Friday was one of those memorable days. You may have been out on a boat or a golf course or riding your bike under the warm sun, but my Friday was better than your Friday. That's because I was able to spend time at two state tournaments, which always means something special.
I began the day at Hamline University's Klas Field on Day One of the state track and field championships. The first events began at 9 a.m. I closed the day at the state softball tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato, where the last of four championship games ended at 4:30 p.m. The two events were 94 miles apart and offered drastically different forms of competition, but some themes remain the same despite the location or the sport.
In the final softball game of the two-day tournament, the final pitch from Edgerton/Southwest Minnesota Christian senior pitcher Sierra Van Dyke darted past the final hitter for Badger/Greenbush-Middle River and into the mitt of catcher Maddie Nelson, sealing a 4-1 win for the Dutchmen.
At both sites, as well as two locations in Minneapolis that hosted the final day of the boys state tennis tournaments, there were big, loud crowds. There also were quieter moments, and I would like to focus on three such moments here.
--The first moment is very simple, embroidered on the back of a man’s cap. I don’t know where the man is from, which softball team he was cheering for or, honestly, what he looks like from the front. All I saw was the back of his cap, which carried this simple statement: "Memories Last Forever." That’s a great summary of these events. I’m glad I happened to see his cap.
--The very first race of the state track meet was the Class 2A girls 3,200 meters. When the starter’s pistol was fired at 9 a.m., senior Lauren Peterson of Rosemount – a high-achieving track and cross-country runner for Farmington until transferring to Rosemount this year – took off with the lead. And Lauren held that lead through all eight laps in capturing the state title.
Finishing second was Stillwater sophomore Analee Weaver and third was Minneapolis Washburn senior Emily Covert. Covert won this race a year ago and also has won at the state cross-country championships, but this warm June day was different because she had been on the shelf for most of the track season.
As I wrote last week, Emily didn’t run in a competition until the Section 6AA meet, where she qualified for state. Yes, she wanted to win Friday’s race. But she didn’t, which was something she accepted.
“I was kind of surprised at how fast it went out, but I just kind of tried to stay relaxed,” she said, coated in perspiration after the race. “It was very hot. That kind of affected me a little but but I feel like what affected me the most was the mindset of being back.”
Covert finished 14 seconds behind Peterson. The realization that she wouldn’t win was clear with a couple laps to go, after a spring with very little training.
“It’s definitely very different,” she said. “It used to come very easy to me in terms of being fit, and now it’s kind of hard. I have to start out at that base level and work my way up again. It might take a little bit but I’ll get there.”
She will run at the University of Colorado in the fall, and she is excited about that. Asked how she would sum up her high school career, the pride of Minneapolis said this: “My first state race was when I was in seventh grade. I dreamt about winning this race when I was in seventh grade, and I got it last year. I fell short this year but there are reasons for that. You have to deal with bumps in the road if you want to stay brave.”
--After a wonderful day of competition, I was in my car heading home from North Mankato. A long line of vehicles was waiting to get on Highway 14 and head for home, wherever that may be. One of those vehicles was the team bus from Badger/Greenbush-Middle River. The Gators got to state in the hardest way possible; coming out of the loser’s bracket in the Section 8 playoffs to notch two victories over Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal.
Friday was also the day a funeral was held in the gymnasium at Ulen-Hitterdal. Alivia Mortenson, a three-sport athlete who completed her junior year with the dual losses to the Gators, died last week in a single-car accident.
Tributes to Alivia have poured in, especially from teams, schools and communities nearby in northwestern Minnesota. At the funeral, athletes from other schools were encouraged to wear their uniform tops; Alivia was a talented volleyball, basketball and softball player.
A social media hashtag, as well as a simple declarative statement, has made the rounds: Livin’ 4 Liv. As I sat in the line of cars late Friday afternoon, there was one car ahead of me, and a bus pulling an equipment trailer in front of that car.
Messages had been hand-written on the back of the trailer: “State bound!” was the first one I noticed. Then, as I peered through the windows of the car between me and the trailer, I saw this message: “Livin’ 4 Liv.” On the day the Gators of Badger/Greenbush-Middle River had finished second at state and were hitting the highway for the 400-mile drive home, they carried Alivia with them.
As I was writing this essay, a Tweet was issued from the Twitter account of the NCE-UH softball team. It said: “We’d like to say thank you to all the area schools who sent flowers or attended the funeral today it meant a lot to see how close the sports community is in this area #livin4liv #softballfamily #titanpride”
Memories Last Forever. No offense, but that’s why I had the best Friday.
State softball results
Championship game: Edgerton/SW MN Christian 4, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 1
Third-place game: Randolph 16, New York Mills 3
Fifth-place game: New Ulm Cathedral 8, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 2
Championship game: Rochester Lourdes 10, Norwood-Young America 1
Third-place game: Pipestone 4, Thief River Falls 3
Fifth-place game: Annandale 1, LeSuer-Henderson 0
Championship game: Northfield 8, Mankato West 3
Third-place game: Cloquet 11, Becker 1
Fifth-place game: Benilde-St. Margaret’s 9, Mahtomedi 8
Championship game: Maple Grove 3, Stillwater 2
Third-place game: Forest Lake 7, East Ridge 0
Fifth-place game: St. Michael-Albertville 4, Eden Prairie 2
Boys state tennis championship matches
Jeffrey Huang/Brennan Keogh, St. Paul Academy, defeats Jonathan Onigkeit/Thomas Eckel, Rochester Lourdes, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.
Parker Law, Mounds View, defeats Rikard Wilkens, Redwood Valley, 6-2, 6-1.
Sourabh Terakanambi/Nisal Liyanage, Eastview, defeat Luke Fridinger/Caleb Fridinger, East Ridge, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Bjorn Swenson, Mounds View, defeats Varun Iyer , Rochester Century, 6-2, 6-4.
State lacrosse pairings
The state lacrosse tournaments will be held next with games at Chanhassen and Minnetonka. Here are the quarterfinal pairings…
Forest Lake vs. Breck
Maple Grove vs. Prior Lake
Stillwater vs. Lakeville North
Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Eden Prairie
Lakeville North vs. Eden Prairie
Wayzata vs. Prior Lake
St. Thomas Academy vs. Mahtomedi
Centennial vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.