BEMIDJI -- For the 21st year in a row, Bemidji High School brought home the hardware.
The BHS girls soccer and wrestling teams represented the Lumberjacks on the state stage in 2019-20, continuing a streak of at least one Bemidji section championship in every academic year since the turn of the century -- and the 42nd banner year in the past 43. Plenty of individuals booked state trips, too, and although the spring teams didn’t have a chance to add onto the totals, the year was still a memorable one.
This season was full of individual and team milestones, and the 2019-20 seasons will be prominent in the record books for a long time. As the 2020 seniors celebrate their graduation day today, take a look back on the legacy they helped leave behind.
The girls soccer team three-peated as Section 8A champions in 2019, defeating Sauk Rapids-Rice in the title game behind Lexi Paquette’s game-winning goal. Paquette then became the program’s first goal scorer in the state tournament when she scored from 20 yards out in a 4-1 loss to eventual state champion Mahtomedi. Lindsey Hildenbrand also finished her career with 56 career goals and exits as the second-highest goal scorer in program history.
The boys soccer team nearly won its fourth straight Section 8A championship, only to have section newcomer St. Cloud Tech knock them out in the title game. Silas Hess established program records of 122 career points and 54 career assists and was a Mr. Soccer finalist, while Ethan Mock blitzed the scoreboard all year en route to a 24-goal season.
In football, the Lumberjacks also came oh-so close to returning to state. Bemidji started 7-0, climbing as high as No. 2 in the Class 5A rankings, and reached the Section 8-5A championship game behind running back Will Falldorf and a menacing offensive line. Moorhead bested BHS in the regular season finale and again in the section title game, both times at Chet Anderson Stadium.
The boys cross country team returned to the state meet for the seventh time in eight years thanks to a runner-up finish in the section. Gage Mostad finished 21st in the state meet with his best time of the season, leading the team to a 10th-place mark. The Lumberjack girls placed fifth in the section, while Regan DeWitt fell 10 seconds shy of clinching the final individual spot at state.
In girls swimming and diving, Mady Schmidt highlighted Bemidji’s third-place finish at the Section 8A meet by capturing the final individual diving spot for the Class A state meet. She took full advantage and climbed into ninth at the state finals, the program’s best finish in any event since Libby McRae was eighth in the 500-yard freestyle in 2015.
The girls tennis team made a run in the Section 8AA Tournament, settling for a runner-up finish that ended a 16-2 season as a team. Savannah Haugen went 23-6 anchored at No. 1 singles all year, while the doubles pairing of Chloe Hasbargen and Paige Anderson racked up a 12-2 record at No. 2 doubles.
Led by the outside hitting combination of Taylor Wade and Ashley Hofstad, the volleyball team posted a 13-16 record throughout an up-and-down season. BHS just missed out on a first-round bye in the Section 8-3A Tournament and instead hosted Big Lake in the opening round, where they pulled off a 3-2 win in a nail biter before a season-ending loss to Brainerd in the quarterfinals.
Winter and beyond
The wrestling team highlighted the winter sports season, setting a program record for wins (27) en route to a second straight Section 8-3A title. The Jacks dropped both matches at state, but BHS saw success on the individual side with six state qualifiers. Chase Smith made a heavyweight run to third place and tied nine others for the program’s top individual finish since 2003, while Darren Roth also had a podium finish by placing sixth.
The girls basketball team had a banner year, using a senior-led core to reach its first section championship game in a decade. Though Alexandria won the title bout, Lindsey Hildenbrand and Katie Alto were at the forefront of Bemidji’s breakout, which culminated in more wins (19) than any other team in the program since 2009-10.
Colten Jensen joined an exclusive club for the boys basketball team late in the season, becoming just the program’s eighth member of the 1,000 Point Club on Feb. 27 against Detroit Lakes. He finished with 1,029 career points, and the Jacks tallied 19 wins before falling to Alexandria in the section semifinals.
The gymnastics team nearly rewrote its entire record book in 2019-20. BHS broke nine of 10 program records during the season, including the team’s all-around score at 144.85 and the individual all-around score with Tatum Offerdahl’s 37.2. Offerdahl, Lauren Berg and Lauren Lundquist became the program’s first trio to qualify for state as individuals, where Offerdahl’s 15th-place finish on bars established a new school benchmark.
Five Nordic skiers qualified for state, where none fared better than Logan Jensen’s 29th-place finish in the boys pursuit. Gwendoline Youso had the best finish among the girls, claiming 41st in her fourth and most successful appearance on the state’s brightest stage. The boys missed out on qualifying as a team by just four seconds in a second-place section tiebreaker.
In boys swimming and diving, Aiden Saari and Brooks Matetich headlined the program with state berths. The Lumberjacks placed fourth as a team at the Section 5A meet, but Saari -- the section’s individual champion on the diving board and its Diver of the Year -- repped at state and placed 14th, while Matetich finished 18th in the 100-yard butterfly prelims.
The girls hockey team saw tangible improvements within the program, putting up 10 wins to tie for its most since 2012-13. Austyn Tobey (5g-17a) and Lexi Leitner (15g-6a) led the offensive attack, while Nettie Kimble surpassed 1,500 career saves between the pipes. The season ended in a first-round loss to Roseau.
The boys hockey team had a fair share of growing pains, which ended with a 3-22-1 record. Even so, the Jacks quite nearly shocked the state with a first-round playoff upset of top-seeded Moorhead and came within 3 minutes, 15 seconds of overtime. Gage Mostad’s 16 points (7g-9a) led the team on the season, while Tanner Rebischke logged the most minutes in net and a team-high 350 saves.
The spring sports season ended before it began due to the coronavirus pandemic. Several teams got a few practices under their belt, but the season was suspended on March 13 and ultimately canceled on April 23.
A number of new eras have ushered in, as well, as head coaches have stepped down or taken over programs.
Kyle Fodness completed his first year leading the girls tennis program in 2019, following the footsteps of his father, Mark, while Pete Stahnke took over the boys hockey program in place of Eric Monsrud. Tina Offerdahl became the first former player to take charge of the girls golf program, assuming the head coaching post from Paul Daman.
Following the football season, Troy Hendricks resigned as the head coach and was replaced by longtime offensive coordinator Bryan Stoffel in early May. Travis Peterson stepped down from his post as boys basketball coach following the 2019-20 campaign, and Mark Fodness also stepped down from the boys tennis program this spring. BHS has not yet announced replacements for Peterson or Fodness.
BHS seniors playing college sports
Katie Alto, women’s soccer, Concordia-St. Paul
Jemma Copiskey, women’s hockey, Concordia Moorhead
Kayla DeWitt, women’s cross country/track and field, Viterbo
Gracie Fisher, softball, Jamestown
Sam Hansen, women’s soccer, Northwestern (MN)
Aidan Helwig, men’s soccer, South Dakota Mines
Ben Hess, men’s soccer, Colorado Christian
Silas Hess, men’s soccer, Colorado Christian
Lindsey Hildenbrand, women’s soccer, Concordia Moorhead
Ada Lee, women’s track and field, North Central (MN)
Kolden Michalicek, men’s soccer, Viterbo
Logan Mitchell, men’s soccer, Viterbo
Gage Mostad, men’s cross country/track and field, North Dakota
Lexi Paquette, women’s soccer, North Central (MN)
Chase Smith, wrestling, North Dakota State
Emma Stanoch, softball, St. Scholastica
Vinny Tesch, football, Jamestown
Quincy Wilson, men’s basketball, Crown
Gwendoline Youso, women’s cross country, Bemidji State