Joe Brown is a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia. Prior to becoming regional editor, he was the sports editor of the Red Wing Republican Eagle from 2012-2018. He also worked as the sports editor for the Marshall Independent (2010-2012) and as a sports/news clerk for the St. Cloud Times (2008-2009). He graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication.
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NEW PRAGUE — After going 0-9 in 2016 and playing with its fourth coach in three years, Red Wing has taken its fair share of lumps. Friday's season-opener wasn't much different, with a 56-8 loss to Big Southeast Blue District foe New Prague. But, if there's one thing first-year head coach Nate Freier wants to build on, it's the Wingers' toughness. Yes, they've taken their lumps, but he sees a group that continued to get up every time.
Last fall saw a second in school history when both the Red Wing boys' and girls' cross-country teams reached the state meet. Now, how do the Wingers plan on performing an encore? "Hopefully we'll continue right where we left off," head cross-country coach Jesse Nelson said after a laugh. On the boys' side, that means building on the returning core.
Last fall was a constant struggle to find the right lineup. And toward the end of the season, the Red Wing volleyball team was finally starting to jell. "Last year, we spent a lot of time trying to find a right combination. Toward the end, we found the ones that could play together," said Wingers second-year head coach Dave Lyons. "This year, it's about amplifying them more. The more they trust each other, the more cohesive they play." Lyons added, "We should be more competitive in a lot more games this year."
While Doug Toivonen and Drew Olinger were coaching the boys' tennis team in the spring, they were starting to build a rapport with the girls' tennis team. "A couple of the girls were managers (for the boys) last year, so I knew them," Toivonen said. "And in summer tennis this year, I got a chance to know the girls that way, too." With Toivonen and Olinger pulling co-head coach duties this fall, the Wingers look to make progress with a young squad mixed in with five seniors.
Red Wing can keep up offensively with Elko. But with the season on the line Sunday in the Section 1B playoffs, keeping up wasn't enough for the Aces. They needed to overtake the Express, and that proved problematic. With two runs in the second inning, followed by a three-run third, Elko's early edge was enough to sweep Red Wing in the best-of-three series with a 5-2 win Sunday at the Red Wing Athletic Field. In Game 1 Friday in Elko, the Express opened the series with a 9-4 victory.
Each breath and each swallow for Chris Rodgers is painful. Diagnosed in 2009 with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare type of cancer, Rodgers was given a year to live. And yet, for nearly a decade, he has defied the odds to the amazement of his doctors. He's terminally ill, but Rodgers keeps pushing forward. "My doctors have said they have no idea how I've made it as long as I have," Chris said. "They ask me all the time and I tell them I think it's being with my kids, being in sports and keeping my mind occupied with all these activities with my kids."
Bart Gray grew up in Pepin. But thanks to weekend trips, Red Wing always felt like home as well. "Red Wing is kind of my home. When we went shopping on Saturdays, it was to Red Wing," Gray said. "For my wife and I both, we're coming home." Gray will return to familiar territory after accepting the vacant activities director/student support specialist position at Red Wing High School last week. Red Wing High School principal Todd Herber announced Gray's hiring via e-mail on Monday.
In the last seven meetings against the Red Wing Aces, the Miesville Mudhens have dominated the Classic Cannon Valley League rivalry. Following Tuesday's 7-0 Independence Day victory at the Red Wing Athletic Field, Miesville has outscored Red Wing 63-7 in the last seven meetings, with the Aces' last win coming on May 25, 2015. "Coming off a title last year, we got a good group of veteran guys and a good mix of young guys sprinkled in," said Mudhens manager Chris Olean. "It's a good recipe for us."
A deep dive on YouTube helped Teddy Tauer find a way to mow down more hitters in the Big Nine Conference. A student of the game of baseball, Tauer will use his free time to watch clips of top pitchers. "I just want to be as good as I can be, so I study the greats," Tauer said.
Traveling just over 1,000 miles for his newest coaching destination, Nate Freier is beginning to lay the foundation of what he wants Red Wing football to become. "I know people want the program to succeed and I wouldn't have moved halfway across the country if I didn't think it could," Freier said. Already in the midst of off-season weight training, Freier and the rest of the Red Wing football team got to talk Xs and Os for the first time as the team had its first mini-camp Monday at Red Wing High School.