Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.
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MINNEAPOLIS — Cecelia De Jong was gassed. Trying to make her final push in the 100-yard butterfly preliminaries Friday at the Class A state swimming and diving championship, De Jong emptied the tank in an attempt to reach the top eight. "I died at the end and just gave it my all," De Jong said. "I'm happy with how it went." De Jong hit the wall in 58.63 seconds, finishing just short of championship contention with a ninth-place showing. The final championship spot went to Detroit Lakes' Jennifer Tracy in 58.31.
Grace O'Brien, Sammy Kriese and Cecelia De Jong are ready for round two of state. As three-fourths of the state 200-yard medley relay team, the Wingers just wanted a state time in order to get to the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. When the 200 medley relay returns to the state pool for Friday's Class A prelims, the expectation is much higher. "This year we want to place higher at state than we did last year," De Jong said. At last year's meet, the Red Wing relay placed 15th in 1 minute, 55.16 seconds. The expectation now?
SHAKOPEE — Goodhue started to lose its grip on a trip to US Bank Stadium. After taking a 7-0 lead against Mayer Lutheran in the Class A state quarterfinals, the ball started slipping out of the Wildcats' grasp. For six turnovers. Then, the Crusaders capitalized and scored 31 straight points. And even as they made it a two-possession game in the fourth quarter, Goodhue was just too far out of reach for a trip to the state semifinals as the Wildcats' season came to an end with a 31-21 loss.
ST. PAUL — A slow start can be overcome. But against the top-seeded and top-ranked team in Class AA, the chances of making the comeback are awfully daunting. And that was the predicament unseeded Kenyon-Wanamingo found itself in. By the time the Knights found their stride against Maple Lake, it was too late. And the top-seeded Irish made K-W pay by knocking them out of state championship contention with a three-set victory (25-19, 25-18, 25-22) in the state quarterfinals Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.
ST. PETER — Southwest Christian had all the momentum. The Stars scored four straight points, including a block that put the team ahead 17-12 in the first set of the Section 2AA championship against Kenyon-Wanamingo. But, the Knights weren't shaken. It didn't matter that it was late in the set. "We definitely didn't start out strong but we knew we wanted it," said sophomore outside hitter Ally Peterson. "We knew we needed to play hard. We wanted it so bad so we knew we had to start playing harder."
NORTHFIELD — Look good, run good. That was the idea when the Red Wing boys' cross-country team rummaged through storage and found some old-school tops. "They've been there forever," junior Tucker Wallin said, looking down at the old shirt. "I always liked wearing them. I used it once and hung onto it." There was some apprehension at first, but for state, the Wingers went with the throwback white-and-purple mesh jerseys.
WEST ST. PAUL — Cannon Falls offense revolves around the big play. After a couple runs up the gut, the Bombers will take a handoff in their T-formation and try to catch a team off-guard for a big gain. Against top-seeded and top-ranked St. Croix Lutheran, Cannon Falls was able to chip away at the Crusaders but were never able to break the big play. And a bigger problem: St. Croix Lutheran had little trouble breaking free for huge gains.
Tom Nemanich and Asa Beckner were able to see the excitement from a distance. In seventh and eighth grade, respectively, the two saw their older brothers — George Nemanich and Meyer Beckner — elated to get to state in 2012. It was the first time since 1999 that the Winger boys' cross-country team had qualified for the state meet. "I was an alternate with Phil Mitchell, and it was a great experience," Asa said. "Running and cheering the guys on, it was great energy. I think it helped motivate the other guys, too."
ROCHESTER—Goodhue was back at the Mayo Civic Center, riding high after upsetting third-seeded Medford on Thursday. But Bethlehem Academy is a buzzsaw. A state power. There was little margin of error for the sixth-seeded Wildcats. And under the big lights in Rochester, the Cardinals proved to be the better team on Saturday, ending Goodhue's season in the Section 1A-West semifinals in three sets, 25-9, 25-14, 25-16.
WINONA — A different mindset. The Red Wing locker room had a different mindset this week coming off a win against Albert Lea in the Section 1AAAA opener. "Everyone was a lot more happy and wanted to be there," said senior wide receiver Tre Moore. "Coming off a winless (regular) season, it was nice to have one in the playoffs. It's a better mentality for everyone. ... It was nice to have guys step up and to have them be positive." A different mindset allowed the Wingers to have some more success against Winona than the Week 7 loss.