2018 Top Area Sports Stories: A year of good-byes
His wit and storytelling are only matched by his longevity in his profession. After 46 seasons, and 764 career wins, Brainerd Warriors head baseball coach Lowell Scearcy announced his retirement following Brainerd's loss to St. Michael-Albertvill...
His wit and storytelling are only matched by his longevity in his profession.
After 46 seasons, and 764 career wins, Brainerd Warriors head baseball coach Lowell Scearcy announced his retirement following Brainerd's loss to St. Michael-Albertville in the Section 8-4A championship series June 7 in Cold Spring.
Those 764 career wins rank No. 2 all-time on the Minnesota State High School League baseball wins list. Scearcy finished with a winning percentage of .703 (764-323).
Scearcy's baseball teams won 19 Central Lakes Conference championships and 11 section titles. In 11 state tournament appearances, Brainerd won state titles in 1995 and 2000 and finished second in 1996. Brainerd finished fourth once and claimed two state consolation titles.
Scearcy coached a handful of sports for 51 years. He coached baseball for 49 with 46 of those coming in Warrior Blue and White.
The 73-year-old announced his retirement with a signed baseball he gave to Brainerd activities director Charlie Campbell that said "I feel it's the right time to call it a career. Go Brainerd. Lowell Scearcy."
2: Pierzinski runs away with it
On the front of his red and white track and field uniform, it said Pequot. It might as well have said Pierzinski.
Pequot Lakes senior Reid Pierzinski won three individual state titles to lead the Patriots to the Class 1A team title. The accomplishment of single-handedly leading a team to a state track and field title happened only once before. In 1987, Heather Van Norman, the mother of NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., led Windom to the 1A girls title with 30 points.
Pierzinski earned 39 points by himself. He finished seventh in the triple jump June 8 for 3 team points. On June 9, he captured individual titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and 200 dash for 12 points each.
His 39 points were seven more than second-place Mora and Southwest Christian.
Pierzinski topped second-place finisher Max Giza of Staples-Motley in the 110s with a time of 14.84.
He won the 300 hurdles in 38.48. Giza was fourth in 40.45.
He finished his high school career with a winning time of 22.33 in the 200.
Pierzinski is now a freshman at South Dakota State University.
3: He was the greatest of all time
At least for a month, Ricky Aulie was a Guinness World Record holder.
The Pine River-Backus Elementary School principal broke into world-record territory July 26 at Breezy Point Resort's Whitebirch Golf Course when he completed the 503-yard, par 5 fourth hole in 1:39.20. That time put him ahead of Steve Jeffs of the United Kingdom as the fastest golf hole completed by an individual. Jeffs' time was 1:50.6.
Aulie completed the record-breaking accomplishment on his third attempt. After a perfect drive, he took his time on his 3-wood to land it about 15 yards from the front of the green. After a no-look chip shot and almost went in, Aulie tapped in his birdie putt and pointed skyward with a hefty "Yeah. Thank you, Jesus." between deep breaths.
The 34-year-old just happened to come across a video of Jeffs' feat. The former Golden Gloves boxer and high school cross country runner and golfer figured he was perfect for the task.
Aulie heard back from Guinness Dec. 27 and his record was verified. However, a month after Aulie broke the record, a man from Brazil broke his record by five seconds.
In an email, Aulie wrote: "I have not seen the video or his artifacts, but it is listed on (The Guinness) site. It was no doubt a disappointment, but records are meant to be broken I guess. This guy apparently did an amazing job to get his time down below mine."
4: The story read round the nation
It wasn't meant to turn into the story it did, but when Scott Stanfield announced his resignation as the Brainerd Warriors head boys basketball coach, he did hope for change.
Stanfield announced midway through the season that he and his entire coaching staff would resign following the 2017-18 season. The reason, and the quote that sparked many national news publications and other media outlets to run the story was: "I go from being a cop to this, and it's one stressful job to another and it's time for a break," Stanfield said. "Coaching was worse. Coaching has been way worse."
He who coached 22 seasons in the Brainerd program with the final seven as head coach. Stanfield blamed parental pressure for his resignation.
It was the most viewed story on BrainerdDispatch.com with 103,581 views. The next most viewed story on the Dispatch website collected 43,828 views.
Charlie Schoeck is now head coach of the Warriors who are off to a 3-4 start to this season. Assistant coach Brian Gustafson did return to the Warrior sideline. Stanfield is now an assistant coach in Aitkin.
5: Back on track
Reid Pierzinski wasn't the only area athlete to have a day to remember at the Class 1A state track and field meet June 8-9 at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Pierz's Beth-el Algarin won the shot put title a day after turning 18. She threw a career-best 44-1.25 to better International Falls' Emma Gilbert on her third throw.
It was Algarin's third state trip. She finished sixth in the discus the day before. She is now a freshmen thrower at the University of Nebraska.
The foursome of Grace McGuire, Kristin Skog, Lydia Hubbard and Cassidy Chaney kept the state 4x400 relay title in Pequot Lakes for one more year. The relay won with a 3:57.37.
