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JUGGLING ACT: Bemidji HS sophomore Linaes Whiting playing 3 sports this fall

Bemidji High School sophomore Linaes Whiting (13) dribbles the ball against a Grand Rapids defender in a game on Tuesday at Bemidji Middle School. Whiting is playing soccer, kicking on the football team and running cross country this season. Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
Whiting kicks an extra point during Bemidji’s season opener against Sauk Rapids-Rice. The sophomore is playing three sports this fall. Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 2

BEMIDJI — During soccer practice Wednesday, Bemidji High School sophomore Linaes Whiting ran laps with his team.

During the long distance jog, Whiting and the soccer team ran next to the football practice field. That’s where he was greeted by his other team — the Lumberjacks football squad.

The soccer player then ran next to the school where Whiting’s third team — the cross country team — was stretching after their practice.

It has been a busy fall for Whiting, and it all started because BHS head football coach Troy Hendricks couldn’t find a kicker who was already on his football team.

Instead, he gave his players a job.

“I said, ‘Boys, you need to find a soccer player that wants to play on Friday nights.’’ The next day they said they got somebody. I asked them who and they said it was Linaes,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks knew Whiting was already planning on running cross country in addition to soccer, but Whiting said he didn’t mind.

This isn’t a new thing for soccer head coach Rick Toward, who already loans Payton Christofferson to the the cross country team and has allowed soccer players to kick for football in years past.

“The first thing is they have to declare which sport is their primary,” Toward said. “Games trump practice, but when practices are head-to-head, which is your sport?”

Practices always conflict, but there are occasions where games conflict as well and it has already happened once this season.

The soccer team traveled to Little Falls on Friday, Aug. 28 — a game in which the Jacks won 5-0, with Whiting scoring a goal and two assists in the win.

But instead of hopping on the bus after the game Whiting got in his mother’s vehicle and drove directly to Chet Anderson Stadium to play in the football game against Sauk Rapids-Rice. Bemidji won 46-26, but Whiting felt some effect at the tail end of the game when he missed a PAT.

“I didn’t know how it would go at first,” Whiting said. “The soccer game went well, but the second half of the football game I felt the fatigue a bit. Luckily I won’t have that again this year.”

He will miss a few cross country meets — like today when the team is at Otsego while the soccer team hosts East Grand Forks at Chet Anderson Stadium.

Head cross country coach Ryan Aylesworth said he will miss his presence on the course, but he knows Whiting is staying in shape with soccer.

“We won’t see Linaes for a couple meets,” Aylesworth said. “Soccer compliments cross country really well. He’s getting his running in and also getting a lot of lateral movement work in. He’s a tough, competitive kid. The team knows what he’s capable of and he’ll help push when he’s here.”

Toward said although there is an increased risk of injury playing so many sports, athletes can get hurt doing just about anything so he doesn’t worry about it.

“There are no guarantees,” Toward said. “Life has risks. We play soccer 10 months out of the year and when a kid plays hockey (for example), does that mean a kid won’t be available for soccer? Yeah it might, but I don’t own this kid, it’s his call.”

Whiting said he wants to experience as much as he can while he’s in high school, and athletically he’s already done so — he earned four varsity letters in his freshman year and will have seven after the fall season is over.

Whiting also plays basketball in the winter and track in the spring, but he is also a strong baseball player. It has been suggested to Whiting that Mike Fogelson, who is Bemidji’s head baseball coach and the football team’s defensive coordinator, may do some recruiting this fall.

“Yeah I’ve thought about it,” Whiting said. “We’ll see. I play a lot of sports because I know I only have a few years of high school and I’d like to do it all. It’s fun for me.”

All fun except, that is, one thing: Whiting doesn’t love running.

“I don’t love running,” he said. “I do it because I’m good at it, I know I have to because I know I have to help our teams go to state.”

All three teams have the ability to go to state. The football and cross country teams did so last season and the soccer team has the right mix of experienced players to make a deeper run after falling in the section semifinals this season.

“Willmar is battling with us (in cross country) right now and we want to win the section title,” Whiting said. “It’s kind of the same with soccer, we lost in the semifinals last year and we’d like to make it to a section championship. Football is kind of the same again, we lost in the first round and we want to get back to state again this year.”

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