run at the state title and he also is keeping an eye on Brainerd, which advanced to the Class 5A semifinals by bouncing Eden Prairie 13-10 last Friday.

"When you recap the year you can see that Bemidji can play with any team in the state, including the 5A schools," Hendricks said. "It hurts to know that you had a chance to compete in the state semifinals and advance to the state championship game. But it's also a compliment to the kids to know that we are one of the best teams in the state regardless of class."

Both teams seemed to have Friday's victory in hand but the outcome was in doubt until the final 20 seconds when Bemidji's fourth-down pass at the Rogers 31 fell incomplete.

"We had an incomplete pass on third down that just missed being a completion and we had an incomplete pass on fourth down," the coach said. "The opening on both passes was there for us but the biggest factor was that Rogers was very aggressive on the pass rush and we had trouble with our pass protection."

Midway through the fourth quarter Rogers' pass rush created a sack in the end zone for a safety. Earlier in the game the Jacks blocked a punt and were awarded a safety when the ball bounced out of the end zone.

"There were many key plays in the game," Hendricks said. "If the blocked punt doesn't go out of the end zone we recover it and get a touchdown instead of a safety. If we can stop the pass rush we aren't tackled in the end zone for a safety and the game may end differently.

"But, despite the outcome, it was a great football game. I told the kids after the game that they made their mark in the history of BHS football," Hendricks continued.

"This group won back-to-back section championships and they did it by not quitting. It's a joy to coach kids like this who keep fighting no matter the odds. I'm proud of the kids and I'm proud of the coaches.

"It was a great year."

The season will officially end 6 p.m. Sunday when the football team holds its annual post-season awards dinner. The event will be held at St. Philips.

The boys hockey, girls basketball, skiing and gymnastics teams began their practices Monday while the wrestlers will open practice next Monday and the boys swimmers on Nov. 29.

The girls cagers begin the year Nov. 30 at home against Crookston while the boys hockey team heads to East Grand Forks that same night.

The skiing schedule is not yet set while the gymnasts are off until Dec. 10 when they entertain Park Rapids.

The boys basketball squad will begin Dec. 3 at East Grand Forks and the wresters will entertain Deer River that night. The meet also will be Alumni Night and no admission will be charged. Fans are also invited to enjoy cake and swap stories following the meet.

For more information contact Jon Ness at 333-0606 or 218-766-7711. His e-mail address is

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200