Giza, who was second to Pierzinski in the 110 hurdles, didn't leave the state meet empty-handed. The Cardinals' graduate and North Dakota State University freshman won the pole vault title with a 14-6 effort. He was third in 2017 and seventh in 2016.
Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale's Sam Moore repeated as the state shot put champion. Moore won with a toss of 62-3.5. He won the title in 2017 as a junior at 59-11.75.
The next day, Moore was announced as the inaugural winner of the Mr. Track Award. He swept both throwing events last year and along with winning the shot, he placed second in the discus with a 180-4.
Moore is now a freshman on the NDSU track and field team as well as on the Bison football team.
Wadena-Deer Creek captured two state relay titles. W-DC's 4x200 relay of Jonathan Pantages, Bereket Loer, Chase Domier and Hunter Hawkins won with a 1:29.83.
The same foursome also won the 4x400 with 3:24.26.
6: Netting a top 10
Actually, it was a top eight as the Brainerd Warriors boys tennis team won the Section 8-2A team title to advance to its first state tournament since 1975.
The doubles team of Camden Cooper-Matthew Hintz rebounded from 0-6 first-set loss at No. 3 doubles to win 7-5, 7-6 (9-7) and advance the Warriors to the round of 8 at state.
Tanner Lundberg and Steven Low claimed singles titles and Ian Aadland-Patrick Moraghan won at No. 2 doubles leading Brainerd to a 4-3 win over St. Cloud Tech in the section final.
Brainerd was the North Subsection 8-2A's top seed, while Tech was the South Subsection's top seed.
It was the third win over Tech for Brainerd during the season as the Warriors entered the state tournament with a 24-0 record.
The Warriors opened the state tournament with a 6-1 loss to No. 3-seeded Rochester Century, which finished as the state runner-up. The one win came from Cooper-Hintz at No. 3 doubles.
In the consolation bracket, Brainerd fell to Eastview 6-1. Moraghan-Aadland won at No. 2 doubles.
7. A long leap to success
Brian Huber's track and field career was memorable even before the NCAA Division II Outdoor National Championships May 25.
In 2013, the Staples-Motley High School graduate won a Class 1A state long jump title his senior year. He was a four-time state high jump and long jump participant in high school.
He capped an even better collegiate career at Minnesota State University Moorhead by leaping 26-2.25 for a school record and a national title in Charlotte, N.C. He is the first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference athlete to win a national long jump title since 1992.
Huber graduated from MSUM as a national champion, four-time first-team All-American and five-time NSIC champion.
8: A powerhouse run
Some football programs hope to win 23 games in 10 years. The Pierz Pioneers did it in two as the powerhouse program rattled off 23 straight wins between its 2017 Prep Bowl state title and last fall.
The top-ranked and defending state champion Pioneers added their seventh straight section title and 15th state tournament appearance overall as they defeated New London-Spicer 44-6 in the Section 6-3A title game Nov. 2 at St. Cloud. The victory was Pierz's 13 straight section win.
Win No. 23 came during the Class 3A state quarterfinals when Pierz eliminated Annandale 60-12 Nov. 10 at St. Cloud.
The run came to an end Nov. 17 when Pierz fell to eventual state champion Rochester Lourdes 25-20 at U.S. Bank Stadium in the 3A state semifinals.
Pierz running back Reese Kapsner was named the Brainerd Dispatch Player of the Year.
Pioneers head coach Leo Pohlkamp retired following the season. After 39 seasons at the helm, Pohlkamp left as the 13th-winningest coach in Minnesota State High School League history with a career record of 276-84. He was eighth among active coaches. He won three state titles with his first coming in Class 2A in 2004. His next two were in 3A in 2015 and 2017. Pohlkamp was named the 2017 coach of the year by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association.
A few days after Pohlkamp retired, long-time defensive coordinator Dan Saehr was plucked as Pohlkamp's successor.
9: All he did was win
A 127-27 career record shows Brainerd's Tanner Lundberg did a lot of winning and did it against top competition.
The long-time No. 1 singles player for the Warrior boys tennis team advanced to three state singles tournaments and was a Section 8-2A champion. In fact, the majority of Lundberg's losses came at state or in section title matches.
His senior year, Lundberg led the Warriors to their first state tournament appearance since 1975.
Lundberg picked up his first state individual tournament win June 7 when he defeated Stewart Morrell of Elk River 6-0, 6-1.
Lundberg's 127 wins are the most by any Brainerd Warrior in program history.
10: Sauer is sweet
It took 57 years and a quiet player named Joey Sauer to even come close to Dale Brown.
Brown set the Brainerd Warrior boys basketball program's standard for most points in a game Dec. 28, 1961, when he scored 41 in a win over Granite Falls. Sauer tied the mark Dec. 7, 2018, when he scored 41 points in a 96-91 overtime victory over Sauk Rapids.
Sauer hit on 15 of 27 shots, including 8-for-15 from 3-point. He added 18 rebounds, three assists, seven steals and two blocked shots helping Brainerd to its first win of the season.