25 years of sports memories

Back during my 2-1/2 year hiatus when I left The Times to work at Sun Newspapers in the Twin Cities, one of my staff members was John Sherman. Among his other assignments, John was, and still is, sports editor for the Edina Sun-Current, a position he has held for nearly 50 years.
John is an encyclopedia of sports knowledge and sports connections. He was once head baseball coach at Augsburg College and coached Minnesota Transitions to the state boys basketball tournament.
One of his favorite things to do, and something he would do every few months, was put out a top 10 list. Of course, Edina has a rich sports history and there was plenty to write about.
So last week, I had come to the realization that I had been working in the newspaper business for nearly 30 years, and as of last month, I have been covering New Prague High School sports - between my two stints at The Times - for 25 years. I’ve seen plenty of events, and decided I could come up with a top 10 list or two in my memories of covering high school sports.
So here, in no particular order, are my top 10 memories from 25 years of covering Trojan sports: Before anyone wonders why I don’t mention the girls Class AAA state championship basketball team or the second place state volleyball team, I was at both of those games, but as a spectator. I was not working for The Times in 2000 and 2001.
1992 Wrestling - New Prague vs. Le Center/Cleveland in the Le Center gym for the Section wrestling championship. Going into the last three matches all LCC needed was one draw to clinch the championship (back in the day when matches could end in a draw). Instead, New Prague wins all three, with Joe Deichelbohrer a first-year wrestler - pinning a previously unbeaten wrestler in the final match to clinch it for the Trojans.
1997 Boys Basketball - State tournament game. This was the first year of the four-class state tournament and the first round was played at Otto Arena at Minnesota State Mankato. New Prague played Marshall in what was the loudest arena I’d ever been in. New Prague won the game, then defeated Minneapolis Roosevelt before losing to Simley in the championship game.
2007 Football - New Prague is playing in the Section championship at Northfield. With time running out, Nick Zweber is headed toward the goal line, leaps into the air from about the five yard line, about 20 feet from where I am standing with my camera. A series of photo frames shows him flying toward and over the goal line for the winning touchdown.
1992 Girls Basketball - In the championship game for Region 4A at Henry Sibley High School against Isle, New Prague has a comfortable lead. As time runs out, I station myself near the Trojan bench to get a reaction shot of Ron Gunderson. After a couple of initial leaps, he makes a beeline across the gym into the stands to give his wife Joan a huge hug. I follow with the camera and get the shot for the newspaper.
2016 Wrestling - I’m sitting matside to get a photo of Griffin Parriott as he tries to win his third state championship match. The match begins, and Parriott pins his opponent in 10 seconds. For the entire match, the referee is standing directly between me and the action and I get absolutely nothing. In fact, my view was blocked in such a way that at first, I thought Griffin was the one on his back.
2013 Gymnastics - If I had to pick a favorite, it would be hard to top this one. It was the 2013 State tournament. Longtime New Prague Coach Matt Shetka died of a heart attack during the first month of the season. His team was among the favorites to win the state that season, and they did just that. Best moment - watching Marissa Ekness waver a bit on the balance beam, but not fall, then smile with confidence as she finished the routine that capped the title run.
2008 Boys Track and Field - At the Section 2AA meet, long after everyone else had been eliminated, New Prague’s Tony Johnson and a Chaska athlete were locked in a battle for the high jump championship. Maybe the most drama I’d witnessed at a track and field meet. I don’t remember who won, but I do remember the excitement.
2014 Boys Hockey - The Section 1A boys hockey championship - New Prague finally gets over the hump to earn its first state tournament berth with a win over Mankato West. This one had a little more of a meaning for me since I spent 17 years as a hockey parent doing what I could to support the program. I didn’t have any kids on this team, but there were a couple of players on this team who played mite hockey with my youngest son.
2015 Softball - With a team dominated by eighth graders and freshmen, New Prague defeated Prior Lake to win the Section 2AAA championship and earn its first ever state championship berth. They won the Section 1AAAA championship two years later, and those eighth graders are seniors this year… No pressure, girls, but…
2004 Girls Hockey - Really no single moment, just the entire season. New Prague had never had a winning record - in fact, had only a handful of wins - in five years of girls hockey. There were a handful of solid players returning, and they were joined by a talented group of eighth graders and a junior transfer - Jessie Doig - help transform the team into a winner. The team flew in under the radar, won the section championship and lost to Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the State Class A championship game.

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