Great time to be a Packer: For the first time in history, both Packer boys and girls teams make state in the same year
Published 7:40 am Wednesday, March 20, 2019
It’s not just a great day to be a Packer, it’s been a great year to be a Packer.
After the Austin boys soccer team and Austin Packer dance team secured state berths this year, the Packer girls and boys basketball teams made Austin High School history, advancing to state in the same season. The Packer girls played in their first state tournament since 2008 last week and the Packer boys are playing in their third- straight state tournament starting today.
Austin head boys basketball coach Kris Fadness said the mood is always better in school when Austin teams are winning.
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“It started with soccer in the fall, then dance did what they always do and the individual swimmers did some big thing,” Fadness said. “We’ve had a pretty successful sports year and that locks into the whole school spirit. Our kids follow each others sports. This community supports its basketball and (Eric) Zoske’s done a good job with the girls program. They have good players, they’ve had success and we’re in the same boat.”
Fadness has over 300 career wins with the Packers and 400 career wins as a head coach and Zoske, who has 34 career wins in two years at AHS, joked that he has a ways to catch his basketball coaching counterpart. But in all seriousness, Zoske is trying to emulate what the boys program has done in recent years and make state an annual possibility for the Packer girls.
“It’s exciting for the entire community. It was probably a little bit more unexpected for the girls than the boys to make it, but we look at the boys program and that’s everything we aspire to be,” Zoske said. “Fads is a great mentor to me.”
The Packer girls made a big statement when they knocked off No. 1-ranked Red Wing on their way to state, but they lost both of their games at the Minnesota Class AAA State Girls Basketball Tournament last week. Zoske is hoping that was the first of many steps for the program.
“I hope we learned what it takes to get to state, and once you’re there, every team is good,” Zoske said. “Hopefully we learned just a little bit about that enhancement of competition and maybe next year it won’t be a such a surprise if we are lucky enough to make it back.”
One family that has benefitted from both basketball teams going to state is the Walters — as Ryan Walters, a senior, is on the boys basketball team and Kyra Walters, a junior, was on the girls team.
Kyra and Ryan grew up side by side on the court and sometimes Kyra would play on Ryan’s teams as a youth.
“Our whole family is very supportive and both of our goals was to get to state. We pushed it harder every game to make it to state and it paid off,” Kyra said. “This has been very exciting season for both teams. When we were young, we went everywhere together and we were always getting better.”
Ryan said he and Kyra aren’t always able to watch to each other play, but they always find a way to support each other.
“We formed an unbreakable bond and we’re always there for each other to offer support,” Ryan said.
Austin junior guard Agwa Nywesh, a guard on the boys team, said that the school has rallied around both basketball teams this winter and the Packer girls have definitely motivated the Packer boys.
“The energy is great. We made history and we’re trying to write our some more of our legacy,” Nywesh said. “They motivate us a lot. We don’t want a lower record than the girls and the girls want to beat us. It’s fun.”
Pick up your own copy of our special section looking back at the 2018-19 boys basketball season as well as all the information regarding this year’s Minnesota State Boys Basketball Tournament.