Sports shock waves: A look back at a turbulent year in Bemidji-area athletics

From January to December, here’s a look back at 25 Bemidji-area sports moments from a year no one will soon forget.

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Bemidji senior Jenna Jones, who missed most of the 2019-20 regular season due to concussion-like symptoms, is announced as a starter for the game against Moorhead on Feb. 20, 2020, at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

It’d be an understatement to call 2020 a crazy year, and the local sports scene certainly felt its impact all the way through.

From championships and records to the pandemic and cancellations, teams, athletes and coaches around the area felt the full force of a year plagued by COVID-19 yet filled with accomplishments.

From January to December, here’s a look back at 25 moments from a year no one will soon forget.

Jan. 11: Bemidji native James Hendricks plays hero for the North Dakota State football team, helping the Bison capture their eighth FCS national title in the past nine seasons. Hendricks rushed for a 20-yard touchdown as the holder on a fake field goal, and then he intercepted a pass at the goal line in the closing seconds to seal the win. READ MORE

Jan. 11: The Bemidji State women’s hockey team knocks off top-ranked Wisconsin in a 3-2 upset victory. The win was the Beavers’ fourth over a No. 1 team in program history. READ MORE


Feb. 7: Logan Bader reaches a pair of monumental milestones for the BSU men’s basketball team during a win at Concordia-St. Paul. The senior forward surpassed 1,000 career points and 600 career rebounds, becoming just the fifth Beaver to ever hit both marks. He also exited the program as its all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 183. READ MORE

Feb. 14: The BHS wrestling team adds another section championship to the trophy case by rolling over top-seeded Willmar 41-20 in the finals for their second 8-3A title in as many years. The Jacks eventually lost both state matches, but their 27 wins on the year stood as a new program record. READ MORE

Feb. 20: Jenna Jones upstages the Bemidji girls basketball team’s thrilling overtime win over Moorhead. After suffering a season-ending head injury in the first game of the year, the senior guard laced up her shoes, heard her name called in the starting lineup and returned to the court for one final, heartwarming moment in a Lumberjack uniform. READ MORE

Feb. 22: The BSU women’s basketball team defies defeat three times, forcing triple-overtime against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular season champion Minnesota Duluth in their regular season finale. The Bulldogs eventually prevailed, but the Beavers were proud to have sent the gym into pandemonium time and time again through clutch heroics. READ MORE

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Bemidji State's Clair DeGeorge (26) scores a diving goal in an upset win against top-ranked Wisconsin on Jan. 11, 2020, at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Feb. 26: In the final game of the season, Derek Thompson becomes just the second player ever to reach 1,000 career points as a junior for the Bemidji State men’s basketball team. Thompson entered the club as the program’s 19th member, while he and Logan Bader became the fourth pair of BSU teammates to reach the milestone in the same season. READ MORE

Feb. 27: Colton Jensen etches his name into the Bemidji High School history books, reaching 1,000 career points with the boys basketball team and becoming just the storied program’s eighth player to ever do so. He scored a game-high 21 points during a 75-51 win over Detroit Lakes. READ MORE


Feb. 28: The Bemidji State men’s hockey team upends No. 2 Minnesota State 3-1, sending the race for the MacNaughton Cup as Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season champion to the season’s final day. The Mavericks held off BSU 4-1 in the finale the following day to claim the trophy. READ MORE

Feb. 29: The Bemidji State women’s hockey team endures the longest game in WCHA history, topping Minnesota Duluth 2-1 thanks to Reece Hunt’s goal in the fourth overtime in Game 2 of a WCHA quarterfinal series. The winning goal came after 128 minutes, 43 seconds of play. READ MORE

March 6: The Red Lake girls basketball team continues its historic streak, winning the program’s third Section 8A championship in the past four years. The Warriors’ big three of Autumn Holthusen, Gerika Kingbird and Kelanna McClain fueled a 64-54 win over Badger/Greenbush-Middle River in the title game. READ MORE

March 12: Only one day before a WCHA semifinal series with Bowling Green, the BSU men’s hockey team learns the rest of the season, including the NCAA Tournament, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Beavers’ NCAA dreams were dashed as they ended the season ranked No. 12 in the Pairwise rankings at 22-10-5. READ MORE

