The Wright Call
By Dave Wright
The newest local sports dynasty is the Saint Catherine University swim team, which won its third straight Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) title last month. The season has been extended for several Saint Kate’s swimmers who earned invitations to the NCAA Division III Swimming Championships from March 15-18 in Indianapolis.
The headliners for the Wildcats are a pair of veterans who’ve kept getting better each year. In the case of Jordyn Wentzel and Annie Voss, that’s been a long time. Wentzel is a graduate student who, because of a lost COVID season, got an extra year of competition and has made the most of it. The three-time MIAC swimmer of the year will take part in three individual and two team events in Indianapolis. Voss, a senior, will also be busy with a pair of solo events and a team race.
SCU coach Justin Zook couldn’t say enough about the pair. “Going into the year, I knew Jordyn had a lot on her plate,” Zook said. “Working on her MBA, I knew that going to practice would be hard. She’s also a captain, but I didn’t press her on those duties. Balancing all of it has been difficult, but she just leads by example.”
That example showed up at the MIAC championships at the University of Minnesota in mid-February, where Wentzel won the 100 and 200 breaststrokes as well as the 500 freestyle, and took part in two winning relays. Wentzel’s 2:12.94 effort in the 200 breaststroke is the top NCAA DIII time recorded this year. She also ranks second nationally in the 400 and 10th in the 200 individual medleys.
“Every possession counts now,” said CDH boys’ basketball coach Jerry Kline. “You’ve had all season to adjust and you need your players to have the right mindset.”
Voss and Wentzel both make nationals
Voss won the 100 and 200 backstrokes at the MIAC meet. Her 2:01.54 time in the latter was a career best and earned her a return invite to nationals. She will also join Wentzel in the pool in the 400 IM and take part in a relay race. “Her progression has been amazing,” Zook said about Voss. “She almost quit swimming in high school. We didn’t set goals for her here. She’s an elite athlete, but I’m not sure we’ve ever had a harder worker.”
Saint Kate’s freshman Skye Schmit also qualified to compete in the 1650 freestyle at nationals.
Wildcat coach Zook looks ahead
Zook is pulling double duty at this time of year. He’s prepping the half dozen Wildcats who will swim at the NCAA meet—four others are on the relays—while actively recruiting for next year’s team. The Wildcats had nine freshmen and three sophomores on this year’s championship squad. But like all coaches, Zook is looking ahead and hopes to bring in more fresh faces this fall.
For now, however, the focus is on the NCAA meet. To that end, SCU will head to Indy a couple of days early and stay in a vacation rental home instead of a hotel.
“The kids like that more. They can cook together and hang out better than if they’re all in one hotel room,” he said. As for Wentzel and Voss’ last hurrahs, Zook added, “I just want them to enjoy the moment.”
They’ve certainly earned it.
Cadet swimmers take second in state Class A
Led by five top finishes, Saint Thomas Academy placed second in the state Class A swim meet held at the University of Minnesota on March 2-4. Freshman Luke Mechtel had a memorable meet, finishing third in the 100 breaststroke and fifth in the 50 free to pace the Cadets. STA totaled 204 points, trailing only Breck-Blake’s 408. Mechtel was also a member of the 200 free relay team that took third place, along with seniors Luke Audette, Tommy Simmons and Joe Matschina. Cadet junior Will Barth finished third in the 500 free and fifth in the 200 free events. Audette came in right behind Barth in the 200 free.
Two Rivers finished in 18th place with 42 points. Junior Fin Gustafson had the top Warrior effort with a seventh-place showing in the 200 individual medley.
Best month of the year is here
Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed that “Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour.” When it comes to sports, however, March in many ways is the best month of the year.
For openers, there’s spring training. The results of the games in Florida and Arizona may mean little in the big picture. The franchise players will get an at-bat here and there. The pitchers will get used to the fact the sport that once took pride in not being on the clock is now operating on one. Many of the players will be in the minor leagues when real competition begins at the end of the month.
None of the above, however, is as important as being able to watch a few innings being played outdoors in glorious sunshine. It provides a reminder that warmer days are ahead and the snow on the back porch will, indeed, melt away soon.
State tournament time
For fans of various high school sports teams around the state, March has greater importance. It’s state tournament time. Regular-season results are quickly forgotten, because everybody still has a chance to run the board. Work schedules are quickly rearranged when a favorite team advances to state.
As noted elsewhere on these pages, Cretin-Derham Hall will return to the boys’ state hockey tournament this week after its 4-2 defeat of rival Saint Thomas Academy in the Section 3AA championship game on March 1.
Jumping to hoops
The state girls’ basketball tournament is the following week. Visitation won 16 regular-season games and is the No. 2 seed in Section 3AAA. To get to state, the Blazers will likely have to top a DeLaSalle team that took two close games from them during the regular season.
The Minnehaha Academy girls’ basketball team won 19 games, several by large margins, during the regular season. Still, that meant nothing starting March 4 when the second-seeded Redhawks played their first Section 4AA contest. They’ll likely have to find a way to dismantle top-seeded Saint Croix Lutheran, which entered section play on a 14-game winning streak.
But that’s the fun of March Madness. Like with the weather, hope springs eternal.
Ready for the playoffs
While March may be the best month of the year for fans, it’s often a different matter for coaches.
Boys’ basketball is the final prep winter tournament. Veteran CDH coach Jerry Kline, who has taken six teams to the state tournament, said March games are vastly different than January ones. “Every possession counts now,” he said. “You’ve had all season to adjust and you need your players to have the right mindset.”
Last year, the Raiders finished on a high note, taking third at state in Class AAAA with a 103-95 double-overtime win over Eastview. This season has been topsy-turvy from the start. After being held to 38 points in a loss at Mounds View on February 24, CDH erupted for a season-high 83 points four days later in a win at Roseville to improve to 13-12 overall.
Let the postseason fun begin.
Dave Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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