Looking back on 2018: Area athletes and teams played on the big stage

Published 9:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2018

The past year saw some big finishes from area teams as the Lyle-Pacelli girls basketball team made program history with its first ever state title and a relay team from Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland/Southland  captured some gold of their own at the state track meet.

In Austin, the boys basketball and boys soccer teams continued to stand out as strong programs and the Packer gymnastics team had another big performer on the big stage.

Here’s a look back at some of the highs of 2018.

1. Lyle-Pacelli brings home the title

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The Athletics captured the program’s first ever Minnesota Class A state championship when it beat Sleepy Eye 57-33 in the Minnesota Class A Girls Basketball State Tournament title game in March.

The Athletics, who finished fourth in the 2016 state tournament, finished the season with a record of 32-1 overall, and it’s only loss of the season came to an eventual state champ in Iowa.

Lyle-Pacelli’s Brooke Walter and Kristi Fett celebrate LP”s Class A title Saturday at the Minnesota Class A Girls State Basketball Tournament in Target Center. Herald File Photo

“We’ve always been a close family, but this team is so unselfish and we care so much about each other,” LP senior Brooke Walter Walter said after the season. “This team is so mentally strong. We’ve had a couple of heartbreaks in Rochester, but we got it done now. It kind of makes up for it.”

Kristi Fett, who now plays at Minnesota State University in Mankato, had 26 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots in the state title game.

2. Strong finish

Austin senior Jen Boyle closed out her high school gymnastics career with the best performance she had ever had as she took first in bars, fourth in vault and third in all-around at the Minnesota Class A State Gymnastics Meet.

Boyle finished her career with two state titles in bars.

“I’m really proud how much of improved through the years and how much my hard work has paid off,” Boyle said after the meet.

3. Keep on dancing

The Austin Packer dance team made it 16 straight state meets as it took fifth place in the high kick division at the Minnesota Class AA State Meet.

4.  Packer boys basketball fourth in state

The Packer boys basketball team took fourth place in the Minnesota Class AAA State Boys Tournament after finishing with a record of 27-4 overall.

Austin was led by a strong core of seniors, including Tate Hebrink and Duoth Gach.

The Packers lost to eventual state champ Delano 80-68 in the state semifinals.

5. Packers settle for third again

The Austin boys soccer team took third place in the Minnesota Class A State Boys Soccer Tournament for the second straight year.

Austin captains Mooday Wah, from left, Kevin Ortiz and Victor Velazquez race for the field with Section 1A championship trophy. Herald File Photo

Austin, which finished with a record of 18-3 overall, lost to eventual state champ Blake 3-1 in the state semifinals. They beat Holy Angels 1-0 in the third place game.

6. Blossoms overcome injury for big run

The Blooming Prairie football team rode its backup quarterback all of the way to the Minnesota Class A State Football Tournament semifinals, where it was knocked off by BOLD by a score of 37-7.

BP finished with a record of 12-1 overall. It was able to put together its playoff run behind the play of Kaden Thomas, who filled in at quarterback after senior Seth Peterson went down with an injury at the end of the regular season.

BP relied heavily on its junior class and Gabe Hagen was a big contributor at wide receiver and defensive end.

7. Running for a title

The GMLOKS girls 4 x 200-meter relay team brought home the co-op’s first ever state title when the group of Lauren Buchholtz, Emily Holland, Riley Queensland and Anika Reiland took first place with a time of 1:45.23 at the Minnesota Class A State Track and Field Meet.

The GMLOKS 4×200 relay team come together after receiving their first-place medals at the Minnesota Class A State Track and Field Meet Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul. The foursome of Emily Hovden, Riley Queensland, Lauren Buccholtz and Anika Reiland claimed the title in the finals. Herald File Photo

8. Hayfield misses out at state

A strong group of Hayfield seniors had their high school careers come to an end as the Vikings came up short in their fourth straight Minnesota Class A State Softball Tournament appearance.

The Vikings let a seventh inning lead slip away and lost a heartbreaker to eventual state champion New York Mills 6-5 in the state quarterfinals.

Hayfield finished with a record of 14-9 overall.

9. A lasting legacy

Pacelli senior Kayla Christopherson finished off a fantastic six-year run in high school cross country after she completed her fifth All-State performance in her sixth straight Minnesota Class A State Cross Country Meet.

Christopherson finished in 17th place with a time of 19:26.5 at the state meet.

“I just wanted to end my career on a high note and to lift my head high when I cross that finish line and know that I laid it all out on the line,” Christopherson said after the race.

10. Gach picks Utah

Austin native Both Gach may have missed his senior year with the Packers to play basketball at Arizona Compass Prep, but he returned to Austin where it all began when he signed his national letter-of-intent to play Division I basketball at the University of Utah.

Gach made his college commitment next to his brother Duoth, who know plays at North Dakota State College of Science, in front of a small crowd in Packer Gym.

“This is the gym where everything started. It’s where I used to watch the team play as a kid and it’s the gym where I had my first high school practice,” Both said after the signing.

Former Austin basketball player Both Gach made his college decision official next to Austin head boys basketball coach Kris Fadness and his brother Duoth in Packer Gym. Herald File Photo