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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Led by University of Minnesota recruit Temi Ogunrinde and all-state sophomore Ally Gorres, Park brings a small but talented contingent to the track this spring. “We’re a small team but have lots of potential,” said Park head girls track coach Matt Maher, who is entering his 10th year with the Wolfpack. “We should be able to cover all events with either experienced athletes or some really exciting new additions.” Heading the list of returnees is Ogunrinde, who was all-state in the 400-meter dash as a sophomore and will compete for the University of Minnesota next fall.
The Section 4AAA championship has haunted Kelsey Ihns since last season, but it’s also been a source of motivation for the East Ridge senior pitcher. “I’ve actually dreamt about it a couple times,” Ihns said. “I think about what I could have done better. It eats me up inside and what’s driving me this season.” Last year the East Ridge softball team reached its first-ever section championship, but couldn’t get past Stillwater and 2013 graduate Heather Heacox. East Ridge, the third seed in the section tournament, beat second-seeded North St.
The Park softball team’s roster doesn’t look much different than the one that took down two of the best teams in the state last year — with one pretty big exception. Park, which finished 10-9 overall in a season compacted by foul weather, beat 2012 state champion and 2013 state entrant Stillwater during the regular season and beat No.
A strong group of returning upperclassmen bodes well for the Park boys tennis team. “We should have tremendous depth with our singles line-up, including Mekdim DeJene and Pele Le,” Wolfpack coach Tony Townsend said. Both DeJene and Le earned all-conference honors in singles competition for 2013.
The East Ridge boys tennis team is expected to be one to watch this year. The Raptors return their entire lineup from last year’s squad, which went 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the Suburban East Conference, finishing in second place behind Mounds View. “With no graduates from last year the team’s confidence is up, but it also means the pressure is greater,” said Suzie Heideman, who is in her third year as head coach of the East Ridge boys. Last season, East Ridge defeated Simley in the first round of the Section 3AA team tournament with a 5-2 score.
Last year, things began to look up for the Park girls golf team. The Wolfpack hopes that continues this season. Though the youthful Park girls team wasn’t able to advance a golfer to the state tournament, it got some strong finishes from some up-and-comers. In the two-day section tournament, the top five teams advance to the second day along with the top 10 individuals not from the top five teams.
An active summer on the course hopes to pay dividends for the Park boys golf team this spring. Under the guidance of head coach Chad Salay, who is in his third year leading the Wolfpack, the youthful Park boys finished in 10th place with a total score of 348 in the 12-team Section 3AAA tournament at Goodrich Golf Course, 35 strokes back of the cut to advance to the second day of the two-day event.
The East Ridge boys golf team should be a contender this spring, but it does have some shoes to fill. Last year, East Ridge won the Suburban East Conference championship tournament and finished second in the final SEC standings and in the Section 3AAA tourney. But, the team graduated three of its top golfers, including one of the best golfers in the state in Brady Hanson. “I have some strong players this year again,” said Bret Brookins, who enters his fifth year at the helm of the Raptors.
The East Ridge girls golf team will take another swing at state this season. The Raptors return every player from last year’s team, which won the Suburban East Conference championship and finished in second place in the Section 3AAA tournament. East Ridge is expected to be led by seniors Taylor Anderson and Andriel Aimua, who last year became the first female Raptors to qualify for the state golf tournament. Anderson carded East Ridge’s top score at the section tourney with a 167. Aimua scored a 170.
With the beginning of the 2014 spring high school sports season this week, comes a fresh start for some and a bittersweet ending for others. Baseball, softball, track, tennis, lacrosse and golf — these are the fresh-air sports many have been waiting for since a year ago and, for many, the last chance for prep glory prior to graduation. This week, we'll begin by taking a look at the Park and East Ridge high school teams hoping to make a difference in our Spring Sports Preview. Next week, we'll shed a light on New Life Academy and the South Washington County Thunderbolts.