Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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In 2013, Elizabeth Koprucki finished at the top of the mountain. As a senior at East Ridge High School, Koprucki wrapped up a dominant alpine skiing career with her first state championship title. Koprucki won the championship in her fourth state meet appearance in February at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. “It’s really nice to go out my senior year with a win,” Koprucki said after the win.
A four-year attempt to join a new conference came to a bitter end in 2013 after Park had the rug pulled out from under it by the newly formed Metro East Conference in the 11th hour. Because of decreasing enrollment, shifting demographics and a hope for better competitive balance, Park discussed leaving the Suburban East Conference since 2009. In June of 2013 eight area high schools extended an invitation to Park to leave the Suburban East — its home since the 2001-02 season — and join them in the formation of a new conference.
In his first year as Park’s head gymnastics coach Terry Hardy made national and local headlines after being criminally cited by Hastings police for tattooing a minor without written parental consent. Just before Park’s first meet of the year, on Thursday, Dec. 5, Hardy — who was Park’s co-head coach the past three seasons —was placed on a paid leave of absence and is now expected to be relieved from his coaching duties according to Park Activities Director Phil Kuemmel. “Terry remains on administrative leave,” Kuemmel said recently.
The New Life Academy softball team continued to make history in 2013. New Life tied a state record by reaching an amazing eighth consecutive state tournament, beating Minneapolis Washburn 2-0 in the Section 4A Championship game in May. With the eight straight state appearances, New Life tied Winona Cotter for the most in Minnesota high school softball history. Head coach Mick Ramey, who joined the NLA softball team in 2003 and has been the head coach since 2006, has been around for each one. “We want to be humble about it,” Ramey said after the record-tying win.
East Ridge senior center J.C. Hassenauer became the talk of the town after committing to play college football for Alabama – arguably the nation’s top team over the past decade. Hassenauer, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound center, committed to play for the two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide the summer before his senior season. After being an undersized offensive lineman as a freshman Hassenauer worked his way to being ranked the No. 1 center prospect in the country and was the No.
In 2013, Sydney Lamberty became a scoring legend at Park High School. On Tuesday, Dec. 10, in a win at home against Rosemount, Lamberty scored 26 points to become Park’s all-time leading scorer. Lamberty – a 5-foot-11-inch senior guard — surpassed longtime teammate Larissa Lurken’s 1,735 points. Park 2002 graduate Ashley Smith is the school’s third all-time leading scorer with 1,533 points, followed by 2009 graduate Katya Leick (1,484) and 2008 graduate Jackie Voigt (1,252). “It’s hard for me to see myself in this position,” said Lamberty, a team captain, after breaking the mark.
Longtime Park gymnastics coach Mark Sikich said goodbye to coaching this past year – his 31st overall. “I’m just all torn up about it,” Sikich said at the time. “Part of me definitely wants to still be involved. But, when your body is telling you it’s time it probably should be. One thing I never want to do with our girls is to short them at all as far as my energy level and ability to coach with high spirits, high energy and high motivation.” Sikich, who grew up in Hibbing and is a 1983 graduate of Concordia University, is a three-time gymnastics Coach of the Year award winner.
In 2013 record books were re-written, milestones were set, streaks were broken and championships were won. Old coaches said goodbye, new coaches were brought in and some longtime leaders were honored. There was a litany of ups and downs, highs and lows and tears of joy and sadness shed throughout the year.
The Park boys basketball team couldn’t pull off an upset against one of the Suburban East Conference’s better teams last week.
The Park girls basketball team traveled to fellow Suburban East Conference power Roseville on Friday, Dec. 20, and came back unbeaten in SEC play.