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MONTEITH COLUMN: Bidding adieu to Bemidji

Pioneer sports editor Austin Monteith says farewell to Bemidji.

The sun sets as the game between Bemidji and Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin starts on Jan. 19 during Minnesota Hockey Day. Reflections of hockey fans can be seen in the glass. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
The sun sets as the game between Bemidji and Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin starts on Jan. 19, 2019, during Hockey Day Minnesota along the south shore of Lake Bemidji. Reflections of hockey fans can be seen in the glass. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
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I’ve tried my best to find a clever way to write this.

I’ve remembered the most memorable TV finales. Songs like Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” have popped into my head. But that’s too cheesy.

What I’m trying to say is today is my last with the Bemidji Pioneer.

I’m handing the sports editor reins over to Micah Friez, who is way more than capable and knows more about Bemidji sports than I do. You’ll be in good hands, Bemidji fans.

What drew me to the area was the chance to cover hockey, whether it be high school or college. I had the privilege to witness plenty of notable games in both.

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During my five-plus years here, I’ve had the opportunity to cover a wide variety of sports. Where else can you cover as much curling as in Bemidji?

Monteith Austin 2015 WEB.jpg
Austin Monteith

But perhaps most memorably, my time here was bookended by deep tournament runs by the Bemidji High School boys hockey team in 2016 and the Bemidji State men’s hockey team in 2021.

Getting a taste of the state tournament during the Lumberjacks’ run was unforgettable. I was spoiled with such a trip in my first year on the job, especially considering how BHS had ended a 29-year tournament drought only a year prior.

Another drought was snapped at the end of my tenure this past March when the Beavers were selected to their first NCAA Tournament since 2010. The team was more than deserving of the tourney bid, and proved it by knocking off top-seeded Wisconsin in the first round.

In the years in between, I witnessed a long list of noteworthy sports happenings. Among them:

Covering deep section tournament runs by the BHS baseball team in 2016 and 2017, including visits to St. John’s University and its beautiful campus.

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Being along for the ride when the Lumberjacks boys soccer team captured its first section title in 2016.

Seeing Grace White lead the Red Lake girls basketball team to the 2017 state tournament while she became the first Warrior to sign with a Division I program.

Watching BSU women’s soccer earn back-to-back bids to the NCAA Tournament, including the program’s first-ever appearance in 2017 and its first tourney win in 2018.

Following the Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team to state in 2018 en route to a semifinal appearance at the Target Center.

Freezing in subzero temperatures at a magnificent Hockey Day Minnesota 2019, highlighted by Dillon Eichstadt’s overtime goal against Michigan Tech.

Being on hand for two Bemidji State women’s hockey upset wins over top-ranked Wisconsin in consecutive seasons in 2019 and 2020.

Enjoying homecoming wins -- and postgame celebrations in Lake Bemidji -- by BSU football, most memorably a last-minute drive to beat Augustana in 2019.

Last but not least, seeing the BHS boys tennis team’s recent section title run was particularly moving after longtime coach Mark Fodness passed away last year.

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I’ll miss many things about Bemidji, from all of the coworkers I befriended over the years, to the picturesque scenery of northern Minnesota. Winters could sometimes be like living on the moon, but leaving during the middle of a beautiful summer makes it tougher to say goodbye.

I’d like to thank the sports information folks at Bemidji State, including Brad Folkestad, Collin Boyles and Tyler Christiansen, for helping to make my job easier. I’d also like to thank Troy Hendricks at Bemidji High School, the many coaches and athletes from the schools I crossed paths with over the years, and the friends I made at Lakeland News, KBUN and the Beaver Radio Network.

I’ll soon be headed back to my home state of Illinois, but there’ll always be a special place in my heart for the North Star State.

Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at sports@bemidjipioneer.com.
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