What does next year hold for lakes area?
Like fans of the Minnesota Vikings, let's look ahead to next year.
Unlike Vikings fans, however, lakes area prep fans should see success next year.
The best chance for a state title could come from an individual.
Little Falls junior Whitney Weisz cut almost a second off of her 100-yard freestyle prelim time to land in second place in the Class 1A state finals Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Weisz trailed only senior Heidi Busack of Fergus Falls, who broke her own state record to win the event in 50.56.
Weisz actually beat Busack in the Central Lakes Conference meet in the 100 and 50 freestyles.
"I know I still have a lot of hard work to do," Weisz said Monday. "My goal is to win both events and with both of the girls who won this year graduating that will be nice. This year after basketball is over I want to start training for the swim season. Before I only swam for three months, where now I would like to start training nine months of the year."
Senior Amanda Paulson of Monticello was third followed by five underclassman, including two more from the Central Lakes Conference.
Weisz finished sixth in the 50 free and cut .11 seconds from her prelims time for a 24.11.
Paulson broke her own state record to win the event in 22.97. Busack was second. After that it was all underclassman.
The CLC posted four swimmers in the top eight in this event and another, Sauk Rapids' Katie Cook, was 14th.
Weisz wasn't happy with her 50 free time, but broke her own school record with her 100 free time. She said it was a matter of relaxing. She didn't for the 50, but did in the 100.
She said working on her starts and turns will be a point of emphasis during her preparation for next year.
"My stroke has always been good mainly because freestyle is all I ever swim," said Weisz. "Plus, I have a really long body so I'm able to pull a lot of water with my strokes. I don't actually kick that much."
The Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines went from wind-swept to sweeping the state on their way to the Class 2A state championship.
Can they do it again?
They will lose all-state setter Courtney Volkmann and fellow seniors Rachael Carlisle, Kelsi Crawford, Rachel Craig and Mandy Perkins. W-DC will return five players who saw significant action during the state title run, including top attacker Brittney Noon. So why not?
A state title might be hard to obtain, but a trip to St. Paul isn't unlikely.
The Little Falls Flyers will be in a new conference next year and will highlight junior outside hitter Alayna Kabanuk and libero Lexi Kapsner.
Three words: Staples-Motley Cardinals.
No area tennis team has been as dominant and consistent as the Cardinals, who were state runners-up this fall. Coach Kevin Coughlin's cupboard never seems bare so expect another run to state next season for the Cardinals, who bring back six girls who competed at the state tournament.
Cracking through the private school headlock for a state title is another thing.
The Crosby-Ironton Rangers sent their boys and girls teams to the Class 1A state meet for only the second time in program history. Look for that feat to be matched next year as the Rangers graduate just one runner from each squad.
The Ranger boys were 14th at the state meet, but bring back four of the top five runners.
C-I's girls team placed 16th, but all five of its top runners return. State isn't a long shot. Winning it all might be.
While graduation will hit the Brainerd Warriors girls' team hard, success does breed success and with 15 girls returning who witnessed the hard work put in by seniors Anna Gessell, Megan Holmes and Rebecca Yeh, I wouldn't count out the Warrior girls next season.
The Brainerd Warriors should make it to another state tournament unless Section 8-5A drastically improves. Brainerd is the Eden Prairie of northern Minnesota and that shouldn't change anytime soon.
As for the area, Pequot Lakes will be back among the top teams in Class 3A. Logan Lange will be the area's best returning back and a number of juniors and sophomores will make Pequot an improved team.
Pierz will be good because Pierz is always good. But will they be good enough to return to state?
That and many more questions will have to wait to be answered next year.
jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.