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2010-2011: Top 10 moments in west metro high school sports

By Brian Stensaas, Star Tribune, 06/23/11, 10:22AM CDT


Eden Prairie's Rau does it all

If you know of a senior athlete that had a better 24-hour stretch than Eden Prairie's Kyle Rau did in mid-March, let us know.

Rau, who will play for the Gophers next season and is likely to be a late-round pick in this weekend's NHL draft, became an instant hero with one poke of his hockey stick.

Rau's spectacular goal in the third overtime -- a poke after diving head-first along the ice in pursuit of a loose puck sitting in the crease -- lifted the Eagles over Duluth East 3-2 for the Class 2A boys' hockey tournament title.

The contest was the first time in the 67-year history of the tournament that a championship game went to three overtimes. The state title was the second for the Eagles in three seasons, with several seniors on the team playing prominent roles as sophomores in snaring the championship in 2009.

A day later, Rau was named Mr. Hockey. Not bad for a kid who in November told teammates he planned to skip his senior year to play in the USHL.

"Your brother decides to stay, we win a championship and he wins Mr. Hockey," twin brother Curt Rau said. "You can't ask for anything better."

Said Eagles coach Lee Smith: "There will be a page for him in the history books for what he meant to the high school tournament."

Jefferson softball prevails

It took 23 innings spread over two days, but in the end Bloomington Jefferson emerged out of the always tough Class 3A, Section 3 softball tournament. With the two victories over defending state champion Burnsville, the Jaguars advanced to their first state tournament appearance.

"It was a grind," Jefferson coach Penny Witzenburg said, then added, "but we've been knocking on the door and to break through is huge."

With Jefferson needing to win twice over the Blaze, the two teams battled for 15 innings before the Jaguars broke through for a 2-1 victory to force a decisive Game 2. After a short break, the field was ready and so were the teams. Parents got in on the action, too, having nine boxes of pizza and sacks full of sandwiches delivered to the field at Eagan High School after the concession stand ran out of nourishment.

When darkness put a halt to Game 2 after seven more innings, it was resumed the next afternoon. Jefferson ended it in less than 30 minutes.

Cassandra Santiago's bases-loaded single to center field broke the tie in the bottom of the eighth inning, sending Jefferson to state.

"We prepared to play one inning," Santiago said.

Big shakeups in football

The football programs at Wayzata and Maple Grove were affected by significant off-field developments.

The Minnesota State High School League added a seventh class this spring, meaning defending Class 5A champion Wayzata, among others, will be in the mix of the state's largest schools in Class 6A.

Defense ruled all three of the Trojans' Class 5A championship teams in the past six seasons, earning coordinator Matt Lombardi well-deserved respect for shaping those units. That made Lombardi's departure to Maple Grove for the head coach job in February intriguing. The Crimson is widely considered a sleeping giant of a program, and Lombardi believes he has the alarm clock.

Wayzata rules the links

Wayzata made it a sweep in Coon Rapids last week when both the boys' and girls' golf teams won Class 3A state championships. The Trojans boys shared their title with Rogers while the girls won their first in fine fashion, by seven shots over Stillwater.

It was the third consecutive championship for the boys. Ties are rare in state golf, and protocol says a coin flip determines which team takes the trophy the day-of and which has to wait for a second to be manufactured.

But Trojans coach Allan Christopherson – true to the gentlemanly ways of golf – told Royals coach Dan Bursheim their team could take the hardware.

"That was pretty cool," Bursheim said, clutching the trophy. "Big thanks to them."

Wayzata's three-peat is the first among the state's largest schools since Bemidji won four in a row from 1988 to '91.

Scary moment

Those watching Holy Family play DeLaSalle in the Class 3A state football semifinals at Metrodome will never forget it. They sat in a hushed silence moments after the Fire's Michael Wurm – a senior defensive back – lay motionless at midfield after tackling Reggie Gandy. The hit left Wurm drifting in and out of consciousness.

He initially had no response but soon told medical staff he was able to move his toes inside of his cleats. He visibly moved his hands and feet after being placed on a stretcher.

Wurm was taken to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and allowed to go home the same day – serious, to be sure, but relatively good news.

"I remember opening my eyes, seeing really bright lights," said Wurm, who was back at school the next week. "It was almost like it was a movie: just a couple of people, some blurs around me and that light."

Said coach Dave Hopkins: "This one impacted me like no other. I was scared. It took a long time to know he was OK."

No stopping Hopkins

Hopkins again proved it is the center of the boys' basketball universe in March when the Royals won their third consecutive Class 4A state championship. Hopkins shot 56.8 percent from the field in the championship game against Eden Prairie to cap a 31-1 season and avenge its only loss – by four points to the Eagles.

A week earlier, the Hopkins girls' team also won a Class 4A state championship.

Best in state, best in the nation

In a performance worthy of a standing ovation, Eden Prairie's Rachel Bootsma got one from the assembled crowd at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in November after she received her gold medal for winning the 100-yard backstroke at the Class 2A state meet.

Her time of 51.53 seconds set a national high school record, besting the mark of 51.85 set in May by Cindy Tran of Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Bootsma, who skipped last year's high school season to swim with the U.S. national team in Colorado, scaled back from 4,000 yards of daily training to 3,000 yards in about a 10-day span before the meet.

"That's a good drop, and the intensity was different," Eagles coach Kelly Boston said. "To see it pay off, and the reaction she got, it just gives you chills."

Eden Prairie travels far

A switch to the new five-team Lake Conference left Eden Prairie with a handful of open dates on its football schedule this fall. One eventually was taken by Minneapolis Washburn – which took a cool $2,000 to go with it – but the other two were filled by teams from Canada.

The Eagles took two coach buses to Winnipeg to open the season at Canad Inns Stadium, home of the CFL's Blue Bombers. The games – both won by Eden Prairie via shutout – were played under Canadian rules using a longer, wider field than the American version. The Canadian game uses a variety of different rules, but the basics are the same: run, block tackle.

Still, after overseeing it all and ushering around 75 teenagers coach Mike Grant was ready to head back home.

"The kids reacted well," Grant said after coaching 96 minutes of football. "But I'm exhausted."

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