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Bemidji State forwards Carter Jones (13) and Hampus Sjödahl (23) celebrate Jones's goal during the third period of a game against Minnesota State on Feb. 28, 2020, at the Sanford Center. (BSU photo)

March 13: The Minnesota State High School League cancels all remaining winter sports. The Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team was set to compete in the Section 8A championship game against Ada-Borup, but the devastating news ended the season for both teams. READ MORE

March 15: The NSIC board of directors unanimously votes to suspend all athletic activities and cancel its remaining conference competitions and championships for spring sports. The Bemidji State teams affected include the baseball, softball, women’s track and field, women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s golf programs. READ MORE


April 23: The MSHSL officially cancels the spring sports season in response to the pandemic and the statewide shutdown of schools. In an unceremonious but unsurprising move, any last hope of competition formally had its fate sealed for the BHS baseball, boys and girls golf, softball, boys tennis, and boys and girls track and field teams. READ MORE

June 16: Bemidji State mourns as one of its own dies unexpectedly. Kade Hart, a redshirt junior on the men’s basketball team, was 21 years old and revered for his selflessness and his basketball IQ. Hart took on a bench role at BSU and made significant contributions pushing the rotation players in practice. READ MORE

Aug. 6: Former Bemidji State standout Zach Whitecloud becomes the first NHL player to score his first career goal in the month of August. The blueliner netted the tying goal in an eventual 6-4 win for his Vegas Golden Knights over the St. Louis Blues in a Stanley Cup Qualifiers round-robin game inside the NHL bubble in Edmonton, Alberta. READ MORE

Aug. 13: The NSIC cancels the fall sports season, including all competition and championships, while also suspending all athletic competition through Dec. 31. The BSU football, women’s soccer, volleyball and women’s cross country programs saw their fall seasons canceled, while the men’s and women’s basketball and women’s indoor track and field teams learned their winter seasons would be delayed. The league said it would explore conducting fall sports in spring 2021, if it can be done reasonably and safely. READ MORE

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Bemidji junior Mady Schmidt dives in the Section 8A diving meet on Oct. 23, 2020, at Bemidji High School. She capped an undefeated season by capturing the section title. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Oct. 15: Bemidji High School athletics has one of its most successful days in recent memory, headlined by the girls tennis team and boys cross country team winning section titles within hours of each other. The boys and girls soccer teams also won thrilling playoff games, and the volleyball team won its home opener. READ MORE

Oct. 23: BHS junior Mady Schmidt caps a perfect season by securing the Section 8A diving title. The Lumberjack completed an undefeated 2020 campaign by taking first place in all 11 meets she entered. READ MORE


Oct. 24: The BHS girls soccer team produced plenty of dramatics throughout the season, but the Lumberjacks fall one miracle shy of a fourth straight section title. In the championship game, Sartell-St. Stephen scored a late equalizer, brought the game to penalty kicks and prevailed 4-3 in the shootout to snap Bemidji’s 15-game winning streak in the Section 8A playoffs. READ MORE

Nov. 12: A broken nose can’t stop Emily Wade from hitting 1,000 career set assists with BHS volleyball. The Bemidji State commit suffered an injury a game before, keeping her paused at 995, but Wade reached the milestone the next time out and became the first Lumberjack to reach 1,000 assists since 2017. READ MORE

Nov. 18: Bemidji High School’s football and volleyball seasons come to a premature end when the remainder of the fall sports season is canceled due to a “pause” on Minnesota youth sports. The Lumberjack football team concluded the year two days later with a bittersweet 21-6 Section 8-5A semifinal win over Sartell-St. Stephen, while the volleyball team enjoyed one last practice together. READ MORE

Nov. 25: The Bemidji sports community is shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Mark Fodness, a longtime teacher and coach, and, in many respects, the face of Bemidji tennis. Fodness, 61, compiled over 450 wins across 41 seasons with the BHS boys and girls and BSU women’s tennis programs. READ MORE

Dec. 6: Gunner Olszewski scores two touchdowns for the Patriots, the first of his career. He became the first Bemidji State alum to record multiple scores while also becoming the NFL’s longest-tenured BSU Beaver by playing in his 17th game. READ MORE

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
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