Commentary: 2017 a local sports year to remember
As I slip into the red and green striped pajamas my wife bought me for Christmas (yes she actually did) and before I prepare for a long winter's nap, it's time to reflect on an extraordinary 2017 local sports season.
In the last 12 months, I had an opportunity to cover one of the greatest sporting events I've seen in parts of five decades of pounding away at a keyboard, cover seven state track and field champions, experience a day with the Stanley Cup and chronicle the exploits of a record-setting Brainerd Warrior running back.
Following in a chestnut shell are some of my 2017 sports writing highlights:
4 OTs of hockey
The Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors' four-overtime 3-2 loss to Roseau for the Section 8-2A championship in February at Bemidji Community Arena was an unimaginable start to the year. Roseau's Ella Helgeson scored with 1:20 remaining in the fourth overtime to send the Rams to state.
The exhausted teams played almost 100 minutes of hockey, almost double the amount of regulation time, before the second-seeded Rams won their fifth section title in 10 years. The first overtime lasted eight minutes, the second 17 minutes, the third eight minutes and the fourth 15:40 at which point Helgeson ended the marathon.
Top-seeded BLF finished the greatest season in program history with a 25-3 record. It was the first section final appearance for the Warriors.
BLF'a Olivia King and Kiana Flaig, her counterpart in the Roseau net, were almost flawless throughout regulation and overtime.
Next came the state track and field meet in June at Hamline University in St. Paul where Class 1A individuals from the lakes area continued to stand out.
From 2011-16, the Pequot Lakes Patriot girls won six state championships in individual events or relays and twice finished third in the team standings. This year they added to their medals cache by winning two relay titles and finished 6.5 points behind champion Minneapolis Edison.
The Patriots' Mirjana Ganley, Kristin Skog, Grace McGuire and Chloe Bermel won the 4x200 relay. Pequot ended the meet by winning the 4x400 which included McGuire, Skog, Olivia Lane and Bermel.
Staples-Motley's Millie Klefsaas won the pole vault state championship. The Cardinals' standout set a 1A meet record by clearing 12 feet, 3 inches, on a windy day, bettering the meet record she set in 2016 by 3 inches.
In the 1A boys meet, Pequot Lakes' Reid Pierzinski finished a nearly flawless season. Pierzinski, who helped the Patriots to second place in the team standings, lost only one hurdles race all season.
His first of three state titles was in the 110 high hurdles. Later he added gold in the 300 hurdles. In the meet's final event, Pierzinski anchored the Patriots' 4x400 relay to victory. His relay mates included Ben Nelson, Robbie Hendrickson and Cody Huss.
Samuel Moore of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale, who will play football at North Dakota State next season, won the discus title following a competition that lasted about 2.5 hours.
I was honored to be invited to Jim and Anne Archibald's cabin south of Brainerd as their son, Josh, had his day with the Stanley Cup as a member of the NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Josh earned the right to have the hallowed chalice for a day by playing in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators. A player must have participated in 41 regular-season games or in one Stanley Cup Final game in order to have their name etched on the most famous trophey.
Archibald wasn't in uniform for Game Six when the Penguins clinched the Cup with a 2-0 victory. But he skated onto the ice in uniform after the game and joined teammates' in celebration.
Capping 2017 was the opportunity to cover running back Charlie Geraets in 12 Brainerd Warrior football games.
The senior standout shattered about every Brainerd rushing record, breaking almost every standard Brian Day set in the 1995-96 seasons.
Relying on a punishing running style that enabled him to bounce off countless tackles, Geraets rushed for 2,256 yards in 2017, the second-highest single-season total in program history. He ran for 25 touchdowns, caught two TD passes and threw two touchdown passes.
In his 3-year varsity career, Geraets rushed for a program-record 4,046 yards on 690 attempts (5.9 average) and scored 46 TDs. He compiled seven of the top 11 individual rushing games in program history.
Following the season, Geraets was named the Warriors' most valuable player for the second year. He made the all-state academic and Minnesota Vikings all-state teams and played for the North All-Star Team in the Minnesota Football Showcase at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Day finished his career with 3,451 yards and 48 TDs. His 48 TDs remain the program standard.
Here's hoping 2018 will bring athletic efforts that approach or surpass those of 2017.
Happy holidays to all my readers and all my Tweeters.