Athletics: 28 Warriors to continue athletic careers

Brainerd Warriors student-athletes signed the NCAA National Letters of Intent Wednesday, May 17, at Brainerd High School.

Brainerd High School students sign letters of intent to play for schools.
Brainerd High School students who participated in a signing day ceremony Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at the school are Breya Sawyer, left front, Julia Rademacher, Brenna Deason, Kate Stadum, Emily Bastian, Emma Balsley, Sophie Mattson, Bailey Clausen, Izzy Olson, Kateyn Kennedy, Hannah Drietz, Gabby Eckman, Violet Goodwin, Macy Peterson , second row left, Abby Paulson, Gavin Hoelzel, Dawson Ringler, Max Holstrom, Caleb Lange, Marcello Getty, John Pecarich, Jon Benson, Wyatt Gabrielson, Isaac Hanson, Cayden Sumpion, and Mason Kuepers.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Three years ago, Hannah Drietz started running.

She was bored during the COVID-19 lockdown. It wasn’t something she usually did. She competed in sports. She was athletic. But she wasn’t a runner. She didn’t run cross-country nor was she out for track and field prior to COVID.

Now the Brainerd senior will be doing both of those sports at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Drietz along with 27 of her Brainerd classmates signed their NCAA National Letters of Intent Wednesday, May 17, at Brainerd High School.

Drietz is one of three girls cross-country runners who will continue their athletic careers. She is joined by Katelyn Kennedy, who will attend Minnesota State University Moorhead, and Julia Rademacher, who will attend the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

Fitting for a team that advanced to the Class 3A State Meet.


Hannah Drietz
Hannah Drietz

“Never. Not in a million years,” Drietz said when asked if she ever thought she’d be running in college. “Honestly, I wouldn’t say until the end of my junior year and maybe the beginning of my senior year, the first month, did I ever think I could even entertain the idea of going to college for running. Then after the Roy Griak Invitational (Sept 22, 2022), it gave me the confidence to start reaching out to schools and they started reaching out to me. That’s when I realized that this might actually be an avenue to explore and maybe go to college for.”

Drietz finished third in the Maroon Division of the Griak and led the Brainerd girls to the team title in one of the largest high school/college combined races in Minnesota held on the campus of the U of M.

One asset Drietz has over other runners is she’s a relative rookie in the sport.

“When I talked to the U, that was one of the first things they said,” Drietz said. “They love young runners who are new. I only have two years on my legs. I’m fresh and they were excited to see what I could do in such a short time and they’re excited to see what I can do in the future.”

Abby Paulson ran track in junior high, but switched to the girls’ lacrosse program in eighth grade. Now she is headed to the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy to play lacrosse. It’s a new athletic program at the St. Louis-based institute, but so was girls’ lacrosse in Brainerd when Paulson started playing. Both the Warrior lacrosse programs started in 2017.

“My friend told me I should join lacrosse and I was like, ‘OK. I’ll give it a try,’” Paulson said. “I’m so grateful because I love the sport of lacrosse and it’s a growing program here in the area, but we have great numbers. It’s definitely going to go far in the future.”

Abby Paulson
Abby Paulson
Kelly Humphrey

Paulson wants to study nursing at UHSP and it just so happens, that’s a good school to go to for that field.

“I signed up for this app called NCSA (Next College Student Athlete Recruiting) and that allows people to e-mail you,” Paulson said. “(UHSP head coach Ashley Reid) e-mailed and they are a new program. This will be their second year when I go there. I was a little skeptical about it because it was so far away from home. I went and toured there over Thanksgiving and the campus is beautiful. They have good academics. I’m going for nursing and they’re the No. 1 nursing school in the state. I had to beg my mom to let me go, but I’m so glad she did because the coach was so sweet and so were all the girls.”


Paulson isn’t the only girls' lacrosse player who signed Wednesday. Breya Sawyer will be playing next year at St. Ben’s. The Collegeville campus will also be home to Kate Stadum for volleyball. The girls’ soccer program saw Emma Balsley (University of Wisconsin-Stout) and Gabby Eckman (St. Scholastica) sign their letters.

Izzy Olson signed with the United States Naval Academy. Her diving teammate Brenna Deason signed with North Dakota State University for track and field. Emily Bastian and Violet Goodwin will go to the University of Minnesota, Duluth for track. Also going to NDSU is Bailey Clausen for dance. Macy Peterson is traveling the farthest as she’s attending Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut, for women’s hockey. Sophie Mattson is staying close to home to play softball for Ray Austin and the Central Lakes College women’s softball team.

On the boys’ side, Mason Kuepers and Cayden Sumption will join former high school teammate Cade Rosenwald at St. Cloud State University for swimming. Last winter’s teammate Wyatt Gabrielson will attend St. Olaf to dive and play baseball.

Isaac Hanson is going to St. Cloud State for baseball and Jonathan Benson will attend the University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls for baseball.

“I was at a baseball game and saw the coach and we talked a little bit,” Benson said. “He continued to communicate with me and I really liked what he had to say. I visited the campus and fell in love with it.”

Jon Benson
Jon Benson

The Benson (catheter) and Hanson (pitching) battery have played on the Warrior varsity for the last three years. Having Brainerd on the jersey was a plus said Benson.

“I feel like being from Brainerd helped me a lot,” Benson said. “It got my name out there more. I was able to play at the varsity level and I showed that I had the skills to do it. The coaching staff here helped me get better and refine my skills and helped me move on to the next level.”

Benson is excited about the opportunity and said the decision has allowed him to enjoy his senior season of baseball.”


“There was a lot of relief because during the basketball season, I was still up in the air on the decision,” Benson said. “I felt stressed out every day. Then I finally decided on Sioux Falls and it kind of just opened everything up. Now I know where I’m going so I’m not stressed out and can just enjoy the season.”

Gavin Hoelzel is also headed to St. Olaf for track and field. John Pecarich is taking his talents to Bemidji State University next winter.

Brainerd’s football team will be represented at CLC as quarterback Marcello Getty and backfield mate Damien Bentho will be staying close to home. Teammate Caleb Lange is headed to the University of South Dakota.

The Warrior boys’ golf team has three players continuing their careers. Dawson Ringler and Max Holmstrom will attend the University of Nebraska for the PGA management program and Keegan Davidge is going to Eastern Kentucky University.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

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Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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