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It's full speed ahead for Bemidji High School winter sports teams

Minnesota High School League officials have a tough task trying to juggle the various state tournaments in a way that will result in the least amount of confusion and conflict.

The schedules the MSHSL officials have devised for the fall sports programs begin with the girls tennis state meet in early October and end with the swimming and diving competition in the middle of November

The lateness of the state swimming meet also affects the winter sports schedules. It is not uncommon for one coaching staff to handle both the girls and the boys programs at a high school and it would be asking too much of those coaches to jump into their second season without a break.

Woody Leindecker is among the state prep coaches who doubles as the girls and boys coach. His girls team ended its year at the state meet on Nov. 17. By that time the Bemidji girls hockey team had already played and tied three games.

Leindecker had two weeks away from the regimented workouts and competition. But that break ended Monday when the boys swimmers and divers held their initial practice. And Saturday they will head to St. Cloud Apollo for the initial meet of the winter.

Also making their competitive debuts this week are the gymnasts, the boys basketball team and the skiers.

Don Papreck’s gymnasts will open at home as they host Park Rapids 6 p.m. Friday and entertain Fargo South and Fargo Davies at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The venue for Bemidji’s home meets is the Gym Bin.

Headlining the roster are captains Alyshia Moe, Sara Erickson and Amy Carey. Moe is a senior, Erickson is a junior and Carey is a sophomore and all of them are all-around competitors.

The other seniors on the roster are Brianna Allen and the two foreign exchange students, Maiken Pedersen and Marte Westad.

Haley Gregg joins Erickson as the junior class representatives while Carey, Brittney Beck and Bailey Luna are the sophomores.

This year’s freshmen include Katie Bur, Micheala Philips, Tatiana Smrekar and Atomic Thorson while eighth graders Alexis Solo and Ellie Thompson complete the early-season roster.

Also opening its season at home is the boys basketball team. The Lumberjacks will stage their annual Woods and Lakes Northland Classic Friday and Saturday and will welcome Grand Rapids, East Grand Forks and St. Cloud Cathedral.

The action will begin 6 p.m. Friday when Grand Rapids tangles with St. Cloud Cathedral. Following that contest the Jacks will take on East Grand Forks.

On Saturday Grand Rapids will square off against the Green Wave at 12:30 p.m. and Bemidji will battle St. Cloud Cathedral about 2 p.m.

BHS will have a new look this year as Dan Ninham has assumed the head coaching duties and his top assistant will be Travis Peterson.

Steve Thompson returns as the junior varsity coach and Rob Mahto will be on the bench for the freshman team.

The coaching staff inherited a team that lacks varsity experience and returns no starters.

“It is no secret that last year was a senior-laden team and those seniors are gone,” Ninham said. “Varsity experience is probably a weakness but I look at it as a challenge. We will play seven different teams in scrimmages before our first game so that experience will help us.

“We will come into the first week of games with limited time together and we will be playing against teams that have had coaches in place for five or six years and are ready to go,” Ninham continued. “But our No. 1 goal is to compete and I believe we have the talent that will enable us to compete.”

Bemidji’s Nordic ski teams are hoping that the weather turns cold and that Monday’s mist and rain will transform into snow. And the sooner that happens the better because the Lumberjacks are scheduled to begin their seasons Saturday at the Grand Rapids Invitational.

On Dec. 15 Bemidji is scheduled to stage an invitational at the Montebello Trails. That meet is the first of three hosted by the Jacks this winter. The others are Jan. 26 at Buena Vista and Jan. 31 at Three Island Park.

Today the boys hockey and girls basketball teams will resume their schedules with home appearances.

The girls basketball team entertains Thief River Falls and is 0-1 after losing 86-63 last week at Pequot Lakes. BHS also will be in action Thursday when it visits Grand Rapids.

The boys hockey team improved to 1-1 with Thursday’s 6-3 victory at St. Cloud Apollo. Tonight it will host East Grand Forks at the Community Arena. The week also sees BHS visiting Moorhead on Thursday and entertaining St. Cloud Tech 3 p.m. Saturday at the BCA.

The girls hockey team is still searching for that elusive first victory. Bemidji enters the week 0-4-4 and hosts Grand Rapids Thursday at the BCA in its lone action of the week. On Dec. 11 the Lumberjacks will head to Crookston.

The wrestlers are unbeaten after a dual and an invitational meet. Last Thursday the Lumberjacks battered Deer River 65-9 and over the weekend they outgunned seven rivals to claim the title at the Fosston-Bagley Invitational.

On Saturday BHS will try to extend that success when the Jacks head to the Paul Bunyan Invitational in Brainerd. The next home appearance will be Dec. 13 against Grand Rapids.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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